European Union parliamentarians urged the head of Frontex, the EU’s border agency, to quit following allegations the agency was involved in so-called “pushbacks” of migrants in Greece.
Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri was questioned by several MEPs in Brussels on Tuesday, who cited a report conducted by several media organisations including Germany’s Der Spiegel, that stated Frontex agents had illegally pushed back migrants in the Aegean Sea.
According to the report, Frontex agents were actively involved in once incident and had been present at least four other alleged pushback incidents since March of this year, reports the Associated Press.
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Kati Piri, a Dutch Labour Party MEP, called on the Frontex chief to resign, saying: “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign.”
Tineke Strik, a Green Party Dutch MEP, added that “Migrants and refugees are very vulnerable to pushbacks by border guards.” Strik went on to state: “We must be able to rely on an EU agency which prevents human rights violations from happening and not inflict them. But Frontex seems to be a partner in crime of those who deliberately violate those human rights.”
Leggeri and Frontex maintain that they have found no evidence of the agency engaging in pushbacks in Greece and said only member states have the authority in situations in their waters.
A report from Greek newspaper Proto Thema, meanwhile, stated that in the last eight months, migrant arrivals to Greece have decreased by 92 per cent with just 4,334 arrivals compared to 54,306 during the same period in 2019.
“The sharp decrease in migration flows, at the same time as other countries are recording a significant increase, demonstrates our country’s systematic effort to combat smuggling rings,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said.
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Before March, Greece saw tens of thousands of migrant attempt to cross the border after Turkey opened the gates to Europe in February. Due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, the Turkish government closed the border, and many migrants also left the area.
Turkish authorities have stated that migrants will return once the pandemic has ended. But so far Greece has seen few migrants compared to countries like Italy and Spain which have seen thousands arrive on the island of Lampedusa and the Spanish Canary islands in recent months.