The European Union's border protection agency Frontex knew about the human rights violations and pushbacks by Greek forces in the Aegean, Germany’s Der Spiegel wrote Thursday.
Der Spiegel reported that a monthslong investigation by the EU parliament led to the conclusion that Frontex had evidence of illegal pushbacks by the Greek coast guard yet "failed to address and prevent the violations of fundamental rights."
In a report seen by the German news outlet, it was indicated that despite numerous reports of alleged violations of the law, Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri never considered ending the Frontex operation as well as ways of putting a stop to the human rights violations.
"On the contrary, the Executive Director continues to claim that he is not aware of any information about violations of fundamental rights," it was stated.
Frontex, which supervises the outside borders of the 27-nation European Union, has been under pressure following a series of allegations involving the illegal pushbacks of migrants, notably in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. Charity groups and media outlets accuse Frontex of denying people their right to apply for asylum.
On paper, Frontex is legally held accountable by the 27 member countries and the European Parliament.
Out on the sea or at land borders, though, Frontex operations are controlled by the country whose territory they take place in. In the Aegean, where many pushbacks have been reported, the Greek coast guard controls the agency's operations. This is where the lines of responsibility become muddy.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which say people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership to a social or political group.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has also accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued 5,693 irregular migrants that were pushed back by Greek forces in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in the first half of 2021, according to data from the coast guard’s website.
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