• Un interprète qui travaille pour #Frontex affirme qu’en septembre, des gardes-frontières grecs l’ont pris pour un demandeur d’asile, l’ont agressé et l’ont ensuite forcé à traverser la frontière vers la Turquie avec des dizaines de migrants. Selon les fonctionnaires européens chargés de son dossier, il a fourni à l’agence des preuves à l’appui de ses allégations. Il a déposé plainte contre Frontex. Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne chargée des migrations, a déclaré qu’après une conversation avec lui, elle avait été « extrêmement préoccupée par son récit »

    E.U. Interpreter Says Greece Expelled Him to Turkey in Migrant Roundup

    The man’s story echoes complaints from human-rights groups that Greek authorities often expel asylum seekers indiscriminately and violently.

    For years, Greek officials have denied complaints from human rights groups that the country’s border agents have brutalized migrants and forcibly pushed them back into Turkey. They have dismissed the allegations as fake news or Turkish propaganda.

    Now a single case may force a reckoning.

    A European Union interpreter says that in September, Greek border guards mistook him for an asylum seeker, assaulted him and then forced him across the border into Turkey alongside dozens of migrants.

    His allegation is particularly problematic for Greek officials because he is a legal European Union resident employed by the E.U. border agency, Frontex. And he has turned over evidence to the agency to support his claims of abuse, according to European officials dealing with his case.

    The European Union, which has mostly looked the other way on abuses of migrants, is now being forced to confront the problem.

    Surfacing in the wake of an acute border crisis with Belarus over migrants, the case has commanded the attention of senior European leaders for weeks. Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for migration, said she called the interpreter on Friday to discuss his accusations.

    “After direct, in-depth discussion with the person on Nov. 25, I was extremely concerned by his account,” Ms. Johansson said. “In addition to his personal story, his assertion that this was not an isolated case is a serious issue,” she added, saying he told her he had witnessed at least 100 migrants who were pushed over the border and sometimes roughed up

    However, a Greek government ministry statement cast doubt on his account, saying initial inquiries suggested “the facts are not as presented.”

    The interpreter told The New York Times that he had filed a complaint with Frontex, and European officials confirmed this. They said the complaint was being treated as credible because of the man’s position and the documentation he provided, including audio and video recordings.

    The man asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety and his livelihood. Two European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case with reporters, confirmed his identity.

    He said that he and many of the migrants he was detained with were beaten and stripped, and that the police seized their phones, money and documents. His attempts to tell the police who he was were met with laughter and beatings, he said. He said he was taken to a remote warehouse where he was kept with at least 100 others, including women and children. They were then put on dinghies and pushed across the Evros River into Turkish territory.

    His accusations were similar to those from human-rights groups, along with mounting evidence gathered by migrants and reporters, all claiming that Greek authorities routinely round up and expel migrants without permitting them to complete asylum requests — often in an indiscriminate and violent way. Greek authorities have also been accused of pushing back migrants in flimsy dinghies in the Aegean Sea, sometimes disabling the engines and leaving the migrants to drift back into Turkish waters. Greece has denied the accusations.

    The man’s story came to light at a critical moment in Europe’s reckoning with its practices in dealing with migrants, which have drawn renewed scrutiny after a standoff at the Belarus-Poland border that left 12 migrants dead. In a bid to put pressure on the European Union over a geopolitical standoff, Belarus lured migrants into its territory, left them in a frigid forest and encouraged them to cross into E.U. countries, including Poland. Polish authorities repelled them, sometimes violently.

    That crisis, together with a similar standoff between Greece and Turkey last year with asylum seekers caught in the middle, has laid bare a growing gulf between European laws and norms in treating asylum seekers, and the reality on the ground.

    Public opinion toward immigration soured after the Syrian war brought more than one million refugees to Europe in 2015-16. Still, in much of the European Union, politicians and citizens oppose inhumane and illegal practices such as rounding up migrants and expelling them without due process.

    But governments at Europe’s frontiers, such as Greece, view migration laws and procedures as out of date and out of step with the current climate, contending that they were designed before the mass population displacements seen in recent years.

    Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece, in remarks this month, rejected accusations of abuses against migrants by the Greek authorities. He called his migration policy “tough, but fair.”

    Ms. Johansson said she had spoken on Monday with the Greek minister for citizen protection, Takis Theodorikakos, and he promised to investigate the interpreter’s claims.

    “The independent National Transparency Authority will conduct an investigation and will be open about its findings as always, but preliminary inquiries in this case appear to suggest the facts are not as presented,” the ministry’s media office said in a statement.

    Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said the interpreter’s allegations were part of a pattern of growing E.U. brutality toward migrants and asylum seekers.

    “With tens of thousands of victims who drowned in the Mediterranean, thousands languishing in what has been described as concentration camps in Libya, the misery in the camps on the Greek islands for so many years, people drowning in the Channel or freezing to death on the border between Belarus and the E.U., the European Commission cannot claim anymore that these are incidents, accidents, exceptions,” she said.

    “It is not a policy failure,” she added. “It is policy.”

    Greece, one of the main gateways into the European Union for migrants, has long maintained that it is being asked to rescue, process and host too many people arriving from Turkey, a hostile neighbor that often encourages asylum seekers to go to Greece to provoke the government there and to press its demands with the European Union.

    Under Greek and E.U. laws, the Greek authorities are required to assess asylum requests for all who seek protection, to house asylum seekers in humane conditions and, if they are rejected, to repatriate them safely.

    Efforts to more fairly distribute asylum seekers across the European Union have stalled, as many member countries prefer to send funding to Greece and other frontier nations to host asylum seekers, and keep them away from their territories.

    Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office pay and deploy hundreds of employees to ensure that the bloc’s external borders are guarded while human rights laws are upheld.

    The interpreter, who is originally from Afghanistan, has lived for years as a legal resident in Italy. He was employed by Frontex as a member of an E.U.-funded team of experts deployed to help the border guards communicate with asylum seekers.

    He had been working in the border region of Evros alongside Greek and E.U. guards, and was on his way to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, for a break when the police pulled him and a number of migrants off a bus, he said.

    After they were beaten, detained and forced into Turkey, the interpreter said, he managed to reach Istanbul, where he received consular assistance from the Italian authorities, and was eventually repatriated to Italy on Sept. 18.

    The Italian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    A Frontex spokesman said the agency was investigating the report and could not comment further as long as the investigation continues.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/world/europe/greece-migrants-interpreter-expelled.html

    #plainte #témoignage #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #frontières #refoulement #push-back #interprète #Evros #Turquie

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Encore une #rallonge de 35 km du #mur dans la région de l’#Evros demandée par le gouvernement grec...

    Athens wants to extend Evros border fence

    The government wants to extend the fence on the Greek-Turkish border in Evros, recent diplomatic initiatives by Greek officials in Brussels have demonstrated.

    Kathimerini understands that Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis sent a letter to the European Union’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson in early October to examine the possibility of the EU financing Greece’s plans for the extension of the fence.

    Mitarakis informed Johansson about Greece’s intention to include the construction of a new artificial barrier in the financial program for the period 2021-2027, without referring to further details of the project.

    However, Johansson rejected the Greek request in her letter of reply, reiterating that Greece has (under the Schengen agreement) an obligation to guard its borders effectively.

    She said she was willing to finance the purchase and installation at the border of technological equipment for surveillance, but not to cover the cost of building a new fence with EU funds.

    According to sources, for months now the leadership of the Hellenic Police (ELAS) and the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection have been in possession of a proposal for the construction of an additional 35 kilometer-long fence along the river borders of Greece and Turkey.

    The proposal by police officials is for the fence to cover the distance from Didymoteicho to Tychero, along which the Evros River serves as a natural border. Police sources say that the greatest “pressure” is concentrated in this area, judging by the arrests of illegal migrants and traffickers.

    A 12.5 km fence has existed at the land border since 2011, while the construction of a new stretch of fencing of 27.5 km was completed recently.

    https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1171164/athens-wants-to-extend-evros-border-fence

    #Grèce #Turquie #frontières #barrières_frontalières #murs #extension #migrations #asile #réfugiés

    –-

    Extension de 27,5 km demandée en 2020 et terminée en 2021 (premier mur construit en 2012, de 12,5 km) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/830355

  • La frontière de l’Evros, un no man’s land grec ultra-militarisé où « personne n’a accès aux migrants »

    Échaudée par l’afflux de milliers de migrants venus de Turquie via la rivière Evros à l’extrême est du pays en mars 2020, la Grèce a hautement militarisé la zone. Des exilés continuent toutefois de traverser cette frontière greco-turque sous contrôle exclusif de l’armée. Ils ne reçoivent l’aide d’aucune ONG, d’aucun habitant, interdits dans la zone.

    C’est une rivière inapprochable à l’extrême pointe de l’Union européenne. Les 500 kilomètres de cours d’eau de l’Evros, frontière naturelle qui sépare la Grèce de la Turquie sur le continent, sont, depuis des années, sous contrôle exclusif de l’armée grecque.

    En longeant la frontière, la zone est déserte et fortement boisée. Des ronces, des buissons touffus, des arbres empêchent le tout-venant de s’approcher du secteur militarisé et du cours d’eau. « Il y a des caméras partout. Faites attention, ne vous avancez pas trop », prévient Tzamalidis Stavros, le chef du village de Kastanies, dans le nord du pays, en marchant le long d’une voie ferrée - en activité - pour nous montrer la frontière. Au loin, à environ deux kilomètres de là, des barbelés se dessinent. Malgré la distance, Tzamilidis Stavros reste vigilant. « Ils ont un équipement ultra-moderne. Ils vont nous repérer très vite ».

    Cette zone interdite d’accès n’est pourtant pas désertée par les migrants. Depuis de nombreuses années, les populations sur la route de l’exil traversent l’Evros depuis les rives turques pour entrer en Union européenne. Mais la crise migratoire de mars 2020, pendant laquelle des dizaines de milliers de migrants sont arrivés en Grèce via Kastanies après l’ouverture des frontières turques, a tout aggravé.

    https://gw.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/37bd2ebd7dd3e2d0fec91247b63ec001a70a884f.jpeg

    En un an, la Grèce - et l’UE - ont investi des millions d’euros pour construire une forteresse frontalière : des murs de barbelés ont vu le jour le long de la rivière, des canons sonores ont été mis en place, des équipements militaires ultra-performants (drones, caméras…). Tout pour empêcher un nouvel afflux de migrants par l’Evros.

    « Nous avons aujourd’hui 850 militaires le long de l’Evros », déclare un garde-frontière de la région, en poste dans le village de Tychero. « Frontex est présent avec nous. Les barbelés posés récemment
    nous aident énormément ».

    « Black-out »

    Ces installations ont contribué à faire baisser le nombre de passages. « A Kastanies, avant, il y avait au moins cinq personnes par jour qui traversaient la frontière. Aujourd’hui, c’est fini. Presque plus personne ne passe », affirme le chef du village qui se dit « soulagé ». « La clôture a tout arrêté ». Mais à d’autres endroits, « là où il y a moins de patrouilles, moins de surveillance, moins de barbelés », des migrants continuent de passer, selon l’association Border violence, qui surveille les mouvements aux frontières européennes.

    Combien sont-ils ? La réponse semble impossible à obtenir. Les médias sont tenus à l’écart, le ministère des Affaires étrangères grec évoquant des raisons de « sécurité nationale ». Les autorités grecques ne communiquent pas, les garde-frontières déployés dans la région restent flous et renvoient la balle à leurs supérieurs hiérarchiques, et les associations sont absentes de la zone.

    C’est ce « black-out » de la zone qui inquiète les ONG. « Des migrants arrivent à venir jusqu’à Thessalonique et ils nous racontent leur traversée. Mais il faut 25 jours à pied depuis l’Evros jusqu’ici. Nous avons donc les infos avec trois semaines de retard », explique une militante de Border Violence, à Thessalonique.

    Les migrants arrêtés par les garde-frontières grecs dans la zone ne peuvent pas non plus témoigner des conditions de leur interpellation. Ils sont directement transférés dans le hotspot de Fylakio, le seul camp de la région situé à quelques km de la Turquie. Entouré de barbelés, Fylakio fait partie des sept centres fermés du pays où les migrants ne peuvent pas sortir. Et où les médias ne peuvent pas entrer.

    « J’ai traversé l’Evros il y a un mois et demi et je suis bloqué ici depuis », nous crie un jeune Syrien de 14 ans depuis le camp. « On a passé 9 jours dans la région d’Evros et nous avons été arrêtés avec un groupe de mon village, nous venons de Deir-Ezzor ». Nous n’en saurons pas plus, un militaire s’approche.
    Des milliers de pushbacks, selon les associations

    La principale préoccupation des associations comme Border violence – mais aussi du Haut commissariat de l’ONU aux réfugiés (HCR) – restent de savoir si les droits fondamentaux des demandeurs d’asile sont respectés à la frontière de l’Evros. « Là-bas, personne n’a accès aux migrants. La politique frontalière est devenue complètement dingue ! Nous, les militants, nous n’allons même pas dans la région ! On a peur d’être arrêté et mis en prison ».

    La semaine dernière, le ministre des Migrations, Notis Mtarakis a officiellement rejeté l’instauration d’un « mécanisme de surveillance » à ses frontières, réclamé par l’ONU et la Commission européenne, déclarant que cela « portait atteinte à la souveraineté du pays ».

    Margaritis Petritzikis, à la tête du HCR dans le hotspot de Fylakio, reconnaît que ce qu’il se passe dans l’Evros est opaque. « La frontière doit être mieux surveillée », explique-t-il, en faisant référence à demi mot aux pushbacks, ces renvois illégaux entre deux Etats voisins.

    Si les autorités grecques nient les pratiquer, ces pushbacks seraient nombreux et réguliers dans cette partie du pays. « Evidemment, qu’il y a des renvois vers la Turquie », assure un ancien policier à la retraite sous couvert d’anonymat qui nous reçoit dans sa maison à moins de 5 km de la Turquie. « J’ai moi-même conduit pendant des années des bateaux pour ramener des migrants vers la Turquie à la tombée de la nuit ».

    Selon Border violence, environ 4 000 personnes ont été refoulées illégalement depuis le début de l’année. « Il y en a certainement beaucoup plus, mais de nombreuses personnes ne parlent pas. Elles ont peur ».
    38 morts dans l’Evros depuis le début de l’année

    Au-delà des refoulements illégaux, la question des violences inquiète les associations. Selon le New York Times, des centres de détention secrets, appelés « black sites », seraient présents dans la région. Sans observateurs extérieurs, la zone suscite énormément de fantasmes. « Des migrants nous ont parlé de tortures dans ces centres cachés en Grèce, de chocs électriques, de simulacres de noyades. Nous ne pouvons pas vérifier », continue la militante de Border violence.

    Et comment recenser les victimes, celles et ceux qui se sont noyés en tentant la traversée ? Sans accès à la zone, « nous ne pouvons même pas parler de morts mais de personnes disparues », déplore-t-elle. « Nous considérons qu’au bout d’un mois sans nouvelles d’un migrant dans la zone, celui-ci est présumé décédé ».

    Selon Pavlos Pavlidis, un des médecins-légistes de l’hôpital d’Alexandropoulis, le chef-lieu de la région, déjà 38 personnes sont mortes cette année.

    « Beaucoup se sont noyés dans l’Evros, d’autres sont morts d’hypothermie. Surtout l’hiver. Ils traversent la rivière, ils sont trempés. Personne n’est là pour les aider, alors ils meurent de froid. Leurs corps sont parfois trouvés 20 jours plus tard par la police et amenés à l’hôpital », explique-t-il.

    Y a-t-il des victimes non recensées ? « Peut-être », répond-t-il. Mais sans maraudes, impossible de surveiller la zone et de venir en aide à des blessés potentiels. « C’est triste de mourir ainsi », conclut-il, « loin des siens et loin de tout ».

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/35496/la-frontiere-de-levros-un-no-mans-land-grec-ultramilitarise-ou-personn
    #Evros #région_de_l'Evros #migrations #asile #réfugiés #frontières #militarisation_des_frontières
    #décès #morts #mourir_aux_frontières #morts_aux_frontières #statistiques #chiffres #2021
    #push-backs #refoulements #Pavlos_Pavlidis #Turquie #Grèce
    #murs #barbelés #barrières_frontalières #Kastanies #clôture #surveillance #fermeture_des_frontières #Fylakio #black_sites #torture

    C’est comme un déjà-vu pour moi... une répétition de ce qui se passait en 2012, quand j’étais sur place avec Alberto...
    Dans la région de l’Evros, un mur inutile sur la frontière greco-turque (2/4)
    https://visionscarto.net/evros-mur-inutile

    • Un médecin légiste grec veut redonner une identité aux migrants morts dans l’Evros

      Médecin légiste depuis les années 2000, Pavlos Pavlidis autopsie tous les corps de migrants trouvés dans la région de l’Evros, frontalière avec la Turquie. A l’hôpital d’Alexandropoulis où il travaille, il tente de collecter un maximum d’informations sur chacun d’eux - et garde dans des classeurs tous leurs effets personnels - pour leur redonner un nom et une dignité.

      Pavlos Pavlidis fume cigarette sur cigarette. Dans son bureau de l’hôpital d’Alexandropoulis, les cendriers sont pleins et l’odeur de tabac envahit toute la pièce. Le médecin légiste d’une cinquantaine d’années, lunettes sur le nez, n’a visiblement pas l’intention d’ouvrir les fenêtres. « On fume beaucoup ici », se contente-t-il de dire. Pavlos Pavlidis parle peu mais répond de manière méthodique.

      « Je travaille ici depuis l’an 2000. C’est cette année-là que j’ai commencé à recevoir les premiers corps de migrants non-identifiés », explique-t-il, le nez rivé sur son ordinateur. Alexandropoulis est le chef-lieu de la région de l’Evros, à quelques kilomètres seulement de la frontière turque. C’est là-bas, en tentant d’entrer en Union européenne via la rivière du même nom, que les migrants prennent le plus de risques.

      « Depuis le début de l’année, 38 corps sont arrivés à l’hôpital dans mon service, 34 étaient des hommes et 4 étaient des femmes », continue le légiste. « Beaucoup de ces personnes traversent l’Evros en hiver. L’eau monte, les courants sont forts, il y a énormément de branchages. Ils se noient », résume-t-il sobrement. « L’année dernière, ce sont 36 corps qui ont été amenés ici. Les chiffres de 2021 peuvent donc encore augmenter. L’hiver n’a même pas commencé. »

      Des corps retrouvés 20 jours après leur mort

      Au fond de la pièce, sur un grand écran, des corps de migrants défilent. Ils sont en état de décomposition avancé. Les regards se détournent rapidement. Pavlos Pavlidis s’excuse. Les corps abîmés sont son quotidien.

      « Je prends tout en photo. C’est mon métier. En ce qui concerne les migrants, les cadavres sont particulièrement détériorés parce qu’ils sont parfois retrouvés 20 jours après leur mort », explique-t-il. Densément boisée, la région de l’Evros, sous contrôle de l’armée, est désertée par les habitants. Sans civils dans les parages, « on ne retrouve pas tout de suite les victimes ». Et puis, il y a les noyés. « L’eau abîme tout. Elle déforme les visages très vite ».

      Tous les corps non-identifiés retrouvés à la frontière ou dans la région sont amenés dans le service de Pavlos Pavlidis. « Le protocole est toujours le même : la police m’appelle quand elle trouve un corps et envoie le cadavre à l’hôpital. Nous ne travaillons pas seuls, nous collaborons avec les autorités. Nous échangeons des données pour l’enquête : premières constatations, présence de documents sur le cadavre, heure de la découverte… »

      Les causes de décès de la plupart des corps qui finissent sous son scalpel sont souvent les mêmes : la noyade, donc, mais aussi l’hypothermie et les accidents de la route. « Ceux qui arrivent à faire la traversée de l’Evros en ressortent trempés. Ils se perdent ensuite dans les montagnes alentours. Ils se cachent des forces de l’ordre. Ils meurent de froid ».
      Cicatrices, tatouages…

      Sur sa table d’autopsie, Pavlos sait que le visage qu’il regarde n’a plus rien à voir avec la personne de son vivant. « Alors je photographie des éléments spécifiques, des cicatrices, des tatouages... » Le légiste répertorie tout ; les montres, les colliers, les portables, les bagues... « Je n’ai rien, je ne sais pas qui ils sont, d’où ils viennent. Ces indices ne leur rendent pas un nom mais les rendent unique. »

      Mettant peu d’affect dans son travail – « Je fais ce que j’ai à faire., c’est mon métier » – Pavlos Pavlidis cache sous sa froideur une impressionnante humanité. Loin de simplement autopsier des corps, le médecin s’acharne à vouloir leur rendre une identité.

      Il garde les cadavres plus longtemps que nécessaire : entre 6 mois et un an. « Cela donne du temps aux familles pour se manifester », explique-t-il. « Ils doivent chercher le disparu, trouver des indices et arriver jusqu’à Alexandropoulis. Je leur donne ce temps-là ». En ce moment, 25 corps patientent dans un conteneur réfrigéré de l’hôpital.

      Chaque semaine, il reçoit des mails de familles désespérées. Il prend le temps de répondre à chacun d’eux. « Docteur, je cherche mon frère qui s’est sûrement noyé dans l’Evros, le 22 aout 2021. Vous m’avez dit le 7 septembre qu’un seul corps avait été retrouvé. Y en a-t-il d’autres depuis ? », peut-on lire sur le mail de l’un d’eux, envoyé le 3 octobre. « Je vous remercie infiniment et vous supplie de m’aider à retrouver mon frère pour que nous puissions l’enterrer dignement ».

      « Je n’ai pas de données sur les corps retrouvés côté turc »

      Dans le meilleur des scénario, Pavlos Pavlidis obtient un nom. « Je peux rendre le corps à une famille ». Mais ce cas de figure reste rare.

      Qu’importe, à chaque corps, la même procédure s’enclenche : il stocke de l’ADN, classe chaque objet dans des enveloppes rangées dans des dossiers, selon un protocole précis. Il note chaque élément retrouvé dans un registre, recense tous les morts et actualise ses chiffres.

      Le médecin regrette le manque de coopération avec les autorités turques. « Je n’ai pas de chiffres précis puisque je n’ai pas le décompte des cadavres trouvés de l’autre côte de la frontière. Je n’ai que ceux trouvés du côté grec. Combien sont morts sur l’autre rive ? Je ne le saurai pas », déplore-t-il. Ces 20 dernières années, le médecin légiste dit avoir autopsié 500 personnes.

      Les corps non-identifiés et non réclamés sont envoyés dans un cimetière de migrants anonymes, dans un petit village à 50 km de là. Perdu dans les collines, il compte environ 200 tombes, toutes marquées d’une pierre blanche.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/35534/un-medecin-legiste-grec-veut-redonner-une-identite-aux-migrants-morts-

      –—

      Portrait de @albertocampiphoto de Pavlos Pavlidis accompagné de mon texte pour @vivre (c’était 2012) :

      Pavlos Pavlidis | Médecin et gardien des morts

      Pavlos Pavlidis nous accueille dans son bureau, au sous-sol de l’hôpital d’Alexandroupoli. Sa jeune assistante, Valeria, est également présente pour l’aider dans la traduction anglaise. Pavlidis est calme. Sa voix est rauque, modelée par la fumée de cigarettes.

      Il s’occupe de trouver la cause de la mort des personnes vivant dans la région de l’Evros, mais également de donner une identité aux cadavres de migrants récupérés dans le fleuve. Une cinquantaine par année, il nous avoue. Déjà 24 depuis le début de l’année, dont un dixième ont un nom et un prénom.

      Après seulement 2 minutes d’entretien, Pavlidis nous demande si on veut regarder les photos des cadavres. Il dit que c’est important que nous les voyions, pour que nous nous rendions compte de l’état dans lequel le corps se trouve. Il allume son vieil ordinateur et nous montre les photos. Il les fait défiler. Les cadavres se succèdent et nous comprenons vite les raisons de faire systématiquement une analyse ADN.

      Pavlidis, en nous montrant les images, nous informe sur la cause de la mort : « Cette dame s’est noyée », dit-il. « Cette dame est morte d’hypothermie ». Ceux qui meurent d’hypothermie sont plus facilement identifiables : « Cet homme était d’Erythrée et on a retrouvé son nom grâce à ses habits et à son visage ». Le visage était reconnaissable, le froid l’ayant conservé presque intact.

      « Celle-ci, c’est une femme noire ». Elle s’est noyée après l’hiver. Pavlidis ne peut en dire de plus. Nous voyons sur la photo qu’elle porte un bracelet. Nous lui posons des questions, sur ce bracelet. Alors il ouvre un tiroir. Il y a des enveloppes, sur les enveloppes la date écrite à la main de la découverte du corps et des détails qui pourraient être important pour donner à ce corps une identité. Dans les enveloppes, il y les objets personnels. Il n’y a que ces objets qui restent intacts. Le corps, lui, subit le passage du temps.

      Pavlidis nous montre ensuite un grigri. C’est un homme qui le portait. Il restera dans l’enveloppe encore longtemps ; jusqu’à ce qu’un cousin, une mère, un ami vienne frapper à la porte de Pavlidis pour dire que c’est peut-être le grigri de son cousin, de son fils, de son ami. Et alors l’ADN servira à effacer les doutes.

      Les cadavres, quand personne ne les réclame, restent dans les réfrigérateurs de l’hôpital pendant 3 mois. Puis, ils sont amenés dans le cimetière musulman du village de Sidiro, où un mufti s’occupe de les enterrer. Ils sont tous là, les corps sans nom, sur une colline proche du village. Ils sont 400, pour l’instant. 450, l’année prochaine. Le mufti prie pour eux, qu’ils soient chrétiens ou musulmans. La distinction est difficile à faire et le fait de les enterrer tous au même endroit permet à Pavlidis de savoir où ils sont. Et là, au moins, il y a quelqu’un qui s’occupe d’eux. Si un jour, la famille vient frapper à la porte du médecin, il saura où est le corps et, ensemble, ils pourront au moins lui donner un nom. Et le restituer à sa famille.

      https://asile.ch/2012/11/09/gardien-des-morts-dans-le-sous-sol-de-lhopital-dalexandropouli

      #identification #Pavlos_Pavlidis

    • http://Evros-news.gr reports that according to info from villagers at the 🇬🇷🇧🇬 border in the Rhodopi & Xanthi prefecture, army special forces (commandos) have been deployed specifically for migration control. They’ve reported in the past the same happens in Evros.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1460326699661414408

      –-

      ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΗ: Ειδικές δυνάμεις, μετά τον Έβρο, επιτηρούν τα ελληνοβουλγαρικά σύνορα για λαθρομετανάστες σε Ροδόπη, Ξάνθη

      Ειδικές Δυνάμεις (Καταδρομείς) μετά τον Έβρο, ανέλαβαν δράση στα ελληνοβουλγαρικά σύνορα για έλεγχο και αποτροπή της εισόδου λαθρομεταναστών και στους νομούς Ροδόπης και Ξάνθης, εδώ και λίγες ημέρες.

      Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες που έφτασαν στο Evros-news.gr από κατοίκους των ορεινών περιοχών των δύο γειτονικών στον Έβρο νομών, οι οποίοι έχουν διαπιστώσει ότι υπάρχει παρουσία στρατιωτικών τμημάτων που ανήκουν στις Ειδικές Δυνάμεις και περιπολούν μέρα-νύχτα στην ελληνοβουλγαρική συνοριογραμμή, από τον έλεγχο που έχουν υποστεί κάθε ώρα της ημέρας αλλά και νύχτας. Είναι άλλωστε γνωστό, πως από εκεί, όπως και την αντίστοιχη του Έβρου, μπαίνει σημαντικός αριθμός λαθρομεταναστών, που με την βοήθεια Βούλγαρων διακινητών μπαίνουν στο έδαφος της γειτονικής χώρας από την Τουρκία και στη συνέχεια… βγαίνουν στην Ροδόπη ή την Ξάνθη, για να συνεχίσουν από εκεί προς Θεσσαλονίκη, Αθήνα.

