x

Politics

EU Anti-Fraud Chief Says Greece, Frontex Pushed Back Refugees

ATHENS – Ville Itälä , head of the European Union’s anti-fraud office OLAF, said there’s more than enough proof that Greece and the bloc’s border patrol force Frontex have been pushing back refugees and migrants, despite denials.

Germany’s largest news site DER SPIEGEL said the Finnish former Member of the European Parliament – which earlier called for a probe of whether Frontex was taking part in pushbacks – said, “We have a lot of evidence.”

That was said to include 20 witnesses testifying that the pushbacks happened although Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose New Democracy government has been trying to keep them out, denied it happened.

OLAF investigators look into cases of possible fraud or misappropriation involving EU funds or wrongdoing and have spent more than a year looking into Frontex and its chief, Fabrice Leggeri and his aides, the report said.

The agency’s closing report is more than 200 pages long and strictly confidential. European parliamentarians, who oversee Frontex, got an oral summary and the report said “it was a bombshell.”

Several sources not named said the briefing accused three members of Frontex leadership of having violated EU regulations and recommended disciplinary measures against them.

They wanted to question Leggeri but the report said he refused because he hadn’t read the findings and the names of others allegedly involved haven’t been released so far, although he’s said to be the main target.

Since March 2020 – the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greek Coast Guard has been intercepting boats in the area full of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, including many Syrians.

The news site claimed – as have human rights groups, activists and other major media sites – that border guards apparently destroyed the vessels’ motors, pulled the people back toward the Turkish coast and then abandoned them at sea – either in inflatable life rafts or in rubber dinghies.

Sometimes, the border guards have even forced back asylum-seekers after they had already reached the Greek islands, the report said, all those allegations denied by Greece, whose National Transparency Agency said there’s no proof.

In cooperation with Lighthouse Reports and other partner media outlets, DER SPIEGEL said it collected evidence of the systematic use of pushbacks on the EU’s external border.

The reporting said that included Frontex border guards handing over refugee boats to the Greek officials who were said to have pushed them back into Turkish waters, watched by Frontex planes overhead.

Testifying before the EU Parliament, Leggeri said he knows nothing about any such operations and backed Mitsotakis’ government to the hilt in long defensive spiels, but his job is now said to be at risk, according to the report.

OLAF investigators are apparently in possession of detailed evidence that Frontex management actively covered up the pushbacks to help Greece, against the protests of some officials there, the site claimed.

“Internal photographs which have never been shown before and which have been leaked to DER SPIEGEL and Lighthouse Reports, support these findings. They show that Leggeri was in possession of clear evidence for illegal pushbacks early on,” the report also said.

Itälä was said to have told EU lawmakers that some Frontex staff members are convinced there were pushbacks that were covered up for political reasons but the border patrol didn’t comment.

 

RELATED

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, May 23 at a press conference following a cabinet meeting that he would cease talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and cancel a key meeting between their two countries, as he accused the Greek leader of antagonistic behavior against Turkey, the Associated Press reported.

Top Stories

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

General News

PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.

Video

Mitsotakis Addresses Boston College Graduation Ceremony

BOSTON - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at the 146th graduation ceremony of Boston College, held on Monday.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.