The European Union’s border agency has been covering up illegal pushbacks of migrants by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters, a report by the bloc’s anti-fraud office revealed Thursday.
According to the report by OLAF, which was made public by the Germany-based freedom of information website FragDenStaat, Der Spiegel and Lighthouse Reports, Frontex has been withholding cases of possible human rights violations from its own fundamental rights officers, suspending aerial surveillance to avoid recording illegal activities, co-financing Greek units that carried out pushbacks, and misleading the authorities responsible for overseeing the agency.
The report highlighted that principal Greek officials claim they haven’t read the report and European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas of Greece, whose portfolio includes migration, declined to comment on whether he was informed himself of the allegations.
Human rights defenders, however, call on the EU to officially release the report to allow pushback victims to use its findings in court cases, it added.
“The question in the coming years will be whether taxpayer money will continue to be used to help break the law at the EU’s borders — or whether Frontex will be forced to comply with European law. The Schengen states, which control Frontex through the Management Board, apparently have little interest in such compliance,” said the report in Der Spiegel.
– Stained record of Frontex
In recent years, Frontex has come under fire for alleged mistreatment of migrants, often endangering their lives.
Türkiye and global rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Earlier this year, Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri resigned amid the scandal.
Human rights groups have also documented other human rights violations on EU borders where Frontex operates.
“Frontex has repeatedly failed to take effective action when allegations of human rights violations are brought to its attention,” said Eva Cosse, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Its rapid growth into an executive agency of the EU, with increased powers, funding, and legal responsibilities, makes it all the more urgent for Frontex to put in place effective tools to safeguard fundamental rights.”