At the behest of Greece, the European Anti-Fraud Office did not release its report on Greece's illegal pushback until it leaked last month. Finally out, it exposes Athens' heavy-handed tactics against migrants.

Many instances of migrants being put in life rafts and left adrift at sea in Greece often goes unreported, an EU report finds.
Many instances of migrants being put in life rafts and left adrift at sea in Greece often goes unreported, an EU report finds. (AP Archive)

A report by the European Union’s anti-fraud watchdog into the EU border agency Frontex has concluded that Frontex employees were involved in covering up the illegal pushbacks of migrants from Greece to Türkiye in violation of their “fundamental rights.”

This punctures Greece's long-standing denial of reports, especially by the UN and Türkiye, that it pushed migrants out of its waters using violent, inhumane methods.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) report details how pushback accusations and evidence of them were mishandled, often not reported or not investigated by the EU border agency Frontex, in collaboration with the Greek government.

The OLAF report raises questions about how Frontex will continue operating in Greece. 

Here are three ways which the Greek government and Frontex cover up illegal pushbacks of migrants, according to the OLAF report.

READ MORE: Over a dozen refugees die after boats sink in Aegean Sea

1. Top managers at Frontex received rewards from the Greek government, while covering up pushbacks

Top managers at Frontex committed “serious misconduct and other irregularities” in covering up pushback incidents, not investigating them or handling them correctly, the EU report found, but names were redacted.

“In doing so, they hindered the capacity of Frontex to fully comply with its responsibilities, namely ensuring for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights,” the report read.

Earlier this year, former Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri resigned following repeated media investigations that accused the agency of involvement in pushbacks.

Greece granted Leggeri a state award in January, thanking him for helping the country lower the rate of incoming migrants. The award was presented by Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi.

2. Frontex officers failed to report alleged pushbacks due to fear of repercussions from Greece

Frontex officers failed to report alleged pushbacks due to fear of repercussions from Greece the report said.

In one case, the report said the EU border agency’s surveillance plane flew away from the scene of an alleged pushback “to avoid witnessing incidents in the Aegean Sea.”

On August 5, 2020 a member of Frontex reported his concerns in an email after a Frontex plane witnessed Greek authorities forcing a flimsy migrant boat back into Turkish waters.

“Towing an overcrowded fragile boat in the night towards the open sea is a situation that can seriously endanger the lives of the passengers,” the email said. “Our aircraft was immediately instructed to fly away from the scene by the Hellenic coast guard expert.”

3. Frontex shared incorrect or biased information with EU institutions

EU investigators also said Frontex shared incorrect or biased information with EU institutions, including members of the European Commission and Parliament, who are responsible for holding the agency accountable, as well as OLAF investigators.

“I welcome that the OLAF report is finally public, as it should have been from the very beginning,” said Cornelia Ernst, a European lawmaker in the parliament’s Left group, who confirmed the report’s authenticity.

“It proves once again black on white what we have been saying for many years: Frontex is systematically involved in human rights violations and their coverup at the EU’s external borders,” Ernst added.

READ MORE: European rights court fines Greece over migrant deaths at Aegean Sea

Source: AP