      Όπως είχαμε ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΕΙ τον περασμένο Αύγουστο, άνδρες των Ειδικών Δυνάμεων και συγκεκριμένα Καταδρομείς, ανέλαβαν τον έλεγχο της λαθρομετανάστευσης στα ελλην0οβουλγαρκά σύνορα του Έβρου, προκειμένου να “σφραγιστεί” από το Ορμένιο ως τον ορεινό όγκο του Σουφλίου στα όρια με το νομό Ροδόπης. Εγκαταστάθηκαν στο Επιτηρητικό Φυλάκιο 30 του Ορμενίου στο Τρίγωνο Ορεστιάδας και στο Σουφλί. Τόσο εκείνη η απόφαση όσο και η πρόσφατη για επέκταση της παρουσίας Ειδικών Δυνάμεων, πάρθηκε από τον Αρχηγό ΓΕΕΘΑ Αντιστράτηγο Κωνσταντίνο Φλώρο και ανέλαβε την υλοποίηση της το Δ’ Σώμα Στρατού.

      Στόχος είναι ο περιορισμός της εισόδου λαθρομεταναστών και μέσω Βουλγαρίας από τους τρεις νομούς της Θράκης, αφού εκεί δεν μπορεί να δημιουργηθεί φράχτης, όπως έχει γίνει στα δυο σημεία της ελληνοτουρκικής συνοριογραμμής, στις Καστανιές και τις Φέρες, αφού η Βουλγαρία είναι χώρα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης και κάτι τέτοιο δεν επιτρέπεται. Επειδή όμως είναι γνωστό πως υπήρχαν παράπονα και αναφορές όχι μόνο κατοίκων αλλά και θεσμικών εκπροσώπων της Ροδόπης και της Ξάνθης για πρόβλημα στις ορεινές τους περιοχές όπου υπάρχουν τα σύνορα με την Βουλγαρία, πάρθηκε η συγκεκριμένη απόφαση προκειμένου να “σφραγιστούν” όσο είναι δυνατόν, οι περιοχές αυτές με την παρουσία των Ειδικών Δυνάμεων. Κι επειδή είναι γνωστό ότι υπήρχαν και παλαιότερα τμήματα τους στους δυο νομούς, να επισημάνουμε ότι οι Καταδρομείς που τοποθετήθηκαν πρόσφατα, προστέθηκαν στις υπάρχουσες δυνάμεις και έχουν μοναδικό αντικείμενο την επιτήρηση της ελληνοβουλγαρικής μεθορίου.

      https://t.co/jzXylBaGUW?amp=1

    • 114 of the 280 vehicles recently acquired by the police will be used for border control in Evros, including:
      80 police cars
      30 pick-up trucks
      4 SUVs
      (this is probably why they need a new police building in Alexandroupoli, parking is an issue)

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1464287124824506370

      Έρχονται στον Έβρο 114 νέα αστυνομικά οχήματα για την φύλαξη των συνόρων


      https://t.co/qajuhOwPWW?amp=1

  • Militarisation of the Evros border is not a new thing, it’s between Greece and Turkey after all. 12 km of land border used to have a minefield. This is at a cemetery in Alexandroupolis. It’s not a vacant plot but a grave for dozens of unidentified migrant mine victims from 1990s.


    https://twitter.com/vvlaakkonen/status/1436561164423634946

    #Evros #Grèce #mourir_aux_frontières #morts_aux_frontières #asile #migrations #histoire #réfugiés #frontières #mines_antipersonnel #cimetière #Alexandroupolis #fosse_commune #militarisation_des_frontières
    #Ville_Laakkonen

    –—

    En 2012, quand @albertocampiphoto et moi étions dans la région, nous avons visité le cimetière de #Sidirò où les victimes du passage frontaliers (à partir des années 2010, soit une fois le terrain déminé) ont été enterrées :


    https://visionscarto.net/evros-mur-inutile
    et
    https://journals.openedition.org/espacepolitique/2675

  • #Frontex #Zeppelin in trial flights from #Alexandroupoli airport. The militarisation of the #Evros border continues.

    https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1415069475238551561

    #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Grèce #militarisation #militarisation_des_frontières

    –—

    Κάτι τρέχει στον Έβρο

    Τα βλέμματα τράβηξε το λευκό αερόστατο τύπου Zeppelin, όσοι το αντίκρυσαν στον ουρανό της Αλεξανδρούπολης σήμερα το πρωί.

    Από το πρωί πραγματοποιεί το συγκεκριμένο Ζέπελιν δοκιμαστικές πτήσεις στο αεροδρόμιο « Δημόκριτος » και σύντομα θα μπει στη « μάχη » της φύλαξης των συνόρων.

    Tα βλέμματα όσων το αντίκρυσαν στον ουρανό της #Αλεξανδρούπολης τράβηξε το αερόστατο τύπου Zέπελιν το οποίο στέλνει η...

    https://www.e-evros.gr/gr/eidhseis/3/aerostato-zeppelin-ston-oyrano-ths-ale3androypolhs-poia-h-xrhsimothta-toy/post44126

  • La Grèce allonge son mur et le fortifie avec un #mur_acoustique...

    Greece fortifies border security against refugees
    Athens reportedly installs devices that can cause deafness at Turkish-Greek border

    Greece installed two electronic devices that can produce strong sound waves that cause deafness in the area bordering Turkey to prevent possible refugee waves entering the country.

    Two #Long_Range_Acoustic_Device (#LRAD) that can also cause severe pain and serious health problems to those who are exposed to it were delivered to police responsible for the border, according to media reports.

    Four drones, 15 thermal cameras, five Zodiacs boats and 10 armored patrol vehicles (APV) were also integrated into the border surveillance system.

    Greece also began building a new fence across its northeastern border with Turkey.

    The fence will be 27 kilometers (17 miles) long and eight elevated observatories will be constructed to be used by the army.

    https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/greece-fortifies-border-security-against-refugees/2008011

    #barrière_acoustique #surdité #mur_acoustique #son #mur_sonore
    #Grèce #Turquie #Evros
    #frontières #migrations #réfugiés

    –—

    sur le nouveau mur :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/830355

  • Europe’s Border Guards Are Illegally Expelling Refugees

    Border guards expelling Syrian refugees after they’ve already been granted asylum has shown the hollowness of European Union humanitarianism. An expansion of the EU-wide Frontex force will make things even worse.

    A young man known in public documents only as Fady has been fighting a battle far harder than anyone his age would normally imagine.

    He first came to Europe from Deir az-Zour, Syria, fleeing that country’s civil war. In 2015, German authorities recognized him as a legally protected refugee. Since then, Fady has used his German passport to look for his lost brother, who he believes to be stuck in Greece and who he wishes to bring to Germany.

    He has paid dearly for those wishes.

    According to information and quotes from Fady provided to Jacobin by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), which is representing him in front of international policymakers, Fady took a trip to Greece in November 2016, hoping to track down his brother. At that time just eleven years of age, his brother had fled recruitment by ISIS, and Fady hoped to find him in Greece.

    While searching for him at a bus station in that country’s Evros region, Fady says he was approached by police and asked about his ethnic origin. After responding that he was Syrian, he was taken into custody by the police, who drove him to an unknown location, despite his protestations that he was a documented German resident who was in the EU legally, with the papers to prove it. They allegedly took his ID, papers, and belongings away from him before handing him to a group of people he describes as “commandos,” who he told the Intercept spoke German and were armed, masked, and clad entirely in black.

    He said the commandos beat anyone who tried to speak to them as they took a group of detained people — some as young as one or two years old — across the river border with Turkey in a rubber boat. There they were dumped paperless, homeless, and stateless in a country that many of them had never resided in for more than a couple days. It took Fady three years to get back his papers and EU residency — a period during which he tried multiple times to get back into Greece in order to search for his brother. He has not found him.

    The ordeal to which Fady was subjected is the most extreme version of what is known as a “pushback” operation. In other forms, these operations can involve keeping people outside of the borders of the EU — denying them entry at sea, for example. GLAN is arguing in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council that the type of pushback operation Fady endured, in which identity papers are confiscated, goes beyond that, amounting to a forced disappearance, which is illegal under a clause of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Greece is a signatory. (Turning away refugees in general is also illegal under international law, but GLAN hopes to add weight to the potential HRC ruling by having the actions acknowledged as forced disappearances.)
    Frontex

    Such operations, many immigrant rights groups allege, are often led by Frontex, the EU’s border security agency, which coordinates national governments’ anti-immigration operations and is the fastest-growing agency in the EU. Headquartered in Warsaw, the organization is slated to grow from a relatively small current workforce to a staff likely to include a potential ten thousand border guards by 2027, in addition to national governments’ forces.

    I wanted to get detailed statements from the German government, the Greek government, and the Frontex bureaucracy about Fady’s incident, so I sent each group a list of several detailed questions.

    A spokesperson for the German government’s press office declined to answer the questions, sending back a short statement that read, “Within the framework of Frontex operations, the German Federal Police supports the Greek authorities to protect the Greek border. The German officers comply with German, European and international law.”

    A Frontex representative also declined to answer specific questions, stating that “Frontex is not aware of any such incident. Frontex officers deployed at the Greek land borders have not been involved in any such incidents. In addition, two investigations have found no evidence of any participation by Frontex in any alleged violations of human rights at the Greek sea borders.”

    The Greek government is keeping its silence about whether it was involved in Fady’s kidnapping. Five emails sent to the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum over the course of two weeks went unanswered.

    Dr Valentina Azarova of the Manchester International Law Centre and GLAN noted that Frontex’s assurances that it is not involved in violent pushbacks alongside Greek border forces are based on faulty information, citing a “dysfunctional reporting system” that was in place at the time of the alleged incident and that is under scrutiny as part of a recent wave of probes.

    While she says that Frontex’s reporting system was supposed to have improved since 2019 reforms went into place — three years after Fady says he was abducted and expelled — the scope of the current probes to the fact that there’s still a long way to go.

    “Frontex’s reporting practice is irregular and opaque,” she told me. “When it does report, it misrepresents illegal expulsions as ‘prevention of departure’ [from Turkey].”
    Driven From Home

    That euphemistic band-aid — an alleged way of trying to reverse an immigration journey that has already happened without getting caught doing so — is emblematic of the problems of this EU agency. For it is tasked with treating only the symptoms of a condition that European countries are guilty of helping to perpetuate, rather than taking on the root causes forcing people onto the move.

    The effects are felt across much of the Global South. By pulling the financial and governmental levers that control the global economy, leaders in industrialized and postindustrial countries have created what Dr Michael Yates — an economist, writer, editor, and editorial director of Monthly Review Press — calls a “complex brew” of austerity, land theft, and political oppression.

    As an addition to this brew of factors, European countries are often either silently complicit or actively encouraging of weapons sales to nearby conflict zones. For example, German manufacturers Hensoldt and Rheinmetall supplied arms to Saudi Arabia via South Africa for its war against Yemen, skirting an export ban, with full knowledge of the German government. And the French industrial giant Airbus dodged an arms embargo on Libya by routing planes through Turkey. This behavior is a logical outgrowth of late-stage capitalism, as weapon sales are one of the more profitable sectors that a business can enter, and as bought-and-paid-for politicians are told to look the other way when misbehavior occurs.

    Together, these factors — the austerity, the land theft, the political oppression, and the encouragement of violent civil conflicts — form a neocolonialist zone of low opportunity that pushes people from the Global South to the Global North.

    Not least among these sources of pressure is the Syrian civil war from which Fady and his brother fled. That conflict has now been going on for more than a decade, involving at least a half-dozen major belligerents, along with other minor parties. It has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

    Any left-wingers in the United States who had held onto hopes that the new Biden administration might introduce a more pacifist stance on Syria — perhaps removing one party from the bloody, multifaceted tragedy playing out between the Tigris and the Mediterranean — were severely disappointed. Immediately after taking office, Biden prioritized bombing that country over fulfilling his $15 minimum wage pledge. And so, the weapon sales continue, the conflict continues, and the Syrian refugees continue trying to find better lives elsewhere.

    Increasingly, those who would help the refugees are finding themselves the targets of government actions. As a Jacobin essayist documented last month, Italy’s new, supposedly centrist government has made some of its first actions a series of moves against groups that assist migrants braving the Mediterranean. On March 1, a hundred officers raided homes and offices all around Italy, seizing activists’ computers, telephones, and files. The accused are, as the essayist argued, “targeted under suspicion of the crime of saving lives.”

    Greece isn’t doing much better. As Jacobin reported last year, at least a thousand asylum seekers have been subjected to pushbacks at the hands of the Greek border authorities.
    Answering to No One

    It’s not just Greece and Italy doing dirty deeds either. Frontex is staffing up, and it is not accountable to the European Court of Human Rights, which only has jurisdiction over member states — not over the EU’s own continent-wide agencies.

    This unaccountability has emboldened Frontex, to the point where it’s comfortable flying an entire plane full of would-be refugees out of Greece to be left — as with Fady — in Turkey. As Melanie Fink wrote for the blog of the European Journal of International Law, it is “notoriously difficult to hold Frontex to account for failures” to uphold its obligations under international law, thanks to the way the bureaucracy is set up.

    And that bureaucracy just gave itself the power to carry weapons, even though, as the Frontex Files investigative website published by German broadcaster ZDF puts it, “no legal regulations permit members of an EU agency to carry firearms.” In other words, the member states never voted on these powers arming Frontex — they are fully an outgrowth of the EU unilaterally deciding that it wants a paramilitary border force to call its own.

    Either by accident or by design, Frontex has by some accounts become an opaque group of European security forces, with no one to answer to. Here there is a great risk of mission creep — for instance, if its agents join other border forces in pursuing or persecuting migrants’ rights activists or labor leaders who speak out for underpaid refugees. As the ongoing probes have affirmed, Azarova says, the whole Frontex system has been set up to be “highly unaccountable.”

    Azarova explains that both Frontex and the European Commission rely on Greece to conduct border operations in accordance with EU law but have not even considered the suspension of their extensive technical and financial assistance to Greece’s abusive border operations. Since EU institutions have done little to redress the illegal expulsions at the EU’s borders, GLAN has taken Fady’s case to the UN.

    Fady says that what he likes about Germany is that his life and work are now here. “I like Germany’s nice people and how kind they are. My work is good, and life is safe here,” he said. He’s even started supporting Bayern Munich.

    But he hopes to go back to the border areas, bringing cameras to document what governments are doing there.

    The authorities can ignore him — or kidnap him once more. While that could damage his life all over again, it will make little difference for them, as their actions will remain almost entirely futile: as long as instability, inequality, and wars encouraged by the Global North push residents of the Global South out of their homes, even ten thousand militarized, unaccountable border guards will not be enough to stop the flow. The people will keep coming.

    https://jacobinmag.com/2021/05/europe-syrian-refugees-greece-germany-frontex

    #push-backs #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #refoulement #réfugiés_syriens #Evros #Thraces #Grèce #Turquie #frontière_terrestre #Frontex

    –—

    ajouté à la métaliste sur les refoulements dans la région de l’Evros :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/914147

  • Annual Torture Report 2020

    Torture and pushbacks – an in depth analysis of practices in Greece and Croatia, and states participating in violent chain-pushbacks

    This special report analyses data from 286 first hand testimonies of violent pushbacks carried out by authorities in the Balkans, looking at the way practices of torture have become an established part of contemporary border policing. The report examines six typologies of violence and torture that have been identified during pushbacks from Croatia and Greece, and also during chain-pushbacks initiated by North Macedonia, Slovenia and Italy. Across the report, 30 victim testimonies of torture and inhuman treatment are presented which is further supplemented by a comprehensive legal analysis and overview of the States response to these allegations.

    The violations profiled include:

    - Excessive and disproportionate force
    - Electric discharge weapons
    - Forced undressing
    - Threats or violence with a firearm
    - Inhuman treatment inside a police vehicle
    - Inhuman treatment inside a detention facility

    –-

    Key Findings from Croatia:

    – In 2020, BVMN collected 124 pushback testimonies from Croatia, exposing the treatment of 1827 people
    - 87% of pushbacks carried out by Croatia authorities contained one or more forms of violence and abuse that we assert amounts to torture or inhuman treatment
    - Violent attacks by police officers against people-on-the-move lasting up to six hours
    - Unmuzzled police dogs being encouraged by officers to attack people who have been detained.
    - Food being rubbed into the open wounds of pushback victims
    - Forcing people naked, setting fire to their clothes and then pushing them back across borders in a complete state of undress

    Key Findings from Greece:

    – 89% of pushbacks carried out by Greek authorities contained one or more forms of violence and abuse that we assert amounts to torture or inhuman treatment
    - 52% of pushback groups subjected to torture or inhuman treatment by Greek authorities contained children and minors
    - Groups of up to 80 men, women and children all being forcibly stripped naked and detained within one room
    - People being detained and transported in freezer trucks
    - Brutal attacks by groups of Greek officers including incidents where they pin down and cut open the hands of people on the move or tied them to the bars of their detention cells and beat them.
    - Multiple cases where Greek officers beat and then threw people into the Evros with many incidents leading to people going missing, presumingly having drowned and died.

    https://www.borderviolence.eu/annual-torture-report-2020
    #rapport #2020 #Border_Violence_Monitoring-Network #BVMN
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #traitements_inhumains_et_dégradants #détention #centres_de_détention #armes #déshabillage_forcé #armes_à_feu #Croatie #Grèce #Evros #refoulements_en_chaîne #taser

    ping @isskein

  • Weaponizing a River

    The Dam

    On the 10th of March, news reports emerged suggesting that Bulgaria had released water downstream from the Ivaylovgrad Dam on the Ardas, a tributary of the Evros (also Meriç, and Maritsa),
    and flooded the river border at the request of the Greek government. This intentional flooding of the border was subsequently denounced as fake news by the Bulgarian authorities and remains unverified. Yet due to the increasing severity of spring floods, including as recently as 2018, the release of water from Bulgarian dams has been a subject of friction between Greece, Turkey, and their upstream riparian neighbor. On the 27th of February, Turkey decided to effectively suspend the 2016 EU-Turkey deal and in doing so directed thousands of asylum seekers to the border with Greece. In the context of Greece’s military response, the recent reports have revealed a hidden violence designed into the environment of the Evros river. In the weeks since, there have been two confirmed casualties from the use of either live or rubber rounds—Muhammad al Arab and Muhammad Gulzar.

    The alleged opening of the dam and these shootings are not distinct but are in continuity with the long-term, albeit previously low intensity, weaponization of the river. These exceptional events prove the more insidious use of the Evros as an ecological border infrastructure extending to its entire floodplain.

    The intentional flooding of the valley, and its entanglement with border defense strategies, testifies to Evros as an arcifinious space. Derived from the legal heredity of international border law, according to legal scholar John W. Donaldson, the term “arcifinious” is the territorial concept whereby a state is bounded by geophysical limits with defensive capabilities, or “natural” boundaries “fit to keep the Enemy out,” such as seas, rivers, deserts, and mountains.
    According to eighteenth-century Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius and his followers, rivers are “part of ’arcifinious’ or ’natural’ military frontier zones that are ‘indetermined,’ and flexible based on the application of force.” While rivers shift of their own volition, they are also manipulated, like straightening. Perhaps more tellingly, the very flexibility of a river—its interstitial condition between water and sediment—is useful in the production of an “indeterminate” space that is materially porous, shifting, and thus difficult for trespassers to cross. This material ambiguity also makes river boundaries unstable in the eyes of international jurisprudence. The hostile characteristics of arcifinious boundaries are mobilized in naturalizing processes central to sovereign claims to territory in a practice that enables states to obscure their agency in relation to border deaths.Some days before the 10th, word had been circulating inside the Fylakio registration and pre-removal detention center in the north of the Evros region that the dam would be opened to make the river more difficult to cross. The dam being discussed by border guards as part of a border defense strategy emphasizes the river not as “natural” but, to the contrary, always flexible to force. Fylakio, also located near the Ardas river, would be one the first villages reached when onrushing water from the dam crosses the Bulgarian-Greek border. Before these waters arrive at the “Karaağaç Triangle,” the Ardas serves as the Greek-Turkey border for one kilometer, after which it meets the Evros/Meriç between the Greek villages of Marasia and Kastanies. This is the northwestern point of the Karaağaç Triangle, which was the only segment of the Greece-Turkey border not originally delimited by the Evros/Meriç river in the 1926 Athens Protocol, an annex to the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty. Instead, it is today a stretch of deforested land with an eleven-kilometer-long deterrent fence. Proposed in 2011 and completed in 2012, the fence directs border crossers to more dangerous routes across the river, and to deadlier maritime crossing routes in the Aegean sea. Fittingly, the fence is mentioned as a “technical obstacle” in FRONTEX Serious Incident Reports (SIR).The Karaağaç Triangle is where refugees were directed by the Turkish government on the 27th of February, and where they found themselves trapped between Greek forces who would not let them cross and Turkish forces who prevented them from returning to Istanbul and the Turkish mainland. It is where Muhamad Gulzar, a young man from Pakistan, was shot dead, and five more were injured on the 4th of March. During our visit to the Evros in early March, we witnessed trucks carrying fencing towards strategic—yet unfortified—parts of the river. The fence is currently being elongated by forty kilometers, particularly along parcels of Greek land that sit on the Turkish side of the river, and vice versa.In the war of words exchanged by the two sides, the Greek government and far right Twitter has been using the term “hybrid war” to describe what they perceive as a Turkish attempt to “intrude” on Greek territory through indirect means, here with refugee bodies instead of bullets. In response to Turkey’s weaponization of refugees, Greece and the EU are also employing a form of hybrid warfare explicitly incorporating the river ecology itself. Where so many people were—and still are—trapped in spaces along the frontier, like at Karaağaç, they are exposed to a hybrid form of border violence involving farmers spraying pesticides onto refugees across the fence, the deployment of large fans to direct teargas back to the Turkish side, and the use of water cannons to spray blue liquid across the fence so those who make it onto the Greek side can be easily identified. In addition to these assembled elements, on the night of the 26th of March, the impromptu camp that had been set up in Pazarkule, on the Turkish side of the border, caught fire. In videos that were circulated, witnesses claim that the fires were lit by Turkish authorities (jandarma) in their attempts to remove asylum seekers from the border (a measure supposed to counter the spread of COVID-19).Authors in critical border studies refer to the mobilization of geophysical and environmental features either as a hybrid collectif, an assemblage of actants, landscape as space of moral alibi,

    or what we call border natures. The border’s ecology of exception is made possible by both the river’s adaptability to force and flexibility, and contributes to the production of an ambiguous space in which multiple modes of violence are perpetrated with impunity. Methods of hybrid warfare are unambiguously mobilizing environmental elements. As such, “nature” can no longer be an alibi but is directly incorporated in the production of death at the border.

    What is the role of water in the politics of death at the border? Here river waters stand at the intersection of connection-division, and life-death.
    The fluvial frontier is a complex and nuanced territorial condition braiding together multiple elements including conservation, transboundary river management, military technology, the geopolitics of resource logistics, and the divergently visible and opaque politics of border crossing. Thinking against material and discursive reproductions of both rivers and borders as “natural” phenomena, the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa river is the result of multiple organizational technologies of territorial sovereignty. Primary amongst these is the mobilization of major infrastructure: the dam and the contingent release of waters downstream would be a direct threat to the lives of asylum seekers attempting to enter the EU. If Bulgaria, as a member state, had opened the dam, this would have been premised on its contribution to the fortification of the external borders of fortress Europe.

    2. A Shifting Border

    The Evros/Meriç/Maritsa has its source in the Rila mountains. It runs for 310 of its 528 kilometers through Bulgaria, with the final 210 kilometers forming a border, initially between Bulgaria and Greece, and then for the last 192 kilometers between Greece and Turkey before reaching its delta and emptying into the Thracian Sea in the Aegean. The river is fast, with a mean annual flow rate of 103 cubic meters per second (a rate which can increase twofold between December and April). Its course flows over sandy and malleable soil, and annually discharges approximately 3.2 million tons of sediment and 9.5 billion cubic meters of freshwater into the sea.
    This results in frequent erosion that alters its banks. Capricious shifts of the river produce islands of stranded land; there are expanses of “Turkish” earth on the “wrong” side of the river, and elsewhere, land has been ceded by the river to Greece. These stranded territories are also points where fatalities become concentrated. Pavlos Pavlidis, coroner at the University Hospital of Alexandroupolis, capital of the Evros prefecture, and Maria-Valeria Karakasi have identified a particular parcel of land near Feres, the entry point to the Delta, as the location where seventy-two bodies were recovered between 2000 and 2014. This is also where refugees were recently directed by geographers aligned with Turkish authorities,

    and where a young man from Aleppo, Muhammad al Arab, was shot dead by Greek soldiers standing inside the dry river bed of the 1926 border, which now acts as little more than a trench. Within the above calculations of river flow and sediment transportation is concealed a deadly politics of bordering that incorporates the full spectrum of the Evros’s hydrology and manipulates the ambiguities produced by rivers.

    The river’s movements occupy a central role in the territorial disputes between the riparian states of Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, and compound what is already a militarized terrain. Due to these shifts, and the river’s own agency, many have considered rivers as inadequate political boundaries. Donaldson words it thus: “the presence of water makes a boundary river unstable, forceful, and risky; incompatible with the legal fiction of a fixed boundary line that would prefer the stability of land over the dynamism of water.”
    This instability lies behind the fantasies of territorial control implied by the international committee assembled in 1926 with the task of determining the precise course of the border between Greece and Turkey at the end of the Ottoman Empire.The 1926 committee, headed by Dutch colonel J. Backer, deemed that the border follow the median line between the banks throughout the course of the river, or its main “branch,” when the river splits. The border was marked with red ink on ten maps that were attached as annexes to the protocol, and the first twenty-six demarcation “pyramids” were installed. Delimited in such an inflexible way, like many river borders, it could not respond to shifts in the median line and changes in the course of the river. Instead, the demarcation of the protocol fixed the river in time and to an abstract line. Consequently, efforts to enforce the demarcation of the border have long been hampered by the agency of the river itself. As early as 1965, markers installed to designate part of the border along the Evros/Meriç by a joint Greek-Turkish committee were quickly carried away by the river. Similarly, in 2015, parts of the fence were carried away by flood waters released from the Ivaylovgrad dam. As recently as October 2017, Turkish authorities dug trenches underneath the fence to prevent flooding.

    There is now almost 100 years of geomorphological variation between the drawn border and the current course of the river. Islands that used to be there are no longer; banks have moved and canalizations have directed the river in divergent ways. Two rivers and two borders exist at the Evros/Meriç: the cartographic border of the old median line (featuring now almost unmoving oxbow lakes) and the water of the new trespass line. It comes with little surprise then that stabilizing the river banks to the 1926 condition has been a concern of both Greece and Turkey. Since 1936, the two countries have made efforts to draft plans for common flood defense, most notably the study undertaken in 1953 by the Chicago-based Harza Engineering Company. None of these plans were fully implemented, and after the 1970s, bilateral communication ceased for decades.

    In addition to the proposal of the fence in 2011, the Hellenic Army General Staff planned an unfulfilled project to dig a “120-kilometer-long, thirty-meter-wide, and seven-meter-deep” “moat.”

    Officially an “anti-tank trap” functioning primarily as a defense against Turkish invasion, in the context of increased crossings in 2011, the “moat” would have only been a further technical barrier for border crossers.

    Where rivers appear at first glance as “natural,” they are, to greater and lesser extents, the result of centuries of small and large-scale engineering interventions. In Stefan Helmreich’s concept of “infranature,” second nature—that which is always produced as socio-technical—is “folded” back into first or organic nature.
    What appears as “natural” or “organic” is therefore actually a mask for the production of techno-natural infrastructures. Helmreich echoes a famous passage in Michel Serres’s The Natural Contract where he describes the birth of geometry emerging from the calculations of Nile floods. Out of the “chaos” and “disorder” of flood events, Serres proposes that measurements made by surveyors, for irrigation purposes, reordered nature to give “it a new birth into culture.”

    Such culture, however, may itself produce violent effects. The measurements that reorder the river waters of the Evros are born into a culture that takes the form of a hybrid military-natural assemblage.

