EU official urges Greece to investigate asylum-seeker pushbacks: report

(Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson during a visit to Greece called on the country to “do more” to investigate allegations that its coastguard is pushing asylum seekers back to neighboring Turkey, Reuters reported.

“I am very concerned about the UNHCR report and there are some specific cases that I really think need to be looked into more closely,” Johansson said during a visit to the island of Lesbos. “I think the Greek authorities can do more when it comes to investigating these alleged pushbacks.”

Speaking at a news conference with Johansson, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi rejected the UNHCR reports, saying, “We strongly deny that the Greek coastguard has ever been involved in pushbacks.”

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has stressed that reports it had received of illegal pushbacks were based on its own sources and that it had passed the evidence on to Greek authorities. “We expect the Greek authorities to investigate these incidents,” UNHCR representative in Greece Mireille Girard told the German news magazine Der Spiegel.

 

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) is also accused by charity groups and media outlets of denying people their right to apply for asylum, which is illegal under EU law and refugee treaties.

Some members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri mishandled allegations that the agency was involved in fundamental violations of migrants’ rights, The Associated Press had earlier reported .

Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal on migration on March 18, Amnesty International has called on EU leaders to abandon failed policies that have resulted in tens of thousands of people being forced to stay in inhumane conditions on the Greek islands and put refugees at risk by forcing them to stay in Turkey.

According to Amnesty, 15,000 women, men and children remain trapped in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands, and people trying to reach the Greek islands have experienced violence and dangerous pushbacks to Turkey.

Amnesty’s call had come just days before a meeting of EU foreign affairs and home affairs ministers, held on March 15.

“The EU-Turkey deal has been an abject failure. The EU and its member states have failed to take responsibility for people seeking safety in Europe,” said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International’s EU office.

On March 18, 2016 the European Council and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe. According to the EU-Turkey statement, all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey in the Greek islands and whose applications for asylum had been declared inadmissible should be returned to Turkey. The EU pledged €3 billion in 2016-2017 and another €3 billion in 2018-2019 to Turkey as its part of the deal.

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