ATHENS – Greece’s Migration Ministry, while saying it will investigate allegations of wrongdoing by border patrol forces, denied a New York Times report that refugees and migrants seeking asylum were being mistreated and pushed back.
The newspaper said that the top human rights officer for the European Union’s Frontex border patrol recommended the agency “should stop working with Greece because border guards there were mistreating asylum seekers,” among other claims relating to so-called illegal pushbacks which were allegedly being performed on a regular basis.
In a rebuttal, the ministry – said InfoMigrants – denied the accusations but stirred up debate about the New Democracy government’s policies that are focused on keeping out asylum seekers and extending a wall on the border with Turkey near the Evros River.
Human rights groups, activists, NGO’s and major media reports also said that Greece was pushing back refugees and migrants in the Aegean Sea as they tried to reach Greek islands from Turkey.
Human traffickers are still sending them but Turkey hasn’t been sanctioned under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union which requires the country contain refugees and migrants.
They went to Turkey fleeing, war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, most from Syria and Afghanistan, but as far abroad as sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“Greece protects and will continue to protect the external borders of the European Union, in accordance with national and international law. Protecting Europe from irregular arrivals is a priority for the European Council, as concluded. While, under the EU/Turkey joint statement such flows should be prevented before departure, smuggling networks continue to put, daily, lives at risk. This model must stop,” also said the Ministry.
The statement also added: “The EU is working on concrete measures to safeguard Europe’s security, reinforce the EU’s external borders, while promoting legal pathways for eligible applicants. We work closely with the European Commission, EUAA, FRA and Frontex on all migration related issues.”
It also said that, “All allegations are being investigated by Greece and it is worth reminding about the fake allegations against Greece about a ‘dead child’ in Evros — an incident reported but then retracted by the media and NGOs. Incidents investigated to-date identified no wrongdoing by Greek authorities.”
The ministry said that Greece has appointed a Fundamental Rights Officer and has approved an Action plan, with the EU, to monitor compliance with Fundamental rights, about which it said “progress reports on implementation have been conducted and positively assessed by the Agency in the previous Frontex Management Board in Stockholm.”