ATHENS – More reports that Greece is pushing back refugees and migrants – denied by the New Democracy government despite vows to keep them out – has drawn fire from a group of European Union lawmakers.
The head of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), Juan Fernando López Aguilar from Spain, condemned “consistent reports referring to dozens of persons seeking international protection pushed back from Greece to Turkey through the land border area of the Evros River,” said Euronews.
LIBE added that the European Commission must “condemn any use of violence” and ensure the rule of law is respected across member states when it comes to migration, although Greece said the constant reports were all false.
The letter was addressed to Margaritis Schinas – from Greece’s ruling party – Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life, Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Values and Transparency, and Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, the site said.
Aguilar noted the European Court for Human Rights issued 13 orders demanding Greece ensure that the persons impacted by the illegal pushbacks be given immediate humanitarian and medical assistance – no word how that could be done if they were repelled from the country – and that they be allowed to start the “reception and identification procedures provided by law.”
He also noted Greece’s government prosecuting non-governmental organizations helping refugees, charging they were were aiding human traffickers that Turkey allows to operate during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
“We sincerely hope that this is not going to evolve in a situation by which NGOs providing legal assistance would be criminalized for doing so,” he wrote without any indication of a response.
Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis blamed Turkey – which is not facing any sanctions for letting human traffickers continue to send to Greece refuees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan.
“Evros is a militarized area. To cross, this is done with the full acquiescence of the Turkish authorities,” Mitsotakis said of the river along the northern border, a treacherous passage that has claimed many lives.
“There is increased tension in Evros. There is what we are seeing, in recent weeks, as they (Turkey) are trying to settle migrants on some islands that have been created on the borderline and then ask Greece to search for them,” he was quoted as having said by Greek media.
But the site said that an unpublished report by the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog (OLAF) was believed to have uncovered multiple instances of human rights violations by Greek Border Guards and the bloc’s Frontex border patrol in the Aegean, which led to the agency’s head Fabrice Leggeri then stepping down.