    Understanding the often intentionally ambiguous calculations of infranature in its combative applications helps to clarify how rivers are technologized through overt human interventions, such as dams and other large engineering projects, as well as in less overt ways. Rivers and their flows respond to assemblages of smaller scale and almost invisible interventions or those that occur far up river, like the opening of a dam. In these ways, the very speed at which water travels, or the amount of sediment that accumulates in the muddy delta, are part of the measurements of the infrantural technology of the arcifinious river. In these border environments, the river itself is potentially armed and dangerous.

    The river and its imagined doubling as a moat instrumentalizes the already treacherous route for asylum seekers beyond the scale of a “deterrent” into an engineered space unconcerned with fatalities. Stepping back from the Hellenic Army General Staff’s imagination, the Evros already performs the arcifinious role of a moat at the EU’s fluvial frontier. The drawing of a fixed, yet imaginary line along the central course of the river effectively produced the river as a frontier, whereby its movements and muds become spaces where sovereign territorial imaginaries are projected with horrifyingly real effects.

    3. Flood

    The risk of major flood events has long been one of the primary transboundary concerns in the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa. Such events have increased in frequency over the last twenty-five years, leading to a once in a thousand-year flood in 2005, severe events in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2014, and 2015, and a “state of emergency” announced by the Greek Government in March and April 2018.
    Flooding in the region is closely tied to the politics of hydro-electric infrastructure. The majority of large dams and reservoirs in the basin are concentrated on Bulgarian territory (as many as 722), while Turkey has built sixty, and Greece just five (mainly for irrigation purposes, as opposed to energy production). Flow variability is central to many transboundary agreements whereby upstream riparian nations either force or allow downstream riparians to adapt to seasonal changes in both wet and dry conditions.

    This is a concern for hyrdrodiplomatic relations between Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria.

    When a tri-lateral working group met in October 2006 in Alexandroupolis, Turkey made a written demand, supported by Greece, that the reservoir storage capacity of large dams situated on the Ardas tributary in Bulgaria be regulated to “minimize water discharges downstream and reduce flow at Edirne,” a densely populated area, near to the border fence, and a major confluence where the Ardas and another tributary, the Tundzha, meet the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa. The Bulgarian delegation refused to respond and cancelled future working groups. Bulgaria is resistant to such regulation because of the role that the private sector plays in managing hydro-electric infrastructure.
    To maximize energy productivity and profits, their primary interest is to maintain the highest possible water level in the dam reservoirs all year round. Under previous conditions, this would have been in direct opposition to the interests of the downstream nations who want to regulate reservoir storage in wet seasons so they have the capacity to accommodate potential increases in volume that risk overtopping dams and result in flooding. The events of the past month, however, show that within the context of Bulgaria’s entrance into the EU in 2007, upstream storage of high levels of water is also part of military contingency planning to flood the valley and safeguard what is now a common European frontier.

    Recent attempts at hydrodiplomacy in the region include the 2016 “Joint Declaration Between the Government of the Hellenic Republic and the Government of the Republic of Turkey” signed by Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Ahmet Davutoglu.

    This agreement incorporated multiple political and hydrographical issues that fold onto the frontier, including a Joint Action Plan to “stem migration flows,” with the implied proviso that Greece will support Turkey in EU visa liberalization dialogue. While this proviso has since been forgotten, the lubrication of one form of movement was unambiguously exchanged for the curtailment of another. This is followed by a section on flooding, acknowledging the damage caused each year and expressing a joint commitment to adhering to the centralized European Water Directive. As downstream nations, Greece and Turkey agreed and welcomed faintly veiled “goodwill and cooperation” from the “other relevant parties,” intimating Bulgaria, to whom they direct much of the blame.

    The overlaps between a river that regularly floods and a territory where border crossers are at the mercy of systematic violence resonates troublingly with nationalist media and governmental rhetoric of “flows,” “floods,” or “surges” and the “stemming” of migrants.”
    Naturalizing metaphors such as these emerge wherever border regimes are discursively or materially constructed to ensure the illegality of movement across borders, and in doing so, racially “other” border crossers. Indeed, hydrologic metaphors are evoked to draw a distinction between those who do not belong and those who do within a sedentary notion of territory. In light of the events of March 2020, the material movement of water out of place is not perceived as a threat that must be contained to prevent it seeping into discourses that legally and culturally ground the nation-state. Instead, the movement of these waters are deployed in the very efforts to exclude others from the space of the nation-state.Joint Operation Poseidon Land, EU border agency Frontex’s Evros operation, began in 2011. The name conjures a pathologic mythology, casting border crossers as mortals committing the hubris of seeking refuge in Europe, while Frontex claims the role of chastising deity. Here Poseidon, god of both the sea and rivers, intervenes at the land-water divide. In mythology, where his trident struck, land quakes and flooding and drowning ensues. Echoing a crude sketch of the hydrologic cycle, Operation Poseidon Land transposes border violence in liquid form from the Aegean—where Operation Poseidon Sea is enacted—to the headwaters of the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa and back down along its course. The rumored intentional flooding of the valley from the Ivaylovgrad dam brings Frontex’s troubling mythological sensibility into reality.

    4. Anachoma

    A week before the flooding made the headlines, and a day after Muhammad al Arab’s killing, the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen visited Evros, along with three EU leaders and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Following the visit, they gave a joint statement in which der Leyen thanked Greece for being Europe’s aspida, using the Greek word for “shield” (ασπίδα).

    Der Leyen’s choice of vocabulary uncannily echoes local military discourse, in which the region is often called Greece’s ανάχωμα (anachoma), or embankment, against Turkish invasion, and more recently against asylum seekers. The landscape of the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa is entirely sculpted to either contain or facilitate movement, be it of military personnel, people, or water. The berm, a versatile and ambiguous military-ecological technology, is the physical embodiment of the ανάχωμα. There are multiple types of berms, each of which is designed to perform distinct functions. There are surpassable/summer berms, main berms, tertiary berms for flood defense, raised rail lines and roads enabling movement during flood periods, irrigation, and, most explicitly in the delta, anti-tank installations. A hierarchy is designed into the system of flood control to allow water, armies, and people to penetrate the frontier space to varying degrees.

    The military imaginary of Evros as an ανάχωμα also refers to a more nuanced politics of demographic engineering. The delimitation of the border in the 1920s coincided with the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, a process which created imagined communities that the river division helped crystalize. The process intended to produce a Greek Christian population along the border as a demographic buffer—or embankment—against invasion. This began with the transfer of Greek-speaking populations from what became Turkish territory on the shores of the Aegean and the Anatolian peninsula, as well as Pontic Greeks from the shores of the Black Sea. In return, Turkish-speaking and other Muslim populations from Greek territory were moved to Turkey, although significant minority populations still remain in western Thrace. In the century since, Turkish, Pomak, Bektashi, and other Muslim minorities in western Thrace have been the focus of multiple marginalizing practices. A system of checkpoints (barres) was put in place in 1936 to isolate these communities, the last of which were removed as recently as 1995.
    When we visited the Bektashi villages of Roussa and Goniko in Evros, we saw the check point still standing, an abandoned yet powerful reminder of the state as an ambient presence.

    As embankments of wet earth, berms are concentrations of these politics of demographic engineering and territorial control. They are ground engineered in excess. They are routes of control through the floodplain for the police, military, and local farmers, and they figure within the imaginary of the moat as obstacles for invading forces. The berms reveal the border regime’s deployment of the environment as defensive “infranatural” technology.

    Corresponding to the engineered limits of the floodplain, berms are often placed along the edge of the military buffer zone that runs along the Greek side of the Evros border, also known as ZAP (Zoni Asfaleias Prokalypsis). As human rights reports have been claiming for years, where the floodplain/buffer zone broadens, the river becomes a site where human rights violations occur. These include the failure to rescue and illegal pushbacks of border crossers back to Turkey.
    A case on May 8, 2018 involving a group of fourteen people attempting to cross during a flood event speaks directly to the overlapping of flooding with the operations of the border. The attempt failed and resulted in one fatality. Once the group returned to Turkey, they attempted to contact Greek authorities with a picture of the ID card and the GPS location of the body. Greek police stated that the flooding was too severe to attempt a recovery, and over the next few days, no confirmation of the recovery of the body was received. In other examples, the police have refuted the possibility of pushbacks because the water is too high or the geomorphology makes it impossible. In this way, the behavior of water in excess is co-opted as an obviatory device; a mask in the construction of denial. The flood is an alibi for border violence. Consequently, the berm infrastructure marks the limit of the flood and acts as a container for this riverine geography of exception.

    5. The Delta

    The Evros Delta, where the river meets the Thracian Sea, covers a surface area of 111,937 square kilometers. A protected conservation area designated as a wetland of international importance by the 1971 Ramsar treaty, the delta’s saline waters, ponds, and islands are home to a number of migratory bird species. Since last month, however, it has hosted a different kind of migration, with army and police units operating side by side with local, self-proclaimed “frontiersmen,” “guardians of the border,” and hunting clubs from all over Greece arriving to prevent what they understand to be an “intrusion” of “illegal aliens” (“lathrometanastes”) into Greece. Joining them are far-right and neo-nazi militants from Europe and the US who have flocked there to demonstrate their support, and “safeguard Europe’s borders.” Showing little regard for human life, they describe their operations as “hunting” for refugees. The ongoing dehumanization of asylum seekers using both language and physical force permeates the region. Detainees in the recently exposed border guard center at Poros, have described guards treating them “like animals.”
    The violent events of the past month, including the killings of Muhammad al Arab inside the Evros delta and Muhamad Gulzar in the Karaağaç Triangle, as well as the reports of the opening of the Ivaylovgrad dam, are punctuating moments that bring to the fore the slower environmental processes mobilized against asylum seekers at the border. The Evros catchment basin is currently a densely braided space of border violence and death, incorporating military personnel, nationalist and neo-nazi paramilitaries, local farmers and hunters, as well as the very ecology of this deltaic marshland, such as temperature and meteorological conditions. Indeed, rather than being a “natural” border, the Evros is an exemplary case of a borderized nature, where environmental elements, which are not deadly on their own, are made deadly by forcing people to traverse them under treacherous conditions. We have spoken with asylum seekers who have described the fog that hangs above the Evros. Fog, like clothes sodden from swimming across the river, and combined with freezing winter temperatures, contribute to the threat of hypothermia for border crossers, which, after drowning, is the second highest cause of death at Evros. As reported in the media, paramilitaries who have been recently drawn to the area to hunt people who cross “at night and in the fog,” are transposing the old Nazi directive for disappearing bodies “Nacht und Nebel” (“Night and Fog”) onto the Evros Delta.Through the waters of the river, amongst the impacted earth of the berms, and under the veil of the heavy airs of teargas and pesticides, complex forces are deployed and emerge from the fog of the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa. Understanding the complexity of the river as a weaponized border ecology is crucial to reveal the ongoing and intensifying violence that unfolds across different scales in this region. To confront the far-right that is currently assembling its forces rhetorically, environmentally, and in person in the Evros delta and all along the fluvial frontier, and to counter the obfuscating tactics long deployed by the police in their use of the river as alibi, requires understanding how this border is constructed. When considering the Evros border, we must learn to perceive the entire floodplain as a border technology. This, in turn, involves striving to see the river as a spectrum, from freezing fog in the valley, dew in the field, and mud in the floodplain as clearly as it sees water flowing between the riverbanks themselves.To assist migrants in defending their rights, and to resist the far-right seeping out of border regions into increasingly xenophobic societies, the very concept of “nature” needs to be reframed to encompass the ways it is deployed within the military imaginary of borderized environments. Practices must be developed to perceive how border regimes harness environmental processes. Such practices reveal the varying watery states of the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa as what they are: the riverine arsenal of a deadly defense architecture. The border regime operates as an expanded or “dispersed” territorial technology: an entire region designed as a violent ανάχωμα.

    https://www.e-flux.com/architecture/at-the-border/325751/weaponizing-a-river

    #weaponization #Evros #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Thrace #Grèce #Turquie #architecture_forensique #Forensic_Architecture #rivière

    • GEOGRAPHY OF EVROS/MERIÇ RIVER PUSHBACKS

      Across January, BVMN collected testimonies
      documenting pushbacks over the Evros/
      Meriç river on the Greek-Turkish border,
      impacting over 500 people-on-the-move.
      These incidents validate a pattern identified
      by BVMN of Greek authorities using small
      islands in the river to stage pushbacks, often
      leaving groups stranded there for indefinite
      periods. Beyond inhumane treatment –
      pregnant women have been left without food,
      water or shelter – several reports indicate
      that people are placed at direct risk of
      drowning (see 8.4) in the river.
      Ironically, Greece has cited flooding as a
      reason not to mount rescue operations or
      recover the bodies of those who have
      drowned, while using the riverʼs water level
      and challenging geomorphology to refute the
      possibility of pushbacks.
      One testimony (see 8.5) offers a compelling
      example of the dangers associated with this
      practice. It describes how eight North African
      men were driven into the middle of the Evros
      river and ordered to jump in. With “water
      reaching their chests ”, the men were forced
      to wade to an island from where they could
      swim to Turkish shores. While attempting the
      crossing, however, one man was swept away
      by the overwhelming current, only managing
      to survive by grabbing onto a fallen tree.
      Witnessing this scene, the remaining men on
      the island feared to cross as they could not
      swim. With soaking wet clothes, they were
      stuck there for three days in sub-zero
      temperatures, until they were eventually
      retrieved by Greek police and pushed back to
      Turkey.
      Perhaps most unsettling is that the officers
      allegedly watched this scene unfold and took
      over 72 hours to intervene. Hypothermia is
      the second highest killer of transit groups in
      the Evros region. Reminiscent of the triborder
      area between Bulgaria, Greece and
      Turkey, which is being used to stage indirect
      chain pushbacks, this phenomenon
      represents a weaponization of geography, or
      as one commentator eloquently wrote, ʻa
      form of hybrid border violence that explicitly
      incorporates the river ecology itselfʼ.

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/balkan-region-report-january-2021
      –-> pp.7-8

  • Αίτημα επιστροφής 1.500 προσφύγων στην Τουρκία κατέθεσε η Ελλάδα στην Ε.Ε.
    –-> La Grèce demande à l’UE le #retour de 1 500 réfugiés en Turquie.

    Αίτημα προς την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή και τη Frontex για την άμεση επιστροφή 1.450 προσώπων, των οποίων έχουν απορριφθεί τα αιτήματα παροχής ασύλου, κατέθεσε το υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου, επικαλούμενο την Κοινή Δήλωση Ε.Ε.-Τουρκίας. Ωστόσο να σημειωθεί ότι πλέον η έκδοση των αποφάσεων παροχής ασύλου σε πρώτο βαθμό γίνονται με διαδικασίες εξπρές, μη εξασφαλίζοντας επαρκή νομική βοήθεια και κατά συνέπεια δίκαιη απόφαση.

    Στην ανακοίνωση του υπουργείου Μετανάστευσης αναφέρεται ότι η Ελλάδα ζητά να επιστρέψουν στην Τουρκία 955 αλλοδαποί που μπήκαν στη χώρα μας από την Τουρκία και βρίσκονται στη Λέσβο, 180 που βρίσκονται στη Χίο, 128 που βρίσκονται στη Σάμο και 187 στην Κω, επισημαίνοντας ότι τα αιτήματά τους για άσυλο έχουν απορριφθεί τελεσίδικα και ως εκ τούτου είναι επιστρεπτέοι, βάσει της Κοινής Δήλωσης ΕΕ- Τουρκίας.

    Το πρώτο δίμηνο του 2020 καταγράφηκαν συνολικά 139 επιστροφές προς την Τουρκία, με τη διαδικασία να έχει σταματήσει από τις 15 Μαρτίου 2020, καθώς η Τουρκία επικαλέστηκε τις δυσκολίες που επέφερε το ξέσπασμα της πανδημίας του κορονοϊού. Πλέον, το υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης ισχυρίζεται ότι « οι ταχείες διαδικασίες ελέγχων για κορονοϊό στην Ελλάδα και η σημαντική επιτάχυνση της διαδικασίας ασύλου, έχουν δημιουργήσει τις κατάλληλες συνθήκες για την επανέναρξη της διαδικασίας επιστροφών με ασφάλεια όσων αλλοδαπών δεν δικαιούνται διεθνούς προστασίας και εισήλθαν στην Ελλάδα από την Τουρκία ».

    Ο υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου, Νότης Μηταράκης, επισημαίνει στη δήλωσή του ότι η Ελλάδα αναμένει από την Τουρκία « να ενισχύσει τις προσπάθειες στα πλαίσια της Κοινής Δήλωσης : πρώτον, στην αποτροπή διέλευσης βαρκών που ξεκινούν από τα παράλιά της με προορισμό τη χώρα μας. Δεύτερον, στην αποδοχή επιστροφών στη βάση της Κοινής Δήλωσης Ε.Ε.-Τουρκίας, αλλά και των διμερών συμφωνιών επανεισδοχής ».

    Και αναφερόμενος στην ευρωπαϊκή πολιτική για το προσφυγικό/μεταναστευτικό, σημειώνει ότι « το ζητούμενο για την Ευρώπη είναι να κατοχυρώσει στο νέο Σύμφωνο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου έναν κοινό μηχανισμό, καθώς και το απαραίτητο νομικό οπλοστάσιο για επιστροφές. Και να οχυρώσει, με αυτόν τον τρόπο, τις χώρες πρώτης υποδοχής απέναντι σε ανεξέλεγκτες μεταναστευτικές ροές, αλλά και τη δράση κυκλωμάτων λαθροδιακινητών ».

    Την ίδια ώρα, με αφορμή το αίτημα του ελληνικού υπουργείου Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου προς την Κομισιόν και τη Frontex, η οργάνωση-ομπρέλα για τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα HIAS Greece εξέδωσε ανακοίνωση στην οποία σημειώνει ότι η ταχεία διαδικασία που ακολουθείται για την εξέταση των αιτημάτων ασύλου δεν εξασφαλίζει σωστή και δίκαιη απόφαση.

    Επίσης οι αιτούντες άσυλο δεν έχουν επαρκή νομική βοήθεια και η διαδικασία της προσφυγής σε δεύτερο βαθμό είναι νομικά περίπλοκη, ουσιαστικά αποτρέποντας τους πρόσφυγες από να διεκδικήσουν την παραμονή τους στη χώρα.

    « Καθίσταται σαφές ότι χωρίς νομική συνδρομή είναι αδύνατον οι αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο να παρουσιάσουν εγγράφως και μάλιστα στην ελληνική γλώσσα, τους νομικούς και πραγματικούς λόγους για τους οποίους προσφεύγουν κατά της απορριπτικής τους απόφασης », σημειώνει μεταξύ άλλων, τονίζοντας επίσης :

    « Η έλλειψη δωρεάν νομικής συνδρομής αποβαίνει εις βάρος του δίκαιου και αποτελεσματικού χαρακτήρα που θα έπρεπε να διακρίνει τη διαδικασία ασύλου στο σύνολό της, ιδίως αν ληφθούν υπόψη οι εξαιρετικά σύντομες προθεσμίες που προβλέπονται για διαδικασία των συνόρων και τα σημαντικά κενά στη πρόσβαση σε νομική συνδρομή ήδη από το πρώτο βαθμό της διαδικασίας ασύλου ».

    https://www.efsyn.gr/node/276785

    –—

    Traduction de Vicky Skoumbi via la mailing-list Migeurop :

    Le ministère de l’Immigration et de l’Asile a soumis une demande à la Commission européenne et à #Frontex pour le #retour_immédiat de 1 450 personnes dont la demande d’asile a été rejetée, citant la déclaration commune UE-Turquie. Cependant, il convient de noter que désormais, les décisions d’asile en première instance sont prises par des procédures expresses, sans que soit assuré une aide juridique suffisante au requérant, ce qui pourrait garantir une décision équitable.

    L’annonce du ministère de l’Immigration indique que la Grèce demande le retour en Turquie de 955 étrangers qui sont entrés dans notre pays depuis la Turquie et se trouvent à #Lesbos, 180 à #Chios, 128 à #Samos et 187 à #Kos, notant que leurs demandes d’asile ont été définitivement rejetés et qu’il est possible de les renvoyer, en vertu de la déclaration commune UE-Turquie. Au cours des deux premiers mois de 2020, un total de 139 #retours_forcés en Turquie ont été enregistrés, un processus qui est au point mort depuis le 15 mars 2020, date à laquelle la Turquie a évoqué les difficultés supplémentaires causées par l’apparition de la #pandémie de #coronavirus.

    Désormais, le ministère de l’Immigration affirme que "les procédures de #dépistage_rapide du coronavirus en Grèce et l’accélération significative du processus d’asile, ont créé les bonnes conditions pour la #reprise en toute sécurité du processus de retour des étrangers qui n’ont pas droit à une protection internationale et sont entrés en Grèce depuis la Turquie. ». Le ministre de l’Immigration et de l’Asile, #Notis_Mitarakis, souligne dans sa déclaration que la Grèce attend de la Turquie "un renforcement des efforts dans le cadre de la Déclaration commune : premièrement, pour empêcher le passage des bateaux partant de ses côtes vers notre pays". Deuxièmement, par l’acceptation des retours sur la base de la déclaration commune UE-Turquie, mais aussi des accords bilatéraux de #réadmission ". Faisant référence à la politique européenne des réfugiés / immigration, il a noté que « l’objectif de l’Europe est d’établir un mécanisme commun dans le nouveau pacte d’immigration et d’asile, ainsi que l’arsenal juridique nécessaire pour les retours. Et de fortifier, de cette manière, les premiers pays d’accueil contre les flux migratoires incontrôlés, mais aussi l’action des réseaux de passeurs ".

    Dans le même temps, à l’occasion de la demande du ministère grec de l’Immigration et de l’asile à la Commission et à Frontex, l’organisation de défense des droits de l’homme HIAS Greece a publié une déclaration dans laquelle elle note que la procédure rapide suivie pour l’examen des demandes d’asile ne garantit pas décision juste et équitable. De plus, les demandeurs d’asile ne bénéficient pas d’une aide juridique suffisante et la procédure de recours en deuxième instance est juridiquement compliquée, ce qui empêche les réfugiés de défendre leur droit de séjour dans le pays. « Il devient clair que sans assistance juridique, il est impossible pour les demandeurs d’asile de présenter par écrit et qui plus est en langue grecque, les raisons juridiques et réelles pour lesquelles ils font appel de la décision de rejet de leur demande », notent-t-ils, entre autres, en soulignant : « L’absence d’assistance juridique gratuite se fait au détriment du caractère équitable et efficace de la #procédure_d'asile dans son ensemble, en particulier compte tenu des délais extrêmement courts prévus de la #procédure_à_la_frontière (#Border_procedure) et des lacunes importantes déjà en matière d’accès à l’#aide_juridique, dès la première instance de la procédure d’asile ".

    #Grèce #Turquie #asile #migrations #renvois #expulsions #réfugiés #accord_UE-Turquie #déboutés

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • « Ναι » στις επιστροφές μεταναστών λέει η Τουρκία

      Πρόκειται για αίτημα που κατέθεσε την περασμένη εβδομάδα στην Ε.Ε. και στον Frontex ο υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου Νότης Μηταράκης.

      Θετική ανταπόκριση της Τουρκίας στο ελληνικό αίτημα για επιστροφή 1.450 αλλοδαπών των οποίων τα αιτήματα ασύλου έχουν απορριφθεί τελεσιδίκως προκύπτει από τη χθεσινή συνάντηση του αντιπροέδρου της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής Μαργαρίτη Σχοινά με τον Τούρκο υπουργό Εξωτερικών Μεβλούτ Τσαβούσογλου. Πρόκειται για αίτημα που κατέθεσε την περασμένη εβδομάδα στην Επιτροπή και στον Frontex ο υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου Νότης Μηταράκης. Ο κ. Τσαβούσογλου, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες της εφημερίδας Καθημερινη , είπε ότι το ζήτημα θα επιλυθεί με ορίζοντα τον Μάρτιο.

      Σύμφωνα με τις ίδιες πληροφορίες, η συνάντηση με τον κ. Σχοινά –η πρώτη μεταξύ των δύο ανδρών– διήρκεσε μία ώρα και συζητήθηκαν όλα τα θέματα αρμοδιότητος του αντιπροέδρου : το μεταναστευτικό, η ασφάλεια, ο διαθρησκειακός διάλογος και οι επαφές μεταξύ των λαών. Κοινοτικές πηγές αναφέρουν ότι, ενόψει της Συνόδου Κορυφής του Μαρτίου και της έκθεσης Μπορέλ για τις ευρωτουρκικές σχέσεις, είναι επιτακτική ανάγκη η οικοδόμηση ενός πλαισίου θετικής συνεννόησης και η αποφυγή διχαστικών δηλώσεων που θα οξύνουν εκ νέου τις εντάσεις. Ο κ. Τσαβούσογλου κάλεσε τον κ. Σχοινά να συμμετάσχει ως κεντρικός ομιλητής στο Φόρουμ της Αττάλειας τον προσεχή Ιούνιο.

      Σε θετικό κλίμα εξελίχθηκε και η συνάντηση του Τούρκου υπουργού με την επίτροπο Εσωτερικών Υποθέσεων Ιλβα Γιόχανσον. Τα βασικά θέματα τα οποία συζήτησαν, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, ήταν οι δεσμεύσεις των δύο πλευρών όπως απορρέουν από την Κοινή Δήλωση Ε.Ε. – Τουρκίας για τη διαχείριση του μεταναστευτικού και τα προαπαιτούμενα με τα οποία πρέπει να συμμορφωθεί η Αγκυρα για να υπάρξει πρόοδος στο θέμα της απελευθέρωσης των θεωρήσεων. Ο κ. Τσαβούσογλου συναντήθηκε επίσης με τον Ζοζέπ Μπορέλ και τον επίτροπο Διεύρυνσης Ολιβερ Βαρχέλι, ενώ είχε και ένα σύντομο τετ α τετ με την Ούρσουλα φον ντερ Λάιεν. Σε δηλώσεις του πριν από τη δική του συνάντηση με τον κ. Τσαβούσογλου, ο ύπατος εκπρόσωπος της Ε.Ε. για την Εξωτερική Πολιτική χαρακτήρισε το 2020 « περίπλοκο έτος » για τις σχέσεις των δύο πλευρών. « Πρόσφατα όμως », πρόσθεσε ο κ. Μπορέλ, « έχουμε δει βελτίωση της ατμόσφαιρας » και « κάποια σημαντικά βήματα » στην αναζήτηση « κοινών στρατηγικών συμφερόντων ».

      « Ενα θετικό βήμα είναι η ανακοινωθείσα επανέναρξη των διερευνητικών συνομιλιών μεταξύ Ελλάδας και Τουρκίας », είπε ο κ. Μπορέλ, σημειώνοντας : « Πρέπει να υπάρξει επιμονή σε αυτές τις προσπάθειες. Προθέσεις και ανακοινώσεις πρέπει να μεταφραστούν σε πράξεις ». Επανέλαβε δε την « πλήρη δέσμευση » της Ε.Ε. να στηρίξει την « ταχεία επανέναρξη » των διαπραγματεύσεων για το Κυπριακό, υπό την αιγίδα του γ.γ. του ΟΗΕ. « Είναι ισχυρή μας επιθυμία να υπάρξει μια αποκλιμάκωση διαρκείας στην Ανατ. Μεσόγειο και στην ευρύτερη περιοχή και είμαι βέβαιος ότι μπορούμε να έχουμε ένα διάλογο ουσίας για να ενισχύσουμε τις πολιτικές διαδικασίες που συνδέονται με συγκρούσεις στην περιοχή, στη Λιβύη, στη Συρία ή στο Ναγκόρνο-Καραμπάχ », είπε.

      Επιπλέον, « με πλήρη αμοιβαίο σεβασμό, θα μιλήσουμε ειλικρινά και ανοιχτά για την πολιτική κατάσταση στην Τουρκία και τις προοπτικές ένταξης [της χώρας στην Ε.Ε.] », ανέφερε ο κ. Μπορέλ. Μιλώντας νωρίτερα στο Ευρωκοινοβούλιο, ο ύπατος εκπρόσωπος επανέλαβε τις ανησυχίες της Ε.Ε. για τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα στην Τουρκία. Εκανε αναφορά στις υποθέσεις Ντεμιρτάς και Καβαλά αλλά και στις « βαθιά ανησυχητικές » διώξεις δημάρχων της αντιπολίτευσης.

