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EU commissioner urges Greece to probe illegal pushbacks

Concerned over violent pushbacks of asylum seekers, Ylva Johansson asks Greece to 'take it seriously'

Agnes Szucs   | 08.10.2021
EU commissioner urges Greece to probe illegal pushbacks An irregular migrant woman protects a child as Greek riot police intervene in irregular migrants, hoping to get on a ferry to Athens, to block them from reaching the port in Lesbos, Greece. ( FILE PHOTO - Anadolu Agency )

BRUSSELS

The EU commissioner for home affairs on Friday urged Greece to investigate illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting of EU interior affairs ministers in Luxemburg, EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she expects Greece to “take it seriously, do the investigation, and find out what really happened.”

A day before, Johansson held talks with Greek Minister for Migration Notis Mitarachi and Croatian Minister for Interior Affairs Davor Bozinovic on illegal pushbacks revealed this week in a joint investigation by nine leading media outlets.

The reports presented evidence that Greek and Croatian authorities have been violently pushing back asylum seekers crossing the bloc’s external borders.

Johansson called her discussions with the two ministers “very different.”

She called Bozinovic’s reaction “exactly the right response,” explaining that the Croatian government promised an immediate investigation and an independent monitoring mechanism to ensure fundamental rights.

“My discussion with the Greek minister was different. I have made clear that I will not accept Greece’s failure to investigate the issue,” she said. “We have to protect our external borders, but we also have to protect our values, the rule of law, and fundamental rights."

In a statement, Mitarachi said Greece had been investigating every claim on alleged mistreatment of asylum-seekers by national authorities.

The month-long joint investigation revealed that pushback operations by security forces had become systematic practices in violation of the EU and international humanitarian law.

German weekly Der Spiegel published videos showing masked Greek officers intercepting and disabling refugee boats in the Aegean Sea, endangering the lives of vulnerable asylum seekers.

The investigation also documented illegal pushback practices by the Croatian and Romanian special police units.

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