A Frontex patrol and the tire carrying migrants it intercepted arrive at the port of Skala Sikamias, on the Greek island of Lesvos, September 29, 2019. -
ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP
Frontex, the European border surveillance agency, is implicated in several incidents of push-backs at sea of asylum seekers' boats crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, claims an investigation by several media, including German magazine Spiegel .
The investigations carried out "show for the first time that Frontex officials are aware of the illegal practices of Greek border guards - and are in part involved in the push-backs themselves," wrote the Spiegel in an article available online this Saturday.
Journalists claim to have documented six cases that have occurred since April in the Aegean Sea in which Frontex teams have at least witnessed without reacting to refoulements to Turkey of refugee boats in Greek waters, an illegal practice.
In one case, in June, a video shows a Frontex ship blocking a refugee boat, and then, in another recorded scene, passing the refugee boat at high speed before leaving the scene.
In addition to
, the research was carried out by a magazine of the German channel ARD, the journalist collective “Lighthouse Reports”, the investigative platform “Bellingcat” and the Japanese television channel “TV Asahi”.
The authors explain having compared “dozens” of videos, satellite images, eyewitness accounts, including refugees and Frontex employees.
Code of conduct
The European border surveillance agency has hired more than 600 agents in Greece, one of the EU's gateways, as well as boats, drones and planes, according to the article.
Frontex did not comment on the specific cases raised by the research, the
, but said its agents were bound by a human rights code of conduct and respected the ban on refoulements.
Without mentioning the article, Frontex said on Friday evening on its Twitter account that it had been "in contact with the Greek authorities about incidents at sea in recent months" and that Athens had opened an "internal investigation".
Frontex acts "with respect for fundamental rights and international law," said the agency on Twitter.
Frontex continues to provide support to Greece at its external borders in line with our mandate and in the spirit of EU solidarity, in full respect of fundamental rights and international law.
- Frontex (@Frontex) October 23, 2020
Greece's conservative government has always rejected the allegations of illegal refoulements at its borders, which several NGOs regularly report.
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