By: Katy Fallon | theguardian.com | 28 April 2022
Revealed: EU border agency involved in hundreds of refugee pushbacks
The EU’s border agency has been involved in the pushbacks of at least 957 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea between March 2020 and September 2021, according to a new investigation.
Frontex, the EU’s best-funded agency with a budget of €758m, is being investigated over previous allegations of complicity with Greek authorities in illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers, something the organisation has denied.
Now a joint investigation by Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, SRF Rundschau, Republik and Le Monde has revealed Frontex’s involvement in what appear to be pushbacks, according to its own database. According to the joint investigation, a freedom of information request (FoI) found the agency’s internal incident report database, called Jora, recorded sightings of asylum seeker pushbacks in the Aegean being labelled by officials as “prevention of departure”. The Frontex guidelines define this as an incident when migrants are stopped at sea by non-European country authorities in their territorial waters and sent back to their point of departure.
Frontex provided a redacted version of the database but included descriptions of 145 cases labelled “prevention of departure”, which differed from reports of the same incidents by the Turkish coastguard, witnesses, leaked documents and other confidential sources, when cross-referenced.
In at least 22 incidents, asylum seekers were taken off dinghies, put into Greek life rafts and left adrift at sea.