A report leaked from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) clearly shows how the European Union’s border guard agency acquiesces to Greece’s illegal push backs of migrants to Turkey. The German publication Der Spiegel published the report.
The European border agency, called Frontex, claims the OLAF report refers to “practices of the past.” But this is not true. Frontex continues to operate in Greece as before, and Greek authorities still push people back to Turkey, as evidenced by Human Rights Watch’s most recent report, published just six months ago.
For more than a decade, the UN Refugee Agency, the UN’s International Organization for Migration, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, media outlets, and many nongovernmental groups, including Human Rights Watch, have reported egregious human rights violations at Greece’s borders. These included Greek law enforcement officers using violence to push people back from Greece to Turkey.
Even the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Greece to prevent the summary return of asylum seekers stranded at Turkey’s borders.
Frontex’s mandate requires all personnel to respect fundamental rights. It also requires that the agency suspend or terminate operations when rights violations are serious or likely to persist.
But despite the abundance of evidence, Frontex has been deployed at the Turkey-Greece land border since 2010, and in the Aegean since 2006.
The OLAF report, released in spring 2022 to Frontex’s management board, some members of the European parliament, and a few others, led to the resignation of Frontex’s head, Fabrice Leggeri. The full report has only just been made public by Der Spiegel.
Rather than stop the unlawful conduct of its border authorities, Greece has dismissed concerns and sought to silence those reporting such incidents, including through the threat of criminal sanctions.
Additionally, both the European Commission and Frontex have failed to meaningfully act on Greece’s border abuses, leading to the suffering and severe abuse of hundreds of thousands of people.
The European Commission should open legal proceedings against the Greek government for violating EU laws prohibiting collective expulsions, or forcing back whole groups. It should also press authorities to establish an effective, independent border monitor to investigate and deter violence, and the commission should ensure that its funding for border management does not contribute to violations of fundamental rights and EU laws.
It is now high time for Frontex to suspend or terminate operations. The EU’s acquiescence in Greece’s border abuses must end.