      ​​​​​​Από την πλευρά του, ο κ. Τσαβούσογλου χαρακτήρισε κι αυτός το περασμένο έτος « προβληματικό » για τις σχέσεις Ε.Ε. – Τουρκίας. Χαιρέτισε τις αμοιβαίες κινήσεις βελτίωσης της ατμόσφαιρας που έχουν γίνει έκτοτε και είπε ότι μαζί με τον κ. Μπορέλ θα « εργαστούν για να προετοιμάσουν » την επίσκεψη στην Αγκυρα της Ούρσουλα φον ντερ Λάιεν και του προέδρου του Ευρωπαϊκού Συμβουλίου Σαρλ Μισέλ. Υπενθυμίζεται, πάντως, ότι η επίσκεψη αυτή δεν έχει επιβεβαιωθεί ακόμα από ευρωπαϊκής πλευράς.

      https://www.stonisi.gr/post/14486/nai-stis-epistrofes-metanastwn-leei-h-toyrkia

    • Le Ministre grec de la politique migratoire demande la #révision de l’accord UE-Turquie, afin que les retours puissent être également effectués depuis la #frontière_terrestre

      Traduction du grec reçue via la mailing-list Migreup :

      "Il est clair qu’aucune nouvelle structure ne sera créée en #Thrace", a déclaré M. Mitarakis.

      La nécessité de réviser la déclaration commune UE-Turquie, de manière à inclure les frontières terrestres, mais si et seulement si elle est accompagnée par la levée de restriction géographique pour ceux qui arrivent aux îles, a été mise en avant lors d’une conférence de presse d’Alexandroupolis par le ministre de l’Immigration et de l’Asile Notis Mitarakis.

      Évoquant les points qui doivent être modifiés dans l’accord, M. Mitarakis a déclaré que << le premier est la question de la levée de la restriction géographique imposée par l’accord qui a créé une énorme pression sur les îles de la mer Égée, car elle associait a possibilité d’un renvoi à Turquie de ceux qui n’ont pas droit à une protection internationale à leur confinement géographique aux îles jusqu’à la fin de la procédure d’asile.

      Le ministre a souligné que si la clause de la restriction géographique est levée, nous devrions reconsidérer l’accord européen afin que les retours puissent être effectués depuis les frontières terrestres [et non pas uniquement par voie maritime], "à condition de ne pas rendre obligatoire le séjour des demandeurs d’asile qui arrivent par voie terrestre à la région Evros », dit-il.

      Après les réactions extrêmes de certains habitants d’Orestiada avant-hier, Notis Mitarakis a souligné que "la politique nationale pour Thrace et Evros ne change pas, il est clair qu’aucune nouvelle structure ne sera créée en Thrace, et qu’il n’y aura pas de séjour d’immigrants en Thrace. Le caractère du #hotspot #Fylakio ne change pas non plus, tous les demandeurs vont être transférés après les contrôles nécessaires vers les structures existantes de régions non-frontalières ».

      Enfin, le ministre a essentiellement annoncé la décision prise de déplacer le bureau régional d’asile d’#Alexandroupoli à #Kavala, arguant que la présence d’immigrants à Alexandroupoli pour traiter leurs dossiers est contraire à la politique qui stipule que les migrants ne doivent pas s’installer à la région frontalière d’#Evros.

      source en grec :
      https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/280765_mitarakis-epanexetasi-tis-symfonias-gia-na-mporoyn-na-ginontai-epistrof

      #transferts

  • Is Frontex involved in illegal ’pushbacks’ in the Balkans ?

    Refugees and migrants in Greece trying to reach western Europe have accused EU border protection agency Frontex of taking part in illegal deportations known as “pushbacks.” DW reports.

    Ali al-Ebrahim fled in 2018 from Manbij, a Syrian city that was under Kurdish control, to escape being forced to fight in the conflict.

    Al-Ebrahim, now 22, first tried his luck in Turkey. When he arrived in Antakya, not far from the Syrian border, Turkish authorities took his details and sent him back home without citing any reasons, the young Syrian man says in very good English. He explains that this meant he was banned from legally entering Turkey again for five years.

    Nevertheless, al-Ebrahim decided to try again, this time with the aim of reaching Greece. He managed to make his way to Turkey’s Aegean coastline and eventually reached the Greek island of Leros in a rubber dinghy. When he applied for asylum, however, his application was rejected on the grounds that Turkey was a safe third country.

    But al-Ebrahim was not able to return to Turkey, and certainly not Syria — though this was of no interest to Greek authorities. “The new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is very strict when it comes to migrants,” he says. “So I decided to go to Albania.”
    Uniforms with the EU flag

    Al-Ebrahim says that in September 2020, he traveled by bus with five others to the northern Greek city of Ioannina, and then walked to the Albanian border without encountering any Greek police.

    But, he says, staff from the EU border protection agency Frontex stopped them in Albania and handed them over to Albanian authorities in the border town of Kakavia. When asked how he knew they were Frontex officials, al-Ebrahim replies, “I could tell from their armbands.”

    Frontex staff wear light-blue armbands with the EU flag on them.
    €5,000 to reach Austria

    Al-Ebrahim says that he and the other migrants asked the Albanian authorities for asylum but were told that the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to file any new asylum applications. They were then just sent back to Greece without the Greek authorities being notified, he says.

    Al-Ebrahim had more luck on the second attempt. He managed to travel to the Albanian capital, Tirana, and then on to Serbia via Kosovo.

    His interview with DW takes place at a refugee camp in the Serbian city of Sombor, near the Hungarian border. Al-Ebrahim says he wants to travel on through Hungary into Austria, but the traffickers charge €5,000 to get as far as the Austrian border.

    Detention instead of asylum

    Hope Barker has heard many similar stories before. She coordinates the project “Wave - Thessaloniki,” which provides migrants traveling the Balkan route with food, medical care and legal advice. Barker tells DW that the northern Greek city was a safe haven until the new conservative government took office in summer 2019.

    In January 2020, a draconian new law came into effect in Greece. According to Barker, it allows authorities to detain asylum seekers for up to 18 months without reviewing their cases — and detention can then be extended for another 18 months.

    “So you can be held in detention for three years without any action on your case if you ask for asylum,” says Baker.

    Pushbacks by Frontex?

    Baker tells DW that the illegal deportation of migrants, known as “pushbacks,” happen both at the borders and further inland. Migrants trying to reach western Europe avoid any contact with Greek authorities.

    Refugee aid organizations say there have been “lots of pushbacks” at the border with North Macedonia and Albania. Baker says that witnesses have reported hearing those involved speaking German, for example, and seeing the EU insignia on their blue armbands.

    Frontex rejects allegations

    Baker says that it is, nonetheless, difficult to prove pushbacks at the Greek border because of the confusing situation, but she adds that they know that Frontex is active in Albania and that there are pushbacks on a daily basis across the River Evros that flows through Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey and forms a large part of the border. “We know that pushbacks are happening daily. So, to think that they don’t know or are not at all involved in those practices seems beyond belief,” says Baker.

    A Frontex spokesman told DW that the agency had investigated some of the allegations and “found no credible evidence to support any of them.”

    Frontex added that its staff was bound by a code of conduct, which explicitly calls for the “prevention of refoulement and the upholding of human rights, all in line with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

    “We are fully committed to protecting fundamental rights,” it added.

    Border protection from beyond the EU

    So why does the European border protection agency protect an external border of the European Union from the Albanian side? “The main aim of the operation is to support border control, help tackle irregular migration, as well as cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism, and identify possible risks and threats related to security,” said Frontex to DW.

    Frontex also said that cooperation with countries in the western Balkans was one of its priorities. “The agency supports them in complying with EU standards and best practices in border management and security,” the spokesman said.

    Yet it is worthwhile taking a look at another part of Greece’s border. While military and police officers are omnipresent at the Greek-Turkish border and are supported by Frontex staff, you seldom encounter any uniforms in the mountains between Greece and Albania. As a result, this route is regarded as safe by refugees and migrants who want to travel onward to western Europe via Greece.

    The route west

    Many migrants travel from Thessaloniki to the picturesque town of Kastoria, about 30 kilometers outside Albania. “There, the police pick us up from the bus and take us to the Albanian border,” Zakarias tells DW at the Wave Center in Thessaloniki. He is Moroccan and arrived in Greece via Turkey.

    But at this point, these are just rumors.

    That afternoon the men get on the bus. Another Moroccan man, 46-year-old Saleh Rosa, is among them. He has been in Greece for a year and was homeless for a long time in Thessaloniki. “Greece is a good country, but I cannot live here,” Rosa tells DW. He aims to reach western Europe via Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and then Hungary.

    Ominous police checks

    Police stop the bus shortly before its arrival in Kastoria. There is a parked police car with uniformed officers. Two men in plain clothes board the bus, claiming to be police. Without showing any ID, they target the foreigners, detaining Saleh, Zakarias and their companions.

    At around 11pm that same evening, the migrants send a WhatsApp message and their Google coordinates. They say that the men in plainclothes have taken them to a place some 15 kilometers from the Albanian border, but within Greece. Later in the Albanian capital, Tirana, DW met with Rosa again, who stresses that his papers were not checked in Greece.

    Conflicting accounts

    When asked by DW, Greek police authorities confirmed the existence of the plain-clothed officers and the roadside check. But then their account diverges from that of the two men. Police said they wanted to check if the migrants were legally permitted to be in Greece and they were released once this was confirmed.

    But the migrants say that Saleh Rosa was the only one with the papers to stay in Greece legally and that the other men were unregistered. Moreover, there is a curfew in Greece because of COVID-19. You are only allowed to travel from one district to another in exceptional cases. Even if they had been carrying papers, the men should have been fined.

    The police refused to comment on that.

    https://www.dw.com/en/is-frontex-involved-in-illegal-pushbacks-in-the-balkans/a-56141370

    #Frontex #Balkans #route_des_balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Albanie #Serbie #Kosovo #Sombor #Hongrie #Macédoine_du_Nord #Evros #Grèce

    –---

    voir aussi les accusations envers Frontex de refoulement en #Mer_Egée :
    Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer
    https://seenthis.net/messages/882952

    • Frontex confronted with allegations of violence in North Macedonia

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2494/letter-to-frontex-sw-and-bvmn.pdf) sent to Frontex today by #Statewatch and #Border_Violence_Monitoring_Network (#BVMN).

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter sent to Frontex today by Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).

      Since September 2019, volunteers for BVMN have gathered five separate testimonies from people pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece alleging the presence of Frontex officers on North Macedonian territory, where the agency has no legal authority to act. The reports involve a total of 130 people.

      The testimonies include allegations that officers deployed by Frontex engaged in or condoned brutal violence – including the use of tasers and electroshock batons, throwing people into rivers, and tying people up and beating them.

      Frontex says it has no records of any such incidents. The agency’s press office said to Statewatch last month that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      The letter, addressed to Frontex’s executive director, the new Fundamental Rights Officer, and the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, calls for a thorough investigation into the allegations to clarify the facts and ensure appropriate action against any individuals found to have engaged in, condoned or consented to violence and/or to have acted on North Macedonian territory.

      The violence allegedly meted out or condoned by Frontex officials is part of a broader wave of violence against people on the move through North Macedonia. Since February 2019, BVMN volunteers have gathered 37 reports of pushbacks from North Macedonia to Greece, which are likely only a fraction of the total number of pushback cases.

      The five reports alleging the presence of Frontex officials are a subset of 15 testimonies that cite the involvement of foreign officials working alongside North Macedonian officers.

      An analysis published today by Statewatch (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor) looks at the deployment of foreign border guards to North Macedonia, which since 2015 has played a key role in the EU’s efforts to prevent migrants and refugees departing from Greece to reach ‘core’ EU territory further north.

      A number of states (members of the EU and other states in the region) have signed bilateral deals with the North Macedonian government that allow the deployment of border guards in the country.

      Frontex, meanwhile, is not yet legally able to operate there. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia is in the works, but is being held up in a dispute over language (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu).

      The agency must provide answers and an investigation into the numerous allegations of its officials being involved in abuse.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/june/frontex-confronted-with-allegations-of-violence-in-north-macedonia
      #Macédoine_du_Nord

    • Briefing: External action: Frontex operations outside the EU

      The EU has negotiated five agreements with states in the Balkans that allow Frontex operations on their territories, and most of the agreements have now been approved by both sides. This briefing looks at the main provisions of those agreements, highlights key differences and similarities, and argues that they will likely serve as a template for future deals with states that do not border the EU, as made possible by the 2019 Regulation governing Frontex.

      For an overview of the key points of the agreements, see the table at the end of this article, or here as a PDF (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2011/eu-frontex-external-action-briefing-table.pdf).

      Frontex launched its first official joint operation on non-EU territory at Albania’s border with Greece in May 2019. Still ongoing today, this was the first operation resulting from a series of Status Agreements between the EU and a number of Western Balkan states – Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.

      These agreements make it possible for Frontex to undertake operations on those other states’ territories. Signed in accordance with the agency’s 2016 Regulation, all five agreements allow the agency to carry out joint operations and rapid border interventions on the states’ borders, where those borders are coterminous with those of an EU member state or states. Frontex can also assist those states with deportation operations from EU member states to those countries. Since the entry into force of Frontex’s 2019 mandate, the EU can now also make such agreements with states that do not border EU territory.

      The contents of the status agreements, all based on a template document produced by the Commission, are very similar, with small but important differences emerging from the negotiation procedures with each state, explored below.

      The first agreements in context

      The five Balkan states targeted for the first agreements make up what is seen by officials as a “buffer zone” between Greece and other Schengen states, and they have long been embroiled in the bloc’s border policies. Through long negotiations over accession to the Union (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire), Western Balkan states are at various stages of approximating domestic law with the EU’s legal ‘acquis’, involving substantial amendments to migration and asylum systems.

      In theory, these systems must match up to EU legal and fundamental rights standards in order to allow accession, though violence against migrants is well documented on both sides of these “coterminous borders”. The so-called Balkan Route is the site of well-documented abuses (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-the-black-book-of-pushbacks-testimonies-of-pushbacks-affecting-over-1) suffered by people on the move, recently compiled and published in a ‘Black Book of pushbacks’ which detail violence perpetrated by border agents, member state police and soldiers. Pushbacks from Croatia (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/november/european-commission-plans-to-visit-croatia-in-light-of-human-rights-viol) and Hungary are particularly notorious, with Frontex finally withdrawing its support for operations in Hungary (https://www.statewatch.org/statewatch-database/frontex-suspends-operations-in-hungary) in January this year due to the state’s violation of a European Court of Justice ruling against pushbacks into Serbia.

      The agency had long-insisted that its presence discouraged fundamental rights violations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) - a far less credible claim in the wake of allegations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) of Frontex complicity in serious incidents in the Aegean, including possible pushbacks.

      Frontex expands external operations while future agreements remain on hold

      Following deployment of officers to Montenegro’s border with Croatia in July, Frontex launched a second operation in Montenegro in October. The third executive operation outside the EU (and the second in Montenegro), the aim of this activity is “to tackle cross-border crime at the country’s sea borders, including the smuggling of drugs and weapons, smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings and terrorism”.

      The agency says it will provide aerial surveillance, deploy officers from EU member states, and provide technical and operational assistance with coast guard functions in international waters, “including search and rescue support, fisheries control and environmental protection”.

      The agreement with Serbia was approved by the European Parliament in February this year, along with the agreement with Montenegro. Three presidential entities need to sign the agreement in order for it to be ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government; the Serb entity has so far refused to do so.

      Meanwhile, the agreement with North Macedonia was due to be tabled in the European Parliament this autumn, but negotiations have been held up, in part by Bulgaria’s objection to the language in which it is written. According to the site European Western Balkans, “Bulgaria does not recognise the language of North Macedonia as ‘Macedonian’”, but “as a dialect of Bulgarian”. It will apparently take “a change in terminology regarding Macedonian language in order to allow progress in drafting a final negotiating framework”. While negotiations are stalled, the agreement cannot be considered by the European Parliament.

      Once the status agreements are in force, Frontex operations are launched in accordance with an operational plan agreed with each state. These plans include the circumstances under which Frontex staff can use executive powers and other details of the operations not available elsewhere. These plans are not systematically made public and although it is possible for the public to request their release, Frontex can refuse access to them. These non-public documents contain important provisions on fundamental rights and data protection, as well as details on the aims and objectives of the agency’s operations.

      Fundamental rights

      Under article 8 of the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina (article 9 of the other agreements) all parties are obliged to:

      “[H]ave a complaint mechanism to deal with allegations of a breach of fundamental rights committed by its staff in the exercise of their official functions in the course of a joint operation, rapid border intervention or return operation performed under this agreement”.

      Both Frontex and the host state must operate such a complaints mechanism, to handle allegations against their own team members. Frontex’s complaint mechanism is currently the subject of an Ombudsman inquiry, following years of research showing it up as inaccessible and ineffective. Details of updates bringing the mechanism into line with Frontex’s 2019 Regulation have not yet been made public, although the rules set out in that Regulation have problems of their own. It is noteworthy that the agreements do not explicitly require an independent complaints mechanism.

      On the question of parallel complaints mechanisms for Frontex officers and host country officers, a Frontex spokesperson explained:

      “The complaints team within Frontex Fundamental Rights Office has been working since 2019 on the concept of how to deal with complaints concerning Frontex activities in [Albania]. For that purpose, the FRO team met with competent national authorities in Albania in October 2019. Both parties agreed on the draft of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the purpose of which is a coordination between both complaints mechanisms. The MoU draft proposal was shared with Albanian authorities for their consideration on September 2020 and finalization of the modalities.

      The draft of this MoU will serve as basis for other third countries arrangements on the coexistence of complaints mechanisms, such as the case for Montenegro.”

      An extra article 3

      The agreements with Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia contain an article not included in the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. From article 3, on launching an action:

      “The Agency may propose launching an action to the competent authorities of [the host state].

      The competent authorities of [the host state] may also request the Agency to consider launching an action.”

      The launching of any action requires the consent of competent authorities of the host-state and of Frontex (Article 3(2) of the status agreements), while any disputes over the content of the status agreements shall be resolved between the non-EU state in question and the European Commission (Article 11).

      Privileges and immunities of the members of the team

      Members of teams deployed in each of the host states shall enjoy immunity from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the host state, for all acts carried out in the exercise of official functions, where these are committed in the course of actions contained in the operational plan (articles 6 or 7). It is at the discretion of the executive director of Frontex (currently Fabrice Leggeri) to determine whether acts were committed in the course of actions following the operational plan. This immunity may be waived by the team members’ home state – that is to say, the state of nationality of a Frontex team member, such as Spain or Germany.

      While the agreements with Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia include the provision that the executive director’s decision will be binding upon the authorities of the host state, no such article is found in the agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

      A further difficulty with this article was highlighted earlier this year in an internal Frontex report: Protocol No 7 annexed to the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU, under which the privileges and immunities Agency and its statutory staff are covered, is not applicable outside of the EU. The Commission has not yet responded to a request for comment on an investigation said to be underway into this issue.

      Acting on behalf of the host non-EU state

      Across the status agreements, members of the teams are limited to performing tasks and exercising powers in the host territory in the presence and under instructions of the host state’s border guards or other relevant authorities. The host state may authorise members of teams to act on its behalf, taking into consideration the views of the agency via its coordinating officer. The agreement with Serbia contains extra emphasis (article 5):

      “the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia may authorise members of the teams to act on its behalf as long as the overall responsibility and command and control functions remain with the border guards or other police officers of the Republic of Serbia present at all times.”

      This agreement also emphasises that “the members of the team referred to in paragraphs 1 and 3 to 6 do not include agency staff”.

      Members of teams shall be authorised to use force, including service weapons as permitted by the host state, home state, and Frontex. Each host state may authorise members of the team to use force in the absence of border guards or other relevant staff under article 4 (6) – Albania and Bosnia and Herzegoviina – or 5 (6) – Montenegro,

      Access to databases

      The agreements with Albania and Montenegro allow the host state to authorise members of the team to consult national databases if necessary for the operational aims or for return operations. Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s status agreements are more cautious, allowing certain data from national databases to be shared at the request of a member of the team, provided it is needed to fulfil operational aims as outlined in the operational plan. The agreement with Serbia contains, once more, additional provisions: “members of the team may be communicated only information concerning relevant facts which is necessary for performing their tasks and exercising their powers”, though it also includes in the subsequent paragraph:

      “For the purposes of fulfilling operational aims specified in the operation plan and the implementing actions, the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia and members of the team may exchange other information and findings”.

      Language on discrimination

      The agreement with Serbia once again follows slightly different wording to the others in terms of the prohibition of discrimination. The agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia recite:

      “While performing their tasks and exercising their powers, they shall not arbitrarily discriminate against persons on any grounds including sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

      However, the agreement with Serbia does not include (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/july/eu-frontex-in-the-balkans-serbian-government-rejects-eu-s-criminal-immun) any reference to gender identity.

      Obligation to give evidence as witnesses in criminal proceedings

      Under each of the agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia, members of the team shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses. Not only does the agreement with Montenegro omit this provision, it also outlines:

      “Members of the team who are witnesses may be obliged by the competent authorities of Montenegro, while respecting paragraphs 3 and 4, to provide evidence through a statement and in accordance with the procedural law of Montenegro.”

      Frontex and home state obligation not to jeopardise criminal proceedings

      The agreement with Serbia is the only agreement not to include an obligation on the agency and home state of a team member to “refrain from taking any measure likely to jeopardise possible subsequent criminal prosecution of the member of the team by the competent authorities” of the host non-EU state.

      Lingering uncertainty

      On top of uncertainty over when the agreements with North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina might be completed, questions remain regarding the accessibility of complaints mechanisms and the application of rules governing privileges and immunity of team members, even in Albania and Montenegro, where operations have been launched already.

      Additionally, since the entry into force of its new regulation in 2019 and the removal of provisions limiting Frontex’s extra-EU operations only to neighbouring states, the EU can now conclude status agreements with countries not bordering the EU. The implementation of these agreements, as well as their contents, will likely set a precedent for negotiations and operations further afield.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu
      #Albanie #Monténégro #Serbie #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #buffer-zone #zone-tampon

    • Albania: dealing with a new migration framework on the edge of the empire

      In 2014, Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership to the EU. The country is aiming to approximate its domestic law with the EU legal ’acquis’ within the next two years, prompting big changes in the country’s immigration and asylum system - at least on paper. Currently, those systems cannot be said to meet fundamental rights or EU legal standards, but given conditions within the EU itself - notably in Greece - it remains to be seen whether this will be a barrier to Albania joining the bloc.

      Background

      In the 1990s Albania, a small country in the middle of the Balkans, was just emerging from a harsh communist dictatorship. In 1991, a new era in Europe began for the country, as it opened diplomatic relationships with the then-European Community. But it was not until 2014 that Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership of the EU, following the endorsement of the European Council.[1]

      In that time, the European Community had evolved into the fortress of the European Union, its borders and expansion reminiscent of the spread of the Roman Empire. Speaking of the EU’s borders, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has even commented, “big empires go down if the external borders are not well-protected”.[2] Since 2014, Albania has been racing to fulfil all the requirements needed to be accepted among the fabulous 27, making major changes in the five main areas identified by the EU: public administration, rule of law, tackling corruption, organised crime and fundamental rights.

      In February 2018, the European Commission declared that further enlargement to encompass the states of the ‘Western Balkans’ (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) would be “an investment in the EU’s security, economic growth and influence and in its ability to protect its citizens”.[3] In short, the EU was presenting a so-called win-win agreement, where all sides stand to gain.

      In March 2020 – following a limping reform of the justice system, some destabilizing stop-and-go of talks between the EU and Albania, a gloomy summer election crisis in 2019, German concerns, a temporary French veto and a devastating earthquake in November 2019 – the EU finally said ‘I do’ and committed to opening accession negotiations with Albania, in a statement that underscored the need to ‘keep an eye’ on the country:

      “The Council further invites the Commission to continue to monitor the progress and compliance in all areas related to the opening of negotiations and to carry out and complete the process of analytical examination of the EU acquis with the country, starting with the fundamentals’ cluster”.[4]

      Aligning Albania with the EU’s “area of freedom, security and justice”

      The current ‘Project Plan for European integration 2020-2022’[5] lists all the legislative reforms and changes required to align Albanian and EU law. The full approximation of Albanian law with that of the European Union, and its full and effective implementation, is one of the criteria for membership. Indeed, the process of membership negotiations is in itself that process of approximation.

      The process involves the following steps: analysis of EU legislation; identification of deficiencies or contradictory acts of Albanian law; drafting or reviewing of the approximated Albanian acts; and monitoring the implementation of approximated legislation. The 24th chapter of the plan, on “justice, freedom and security”, focuses on: border control; visas; external migration; asylum; police cooperation; the fight against organised crime and terrorism; cooperation on drugs issues; customs; and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters.

      Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the area of Freedom, Security and Justice is regulated in Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, running from Article 67 to Article 89.[6] This covers secondary legislation on: border checks, asylum and immigration; police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters; judicial cooperation in civil matters; and police cooperation. Primary and secondary legislation is complemented by a large body of jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU, whose primacy is a cornerstone principle of EU law. The acquis inherited by Albania for this specific chapter consists of a volume of 392 acts, divided into a “hard acquis” (which derives from binding acts such as treaties, directives, regulations, etc.) and a “soft acquis” (which derives from standards, principles and recommendations of EU or other relevant international organizations).

      Updating the laws on immigration and borders

      The government affirms to have completed and adopted a comprehensive national cross-sectoral migration strategy, included a new strategy on the diaspora for the period 2018-2024.[7] The government also says it has updated a contingency plan for a possible massive influx of migrants and asylum seekers, expected to be approved soon. But the other side of the coin is that Albania, as the project plan admits, is largely unprepared to host and protect migrants on its territory. Albania currently has one reception centre for irregular migrants in Karreç, with a capacity of only 150 beds. The centre was visited in September 2019 by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which found it to be inadequate in many respects.[8] Even more concerning is the lack of facilities for unaccompanied minors.

      According to a footnote in a 2016 law,[9] Albania’s border control legislation has been aligned with the Schengen Borders Code.[10] However, it appears that the wider legal framework for managing Albania’s external borders is not yet fully in line with EU standards. The government reports that the implementation of the integrated border management strategy and action plan is proceeding: the reconstruction of the two border crossing points Hani i Hotit and Morina has been completed; the country has signed a protocol with Montenegro on the establishment of joint checkpoints; the trilateral centre in Plav (in Northern Macedonia) has become operational; an agreement with Kosovo on the joint border crossing point in Morina has been concluded; anti-corruption preventive measures have been implemented at border crossing points through the installation of cameras; and cooperation between agencies and neighbouring countries has improved.

      Frontex: already on the scene

      The section of the government’s report on regular and irregular immigration states that the agreement with the EU permitting the deployment of Frontex officials on Albanian territory was finalised in February 2019.[11] The deployment began on 22 May 2019, for an indefinite period.[12]

      The joint operation – Frontex’s first outside the EU – deploys 50 EU officers in Albania to “help Albanian authorities with border surveillance and border checks… They will also assist their Albanian counterparts in screening of migrants”.[13] This is not the first time that an EU presence has been active on Albanian territory – an Italian operation in 1997 sought to prevent migration, and there have also been monitoring missions. However, the Frontex presence is an executive mission, marking a more active departure from the monitoring exercises of the past.[14]

      The Albanian Minister of Internal Affairs, Sander Lleshaj, has described the operation as “really effective, very collaborative… crucial in the way to EU integration”.[15] The Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has said the operation makes Albania a contributor to the EU in countering illegal migration and organised crime.[16] The Albanian press has so far expressed an uncritical view of the Frontex mission. In a state where many are supportive of EU accession, appetite for critical investigation is possibly low.

      And asylum?

      Albania reports that its Asylum Law is partially in line with the EU acquis. The country has the necessary institutions and procedures to handle asylum applications. Complaints can be filed with the National Commission for Refugees and Asylum, which was established in 2017 and reopened in 2019. All relevant national legislation should be publicly available on the government website,[17] but the information available does not clarify if complaints related to the application process are admissible, or if the word “complaints” refers to appeals related to unsuccessful applications. Regarding the asylum procedure, applications are registered by the Border and Migration Police by filling out the pre-screening forms, then reported to the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship to proceed with the status determination procedures.

