Frontex asks the Greek Coast Guard for explanations for its actions against migrants | International
The European border agency (Frontex) is upset with the Greek coast guard for its actions against migrants and refugees and has asked for explanations. The director of Frontex, the Dutch Hans Leijtens, has addressed a letter to the head of Border Protection and Aliens of the Greek Police, to refer to the "complaints of non-compliance with the fundamental rights of migrants by the Hellenic Coast Guard ”. In the letter, to which EL PAÍS has had access, Leijtens asks Dimitrios Mallios for clarification and information and gives him until July 10 to collaborate.
The letter, sent this Thursday morning, is not related to the shipwreck that occurred on June 14 in which more than 600 people died without the Greek Coast Guard preventing it, but to two other previous episodes in which they have been involved ships and means financed by Frontex.
The first case occurred on May 11, when 12 people—including several children and a six-month-old baby—were forced to board a Greek Coast Guard patrol boat and, already at sea, were abandoned to the drift in an emergency inflatable raft. They were refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. The sequence, recorded on video, was published by The New York Times last May as "the most damning evidence" of how Greece violates international laws and EU rules governing the treatment of asylum seekers. The Greek authorities did not even respond to questions from the American newspaper about the incident.
Frontex has already opened a Serious Incident Report procedure for this case, which, according to Leijtens in his letter, "confirms the seriousness of the complaints." And as the letter explains, both the agency's officer responsible for human rights, Jonas Grimheden, and the operational team of Operation Poseidon, which maintains this organization jointly with Greece in the Aegean Sea, "identified a series of aspects that should be clarified in relation to the facts and the measures applied by Greece”. Specifically, the members of this operation claimed the image and video recordings of the Greek patrol that participated in this illegal return.
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Leijtens also refers to a second episode that occurred on April 22 in which a Portuguese Frontex vessel was involved. “I am aware that there could be ongoing investigations regarding the events mentioned above,” the Dutchman tells him. "However, I would like to emphasize that it is of the utmost importance for the agency to receive all clarifications and information that are currently available to the Coast Guard in view of the current and future cooperation between the Greek authorities and the agency."
The relationship between Greece and the European border agency is currently tense and the future of the Poseidon operation, which both maintain in the Aegean Sea, is up in the air. Grimheden raised last week that operations with Athens be suspended, as imposed by the regulation, for violations of fundamental rights.
Leijtens's initiative is unusual and reveals a growing mistrust of the Greek border control authorities. The concern for compliance with the law, in any case, with another relevant concern of Frontex: not to tarnish the name of the agency or that of its director, newly appointed in March. Hot returns, opacity or fund management are still sensitive issues for Frontex's reputation. Leijtens also replaced Fabrice Leggeri who was surrounded by accusations of lack of control over illegal returns at European borders.
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