Frontex, the European Union’s coastal and border guard, has been pushing asylum seekers back to sea via Greece – violating international law
Border operations, funded by the EU as a whole, have been illegally used to push asylum-seekers back into the Aegean sea.
According to evidence collected by Lighthouse Reports, Croatia, Greece and Romania are using a mixture of local police and EU-funded Frontex professionals to push asylum seekers back into the ocean. On land, the same officials are pushing asylum seekers back into a different country.
Masked men responsible for pushback
In one example, a group of 26 migrants approached the Greek island of Samos, in April, 2020. They believed that they had made it to Europe – enabling them to seek asylum, and begin to move away from violent realities. However, a speedboat pulled up beside them.
The masked men mentioned in all accounts of the illegal pushback boarded the dinghy. This group of men destroyed their engine, then towing the boat back into Turkish waters. One asylum seeker was able to film the encounter on their phone.
The team were able to use geolocation techniques to prove that this incident took place in Greek waters, alongside countless other reports.
The team behind the investigation said: “The most violent are typically undertaken by men working in secret, concealing their faces with balaclavas. Groups of masked men have been active in Greece and Croatia on land at sea.
“Authorities in both countries deny knowledge of these groups and their activities.”
EU turns “blind eye”
The shadow operation also includes law enforcement officials removing asylum seekers who have already arrived and asked for international protection.
The Frontex officers are supported via the EU’s Internal Security Fund (ISF).
Jelena Sesar, Balkans Researcher at Amnesty International said: “It is alarming that the European Commission continues to turn a blind eye to the staggering violation of EU law, and even continues to finance police and border operations in some of these countries.
“In July for example, the European Commission awarded Croatia a €14 million emergency funding grant, despite officials expressing their horror over Croatia’s inhumane treatment of migrants. These pushbacks, and the funding that facilitates them must end now.”
Commissioner Ylva Johansson, Home Affairs, said that they were appalled by such inhumane treatment of people on European borders. However, Croatia was allowed to set up an ineffective monitoring mechanism, while Greece continues to refuse to have any human rights monitoring mechanism.