      Although the number of asylum seekers increased significantly in 2018, with 5,730 arrivals, the authorities say they have responded to the large number of asylum applications. According to UNHCR asylum applications that year increased to 4,378, a 14-fold increase compared to 2017.[18] Albania’s official Gazette outlined in March 2020 that the number of people applying for asylum was at its highest in 2018, and 40 times higher than it had been in 2015.[19] According to the Project Plan for European integration, an asylum database has been functioning since April 2019; it serves as an integral data centre between the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship, the Directorate of Border and Migration and the National Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, exchanging information in real time between these institutions and enabling the completion of procedures as well as the issuance of statistics.

      The government also says it tripled its reception capacity for asylum seekers in October 2017. Total reception capacity, including the national reception centre in Tirana and the temporary accommodation centres in Gjirokastra and Korça, reaches almost 380 places. In October 2019, a new centre with a reception capacity of 60 beds was inaugurated to cope with the expected increase of people needing temporary housing in Kapshticë/Korça,[20] which has the same parameters as the transit centre in Gërhot of Gjirokastra.

      Summary

      Both Albania and the EU have undergone a transformative thirty years, with talks of accession beginning six years ago. The EU sees Albania’s incorporation into the bloc as a way of contributing to the economic growth and strengthened security; a different understanding of “expanding the fortress”. Accession negotiations were reinvigorated in March 2020, and the current goal is for Albania to approximate its law to the EU acquis, and implement those measures, within two years. This includes legislation on immigration and borders, which have been updated on paper. Though conditions for asylum seekers and migrants in Albania are not in line with fundamental rights law or the EU acquis, nor are those in EU member states – most notably the Greek island hotspots. The deployment of the EU’s border agency in Albania, unlikely to be criticised locally, represents further step in the EU’s mission to control migration across a wider terrain.

      Sara Ianovitz, Ph.D. in International Law

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire

      #Albanie

    • Foreign agents and violence against migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border

      An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.

      Midnight in Macedonia

      Around midnight on 14 August last year, a group of some 20 people were intercepted by border police just north of the Greek-Macedonian border, near the small town of Gevgelija. What happened next, according to the testimony of one member of the group, makes for grim reading.

      “[T]he police officers approached the group and became physically violent. The officers struck various group-members with their batons. Others were pepper-sprayed, including the women and children. After this, the officers loaded the group into a van and left them there without any air conditioning, jammed, soaking in sweat for around two hours, while going about to catch more transit groups. In the end, they squashed around 40 people in a van for fit for ten persons.”[1]

      Macedonian officials were not the only ones involved in the operation. The testimony also recounts “foreign officers wearing uniforms with the European Union flags on their shoulders,” the distinctive mark of EU border agency Frontex.

      Foreign agents

      The testimony is one of five reports gathered by Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), altogether involving some 130 people, that describe violence being meted out in the presence of, or even by, border guards allegedly deployed by Frontex on North Macedonian territory. A further 10 reports gathered by the network, encompassing some 123 people, recount the use of violence by foreign border guards and police officers operating in North Macedonia, but do not mention uniforms bearing the EU flag.[2]

      Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network have written to Frontex to demand an investigation into the allegations recounted in this article. Read more here.

      The violence recounted in those testimonies is shocking. According to the report on the 14 August incident, after cramming people into the van, the police drove them to the banks of the Vardar river. There, they threw peoples’ possessions into the water, took their phones and money, and “the group was beaten brutally with metal electroshock batons and some people were thrown into the river by the police. One person was thrown in despite crying and begging not to be thrown in.” They were subsequently taken back to the border and pushed through a gate leading to the Greek side, while police beat them with electroshock batons.

      In that incident, the witness said that officials with uniforms bearing EU flags were present, but did not directly participate in the violence. But a report from the same area, concerning an incident less than a week later, refers to officials in uniforms bearing Croatian, Slovenian, Czech and EU flags, who bound a group of four men with zip ties and beat three of them with batons (one of the group, who was a minor, was spared the beating).[3] Reports of other incidents allege the presence of Italian, German and Austrian officials.

      No reports at Frontex

      While BVMN volunteers have gathered multiple testimonies that allege Frontex’s presence or involvement in violence in North Macedonia, the agency itself says it has received no reports of any such incidents. The agency also denies any presence in the country – in May, a press officer told Statewatch that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      In December 2020, Frontex responded to an access to documents request filed by Statewatch some months earlier. The request sought copies of all serious incident reports (SIRs) concerning the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian land border from 1 January 2020 onwards. SIRs are supposed to be filed by officials deployed on Frontex operations for a variety of reasons, including in case of “suspected violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations.”[4]

      In its response, the agency said that it did not hold any SIRs concerning the geographic area and time period covered by the request. This does not mean, however, that the incidents recorded by BVMN did not take place – it may simply be that nobody is reporting them.

      A working group set up by Frontex’s own Management Board, in response to allegations of involvement in pushbacks in Greece, found numerous problems with the agency’s reporting system. It noted that there was no way of monitoring the quality of reports submitted, and there were no confidential avenues for team members to report rights violations by their colleagues.

      The report also called for “a newly introduced culture,” suggesting that the existing ambience at the agency is not one in which the rights of migrants and refugees are at the forefront of officials’ minds. The working group said that the agency needed “awareness of and sensitiveness towards possible misconduct,”[5] a call it repeated in its final report.[6]

      Not even numbers

      Serious incident reports may not exist, but the request from Statewatch to Frontex also sought to establish the scale of the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian border through another means – by requesting data on the number of migrants and migrant smugglers apprehended at the Greek-Macedonian border over the same period (1 January 2020 onwards).

      This data, argued Frontex, could not be released – doing so “would jeopardize the work of law enforcement officials and pose a hazard to the course of ongoing and future operations aimed at curtailing the activities of such networks,” despite the request seeking nothing more than figures that Frontex itself has published in previous reports.

      A public evaluation of the tongue-twistingly titled ‘Joint Operation Flexible Operational Activities 2018 Land on Border Surveillance’ (JO FOA Land) says that in 2018, 16,337 migrants and 313 smugglers were apprehended in the area covered by the operation – “the ‘green borders’ of Greece with Turkey, the North Macedonia [sic] and Albania, Bulgaria with Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia.”[7] Yet for reasons known only to Frontex, providing a breakdown of these figures for the Greek-Macedonian border would apparently undermine public security.

      A significant presence

      According to Frontex’s evaluation report, 25 member states took part in operations at land borders in south-eastern Europe in 2018, along with 47 officers acting as observers from six different “third countries”, namely Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine. Over 1,800 officials were deployed by Frontex over the course of the year. The operations recorded 2,011 “incidents”.

      A substantial Frontex presence at the border between Greece and North Macedonia has been in place since then. In a response to a parliamentary question from German MEP Özlem Demirel, the European Commission said last June that at Greece’s land borders with Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Turkey, 71 officials, 24 patrols and three “thermo-vision vans” were deployed as part of the 2020 edition of JO FOA Land. Thirteen different member states were providing contributions to the operation: Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.[8]

      While Frontex denies any physical presence on North Macedonia territory, the testimonies gathered by BVMN that allege the presence or participation of Frontex officials in violent acts raise serious questions for the agency. All the testimonies concern incidents that took place in North Macedonia, where the agency has no legal basis to operate. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia that would permit Frontex deployments, similar to those currently in place with Montenegro and Albania, is facing hold-ups due to objections from the Bulgarian authorities.[9]

      Bilateral agreements

      Frontex operations are not the only deployments of foreign officials in North Macedonia. As noted above, nine of the 15 reports gathered by BVMN describing the involvement of non-Macedonian officers in pushbacks to Greece make no mention of Frontex at all. There are, however, multiple references to violence being meted out by officials in uniforms bearing the flags of Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Serbia.

      The presence of some of these officials in the country is made possible by bilateral border control agreements. North Macedonia has cooperation agreements with eight other states in the region (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia), who provide the Macedonian authorities “with assistance from foreign police officers in patrolling the south border with Greece and in performing their daily duties.”[10] The agreement with Austria, Hungary and Serbia has come in for particular criticism, as it is a memorandum of understanding rather than a formal agreement, and therefore has faced no parliamentary scrutiny in Macedonia.[11] Germany, meanwhile, does not appear to have such a formal agreement with North Macedonia at the federal level – which makes the allegations of the presence of German officers puzzling – but the EU’s largest state has provided a ready supply of equipment, including vehicles, mobile thermal imaging cameras, boots and torches.[12]

      The Croatian and Czech governments have made extensive deployments under these agreements. Between December 2015 (when Croatia and North Macedonia signed a police cooperation deal) and February 2019 “over 560 Croatian police… intercepted almost 6,000 illegal migrants in North Macedonia.”[13] The Czech deployments have been even larger – by December 2019, “1,147 police officers [had] been sent to North Macedonia” to police the border with Greece, according to the Czech government.[14]

      High-level police coordination preceded the signing of many of these agreements. In July 2016, the police chiefs of 12 states said that “the deployment of foreign police officers along borders which are strongly affected by irregular migration conveys a strong message that the countries concerned are resolute in jointly coping with the migration crisis.”[15] Under the agreements with Macedonia, foreign officials can “use technical equipment and vehicles with symbols, wear uniforms, carry weapons and other means of coercion”.[16] In some instances, it seems coercion tips over into outright violence.

      An incident dating from 16 August 2020, recorded by BVMN volunteers, refers to officers “with black ski masks over their faces” and “Croatian and Czech flags emblazoned on their uniforms.” The interviewees said that “these officers were violent with them – kicking the group, destroying their mobile phones, taking their money, insulting them, pushing their faces on the ground with tied hands behind the back. One of the respondents was also attacked by a dog, while the officers [were] laughing at him.”[17] As far back as March 2016, an activist supporting refugees at the increasingly well-guarded Greek-Macedonian border told the newspaper Lidovky that, in Macedonia, “the Czech police are known for violence and unprofessionalism.”[18]

      Buffer states in the Balkans

      Bilateral cooperation between EU states and North Macedonia extends far beyond these police cooperation agreements. In September 2020, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU described the region stretching from Turkey to Hungary (known in official jargon as the “Eastern Mediterranean/Western Balkans”) as being “of great strategic importance for the EU in terms of migration management.”[19] Significant attention is therefore being given to reinforcing the ability of states in the region to control peoples’ movements (an issue highlighted in another recent Statewatch report).

      As of May 2020, 15 EU member states were providing bilateral “support” on migration issues to states in the Western Balkans through a total of 228 activities, according to a survey carried out by the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The majority of that support was focused on control measures, “namely border management and combating the smuggling of migrants (over 50% of all MS activities),” said a summary produced by the Presidency. More than 50% of the 228 activities were taking place in Serbia and North Macedonia, both of which border EU territory.[20]

      The Croatian Presidency highlighted the “geopolitical importance” of those two countries, given that “Member States’ focus is on the prevention of irregular migratory movements to the EU.” This was “both expected and understandable, but may contribute to strengthening the Western Balkan partners’ self-perception as a transit region, which poses a challenge for the further improvement of all aspects of their migration capacities.” Rather than a transit region, the plan is to provide ‘capacity-building’ and technical assistance to develop buffer states that can keep people out of the ‘core’ of the EU after they depart from Greece.

      This is, of course, not a new plan. In February and March 2016, as the EU-Turkey deal was heading for agreement and in the wake of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people travelling by foot, road and rail to the ‘core’ of the EU, the ‘Balkan Route’ was declared closed by EU leaders. Initially done on the crude, discriminatory basis of nationality,[21] exclusion measures were extended to apply to all those crossing borders in the region. That process of closure continues today, and violence is a longstanding component of the strategy.[22] Indeed, it is a prerequisite for it to work effectively, and has been denounced repeatedly over the years by NGOs and international organisations. In March 2016, the Macedonian authorities sought supplies of pepper spray, tasers, rubber bullets, “special bomb (shock, with rubber balls)” and “acoustic device to break the mob.”[23] The concern now may be with smaller groups of people attempting to pass through the country, rather than with “the mob”, but the violence is no less brutal.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor

  • Sur la frontière gréco-turque, à l’épicentre des tensions

    L’Union européenne entend sanctionner la politique de plus en plus expansionniste de la Turquie, qui ravive en Grèce les souvenirs des conflits du passé. Ligne de rupture, mais aussi d’échanges entre Orient et Occident, la frontière gréco-turque ne respire plus depuis la crise sanitaire. De #Kastellorizo à la #Thrace en passant par #Lesbos, les deux pays ont pourtant tant de choses en commun, autour de cette démarcation qui fut mouvante et rarement étanche.

    Petite île aux confins orientaux de la Grèce, Kastellorizo touche presque la #Turquie. Le temps s’écoule lentement dans l’unique village, logé dans une baie profonde. En cette fin septembre, de vieux pêcheurs jouent aux cartes près des enfants qui appâtent des tortues dans les eaux cristallines. Devant son café froid, M. Konstantinos Papoutsis observe, placide, l’immense côte turque, à guère plus de deux kilomètres, et la ville de Kaş, son seul horizon. « Nous sommes une île touristique tranquille, assure cet homme affable qui gère une agence de voyages. Je l’ai répété aux touristes tout l’été. » Attablée autour de lui, la poignée d’élus de cette commune de cinq cents âmes reprend ses propos d’un air débonnaire : « Il n’y a aucun danger à Kastellorizo ! »

    Un imposant ferry, qui paraît gigantesque dans ce petit port méditerranéen, vient animer le paysage. Parti d’Athènes vingt-quatre heures plus tôt, il manœuvre difficilement pour débarquer ses passagers, parmi lesquels une cinquantaine d’hommes en treillis et chapeaux de brousse. Les soldats traversent la baie d’un pas vif avant de rejoindre les falaises inhabitées qui la dominent. « C’est une simple relève, comme il y en a tous les mois », commente M. Papoutsis, habitué à cette présence.

    Selon le #traité_de_Paris de février 1947 (article 14), et du fait de la cession par l’Italie à la Grèce du Dodécanèse, les îles dont fait partie Kastellorizo sont censées être démilitarisées. Dans les faits, les troupes helléniques y guettent le rivage turc depuis l’occupation par Ankara de la partie nord de Chypre, en 1974, précisent plusieurs historiens (1). Cette défense a été renforcée après la crise gréco-turque autour des îlots disputés d’Imia, en 1996. La municipalité de Kastellorizo refuse de révéler le nombre d’hommes postés sur ses hauteurs. Et si les villageois affichent un air de décontraction pour ne pas effrayer les visiteurs — rares en cette période de Covid-19 —, ils n’ignorent pas l’ombre qui plane sur leur petit paradis.

    Un poste avancé d’Athènes en Méditerranée

    Kastellorizo se trouve en première ligne face aux menaces du président turc Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, qui veut redessiner les cartes et imposer son propre #partage_des_eaux. Depuis les années 1970, les #îles du #Dodécanèse font l’objet d’un #conflit larvé entre ces deux pays membres de l’Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique nord (OTAN). La Turquie conteste la souveraineté grecque sur plusieurs îles, îlots et rochers le long de sa côte. Surtout, elle est l’un des rares pays, avec notamment les États-Unis, à ne pas avoir signé la convention des Nations unies sur le droit de la mer (dite #convention_de_Montego_Bay, et entrée en vigueur en 1994), et ne reconnaît pas la revendication par la Grèce d’un plateau continental autour de ses îles. Athènes justifie dès lors leur #militarisation au nom de la #légitime_défense (2), en particulier depuis l’occupation turque de Chypre et en raison d’une importante présence militaire à proximité : la marine et l’armée de l’air turques de l’Égée sont basées à İzmir, sur la côte occidentale de l’Asie Mineure.

    Si proche de la Turquie, Kastellorizo se trouve à 120 kilomètres de la première autre île grecque — Rhodes — et à plus de 520 kilomètres du continent grec. Alors que l’essentiel de la #mer_Egée pourrait être revendiqué par Athènes comme #zone_économique_exclusive (#ZEE) (3) au titre de la convention de Montego Bay (voir la carte ci-contre), ce lointain îlot de neuf kilomètres carrés lui permet de facto de jouir d’une large extension de plusieurs centaines de kilomètres carrés en Méditerranée orientale. Or, faute d’accord bilatéral, cette ZEE n’est pas formellement établie pour Ankara, qui revendique d’y avoir librement accès, surtout depuis la découverte en Méditerranée orientale de gisements d’#hydrocarbures potentiellement exploitables. À plusieurs reprises ces derniers mois, la Turquie a envoyé dans le secteur un bateau de recherche sismique baptisé #Oruç_Reis, du nom d’un corsaire ottoman du XVIe siècle — surnommé « #Barberousse » — né à Lesbos et devenu sultan d’Alger.

    Ces manœuvres navales font écho à l’idéologie de la « #patrie_bleue » (#Mavi_Vatan). Soutenue par les nationalistes et les islamistes, cette doctrine, conçue par l’ancien amiral #Cem_Gürdeniz, encourage la Turquie à imposer sa #souveraineté sur des #zones_disputées en #mer_Noire, en mer Égée et en #Méditerranée. Ces derniers mois, M. Erdoğan a multiplié les discours martiaux. Le 26 août, à l’occasion de l’anniversaire de la bataille de Manzikert, en 1071, dans l’est de la Turquie, où les Turcs Seldjoukides mirent en déroute l’armée byzantine, il avertissait la Grèce que toute « erreur » mènerait à sa « ruine ». Quelques semaines plus tard, le 21 octobre, lors d’une rencontre avec les présidents chypriote et égyptien à Nicosie, M. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, le premier ministre grec conservateur, accusait la Turquie de « fantasmes impérialistes assortis d’actions agressives ».

    Sous pression en août dernier, Athènes a pu compter sur le soutien de la République de Chypre, de l’Italie et de la France, avec lesquelles elle a organisé des manœuvres communes. Ou encore de l’Égypte, avec laquelle elle vient de signer un accord de partage des #zones_maritimes. Déjà en conflit ouvert avec son homologue turc sur la Syrie, la Libye et le Caucase, le président français Emmanuel Macron s’est résolument rangé aux côtés d’Athènes. « C’est un allié précieux que l’on voudrait inviter à venir sur notre île », déclare l’adjoint à la municipalité de Kastellorizo, M. Stratos Amygdalos, partisan de Nouvelle Démocratie, le parti au pouvoir. À la mi-septembre 2020, la Grèce annonçait l’acquisition de dix-huit Rafale, l’avion de combat de Dassault Aviation.

    « Erdoğan se prend pour Soliman le Magnifique. Mais il perd du crédit dans son pays, la livre turque s’effondre. Alors il essaie de redorer son image avec des idées de conquêtes, de rêve national… », maugrée de son côté M. Konstantinos Raftis, guide touristique à Kastellorizo. La comparaison entre le sultan de la Sublime Porte et l’actuel président turc revient fréquemment dans ce pays qui fit partie de l’Empire ottoman durant quatre siècles (de 1430, date de la chute de Salonique, à l’indépendance de 1830). La résistance hellénique a forgé l’identité de l’État grec moderne, où l’on conserve une profonde suspicion à l’égard d’un voisin encombrant, quatre fois plus riche, six fois plus grand et huit fois plus peuplé. Cette méfiance transcende les clivages politiques, tant le #nationalisme irrigue tous les partis grecs. Athènes voit aujourd’hui dans la doctrine de la « patrie bleue » une politique expansionniste néo-ottomane, qui fait écho à l’impérialisme passé.

    À l’embouchure du port de Kastellorizo, la silhouette d’une mosquée transformée en musée — rare vestige de la présence ottomane — fait de l’ombre à un bar à cocktails. L’édifice trône seul face aux vingt-six églises orthodoxes. La Constitution précise que l’orthodoxie est la « religion dominante » dans le pays, et, jusqu’en 2000, la confession était inscrite sur les cartes d’identité nationales. La suppression de cette mention, à la demande du gouvernement socialiste, a provoqué l’ire de la puissante Église orthodoxe, plus de 95 % des Grecs se revendiquant alors de cette religion. « Pendant toute la période du joug ottoman, nous restions des Grecs. Nos ancêtres ont défendu Kastellorizo pour qu’elle garde son identité. Nous nous battrons aussi pour qu’elle la conserve », s’emballe soudainement M. Raftis.

    Son île a dû résister plus longtemps que le reste du pays, insiste le sexagénaire. Après le départ des Ottomans, Kastellorizo, convoitée par les nations étrangères pour sa position géographique aux portes de l’Orient, a été occupée ou annexée par les Français (1915-1921), les Italiens (1921-1944), les Britanniques (1944-1945)… L’îlot n’est devenu complètement grec qu’en 1948, comme l’ensemble des îles du Dodécanèse. Depuis, il arbore fièrement ses couleurs. Dans la baie, plusieurs étendards bleu et blanc flottent sur les balcons en encorbellement orientés vers la ville turque de Kaş (huit mille habitants). Le nombre de ces drapeaux augmente quand la tension s’accroît.

    Trois autres grands étendards nationaux ont été peints sur les falaises par des militaires. En serrant les poings, M. Raftis raconte un épisode qui a « mis les nerfs de tout le monde à vif ». À la fin septembre 2020, un drone d’origine inconnue a diffusé des chants militaires turcs avant d’asperger ces bannières d’une peinture rouge vif, évoquant la couleur du drapeau turc. « C’est une attaque impardonnable, qui sera punie », peste l’enfant de l’île, tout en scrutant les quelques visages inconnus sur la promenade. Il redoute que des espions viennent de Turquie.

    « Les #tensions durent depuis quarante ans ; tout a toujours fini par se régler. Il faut laisser la Turquie et la Grèce dialoguer entre elles », relativise pour sa part M. Tsikos Magiafis, patron avenant d’une taverne bâtie sur un rocher inhabité, avec une vue imprenable sur Kaş. « Les querelles sont affaire de diplomates. Les habitants de cette ville sont nos frères, nous avons grandi ensemble », jure ce trentenaire marié à une Turque originaire de cette cité balnéaire. Adolescent, déjà, il délaissait les troquets de Kastellorizo pour profiter du bazar de Kaş, du dentiste ou des médecins spécialisés qui manquent au village. Les Turcs, eux, ont compté parmi les premiers touristes de l’île, avant que la frontière ne ferme totalement en mars 2020, en raison du Covid-19.

    À Lesbos, les réfugiés comme « #arme_diplomatique »

    À 450 kilomètres plus au nord-ouest, au large de l’île de Lesbos, ce ne sont pas les navires de recherche d’hydrocarbures envoyés par Ankara que guettent les Grecs, mais les fragiles bateaux pneumatiques en provenance de la côte turque, à une dizaine de kilomètres seulement. Cette île montagneuse de la taille de la Guadeloupe, qui compte 85’000 habitants, constitue un autre point de friction, dont les migrants sont l’instrument.

    Depuis une décennie, Lesbos est l’une des principales portes d’entrée dans l’Union européenne pour des centaines de milliers d’exilés. Afghans, Syriens, Irakiens ou encore Congolais transitent par la Turquie, qui accueille de son côté environ quatre millions de réfugiés. En face, le rivage turc se compose de plages peu touristiques et désertes, prisées des passeurs car permettant des départs discrets. Les migrants restent toutefois bloqués à Lesbos, le temps du traitement de leur demande d’asile en Grèce et dans l’espoir de rejoindre d’autres pays de l’espace Schengen par des voies légales. Le principal camp de réfugiés, Moria, a brûlé dans des conditions obscures le 8 septembre, sans faire de victime grave parmi ses treize mille occupants.

    Pour M. Konstantinos Moutzouris, le gouverneur des îles égéennes du Nord, ces arrivées résultent d’un calcul stratégique d’Ankara. « Erdoğan utilise les réfugiés comme arme diplomatique, il les envoie lorsqu’il veut négocier. Il a une attitude très agressive, comme aucun autre dirigeant turc avant lui », accuse cette figure conservatrice locale, connue pour ses positions tranchées sur les migrants, qu’il souhaite « dissuader de venir ».

    Il en veut pour preuve l’épisode de tension de mars 2020. Mécontent des critiques de l’Union européenne lors de son offensive contre les Kurdes dans le nord de la Syrie, le président turc a annoncé l’ouverture de ses frontières aux migrants voulant rejoindre l’Europe, malgré l’accord sur le contrôle de l’immigration qu’il a passé avec Bruxelles en mars 2016. Plusieurs milliers de personnes se sont alors massées aux portes de la Grèce, à la frontière terrestre du Nord-Est, suscitant un renforcement des troupes militaires grecques dans ce secteur. Dans le même temps, à Lesbos, une dizaine de bateaux chargés de réfugiés atteignaient les côtes en quelques jours, déclenchant la fureur d’extrémistes locaux. « Nous ne communiquons plus du tout avec les autorités turques depuis », affirme M. Moutzouris.

    Athènes assume désormais une ligne dure, quitte à fermer une partie de sa frontière commune avec la Turquie aux demandeurs d’asile, en dépit des conventions internationales que la Grèce a signées. Le gouvernement a ainsi annoncé mi-octobre la construction d’un nouveau #mur de 27 kilomètres sur la frontière terrestre. Au début de l’année 2020, il avait déjà déclaré vouloir ériger un #barrage_flottant de 2,7 kilomètres au large de Lesbos. Un ouvrage très critiqué et jugé illégal par les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) de défense des droits humains. Un projet « absurde », juge M. Georgios Pallis, pharmacien de l’île et ancien député Syriza (gauche). Plusieurs sources locales évoquent une suspension de la construction de ce barrage. Le gouvernement, lui, ne communique pas à ce sujet.

    « Les réfugiés payent la rupture du dialogue gréco-turc », déplore M. Pallis entre deux mezze arrosés de l’ouzo local, près du port bruyant de Mytilène, dans le sud de l’île. « Des retours forcés de migrants sont organisés par les gardes-côtes grecs. » En septembre, le ministre de la marine se targuait, au cours d’une conférence de presse, d’avoir « empêché » quelque dix mille migrants d’entrer en 2020. Un mois plus tard, le ministre de l’immigration tentait, lui, de rectifier le tir en niant tout retour forcé. À Lesbos, ces images de réfugiés rejetés ravivent un douloureux souvenir, analyse M. Pallis : « Celui de l’exil des réfugiés d’Asie Mineure. » Appelé aussi en Grèce la « #grande_catastrophe », cet événement a fondé l’actuelle relation gréco-turque.

    Au terme du déclin de l’Empire ottoman, lors de la première guerre mondiale, puis de la guerre gréco-turque (1919-1922), les Grecs d’Asie Mineure firent l’objet de #persécutions et de #massacres qui, selon de nombreux historiens, relèvent d’un #génocide (4). En 1923, les deux pays signèrent le #traité_de_Lausanne, qui fixait les frontières quasi définitives de la Turquie moderne et mettait fin à l’administration par la Grèce de la région d’İzmir-Smyrne telle que l’avait décidée le #traité_de_Sèvres de 1920 (5). Cet accord a aussi imposé un brutal #échange_de_populations, fondé sur des critères religieux, au nom de l’« #homogénéité_nationale ». Plus de 500 000 musulmans de Grèce prirent ainsi le chemin de l’Asie Mineure — soit 6,5 % des résidents de Lesbos, selon un recensement de 1920 (6). En parallèle, le traité a déraciné plus de 1,2 million de chrétiens orthodoxes, envoyés en Grèce. Au total, plus de 30 000 sont arrivés dans l’île. Ils ont alors été péjorativement baptisés les « #graines_de_Turcs ».

    « Ils étaient chrétiens orthodoxes, ils parlaient le grec, mais ils étaient très mal perçus des insulaires. Les femmes exilées de la grande ville d’İzmir étaient surnommées “les prostituées”. Il a fallu attendre deux générations pour que les relations s’apaisent », raconte M. Pallis, lui-même descendant de réfugiés d’Asie Mineure. « Ma grand-mère est arrivée ici à l’âge de 8 ans. Pour s’intégrer, elle a dû apprendre à détester les Turcs. Il ne fallait pas être amie avec “l’autre côté”. Elle n’a pas remis les pieds en Turquie avant ses 80 ans. »

    Enfourchant sa Vespa sous une chaleur accablante, M. Pallis s’arrête devant quelques ruines qui se dressent dans les artères de #Mytilène : d’anciennes mosquées abandonnées. L’une n’est plus qu’un bâtiment éventré où errent des chatons faméliques ; une autre a été reconvertie en boutique de fleuriste. « Les autorités n’assument pas ce passé ottoman, regrette l’ancien député. L’État devrait financer la reconstruction de ces monuments et le développement du tourisme avec la Turquie. Ce genre d’investissements rendrait la région plus sûre que l’acquisition de Rafale. »

    En #Thrace_occidentale, une population musulmane ballottée

    Dans le nord-est du pays, près de la frontière avec la Turquie et la Bulgarie, ce passé ottoman reste tangible. En Thrace occidentale, les #mosquées en activité dominent les villages qui s’élèvent au milieu des champs de coton, de tournesols et de tabac. La #minorité_musulmane de Grèce vit non loin du massif montagneux des #Rhodopes, dont les sommets culminent en Bulgarie. Forte d’entre 100 000 et 150 000 personnes selon les autorités, elle se compose de #Roms, de #Pomaks — une population d’origine slave et de langue bulgare convertie à l’#islam sous la #domination_ottomane — et, majoritairement, d’habitants aux racines turques.

    « Nous sommes des citoyens grecs, mais nous sommes aussi turcs. Nous l’étions avant même que la Turquie moderne existe. Nous parlons le turc et nous avons la même #religion », explique M. Moustafa Moustafa, biologiste et ancien député Syriza. En quelques mots, il illustre toute la complexité d’une #identité façonnée, une fois de plus, par le passé impérial régional. Et qui se trouve elle aussi au cœur d’une bataille d’influence entre Athènes et Ankara.

    Rescapée de l’#Empire_ottoman, la minorité musulmane a vu les frontières de la Grèce moderne se dessiner autour d’elle au XXe siècle. Elle fut épargnée par l’échange forcé de populations du traité de Lausanne, en contrepartie du maintien d’un patriarcat œcuménique à Istanbul ainsi que d’une diaspora grecque orthodoxe en Turquie. Principalement turcophone, elle évolue dans un État-nation dont les fondamentaux sont la langue grecque et la religion orthodoxe.

    Elle a le droit de pratiquer sa religion et d’utiliser le turc dans l’enseignement primaire. La région compte une centaine d’écoles minoritaires bilingues. « Nous vivons ensemble, chrétiens et musulmans, sans heurts. Mais les mariages mixtes ne sont pas encore tolérés », ajoute M. Moustafa, dans son laboratoire de la ville de #Komotini — aussi appelée #Gümülcine en turc. Les quelque 55 000 habitants vivent ici dans des quartiers chrétiens et musulmans érigés autour d’une rivière méandreuse, aujourd’hui enfouie sous le béton. M. Moustafa n’a presque jamais quitté la Thrace occidentale. « Notre minorité n’est pas cosmopolite, nous sommes des villageois attachés à cette région. Nous voulons juste que nos descendants vivent ici en paix », explique-t-il. Comme de nombreux musulmans de la région, il a seulement fait ses études supérieures en Turquie, avant de revenir, comme aimanté par la terre de ses ancêtres.

    À cent kilomètres de Komotini, la Turquie demeure l’« État parrain » de ces musulmans, selon le traité de Lausanne. Mais l’influence de celle que certains nomment la « mère patrie » n’est pas toujours du goût de la Grèce. Les plus nationalistes craignent que la minorité musulmane ne se rapproche trop du voisin turc et ne manifeste des velléités d’indépendance. Son statut est au cœur de la discorde. La Turquie plaide pour la reconnaissance d’une « #minorité_turque ». La Grèce refuse, elle, toute référence ethnique reliée à une appartenance religieuse.

    La bataille se joue sur deux terrains : l’#éducation et la religion. À la fin des années 1990, Athènes a voulu intégrer la minorité dans le système d’éducation publique grec, appliquant notamment une politique de #discrimination_positive et offrant un accès facilité à l’université. Les musulmans proturcs plaident, eux, pour la création de davantage d’établissements minoritaires bilingues. Sur le plan religieux, chaque partie nomme des muftis, qui ne se reconnaissent pas mutuellement. Trois représentants officiels sont désignés par la Grèce pour la région. Deux autres, officieux, le sont par les musulmans de Thrace occidentale soutenus par Ankara, qui refuse qu’un État chrétien désigne des religieux.

    « Nous subissons toujours les conséquences des #crises_diplomatiques. Nous sommes les pions de leur jeu d’échecs », regrette d’une voix lasse M. Moustafa. Le sexagénaire évoque la période qui a suivi le #pogrom dirigé principalement contre les Grecs d’Istanbul, qui avait fait une quinzaine de morts en 1955. Puis les années qui ont suivi l’occupation du nord de #Chypre par la Turquie, en 1974. « Notre minorité a alors subi une violation de ses droits par l’État grec, dénonce-t-il. Nous ne pouvions plus passer le permis de conduire. On nous empêchait d’acheter des terres. » En parallèle, de l’autre côté de la frontière, la #peur a progressivement poussé la communauté grecque de Turquie à l’exil. Aujourd’hui, les Grecs ne sont plus que quelques milliers à Istanbul.

    Ces conflits pèsent encore sur l’évolution de la Thrace occidentale. « La situation s’est améliorée dans les années 1990. Mais, maltraités par le passé en Grèce, certains membres de la minorité musulmane se sont rapprochés de la Turquie, alimentant une méfiance dans l’imaginaire national grec. Beaucoup de chrétiens les considèrent comme des agents du pays voisin », constate M. Georgios Mavrommatis, spécialiste des minorités et professeur associé à l’université Démocrite de Thrace, à Komotini.
    « Ankara compte des milliers d’#espions dans la région »

    Une atmosphère de #suspicion plane sur cette ville, sous l’emprise de deux discours nationalistes concurrents. « Les gens de l’extrême droite grecque nous perçoivent comme des janissaires [soldats de l’Empire ottoman]. Erdoğan, lui, nous qualifie de soydas [« parents », en turc] », détaille d’une voix forte Mme Pervin Hayrullah, attablée dans un café animé. Directrice de la Fondation pour la culture et l’éducation en Thrace occidentale, elle se souvient aussi du passage du président turc dans la région, fin 2017. M. Erdoğan avait dénoncé les « discriminations » pratiquées par l’État grec à l’égard de cette communauté d’origine turque.

    Une chrétienne qui souhaite rester anonyme murmure, elle, que « les autorités grecques sont dépassées. La Turquie, qui est bien plus présente sur le terrain, a davantage de pouvoir. Ankara compte des milliers d’espions dans la région et donne des millions d’euros de budget chaque année au consulat turc de Komotini ». Pour Mme Hayrullah, qui est proche de cette institution, « le consulat ne fait que remplir une mission diplomatique, au même titre que le consulat grec d’Edirne [ville turque à quelque deux cents kilomètres, à la frontière] ». L’allure du consulat turc tranche avec les façades abîmées de Komotini. Surveillé par des caméras et par des gardes en noir, l’édifice est cerné de hautes barrières vertes.

    « La Grèce nous traite bien. Elle s’intéresse au développement de notre communauté et nous laisse exercer notre religion », vante de son côté M. Selim Isa, dans son bureau calme. Le président du comité de gestion des biens musulmans — désigné par l’État grec — est fier de montrer les beaux lustres et les salles lumineuses et rénovées d’une des vingt mosquées de Komotini. « Mais plus les relations avec la Turquie se détériorent et plus le consulat étend son influence, plus il revendique la reconnaissance d’une minorité turque », ajoute M. Isa, regard alerte, alors que l’appel du muezzin résonne dans la ville.

    À l’issue du sommet européen des 10 et 11 décembre, l’Union européenne a annoncé un premier volet de #sanctions contre la Turquie en raison de ses opérations d’exploration. Des mesures individuelles devraient cibler des responsables liés à ces activités. Athènes plaidait pour des mesures plus fortes, comme un embargo sur les armes, pour l’heure écarté. « C’était une proposition-clé. Nous craignons que la Turquie s’arme davantage. Sur le plan naval, elle est par exemple en train de se doter de six #sous-marins de type #214T fournis par l’#Allemagne, explique le diplomate grec Georgios Kaklikis, consul à Istanbul de 1986 à 1989. M. Erdoğan se réjouit de ces sanctions, qui sont en réalité minimes. » Le président turc a réagi par des #rodomontades, se félicitant que des pays « dotés de bon sens » aient adopté une « approche positive ». Bruxelles assure que d’autres mesures pourraient tomber en mars 2021 si Ankara ne cesse pas ces actions « illégales et agressives ».

    https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2021/01/PERRIGUEUR/62666
    #Grèce #Turquie #frontière #asile #migrations #réfugiés
    #Oruc_Reis #murs #Evros #barrières_frontalières #histoire

    ping @reka

    –—

    #terminologie #mots #vocabulaire :
    – "Le traité (de Lausanne) a déraciné plus de 1,2 million de chrétiens orthodoxes, envoyés en Grèce. Au total, plus de 30 000 sont arrivés dans l’île. Ils ont alors été péjorativement baptisés les « #graines_de_Turcs »."
    – "Les femmes exilées de la grande ville d’İzmir étaient surnommées “les prostituées”."

    –-> ajoutés à la métaliste sur la terminologie de la migration :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/414225

    ping @sinehebdo

  • Rapporti di monitoraggio

    Sin dal 2016 il progetto ha pubblicato report di approfondimento giuridico sulle situazioni di violazione riscontrate presso le diverse frontiere oggetto delle attività di monitoraggio. Ciascun report affronta questioni ed aspetti contingenti e particolarmente interessanti al fine di sviluppare azioni di contenzioso strategico.

    Elenco dei rapporti pubblicati in ordine cronologico:

    “Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri a Ventimiglia (giugno 2015): profili di illegittimità“

    Il report è stato redatto nel giugno del 2015 è costituisce una prima analisi delle principali criticità riscontrabili alla frontiera italo-francese verosimilmente sulla base dell’Accordo bilaterale fra il Governo della Repubblica italiana e il Governo della Repubblica francese sulla cooperazione transfrontaliera in materia di polizia e dogana (Accordo di Chambery)
    #Vintimille #Ventimiglia #frontière_sud-alpine #Alpes #Menton #accord_bilatéral #Accord_de_Chambéry #réadmissions

    Ajouté à la #métaliste de liens autour d’#accords_de_réadmission entre pays européens...
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091
    Et plus précisément ici:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091#message887941

    –---

    “Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri alla frontiera di Chiasso: profili di illegittimità”

    Il report è stato redatto nell’estate del 2016 per evidenziare la situazione critica che si era venuta a creare in seguito al massiccio afflusso di cittadini stranieri in Italia attraverso la rotta balcanica scatenata dalla crisi siriana. La frontiera italo-svizzera è stata particolarmente interessata da numerosi tentativi di attraversamento del confine nei pressi di Como e il presente documento fornisce una analisi giuridica delle criticità riscontrate.

    Ajouté à la #métaliste de liens autour d’#accords_de_réadmission entre pays européens...
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091
    Et plus précisément ici:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091#message887940

    –-----

    “Lungo la rotta del Brennero”

    Il report, redatto con la collaborazione della associazione Antenne Migranti e il contributo della fondazione Alex Langer nel 2017, analizza le dinamiche della frontiera altoatesina e sviluppa una parte di approfondimento sulle violazioni relative al diritto all’accoglienza per richiedenti asilo e minori, alle violazioni all’accesso alla procedura di asilo e ad una analisi delle modalità di attuazione delle riammissioni alla frontiera.

    #Brenner #Autriche

    –---

    “Attività di monitoraggio ai confini interni italiani – Periodo giugno 2018 – giugno 2019”

    Report analitico che riporta i dati raccolti e le prassi di interesse alle frontiere italo-francesi, italo-svizzere, italo-austriache e italo slovene. Contiene inoltre un approfondimento sui trasferimenti di cittadini di paesi terzi dalle zone di frontiera indicate all’#hotspot di #Taranto e centri di accoglienza del sud Italia.

    #Italie_du_Sud

    –------

    “Report interno sopralluogo Bosnia 27-31 ottobre 2019”

    Report descrittivo a seguito del sopralluogo effettuato da soci coinvolti nel progetto Medea dal 27 al 31 ottobre sulla condizione delle persone in transito in Bosnia. Il rapporto si concentra sulla descrizione delle strutture di accoglienza presenti nel paese, sull’accesso alla procedura di protezione internazionale e sulle strategie di intervento future.

    #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine

    –---

    “Report attività frontiere interne terrestri, porti adriatici e Bosnia”

    Rapporto di analisi dettagliata sulle progettualità sviluppate nel corso del periodo luglio 2019 – luglio 2020 sulle diverse frontiere coinvolte (in particolare la frontiera italo-francese, italo-slovena, la frontiera adriatica e le frontiere coinvolte nella rotta balcanica). Le novità progettuali più interessanti riguardano proprio l’espansione delle progettualità rivolte ai paesi della rotta balcanica e alla Grecia coinvolta nelle riammissioni dall’Italia. Nel periodo ad oggetto del rapporto il lavoro ha avuto un focus principale legato ad iniziative di monitoraggio, costituzione della rete ed azioni di advocacy.

    #Slovénie #mer_Adriatique #Adriatique

    https://medea.asgi.it/rapporti

    #rapport #monitoring #medea #ASGI
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières
    #frontières_internes #frontières_intérieures #Balkans #route_des_balkans

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Pushed back and abandoned on island in middle of Evros

    Outrageous incident occurring right now on the #Evros border right now: 70 lives at risk, including many children and at least one pregnant woman.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fm3HxAtHzU&feature=emb_logo

    An outrageous incident is occurring on the Evros border right now: 70 lives at risk, including many children and at least one pregnant woman!

    Three days ago, 60 people were pushed back from Greece to an island on Evros and have been stuck there since with nothing. The day before their pushback, they had been detained and denied food and water. 10 more were pushed back yesterday. Now 70 lives are at risk!

    The water level of Evros would permit them to cross by foot, but the border forces on both sides prevent them, including, as they tell us, with the use of live ammunition.

    This is not the first time Greece has pushed people back to this island. In May, an unaccompanied minor disappeared and is presumed dead after he contacted his mother one last time from that same island. In July, another group reported to Josoor that they had been abandoned on that island.

    This incident is happening in Turkish territory because these people were pushed back by the authorities of an EU member state. Furthermore Frontex, the EUs Border and Coast Guard Agency, has a liaison office in Turkey and the Evros river is a Frontex operational area. We therefore alerted Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and Frontex about the situation, urging them to intervene immediately to the best of their ability.

    https://www.josoor.net/post/breaking-pushed-back-and-abandoned-on-island-in-middle-of-evros

    #Evros #île #îles #push-backs #refoulements #abandon #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Grèce #Turquie #rivière

    voir aussi:
    https://twitter.com/JosoorNet/status/1326606458214096896

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer

    Des investigations menées par plusieurs médias dénoncent les pratiques illégales des #gardes-frontières_grecs impliquant parfois l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières.

    Une enquête de plusieurs médias, dont le magazine allemand Spiegel, affirme que Frontex, l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières, est impliquée dans plusieurs incidents de refoulement en mer de bateaux de demandeurs d’asile traversant la mer Egée entre la Turquie et la Grèce.

    Les investigations menées « montrent pour la première fois que les responsables de Frontex sont conscients des pratiques illégales des gardes-frontières grecs – et sont en partie impliqués dans les refoulements eux-mêmes », écrit le Spiegel dans un article disponible en ligne samedi 24 octobre.
    Les journalistes assurent avoir documenté six cas survenus depuis avril en mer Egée dans lesquels des équipes de Frontex ont au minimum assisté sans réagir à des refoulements vers la Turquie de bateaux de réfugiés se trouvant dans les eaux grecques, une pratique illégale. Dans un cas, en juin, une vidéo montre un navire de Frontex bloquant un bateau de réfugiés, puis, dans une autre scène enregistrée, passant devant le bateau de réfugiés à grande vitesse avant de quitter les lieux.

    Des dizaines de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits comparés

    Outre le Spiegel, les recherches ont été menées par un magazine de la chaîne allemande ARD, le collectif de journalistes Lighthouse Reports, la plate-forme d’investigations Bellingcat et la chaîne de télévision japonaise TV Asahi. Les auteurs expliquent avoir comparé des « dizaines » de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits de témoins oculaires, dont des réfugiés et des employés de Frontex. L’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières a engagé plus de 600 agents en Grèce, une des portes d’entrée de l’Union européenne, ainsi que des bateaux, des drones et des avions, selon l’article.

    Frontex n’a pas commenté les cas précis soulevés par la recherche, explique le Spiegel, mais a déclaré que ses agents étaient liés par un code de conduite en matière de droits de l’homme et respectaient l’interdiction des refoulements. Sans mentionner l’article, Frontex a annoncé vendredi soir sur son compte Twitter avoir été « en contact avec les autorités grecques à propos d’incidents en mer ces derniers mois » et qu’Athènes avait ouvert une « enquête interne ». Frontex agit « dans le respect des droits fondamentaux et de la loi internationale », souligne l’agence sur Twitter.
    Le gouvernement conservateur grec a toujours rejeté les allégations de refoulements illégaux à ses frontières dont font régulièrement état plusieurs organisations non gouvernementales.

    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/10/24/migrations-l-agence-europeenne-frontex-mise-en-cause-pour-des-refoulements-e
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Mer_Egée #Grèce #Turquie

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Frontex at Fault : European Border Force Complicit in ‘Illegal’ Pushbacks

      Vessels from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, have been complicit in maritime “pushback” operations to drive away refugees and migrants attempting to enter the European Union via Greek waters, a joint investigation by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi has found.

      Open source data suggests Frontex assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea, were present at another and have been in the vicinity of four more since March.

      Although Frontex assets were not at the immediate scene of those latter four incidents, the signature of a pushback is distinctive, and would likely have been visible on radar, with visual tools common on such vessels or to the naked eye.

      The Greek Coast Guard (HCG) has long been accused of illegal pushbacks.

      These are described by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a legal and educational non-profit, as incidents where refugees and migrants are forced back over a border without consideration of individual circumstances and without any possibility to apply for asylum or to put forward arguments against the measures taken.

      In the Aegean Sea, pushbacks generally occur in two ways. The first type is the most common: Dinghies travelling from Turkey to Greece are blocked from landing on Greek soil by the HCG. This could mean either physically blocking the dinghy until it runs out of fuel, or disabling the engine. After the engine no longer works the dinghy can then either be pushed back into Turkish territorial water with waves, or towed if the wind is not favourable.

      The second type of pushback is employed when people have managed to land on Greek soil. In this case they are detained, placed in a liferaft with no means of propulsion, towed into the middle of the Aegean Sea and then abandoned.

      Pushbacks will often result in standoffs between the HCG and Turkish Coast Guard (TCG), both of which will standby, refusing to aid dinghies in distress and carrying out unsafe manoeuvres around them.

      The role of Frontex assets in such incidents, however, has never been recorded before.

      Dana Schmalz, an international law expert at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg said the incidents highlighted in this investigation were likely “illegal” and “violate the prohibition of refoulement and maritime law.” The prohibition of refoulement refers to rules banning the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers and is described by the UN Refugee Agency as a “rule of customary international law.”

      Schmalz added that if Frontex personnel stopped an overcrowded dinghy of the type seen in footage documented during this investigation, they would be obliged to rescue its occupants immediately. “If they don’t do that, even make waves [or] instead drive away and then let the Greeks do the dirty work – then they are involved in the illegal pushback.”

      Despite being presented with numerous examples of the practice, a spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry Greek denied claims of pushbacks, describing allegations of illegal actions relating to the incidents documented in this article as “tendentious.” They added that HCG officers act in compliance with the country’s international obligations.

      Frontex said that the host states it works with have the final say in how operations on its territory or search and rescue zone are carried out. However, it added that Frontex had notified HCG which confirmed an internal inquiry had been launched into each of the reported incidents. Yet Frontex did not say when it notified HCG or when the inquiry had begun.

      On July 24, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, told the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) at the European Parliament that the agency had observed and recorded just a single incident which may have been a pushback in the Aegean.

      Our investigation — which looked at the presence of Frontex assets in the Aegean Sea and observed their movements over many months — appears to contradict that assertion.

      This was despite the difficulty in tracking many Frontex assets because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Frontex, an agency of the European Union, is tasked with border control of the Schengen Area. Its activities in the Aegean are called Operation Poseidon.
      How we Recorded Pushbacks: Identification of Assets

      There were two main steps to establishing that Frontex had participated in pushback operations. The first was to identify what assets had been deployed in Operation Poseidon. The second was to establish whether these assets had participated in pushback operations.

      The first step was carried out using open sources. These included social media posts, vessel tracking sites and information published by Frontex itself. We were also able to establish the number of personnel and assets present in the operational area thanks to questions asked in the European Parliament.

      According to this response, Operation Poseidon has 185 personnel, one offshore patrol vessel (OPV), eight coastal patrol boats (CPB), one coastal patrol vessel (CPV), four thermal vision vehicles (TVV) and three patrol cars.

      There is also a “Rapid Border Intervention”, which contains additional assets on top of those dedicated to Operation Poseidon. This includes 74 personnel, two CPBs, two CPVs, one helicopter and three TVVs.

      In total we used open sources to identify 22 assets, including vessels, helicopters and planes, which operated in the Aegean during 2020. Although this is more than the total given in the answer to parliamentary questions above, some of these assets were rotating in or out of theater.
      Tracking Assets

      Some assets featured regularly on the open source record. For example, Romanian and Bulgarian vessels regularly transit through the Bosphorus strait, where there is an active ship-spotting community. As such it was possible to identify their operational rotations, including vessels heading to and returning from deployments roughly every three months. However, other assets were more difficult to track, and their presence on the open source record consisted of a single image or video.


      https://twitter.com/YorukIsik/status/1262417193083510784

      In order to track these assets and identify if they had participated in pushbacks, we required far more data than was available on social media. As such, we turned to AIS and transponder data, publicly available information about the location of particular ships or aircraft, available through sites such as Marine Traffic or Flight Radar 24.

      Many of the assets we identified either did not have their information publicly listed, or appeared to only turn on their transponders under certain circumstances, such as when in port. This made them extremely difficult to track. However, some assets did have their transponders on. We began to collect this data, buying additional, more granular data from ship and flight tracking companies on dates when pushbacks had been reported.

      We combined this tracking data with our own database of reported pushbacks, which we obtained through both public reports and information collected by NGOs such as Consolidated Rescue Group (CRG), Monitoring Rescue Cell (MRC) and Alarm Phone, who track these events. These included the coordinates of reported pushback events, frequently sent by the occupants of the dinghies. By overlaying these datasets we identified multiple pushback incidents in which Frontex assets were in the vicinity. Once we had identified these priority incidents we could then examine the specifics of what had happened.
      Incidents

      Using this data we identified six pushback incidents since March in which Frontex assets were either in the vicinity or participated directly. We have separated these into four “proximity incidents,” where Frontex assets were within five kilometers of the incident, and two “confirmed incidents,” where we can be certain that Frontex were present at the site of pushbacks themselves.
      Proximity Incidents

      April 28-29: In an incident we have previously reported, a group of refugees and migrants made landfall on Samos. They claim they were then detained, placed in a life-raft without any means of propulsion and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait. A surveillance plane overflew the area twice while this pushback took place.

      June 4: Two dinghies were reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada appears to have been present around 15 kilometers from the first incident and just over one kilometer away from the second.

      June 5: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada was approximately two to three kilometers away.

      August 19: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Molivos was five kilometers away and appears to have changed course and headed towards the pushback before its transponder either lost signal or was turned off.

      In these cases, Frontex assets were recorded as being within a certain range, rather than participating directly. Their exact knowledge of what was happening at these distances is difficult to confirm. Operation Poseidon’s mission includes a significant number of tasks requiring surveillance, and its assets are able to use both radar and visual tools, such as low-light or infrared cameras, to observe the environment around them.

      For example, we know that the Molivos is equipped with an FLIR camera similar to this one seen on another Portuguese Frontex vessel. This model is capable of x36 magnification, with low light and infrared cameras.

      The boats that migrants use to make this crossing are very basic, inflatable rubber dinghies several meters long with a single outboard motor. Due to their construction, it is unlikely that these boats would be visible on radar. However, pushbacks don’t just involve a single dinghy. By their definition they must involve at least one other vessel. From images and videos of pushbacks we have reviewed, it is clear that they often involve multiple ships from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards.

      As stated above, ships from both Greece and Turkey will frequently attempt to push the dinghies across the sea border using waves. These vessels manoeuvre in a circular pattern at a relatively high speed close to the dinghy. This manoeuvre is not only dangerous because of the risk of collision, the waves it generates also represent a threat to the overcrowded and often fragile dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8BdEHtBWp4&feature=emb_logo

      As such, although a dinghy itself may not show up on radar, the signature of a pushback would. Multiple large and small vessels from both TCG and HCG, some of which are carrying out unusual manoeuvres in order to create waves, would be very difficult to miss. Indeed you can even see this kind of event from space.

      There’s also the matter of visual range. The same factors that make a pushback visible on radar will also make it visible to the eye or other visual systems such as surveillance cameras. Even at a range of a few kilometers in calm seas and good conditions, a dinghy would likely be visible, although exact details such as the nature of its passengers might not be. The other aspects of pushbacks which we have already described would also certainly be visible.

      The case of the April 28-29 pushback is a good illustration of surveillance assets passing very close to the results of a pushback.
      April 28

      In an incident previously covered by Bellingcat, a group of 22 migrants who landed on Samos were detained by Greek law enforcement. They were then placed on a life raft without any means of propulsion, and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait by the Greek coast guard. In response to our request for comment at the time, the Greek government denied these people had ever reached Greek territory, despite witness statements, images, and videos showing this had in fact happened.

      As the life raft was floating in the strait, a private sureveillance plane passed over the area twice at 5,000 feet, once at 02:41 AM and once at 03:18 AM. This plane, G-WKTH, belongs to DEA Aviation, which provides aerial surveillance services to Frontex. In a promotional video from Frontex, it is claimed these feeds are live-streamed back to the Frontex HQ in Warsaw

      The plane is reportedly equipped with an MX-15 camera, which has both low-light and infrared sensors. Considering this plane is specifically employed for aerial surveillance, it would be surprising if it did not identify the life raft full of people and, according to one member of this group, the presence of Greek and later Turkish vessels.

      Indeed, the Frontex executive director’s response to the LIBE committee of the European Parliament indicates this may have been the incident Frontex reported as having seen. In this reply a “Serious Incident Report (‘SIR’) was created based on a sighting of an incident by aerial surveillance where people were transferred on a rubber boat from a vessel and later on rescued by Turkish authorities.
      Active incidents

      In two cases on June 8 and August 15, it seems certain that Frontex was aware of pushbacks as they took place. Indeed, on June 8, it appears that a Frontex vessel participated in a pushback, physically blocking a dinghy from reaching Greek territory.

      We will first address the incident on August 15, where a Frontext vessel was present at the scene of a pushback, before examining the June 8, where a Frontex asset appears to have participated in a pushback.
      August 15

      On the morning of August 15 there were reports of a confrontation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards. As well as multiple photos posted to social media by locals, this was also reported as a pushback by CRG, MRC, Alarm Phone and Aegean Boat Report.

      CRG and MRC also posted videos from people on this dinghy, with CRG’s video showing an engine without a starter cord, claiming it had been taken by the Greek Coast Guard. In the videos, the dinghy is surrounded by vessels from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards. We have previously noted that disabling the motor of dinghies is a tactic that has reportedly been used by the Greek Coast Guard.

      Most of the images of this incident are taken from a distance, making identification of the vessels difficult. However, we were also sent an image of this confrontation that is very clear. In this image we can clearly see the presence of MAI1102, a Romanian border forces vessel which had just arrived in theater.

      The metadata of this image is consistent with the date and time of this incident. Indeed, the ships can be seen arrayed in almost exactly the same manner in a video filmed by the people on the boat.

      Although it is not possible to be certain of exactly how far away MAI1102 is from this pushback, we can see that it is certainly within visual range of the confrontation and the dinghy itself.
      June 8

      On the morning of June 8 a pushback was reported to have taken place, again off the north-east coast of Lesbos. The Turkish coast guard reported it rescued 47 migrants after a pushback by the Greek Coast Guard that day. Footage published by Anadolu Agency appeared to show the Romanian Frontex vessel MAI1103 blocking a dinghy.

      We investigated this incident further, obtaining other videos from the TCG, as well as tracking data of vessels that appeared to be in the vicinity at the time, such as the NATO ship, Berlin. Using these sources we were able to reconstruct what happened.

      After initially trying to cross under the cover of darkness, the dinghy was intercepted and physically blocked from proceeding by MAI1103 early in the morning.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoNJXY3pa_U&feature=emb_logo

      We can see the exact time and a set of coordinates in one of the videos we obtained.

      We plotted the coordinates visible on the screen as they changed. It became clear these were not the location of the vessel with the camera, but rather the location of the dinghy and MAI1103.

      We can visually confirm the general location by comparing a panoramic view that is visible in one of the videos against the appearance of the landscape from the coordinates which appear on the camera feed.

      We can now start to build a picture of what happened that morning.

      We can see that the dinghy was extremely close to MAI1103, and is being physically blocked by the ship. Indeed the two vessels are close enough that it appears that personnel on MAI1103 are communicating with people in the dinghy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qD_I--2LPA&feature=emb_logo

      At one point MAI1103 makes a pass close to the dinghy at enough speed to generate waves, a maneuver that previously only HCG and TCG have been seen making. It is especially dangerous due to the overloaded and unseaworthy nature of the dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUm1_e2R6A&feature=emb_logo

      Eventually HCG vessels arrive and MAI1103 leaves, resulting in a standoff between the TCG and HCG. This lasted several hours and gradually moved to the north-west, observed by the NATO ship Berlin.

      During this period the dinghy was approached at least twice by a rigid-hulled inflatable boat 060 (RHIB) from the HCG.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WODSvxnmoc&feature=emb_logo

      In what appears to be the final segment of video taken at about 09:30 AM we see the TCG radar screen, which can be exactly matched with the Turkish coast. This radar screen matches perfectly with the location and heading of the Berlin at this time, as we can see by overlaying a plot of the Berlin’s course with the radar screen.

      As well as matching the movement of vessels to AIS data, we can further verify that these videos are from the same incident by examining the passengers in the dinghy. We can see that in the earliest videos, showing the MAI1103 with the dinghy, there is clearly a person wearing a white hood, alongside someone who appears to be wearing a reddish top. The presence of these passengers helps to verify that all these videos are indeed from the same incident on June 8.

      In the final stage of the pushback at 10:30 AM it is possible to see the Portuguese Frontex vessel Nortada within 5 km with both AIS data and on the TCG radar screen. The Nortada had been in that vicinity since at least 09:11 AM that morning. Although it may not have been able to pick up this dinghy on its radar, it would have certainly been within visual range of the larger ships surrounding it. After the pushback, the Nortada continued its patrol off North Lesbos.

      Conclusion

      Over the course of this investigation we collected a huge amount of information on Frontex activities in the Aegean Sea. Most of Frontex’s assets were impossible to track because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Despite this limited view, we still managed to identify multiple instances in which Frontex was either present at pushbacks, or close enough to be able to understand what was taking place. In at least one incident it appears that a Frontex vessel actively participated in a pushback. It is possible that there are other incidents we have not been able to capture.

      In a statement provided in response to this investigation, Frontex stated that it applies “the highest standards of border control to its operations” and that its officers are bound by a code of conduct that looks to prevent refoulement and to uphold human rights.

      The statement continued that Frontex’s executive director had notified the HGC regarding all reported incidents and that Greek authorities confirmed that an internal inquiry had been launched.

      A spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry said the actions of HCG officers were “carried out in full compliance with the country’s international obligations, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.”

      The spokesperson added that thousands of migrants had been rescued throughout the refugee crisis of recent years by the HCG, that allegations of illegality were “tendentious” and that the “operation practices of the Greek authorities have never included such [illegal] actions.”

      https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2020/10/23/frontex-at-fault-european-border-force-complicit-in-illegal-pushbacks

      #forensic_architecture #architecture_forensique

    • EU Border Agency Frontex Complicit in Greek Refugee Pushback Campaign

      Greek border guards have been forcing large numbers of refugees back to sea in pushback operations that violate international law. #DER_SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have learned that the European Union is also complicit in the highly controversial practice.

      Jouma al-Badi thought he was safe when he first set foot on European soil on April 28. Together with 21 other refugees, he had been taken in a rubber dinghy from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. The young Syrian planned to apply for political asylum. He documented his arrival in videos. Local residents also remember the refugees.

      Greek security forces captured the migrants. Under international law, it is their duty to give the new arrivals a hearing and field their applications for asylum. Instead, according to al-Badi, the officers dragged them back out to sea and released them on an inflatable rubber raft. Videos obtained by DER SPIEGEL also show him on the raft.

      For an entire night and a morning, Greek border guards kept pushing the men and women away as their raft floated around in circles. The Turkish coast guard filmed the maneuver.

      An aircraft used by the European border protection agency Frontex also passed over the refugees. The crew of the surveillance plane, with the registration identifier "G-WKTH,” were part of a European Union operation in Greece. The plane twice flew over the Strait of Mykali, where al-Badi and the other migrants were located. According to flight data that has been viewed by DER SPIEGEL, the first flight happened at 2:41 a.m. and the second at 3:18 a.m.

      The plane’s crew has a standard MX-15 camera on board with an infrared sensor and a sensor for poor lighting conditions. Even at night, the sensors are capable of detecting small objects on the water. According to a Frontex promotional video, the camera images are streamed live to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. But Frontex didn’t send any help.

      The waves struck the Syrian in the face. He eventually ran out of strength and thought he was going to die.

      The Greek government denies it conducted pushbacks of refugees to Turkey, even though DER SPIEGEL and other media have fully documented several of these operations, known as pushbacks. Greek border guards are growing increasingly ruthless. As in the case of al-Badi, they are now pushing even refugees who have reached the Greek isles back to sea in operations that are illegal under international law.

      Frontex officials have publicly claimed that they know nothing about pushbacks by Greek border guards. The agency has 600 employees deployed in Greece as well as ships, drones and aircraft.

      Together with Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, "Report Mainz” — a program on ARD, the German public broadcaster — and Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi, DER SPIEGEL spent several months reporting in the Aegean Sea region. The reporters tracked the positions of Frontex units and compared them with position data from pushbacks recorded by NGOs and migrants. They interviewed witnesses, refugees and Frontex staff. They viewed internal documents and dozens of videos and satellite photos.

      Their research proves for the first time that Frontex officials know about the Greek border guards’ illegal practices – and that the agency itself is at times involved in the pushbacks. Breaking the law has become an everyday occurrence at Europe’s borders, and the EU is allowing it to happen.

      Samira Mohammad could already see Lesbos when the men with the masks arrived. The Syrian woman, who does not want to provide her real name, is 45 years old. That morning of August 15, she was sitting in a rubber dinghy with dozens of other people. She recalls how Greek border guards tried in vain to stop the arrivals and how they steered toward the boat repeatedly and pushed it back toward Turkey multiple times. She says the Turkish coast guard held them off. Locals even have a name for the cynical game: "Greek water polo.”

      Mohammad claims the Greek officials took their gasoline and destroyed the engine. And that masked Greek border guards then boarded the dinghy. Several refugees claim that they forced the migrants to tie the shaky rubber dinghy to a speedboat at gunpoint. The border guards then towed the boat toward Turkey. Videos corroborate the statements made by the refugees, and the destroyed engine is clearly visible.

      Mohammad said she was scared to death during those moments. Her entire family had been onboard, including her pregnant daughter-in-law, who was later hospitalized with severe bleeding.

      The maneuver off the coast of Lesbos lasted hours, and the Turkish Navy didn’t rescue the refugees until noon.

      A Romanian Frontex boat was also on site that morning. The MAI 1102 was located only a few hundred meters away from the refugee boat. The boat can be clearly identified in a photo. A German navy ship on a NATO mission that observed the incident reported it to the German government. It also stated that Frontex people had been present. This is documented in an internal paper that has been obtained by DER SPIEGEL. Nevertheless, this pushback has never been revealed publicly before now.

      On June 8, Frontex officials went one step further, with the MAI 1103, a ship also flying the Romanian flag. It directly blocked a refugee boat. The incident can be seen in several videos recorded by the Turkish coast guard and verified by DER SPIEGEL. It shows officials standing on the deck, where they are obviously communicating with the refugees floating in the water in front of them.

      Later, the MAI 1103 passes the refugees traveling at high speed, with waves beating against the boat. The Romanian officials then withdrew and the Greek coast guard took over the operation.

      "These pushbacks violate the ban on collective expulsions and international maritime law,” says Dana Schmalz, an expert on international law at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. She notes that if Frontex officials stopped a completely overcrowded inflatable boat, they would be required to rescue the people immediately. "If they don’t do that and even make waves instead, only to drive away and let the Greeks do the dirty work, then they are still involved in the illegal pushback,” she says.

      Reporting by DER SPIEGEL and its partners found that a Frontex surveillance plane or Portuguese or Romanian Frontex ships were near at least six pushbacks in the area since April. The number of undetected cases could actually be much higher.

      The vast majority of Frontex vessels patrol the Aegean Sea with their AIS transponders switched off or untraceable in order to prevent giving away their positions. Their presence can only be verified with difficulty through videos and photos.

      When contacted for comment by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex did not deny the individual incidents, instead stating that the officials protected the fundamental rights of migrants and respected their right to non-refoulement. It further stated that the incidents that had been reported were forwarded to the Greek coast guard, which opened an investigation into the matter. The Greek government gave a blanket denial to the allegations, saying that it complies with the law and does not carry out illegal deportations.

      Under Frontex’s statutes, police officers are required to file so-called Serious Incident Reports to document violations of the law. But people familiar with the situation say that fewer and fewer of these reports are getting filed. The sources said the Frontex border guards, who are sent to Greece from all over Europe, frown upon such reports because they cause trouble for the host country.

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-border-agency-frontex-complicit-in-greek-refugee-pushback-campaign-a-4b6c

      –---

      en allemand :
      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/fluechtlinge-frontex-in-griechenland-in-illegale-pushbacks-verwickelt-a-0000

    • Bruxelles veut des explications de Frontex, accusée de procéder à des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      La #Commission_européenne a sollicité une réunion extraordinaire urgente du conseil d’administration de Frontex, l’agence européenne pour la protection des frontières, mise en cause pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée. Un article d’Euroefe.

      « Après s’être coordonnés avec la présidente de la Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, mes services ont demandé, au nom de la Commission, la convocation d’une réunion extraordinaire du conseil d’administration de Frontex le 10 novembre pour discuter des incidents présumés de refoulement en Grèce et de la protection des droits fondamentaux », a écrit Ylva Johansson, la commissaire chargée des migrations, dans un tweet.

      D’après des enquêtes menées par différents médias, Frontex aurait procédé à des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée, à la frontière entre la Turquie et la Grèce. Et ce à au moins six reprises.

      L’hebdomadaire allemand Der Spiegel a révélé le 23 octobre qu’il avait enquêté sur ces incidents en collaboration avec les médias numériques néerlandais Lighthouse Reports et britannique Bellingcat, ainsi qu’avec deux chaînes de télévision, l’Allemande ARD et la Japonaise Asahi.

      Ces médias disposent de films montrant comment, depuis le mois d’avril, des agents de Frontex ont procédé à ce que l’on appelle des « pushbacks » (refoulements) de migrants pour les empêcher d’atteindre le sol européen, une pratique illégale.

      Une vidéo montre comment un bateau de l’agence européenne bloque le passage d’une embarcation occupée par des migrants, avant de les dépasser à grande vitesse, provoquant ainsi de grosses vagues. Par la suite, les garde-côtes grecs obligent la barque à faire demi-tour vers la Turquie.

      De son côté, Frontex a nié les accusations et assuré au Spiegel que ses agents protégeaient les droits fondamentaux des migrants et respectaient le droit au non-refoulement.

      Le gouvernement grec a également nié catégoriquement ces accusations.

      https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/bruxelles-veut-des-explications-de-frontex-accusee-de-proceder-a-des-refoulements-illegaux-de-migrants/?_ga=2.223583131.1633915392.1603989521-379746837.1590938192

    • Greek coast guard performed huge pushback involving 197 people and 7 life rafts!

      A boat carrying 197 people tried to cross from Turkey to Italy on Tuesday, but got in to bad weather and sat course towards Crete. Close to the south shore of Crete they had engine problems and the Greek Coast Guard was alerted 09.00.
      The coast guard divided the people on two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel and 76 people, families on the other. Reports from the refugees clearly states that some of them where abuse while onboard the HCG vessel, footage and video testimony has been provided. Most of their phones was confiscated by the Greek coast guard, but a few managed to hide their phones, and was able to send out distress messages.
      The first group containing the 121 males was forced in to 3 life rafts before first light on Wednesday the 21th just north of Rhodes, and found and picked up by Turkish coast guard 08.50 south of Marmaris.
      The second group with the families, 76 people, was put in 4 life rafts around noon north west of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guard before 17.30 south west of Datça.
      This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone to reach Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution.
      This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even do they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/951612422028529

    • Έστειλαν πίσω 200 πρόσφυγες γιατί ήταν… τζιχαντιστές

      Τεκμηριωμένη καταγγελία για τη μεγαλύτερη ώς τώρα καταγεγραμμένη επαναπροώθηση προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό προς την Τουρκία με μεγάλη και κρυφή επιχείρηση του Λιμενικού εν μέσω σφοδρής κακοκαιρίας νότια της Κρήτης ● Έντεχνη προσπάθεια οι 200 άνθρωποι, μεταξύ αυτών και γυναικόπαιδα, να εμφανιστούν ως… ισλαμιστές τρομοκράτες.

      Ακόμα μια καταγγελία για βίαιες επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό έρχεται στο φως τις τελευταίες ημέρες, την ίδια στιγμή που η κυβέρνηση πανηγυρίζει για τη μείωση των προσφυγικών ροών προς τα νησιά, χωρίς όμως να εξηγεί πώς έχει επιτευχθεί η μείωση αυτή.

      Η υπόθεση αφορά πλοιάριο με περίπου 200 ανθρώπους που έφτασαν στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης, προερχόμενοι από Τουρκία και με τελικό προορισμό την Ιταλία. Στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση υπάρχει μια περίεργη αλληλουχία γεγονότων και « ειδήσεων » τόσο στα κρητικά όσο και τα κεντρικά ΜΜΕ. Το πρωί της Τρίτης 20 Οκτωβρίου σε όλα τα ηλεκτρονικά ΜΜΕ της Κρήτης μεταδίδεται η είδηση για « κινητοποίηση του Λιμενικού » για σκάφος με 200 μετανάστες στη θαλάσσια περιοχή νότια της νήσου Χρυσής (Γαϊδουρονήσι), στην Ιεράπετρα. Το προηγούμενο βράδυ η Κρήτη είχε χτυπηθεί σφοδρά από την κακοκαιρία και το πρωί τα βλέμματα όλων ήταν στις εκτεταμένες καταστροφές που προκάλεσε το χαλάζι σε καλλιέργειες και υποδομές, κυρίως στην ανατολική πλευρά του νησιού. Την ίδια κακοκαιρία προφανώς αντιμετώπισαν και οι 200 επιβαίνοντες στο σκάφος, μεταξύ των οποίων υπήρχαν γυναίκες και παιδιά.

      Στις πρώτες αναφορές και σε ερωτήσεις δημοσιογράφων προς το Λιμεναρχείο Ιεράπετρας γινόταν λόγος για « αδυναμία του Λιμενικού να εντοπίσει το πλοιάριο », ωστόσο δινόταν η πληροφορία πως τα σκάφη θα έμεναν στα ανοιχτά λόγω της κακοκαιρίας και για την περίπτωση που χρειαστεί, να παράσχουν βοήθεια αν εντοπίσουν τους πρόσφυγες. Λίγες ώρες αργότερα η είδηση εξαφανίστηκε από τα ΜΜΕ και δημιουργήθηκε η εντύπωση πως τα σκάφη του Λιμενικού δεν βρήκαν ποτέ το πλοιάριο με τους πρόσφυγες.
      Τους βρήκαν ;

      Ωστόσο τα πράγματα φαίνεται πως έγιναν διαφορετικά. Τέσσερις μέρες μετά, η οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report, η οποία και στο παρελθόν έχει αποκαλύψει παράνομες επιχειρήσεις επαναπροώθησης λέμβων με μετανάστες προς την Τουρκία από τις ελληνικές αρχές και τη Frontex, καταγγέλλει πως το Λιμενικό όχι μόνο βρήκε τους πρόσφυγες στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης αλλά προχώρησε και με συνοπτικές διαδικασίες στην επαναπροώθησή τους στην Τουρκία. Η οργάνωση καταγγέλλει πως η ελληνική Ακτοφυλακή εντόπισε τους πρόσφυγες στις 9 το πρωί της Τρίτης (όπως δηλαδή μετέδιδαν αρχικά και τα κρητικά ΜΜΕ). Στη συνέχεια, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, οι άνδρες του Λιμενικού επιβίβασαν τους 197 πρόσφυγες σε δύο επιχειρησιακά σκάφη χωρίζοντάς τους σε δύο ομάδες. Στην πρώτη ομάδα μπήκαν 121 άνδρες και αγόρια, ενώ στη δεύτερη μπήκαν οικογένειες με γυναίκες και παιδιά, συνολικά 76 άτομα. Και οι δύο ομάδες, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, μεταφέρθηκαν στη θαλάσσια περιοχή βόρεια της Ρόδου, όπου και εξαναγκάστηκαν με τη βία να επιβιβαστούν σε συνολικά επτά θαλάσσιες σωστικές σχεδίες αφού προηγουμένως τους είχαν αφαιρεθεί όλα τα κινητά τηλέφωνα. Και οι επτά σχεδίες « σπρώχτηκαν » προς τις ακτές της Τουρκίας, εν μέσω κακοκαιρίας και κατά παράβαση των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και του δίκαιου της θάλασσας.

      Στιγμιότυπα από την επαναπροώθηση των προσφύγων (Φωτογραφίες από την οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report).


      Οι τρεις πρώτες σχεδίες, με 121 άτομα, εξωθήθηκαν τα ξημερώματα της Τετάρτης 21/10 προς την περιοχή της Μαρμαρίδας, όπου και εντοπίστηκαν από το τουρκικό Λιμενικό που τους περισυνέλεξε. Το δεύτερο γκρουπ, όπου βρίσκονταν οι γυναίκες και τα παιδιά, εξαναγκάστηκε να επιβιβαστεί σε τέσσερις σωστικές σχεδίες και επαναπροωθήθηκε προς την Τουρκία από τη θαλάσσια περιοχή δυτικά της Σύμης, το μεσημέρι της Τετάρτης. Τους περισυνέλεξε το τουρκικό Λιμενικό το απόγευμα της ίδιας μέρας στην περιοχή νοτιοδυτικά της πόλης Ντάκτα. Οπως αναφέρουν μάλιστα κάποιοι από τους επιβαίνοντες, χτυπήθηκαν από τους Ελληνες λιμενικούς, ενώ υπάρχει και σχετικό φωτογραφικό υλικό που τραβήχτηκε μετά την περισυλλογή τους από τις τουρκικές αρχές. Σε μία από τις φωτογραφίες φαίνεται ένας άνθρωπος με μώλωπες στην κοιλιά και με γύψο σε σημεία και των δύο χεριών του.


      Πρωτοσέλιδο

      Την ίδια μέρα, πάντως, που έγινε η καταγγελία από την Aegean Boat Report (το Σάββατο) η εφημερίδα « ΤΑ ΝΕΑ » κυκλοφορούσε με τίτλο « Προετοιμαστείτε για Τζιχαντιστές », αναφερόμενη στο μήνυμα που, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες της εφημερίδας, έστειλε σε Ελλάδα και Κύπρο ο Αιγύπτιος πρόεδρος Αλ Σίσι κατά την τριμερή συνάντηση που πραγματοποιήθηκε στη Λευκωσία. Το μήνυμα υποτίθεται πως αφορούσε τις πληροφορίες που έχει η Αίγυπτος για τις κινήσεις του Ερντογάν και το πώς χρησιμοποιεί τον ισλαμιστικό παράγοντα. Σε κάποια κρητικά ΜΜΕ οι δύο υποθέσεις δεν άργησαν να συνδεθούν με αναφορές για το… περίεργο σκάφος στο οποίο, σύμφωνα με τα δημοσιεύματα, επέβαιναν « άτομα εμφανιζόμενα ως μετανάστες » και το οποίο, σύμφωνα με τις διοχετευμένες πληροφορίες, έχει κινητοποιήσει όχι μόνο το Λιμενικό αλλά και τον Στρατό, την ΕΥΠ ακόμα και ξένες μυστικές υπηρεσίες !

      Όπως αποκαλύπτεται, πάντως, οι επικίνδυνοι « τζιχαντιστές », τόσο οι άνδρες όσο και τα γυναικόπαιδα, είχαν ήδη από την Τετάρτη επαναπροωθηθεί παράνομα στην Τουρκία. Η Οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report αναφέρει πως αυτή είναι η μεγαλύτερη περίπτωση « pushback » που καταφέρνει να καταγράψει και τονίζει πως η Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση δεν έχει επιβάλει ακόμα καμία κύρωση στην Ελλάδα για τις παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις, παρά τα ακλόνητα στοιχεία που έχουν τεθεί στη διάθεση των ευρωπαϊκών αρχών.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/efkriti/koinonia/265835_esteilan-piso-200-prosfyges-giati-itan-tzihantistes

    • Greece’s coast guard accused of mass migrant pushbacks

      An NGO, the #Aegean_Boat_Report (ABR), has accused the Greek coast guard of pushing back 197 migrants at sea last week.

      Greek coast guards have been accused by the NGO Aegean Boat Report (ABR) of performing illegal pushbacks involving 197 people and seven life rafts off the coast of the island of Crete in the Southern Aegean.

      A boat carrying 197 people was on its way trying to cross from Turkey to Italy on October 20 but ran into bad weather and changed course towards Crete, the NGO said.

      Close to the south shore of Crete, the vessel reported engine problems and, according to the Norwegian organization, the Greek coast guard was alerted at 9 am.

      ’’The Greek coast guard divided the people into two groups onto two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel, and 76 people, mostly families, on the other.

      Abuse on board

      Reports from the refugees clearly state that some of them were abused while onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel, with footage and video testimony being provided,’’ said ABR via a media statement.

      According to ABR, the first group with the 121 men and boys were forced into three life rafts in the early hours of Wednesday, October 21 just north of Rhodes, before being found and picked up by the Turkish coast guard at 8:50 am south of Marmaris.

      The second group of 76 people, made up of families, were put into four life rafts at around noon north-west of the islands of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guards before 5:30 pm south-west of Data.

      ’Largest pushback’ ABR has documented

      ’’This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone from reaching Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution’’, added ABR.

      ’’This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even if they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.’’

      29 NGOs and humanitarian groups sent an open letter to Parliament Last week’s incidents were reported after an appeal was launched by several prominent NGOs and humanitarian groups earlier this month on the topic of illegal pushbacks.

      A total of 29 organizations sent an open letter to Parliament urging it to investigate reports of illegal pushbacks at the country’s land and sea borders with neighboring Turkey.

      The letter called on the Greek Parliament to ’’immediately conduct an effective, transparent and impartial investigation into allegations that personnel from the Coast Guard, the Greek Police and the Greek Army, sometimes in close cooperation with masked men in uniform, have engaged in such actions, which are not only illegal but also endanger the lives and safety of displaced people."

      Tensions on migration in Greece

      Tensions on the migrant issue in Greece continue to run high following September’s fires which destroyed the controversial Moria open camp on Lesbos, and widespread lockdowns at refugee camps across the country following outbreaks of coronavirus cases.

      The reports of pushbacks taking place have prompted action from humanitarian rights groups, with the joint-appeal calling for disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as deemed appropriate, “on anyone in uniform who are found to have participated in such illegal activities, but also for their superiors who are responsible for the administration of these bodies.”

      “The investigation should establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement, and take steps to hold them to account.”

      State pushes ahead with migrant camps

      Meanwhile, in related developments, the government is pressing ahead with plans to create more secure and strictly controlled ’’closed’’ migrant reception centers on the Aegean islands.

      With the COVID-19 pandemic creating further challenges and complications for the operation of existing camps, most of which are under lockdown due to positive cases of the virus, the state is aiming to build new ’’permanent’’ structures, starting with one on Lesbos.

      The situation on Lesbos is the primary concern right now, as the current temporary facility which was hastily set up in the Kara Tepe area on the coast after Moria was burned down, has already flooded twice with the first rainfalls of the season.

      Lesbos Mayor Stratis Kytelis met with government officials in Athens last week to discuss the location of a new permanent facility on the island, although the plans are being met with resistance from local community groups.Greece’s health authorities, meanwhile, are also conducting regular COVID-19 tests at migrant camps on the Aegean islands to ensure that any outbreak is quickly contained.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/28139/greece-s-coast-guard-accused-of-mass-migrant-pushbacks

    • Frontex sous pression après des accusations de refoulement de migrants aux portes de la Grèce

      C’est une première : mardi 10 novembre, le conseil d’administration de l’Agence européenne des garde-frontières et de garde-côtes Frontex devra examiner des accusations de refoulements illégaux (ou « pushbacks ») de migrants en mer Egée. Elles ont été portées contre Frontex par un groupe de médias. En octobre, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine Der Spiegel notamment, avaient rapporté, images et témoignages à l’appui, six épisodes au cours desquels des embarcations avaient été bloquées, contrairement aux règles internationales sur le non-refoulement.

      Celles-ci stipulent que des personnes ne peuvent être renvoyées vers un pays, avant un examen de leur situation, si leur existence est en danger en raison de leur race, leur religion, leur nationalité ou leur appartenance à un groupe social ou politique.

      Il aura apparemment fallu une intervention ferme de la Commission européenne pour que la direction de Frontex, devenue le premier corps en uniforme et la plus importante agence de l’Union avec un budget de quelque 500 millions d’euros, accepte de convoquer un conseil extraordinaire. Dans un premier temps, elle s’était contentée d’affirmer, le 24 octobre, qu’elle respectait la loi internationale et était en contact avec la Grèce, qui devait ouvrir « une enquête interne ».
      Enquête interne

      « Si l’agence est impliquée dans de telles actions, c’est totalement inacceptable », déclarait pour sa part la commissaire à la migration, Ylva Johansson, le 26 octobre. Le lendemain, Frontex promettait une enquête interne et, même si elle n’exerce pas une tutelle directe sur l’agence, la Commission obtenait la convocation d’une réunion. A charge pour Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur français, de fournir des explications détaillées.

      « La Grèce ne participe pas à des refoulements, a affirmé de son côté le ministre grec des migrations, Notis Mitarachi. Nous gardons nos frontières en respectant le droit international et nous continuons à sauver des centaines de migrants tous les jours en Méditerranée », a-t-il précisé.

      Athènes fait face depuis des mois à de nombreuses accusations de refoulement en mer Egée et à la frontière terrestre avec la Turquie, dans l’Evros. Le 14 août déjà, le New York Times avait affirmé que les gardes-côtes grecs avaient abandonné en « pleine mer » des canots remplis de migrants. Interviewé par CNN, le premier ministre conservateur Kyriakos Mitsotakis avait démenti : « Cela n’est jamais arrivé. Nous sommes les victimes d’une vaste campagne de désinformation », suggérant que les journalistes avaient interrogé principalement des sources turques voulant décrédibiliser les autorités grecques.

      Depuis l’envoi par la Turquie de milliers de réfugiés à la frontière terrestre de l’Evros, en mars, Athènes a toujours assuré vouloir « protéger ses frontières » qui sont aussi celles de l’Europe et faire face à « une menace ». Le gouvernement a renforcé le contrôle des frontières en embauchant notamment du personnel supplémentaire. Entre avril et juillet, les arrivées à Lesbos ont diminué de 85 % par rapport à l’année dernière, selon le ministère des migrations.
      Des « abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés »

      Pour de nombreuses ONG présentes sur le terrain, cette diminution spectaculaire est le résultat de « pushbacks ». Selon Human Rights Watch, « les preuves et les rapports décrivant les abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés ». L’organisation dit avoir interrogé des victimes et des témoins qui décrivent comment les garde-côtes grecs, la police, et des hommes masqués et vêtus d’habits sombres ont effectué depuis les îles de Rhodes, de Samos et Simi, des refoulements illégaux de personnes sur de petits canots gonflables.

      A la fin août, le Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) de l’ONU se disait « inquiet de l’augmentation des publications depuis mars 2020 attestant de refoulements illégaux ». « Le HCR a reçu des rapports et des témoignages de personnes abandonnées en pleine mer pendant un long moment, souvent sur des rafiots surpeuplés », précisait le communiqué.

      L’Observatoire grec des accords d’Helsinki a déjà déposé une plainte auprès de la Cour suprême grecque pour le refoulement de plus de 1 300 personnes en s’appuyant sur les témoignages recueillis par plusieurs ONG. En septembre, 29 organisations de défense des droits de l’homme ont par ailleurs adressé une lettre au premier ministre et au parlement grecs pour réclamer une enquête. Leur courrier est encore sans réponse alors que 35 membres d’ONG font, eux, l’objet d’une investigation : ils sont suspectés d’avoir renseigné des migrants sur les positions des gardes-côtes ainsi que des passeurs sur des lieux d’accostage. Ces humanitaires travaillent pour des organisations qui ont dénoncé avec le plus de véhémence les refoulements vers la Turquie par les gardes-côtes grecs.

      Frontex, qui a engagé en Grèce quelque six cents agents dotés de divers moyens de surveillance, a déjà fait l’objet d’autres accusations mais affirme à chaque fois respecter un code de conduite qui prohibe strictement les refoulements. La communication très cadenassée de l’agence ne détaille toutefois pas comment les contrôles sont vraiment exercés. L’action du service interne chargé de contrôler le respect des droits fondamentaux reste également nébuleuse. Une situation déplorée par le HCR, membre du forum consultatif chargé de conseiller l’agence européenne dans son action.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/11/05/frontex-sous-pression-apres-des-accusations-de-refoulement-de-migrants-aux-p

    • EU: Probe Frontex Complicity in Border Abuses. Ensure Independent and Effective Investigation

      The top governing body of the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) should urgently establish an independent inquiry into allegations of its involvement in unlawful operations to stop migrants from reaching the European Union (EU), Human Rights Watch said today.

      The agency’s board will hold an extraordinary meeting on November 10, 2020. Frontex should also address serious and persistent violations by border and law enforcement officers of the countries where it operates.

      “The fact that Frontex may have become complicit in abuses at Greece’s borders is extremely serious,” said Eva Cossé, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Management Board of Frontex should quickly open an inquiry into Frontex involvement in – or actions to disregard or cover up – abuses against people seeking protection from conflicts and persecution.”

      On October 23, a group of media outlets published a detailed investigative report alleging Frontex involvement in pushback operations at the Greek-Turkish maritime border, in the Aegean Sea. The reports said that asylum seekers and migrants were prevented from reaching EU soil or were forced out of EU waters. Such pushbacks violate international law, Human Rights Watch said.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on October 28 that she had asked, in coordination with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “to convene an urgent extraordinary Frontex Management Board meeting on 10 November, to discuss alleged push-back incidents in Greece and fundamental rights protection.”

      Frontex’s mandate obliges officers and the officers of member states deployed to respect fundamental rights, but the agency has been under heavy criticism for the shortcomings of its internal monitoring and accountability mechanisms. On October 27, Frontex announced an internal inquiry into the incidents reported by the media.

      In recent years, nongovernmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey, by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials.

      Since Frontex deployed officers along the full length of the Turkey-Greece land border in March, Human Rights Watch has documented that Greek law enforcement officers routinely summarily returned asylum seekers and migrants through the land border with Turkey. Human Rights Watch found that officers in some cases used violence and often confiscated and destroyed migrants’ belongings.

      Greek authorities have said that police officers wearing dark blue uniforms work at police stations. Border patrol police officers wear military camouflage uniforms. Frontex guards wear their national uniforms, with a blue armband with the EU flag.

      In July, Human Rights Watch documented collective expulsions, through the Evros river land border, of asylum seekers rounded up from deep inside Greece.

      In a June 19 response to questions posed by Human Rights Watch, Frontex wrote that no abuses against migrants by Greek border guards or by police or border guards of other EU member states deployed under Frontex had been reported to Frontex. It said that Frontex does not have the authority to investigate allegations of abuse by EU member states’ police or border guards deployed in Greece. It said that such investigations are conducted by the competent national authorities.

      In June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was deeply concerned about persistent reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, in some cases violent, at Greece’s border with Turkey. In August, the UN Refugee Agency flagged concerns over the increasing number of credible reports of pushbacks at Greece’s land and sea borders.

      In May 2019, Frontex told Human Rights Watch that it had not detected any human rights violations or pushbacks during its operational presence at Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite consistent evidence of brutal pushbacks, reports from international and regional organizations, and the confirmation by Croatian officials that such abuses were taking place.

      Under the Frontex mandate, its executive director has the authority to, and should, withdraw financing, and suspend or terminate its activities if there are serious violations of fundamental rights related to its activities. The executive director is also expected to take into account information provided by relevant international organizations.

      On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, Johansson said that pushbacks by Greek border guards should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the European Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders.

      Members of the Frontex Management Board should set up an independent, prompt, effective, transparent, and impartial investigation into allegations that officers deployed by Frontex were involved in unlawful operations of pushbacks of asylum seekers. Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers and officials who have command responsibility over such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable.

      The investigation should also identify whether Frontex failed to report or otherwise address allegations of serious fundamental rights violations committed by law enforcement or border officers of the member state hosting operations.

      “An EU agency with a clear mandate to act in compliance with fundamental rights has the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent such severe violations,” Cossé said. “If Frontex not only turned a blind eye to abuses committed under its sight, or worse, directly took part in them, it becomes every EU member state’s responsibility.”

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/09/eu-probe-frontex-complicity-border-abuses

    • Frontex calls for committee to consider questions related to sea surveillance

      Today, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has called for the creation of an evaluation committee to consider legal questions related to the Agency’s surveillance of external sea borders and accommodating the concerns raised by Member States about “hybrid threats” affecting their national security at external borders where the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will deploy its standing corps.

      Under the Frontex proposal, the committee would be coordinated by the European Commission with the participation of Member States on a volunteer basis. It would address various questions, in particular those related to Regulation 2014/656 in the light of the current operational situation.

      Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri also expressed the Agency’s continued commitment to highest standards of protection of fundamental rights.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or infringement of international treaties or fundamental rights in the framework of joint operations coordinated by Frontex is treated with grave concern and carefully investigated,” said Fabrice Leggeri.

      “I am committed to reinforce the office of the Fundamental Rights Officer and to gradually increase its budget,” he added.

      Leggeri also proposed that the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer to play a bigger role in raising awareness of the operational officers on the legal requirements that they need to apply on everyday basis in the field.

      “This could apply not only to the Frontex-deployed staff, but also to the staff of the International Coordination Centres, who often play an essential part in deciding to react to complicated events,” Leggeri said.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-calls-for-committee-to-consider-questions-related-to-sea-surv

    • #Ombudsman opens inquiry to assess European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) ‘#Complaints_Mechanism’

      European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has opened an inquiry to look into how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) deals with alleged breaches of fundamental rights. In particular, the investigation will assess the effectiveness and transparency of Frontex’s Complaints Mechanism for those who believe their rights have been violated in the context of Frontex border operations, as well as the role and independence of Frontex’s ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’.

      In 2013, as part of a previous inquiry, the Ombudsman recommended that Frontex set up an individual complaints mechanism, and that its Fundamental Rights Officer be in charge of the mechanism. Since then, such a mechanism was put in place and further developed, with a view to providing safeguards for fundamental rights in the context of Frontex’s expanding mandate, as well as ensuring increased accountability and redress for those impacted by its actions.

      This inquiry focuses on whether the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer are truly empowered to deal with the issues faced by migrants and asylum seekers who feel their rights have been violated under Frontex operations.

      In opening the inquiry, the Ombudsman has sent a set of detailed questions to Frontex on the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer. She has also informed members of the European Network of Ombudsmen (ENO), with a view to their possible participation in the inquiry, as part of the ENO’s parallel work. This is important, given the role of national authorities in Frontex operations, and the fact that some national ombudsmen are responsible for following up on complaints related to this.

      Among other things, the questions set out by the Ombudsman look at: how and when Frontex will be updating the mechanism to reflect its expanded mandate; what happens to complainants who are faced with forced return while their complaint is still being processed; what appeal possibilities are open to complainants; how Frontex monitors complaints against national authorities; how those who have been affected by Frontex operations but are in non-EU countries can complain about alleged breaches of fundamental rights, including the issue of language; and the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer in this process.

      https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/news-document/en/134739

    • Frontex: Cover-Up and Diversion. Outcomes of and Responses to the Frontex Management Board meeting on 10th November

      An extraordinary meeting took place on Tuesday 10th November, between the EU Commission and Frontex, regarding alleged Frontex involvement in illegal pushbacks in Greece.

      Why did the meeting take place?

      This meeting was called due to an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting the involvement or complicity of Frontex in pushbacks. Reports by Spiegel, Report Mainz, Bellingcat and other international media, including Josoor and other members of the BVMN, had led to this meeting taking place. These investigations show Frontex involvement in at least six pushbacks through, for example, blocking boats and making waves to deter boats from getting any closer to the shore. According to Frontex insiders, mission reports were routinely altered into something more positive, excluding explicit mentions of pushbacks, before being sent to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.

      We, at the Border Violence Monitoring Network, took advantage of the opportunity presented by the meeting on 10th November by sending a letter of concern to the Executive Director of Frontex and the FRO. This letter included evidence from testimonies, collected by BVMN partners, including Josoor, from people-on-the-move who claim that Frontex personnel were involved or complicit in pushbacks operations at the borders between Greek and Turkey, and Albania and Greece. The letter questioned Frontex’s knowledge and understanding of these allegations, and demanded an investigation into these claims. The letter was also addressed to the EU commissioner of Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and her officer and we hoped this was presented as evidence at the management board meeting on 10th November

      What were the outcomes?

      Johansson remarked on twitter after the meeting:

      “Today’s @Frontex extraordinary management board was a good start to what I want to be a transparent process. The @EU_Commission has asked the Frontex Executive Director to reply to Qs ahead of the next scheduled board meeting (end November).”

      Leggeri, the Executive Director of Frontex, has been ordered by the EU Commission to answer questions concerning these accusations by the end of November. Frontex is yet to comment in detail on the allegations and reported incidents have been forwarded to the Greek coastguard, where also the Greek authorities have refused to comment and denied involvement. Both Frontex and the Greek authorities have launched internal investigations in response to these allegations. Unsurprisingly, after just 48 hours of their investigations, Frontex announced that they were innocent.

      The meeting also included a discussion on whether Frontex should withdraw from missions, such as the one in the Aegean Sea in the event of serious and persistent human rights violations. Such a directive can be found already in Frontex’s regulations. Officials of a few member states vetoed the application of this rule, and Greek representatives in particular were concerned that this could expose the Greek government.

      In the end, a compromise was met. A Frontex statement outlined that a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ will now be made to deal with legal questions concerning operations at sea borders. This will be coordinated by the EU Commission.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or violation of international agreements or fundamental rights within joint operations coordinated by Frontex will be treated with grave concern and investigated closely,” Leggeri said.

      Also, Frontex seeks to strengthen the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer, but experts agree that the internal mechanisms at Frontex are insufficient and therefore see this move as insufficient. As of yesterday, Frontex is advertising for the vacancy of the FRO.

      Members of EU Parliament reactions:

      Tineke Strik (from Netherlands, Green) commented, according to Spiegel, “The announcement did not mention the human rights violations at the border. A committee does not replace a truly independent and transparent investigation. Strik stated “Citizens need to know what has happened and how human rights violations are to be prevented in the future”

      Dietmar Köster (from Germany, SPD) stated, quoted from Tagesschau, "It is a unique cover-up attempt to divert attention from one’s own responsibility and failure to observe human rights”. Köster further stated that Leggeri’s statements showed the arrogance and ignorance of Frontex. “Basic and human rights apply to all. The European Border Management Agency is not exempt from their observance, it is not above the law.”

      An successful outcome: an independent inquiry:

      On the morning of Thursday 12th November, the European Ombudsman tweeted that they would open an inquiry into Frontex, assessing the effectiveness and transparency of their ‘Complaints Mechanism’ and the role and independence of the ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’ (FRO). The latter is especially important as the current ad interim FRO, Annegret Kohler, appointed in 2018, and re-appointed in September 2020, was selected from the Executive Director’s former cabinet, where she was an advisor to the Executive Director. This raises questions about independence and objectivity of the FRO and the FRO’s team to carry out their duties and avoid potential conflicts of interest. Josoor welcomes this investigation.

      https://www.josoor.net/post/frontex-cover-up-and-diversion

    • EU erhöht Druck auf Frontex-Chef

      Die EU-Grenzschutzagentur gerät durch Recherchen des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz und weiterer Medien in Bedrängnis. Heute musste die Frontex-Führung der EU-Kommission zum Thema illegale Pushbacks Rede und Antwort stehen.

      Die Europäische Kommission erwartet Antworten vom Frontex-Chef. Bis Ende November muss sich Fabrice Leggeri zur Verwicklung seiner Grenzschutzagentur in illegale Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen äußern. Das ist das Ergebnis einer Dringlichkeitssitzung des Frontex Management Boards. Das Treffen sei ein guter Anfang gewesen, sie wolle den Prozess transparent gestalten, twitterte die zuständige EU-Kommissarin Ylva Johansson. Leggeri solle bis zur nächsten Zusammenkunft des Management Boards auf die Fragen der Kommission antworten.
      Recherchen bringen Frontex in Bedrängnis

      Johansson hatte das Treffen einberufen, um über eine gemeinsame Recherche des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz, des „Spiegel“ und der Medienorganisationen Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports und tv Asahi zu diskutieren. Die Medien hatten aufgedeckt, dass Frontex-Einheiten in der Ägäis in illegale Zurückweisungen von Flüchtlingen verwickelt sind.

      Seit April waren Frontex-Beamte nachweislich bei mindestens sechs sogenannten Pushbacks in der Nähe. Auf einem Video ist zu sehen, wie ein Frontex-Schiff ein überladenes Flüchtlingsboot zunächst blockiert, die Insassen aber nicht rettet. Stattdessen fahren die Frontex-Beamten mit hohem Tempo an dem Flüchtlingsboot vorbei und verlassen dann den Ort des Geschehens. Vertrauliche Gespräche mit Frontex-Beamten legten zudem nahe, dass diese ihre Berichte schönen, bevor sie an die Zentrale in Warschau geschickt werden.

      Keine Äußerung von Frontex und Griechenland

      Frontex ist auf die Vorwürfe bis heute nicht im Detail eingegangen. Alle gemeldeten Vorfälle seien an die griechische Küstenwache weitergeleitet worden, diese habe eine interne Untersuchung eingeleitet, teilte die Genzschutzagentur in einem Statement mit. Nach der Antwort der griechischen Behörden seien seine Zweifel ausgeräumt, sagte Leggeri zudem in einem Interview.

      Auch die griechischen Behörden hatten sich zu den Pushbacks nicht im Detail äußern wollen. Sie bestreiten die Vorwürfe pauschal, obwohl die ARD, der „Spiegel“ und andere Medien die Pushbacks mehrfach dokumentiert haben. Nach Angaben von Teilnehmern im „Spiegel“ sahen sich vor allem die griechischen Mitglieder des Management Boards bei dem Treffen Fragen ausgesetzt. Diskutiert wurde unter anderem ein Statement, welches betonen sollte, dass Frontex sich bei schwerwiegenden und anhaltenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen von Missionen wie der in der Ägäis zurückziehen muss.

      Griechen haben Angst vor Bloßstellung

      Ein solche Vorschrift findet sich schon jetzt in den Frontex-Regularien. Beamte einiger weniger Mitgliedsstaaten legten ihr Veto dagegen ein, dass die Anwendung dieser Regel nun in den Raum gestellt werden soll. Besonders die griechischen Teilnehmer fürchteten, dass das Statement die griechische Regierung bloßstellen könnte.

      Am Ende einigte man sich auf einen Kompromiss. Es soll ein Komitee geschaffen werden, das sich mit rechtlichen Fragen zu Einsätzen an der Seegrenzen beschäftigt, heißt es in einem Frontex-Statement. Die Kommission solle dem Vorschlag zufolge die Arbeit des Komitees koordinieren, Mitgliedsstaaten könnten sich auf freiwilliger Basis beteiligen. Im Komitee sollen auch die Sorgen einige Mitgliedsstaaten vor „hybriden Bedrohungen“ eine Rolle spielen. Vor allem Griechenland hatte immer wieder davor gewarnt, dass türkische Geheimdienste sich unter die Migranten auf den Inseln mischen könnten.

      Außerdem will Frontex nach eigener Aussage den sogenannten Fundamental Rights Officer stärken. Der Beamte ist bei Frontex dafür zuständig, dass die Grenzschützer die Grundrechte von Schutzsuchenden achten. Allerdings halten Beobachter alle bestehenden internen Überwachungsmechanismen bei Frontex für unzureichend.
      Kritik aus Europaparlament

      Nach den Enthüllungen der ARD und ihrer Recherchepartner hatten mehrere Europaparlamentarier von Leggeri eine vollständige Untersuchung der Vorwürfe gefordert. Die Grünen-EU-Abgeordnete Tineke Strik kritisierte das Frontex-Statement. Die Ankündigung erwähne die Menschenrechtsverletzungen an der Grenze nicht, sagte sie. Ein Komitee ersetze keine wirklich unabhängige und transparente Untersuchung. „Die Bürger müssen erfahren, was geschehen ist und wie Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Zukunft verhindert werden sollen“, so Strik.

      „Das Ganze ist eine große Nebelkerze“, sagte Europaparlamentarier Dietmar Köster von der SPD. „Es ist ein einzigartiger Vertuschungsversuch, von der eigenen Verantwortung und dem Versagen bei der Einhaltung von Menschenrechten abzulenken“,

      https://www.tagesschau.de/investigativ/report-mainz/frontex-pushbacks-103.html

    • EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex: Keine Untersuchung zu Verstößen gegen Menschenrechte

      Im März war die EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen Menschenrechte verwickelt. Wie von uns veröffentlichte Akten zeigen, untersuchte Frontex den Vorfall aber nicht, sondern kehrte ihn unter den Teppich.

      Als ARD, Spiegel und Bellingcat vor drei Wochen aufdeckten, dass die Europäische Grenzpolizei Frontex an illegalen Pushbacks an EU-Grenzen beteiligt ist, versprach der Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri schnell Aufklärung. Die EU-Agentur werde die Vorwürfe untersuchen, nach denen Frontex Geflüchtete völkerrechtswidrig aus der EU abgeschoben hatte.

      „Jeder Vorwurf des Fehlverhaltens oder der Verletzung internationaler Verträge oder Grundrechte im Rahmen gemeinsamer Operationen, die von Frontex koordiniert werden, wird mit großer Besorgnis behandelt und sorgfältig untersucht.“

      Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri (Übersetzung von FragDenStaat)

      Ein interner E-Mail-Verlauf von Frontex, den wir per Informationsfreiheitsanfrage erhalten haben, zeigt jetzt jedoch, dass die EU-Agentur in vergleichbaren Fällen offenbar kein Interesse daran hat, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu untersuchen. EU Observer hatte zunächst darüber berichtet.
      Dänemark widersetzt sich Frontex-Befehlen

      Bereits am 2. März diesen Jahres hatte Frontex in der Nähe der griechischen Insel Kos versucht, ein Boot mit 33 geflüchteten Menschen, die griechische Gewässer erreicht hatten, in die Türkei abzuschieben. Das griechische Frontex-Kommando befahl einem Schiff der Dänischen Marine mit dem Namen „Stela Polaris“, die Geflüchteten nicht an Land zu bringen, sondern wieder in ein Gummiboot zu setzen und aufs offene Meer Richtung Türkei zu schleppen. Der dänische Befehlshaber des Schiffes widersetzte sich dem rechtswidrigen Befehl jedoch und erreichte durch seine dänischen Vorgesetzten, dass er aufgehoben wurde.

      Frontex hatte den Vorgang bisher nie öffentlich zugegeben. Der dazugehörige E-Mail-Verkehr aus der Frontex-Zentrale in Warschau, den wir veröffentlichen, zeigt, dass Pushbacks die Entscheidungsträger um Direktor Fabrice Leggeri kaum interessierten. Erst aus der Presse erfuhr das Hauptquartier überhaupt davon, dass Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen die Menschenrechte verwickelt war.

      Einen Bericht – intern Serious Incident Report genannt – gab es trotz der Schwere des Vorfalls nicht. Die Frontex-Pressesprecherin forderte deswegen in Erwartung von Presseanfragen am Morgen des 6. März, vier Tage nach dem Vorfall, bei ihren Kolleg:innen einen Bericht zu den Vorfällen an. Am Nachmittag wurde sie informiert, dass es in der Tat einen versuchten Pushback gegeben hatte.

      Menschenrechte geprüft in vier Stunden

      Bemerkenswert ist, wie die Frontex-Zentrale anschließend mit den Informationen umging: Es schloss die Akten. Bereits vier Stunden nach der Meldung über Vorfall kamen die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen zu der Einschätzung, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Einzelfall“. Er wurde noch nicht einmal beim täglichen Treffen der Befehlshabenden in der Frontex-Mission besprochen.

      Weitere Informationen zu dem Vorfall finden sich in den Akten laut Frontex nicht. Die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen überprüften nicht die Kommando-Strukturen und prüften nicht, warum es keinen internen Bericht zu dem rechtswidrigen Befehl gab. Sie unternahmen auch sonst keine Versuche, um sicherzustellen, dass Pushbacks durch das Frontex-Kommando nicht mehr vorkommen würden. Im Sommer schließlich gab Frontex-Direktor gegenüber dem Europäischen Parlament zu Protokoll, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Missverständnis“ gewesen.

      Einige Monate später fanden Journalist:innen Beweise dafür, dass es sich offenbar nicht um einen Einzelfall handelt und Frontex mindestens im Juni an weiteren Pushbacks beteiligt war. Die EU-Agentur hatte offenbar kein Interesse daran, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu unterbinden.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/blog/2020/11/18/frontex-pushbacks-denmark

    • Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention system and stop pushbacks

      In a report published today on a rapid reaction ad hoc visit to Greece in March 2020, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) once again urges the Greek authorities to change their approach towards immigration detention and to ensure that migrants deprived of their liberty are treated both with dignity and humanity.

      The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its ad hoc visit to Greece, which took place from 13 to 17 March 2020, together with the response of the Greek authorities.

      In the report, the CPT acknowledges the significant challenges faced by the Greek authorities in dealing with large numbers of migrants entering the country and that it requires a coordinated European approach. However, this cannot absolve the the Hellenic Republic from their human rights obligations and the duty of care owed to all migrants that the Greek authorities detain.

      The CPT found that the conditions of detention in which migrants were held in certain facilities in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. The report again underlines the structural deficiencies in Greece’s immigration detention policy. Migrants continue to be held in detention centres composed of large barred cells crammed with beds, with poor lighting and ventilation, dilapidated and broken toilets and washrooms, insufficient personal hygiene products and cleaning materials, inadequate food and no access to outdoor daily exercise. Extreme overcrowding in several of the facilities further aggravated the situation. In addition, migrants were not provided with clear information about their situation.

      The CPT once again found that families with children, unaccompanied and separated children and other vulnerable persons (with a physical or mental health illness, or pregnant women) were being detained in such appalling conditions with no appropriate support. The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to end the detention of unaccompanied children and of children with their parents in police establishments. Instead, they should be transferred to suitable reception facilities catering to their specific needs.

      The report also highlights that the CPT again received consistent and credible allegations of migrants being pushed back across the Evros River border to Turkey. The Greek authorities should act to prevent such pushbacks. The CPT furthermore raises concerns over acts by the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants from reaching any Greek island and it questions the role and engagement of FRONTEX in such operations.

      The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to take vigorous steps to stamp out ill-treatment of detained migrants by the police. The report refers to a number of allegations by migrants that they had been ill treated by members of the Hellenic Police and/or Coast Guard either upon apprehension or after being brought to a place of detention. The ill treatment alleged consisted primarily of slaps to the head and kicks and truncheon blows to the body.

      In their response, the Hellenic Police provide information on the steps being taken to improve the conditions of detention for detained migrants. They also state that the alleged practice of pushbacks to the border is unsubstantiated and completely wrong. As regards unaccompanied minors, reference is made to a new strategy to end their detention and to their transfer from reception centres on the islands to safe accommodation facilities on the mainland.

      https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a06bcf

    • Annex to the reply of Fabrice Leggeri to the LIBE Committee

      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Answers%20to%20the%20questions%20from%20the%20LIBE%20Commitee.pdf

      –---

      Thread sur twitter:

      It looks like Frontex are NOT denying that they may be involved in #pushbacks after all. FL partly evades (’...always committed...’) and partly seems to blame the ’uniqueness’ of operational areas & ’complex geography’ of the Greek and Turkish border for FX being involved in pushbacks.

      –---

      The earlier letter sent to the EP President might offer some clues. I’m not a legal expert, but FL seems to suggest that Art. 6 of Reg. 656/2014 (on interception at sea) needs to be clarified so as to define what constitutes a #pushback. Interesting.
      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Letter%20to%20EP_Frontex%20maritime%20operations%20at%20EU%20external%20

      –—

      Yet not all pushbacks happen at sea. While the request for interpretation above might mean that FX is looking for a way out re: #pushbacks at the Aegean, what about those at the
      Greek-Turkish land border? I think there’s less concern with #pushbacks at #Evros, though. No videos...

      –---

      Back to the Annex: We know SIRs weren’t submitted as they should. The real question is why. It might be down to officers on the ground lacking in training (they shouldn’t, but...) or not wanting to get their colleagues in trouble (the spirit of camaraderie...).

      –---

      BUT: Today’s Spiegel article refers to a ’Frontex official in charge’ advising a Swedish officer not to submit a SIR. FX management were aware few SIRs being submitted for years. Is it a practice dictated from the top? To avoid having evidence of violations?

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/pushbacks-in-der-aegaeis-wie-frontex-menschenrechtsverletzungen-vertuscht-a-

      –—

      Suspension/non-launch of operations has never happened. The ED didn’t take into account reports by NGOs or human rights bodies when considering the 2016 recommendation to suspend operations in Hungary. He relied on the very low number of SIRs to reject it.
      https://respondmigration.com/wp-blog/fundamental-rights-accountability-transparency-european-governance

      –—

      Same with the 2019 & 2020 recommendations of the FRO to consider suspension of operations in #Evros. As for taking into account media reports ... well, I’d say the reply to the LIBE committee reads like the media accounts are being dismissed.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1331662031095787521

    • E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

      Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

      Mounting evidence indicates that the European Union’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with officials.

      In at least one case, Frontex, as the E.U. border agency is known, is accused of having helped cover up the violations, when a crew said it was discouraged by agency officials from reporting that they had seen the Greek authorities setting a boatload of migrants adrift in Turkish waters.

      The case is currently being investigated by Frontex. But it has fueled suspicions that the agency, newly boosted in its role as upholder of the rule of law at E.U. borders, is not just sporadically aware of such abuses, but that it plays a role in concealing them.

      “We are seeing an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful,” said Gerald Knaus, a migration expert. “This is deeply worrying because it is eroding the refugee convention on the continent on which it was created.”

      Throughout this year, The New York Times and others have reported on growing operations by the Greek Coast Guard to repel migrants from Greek waters back to Turkey, reports the Greek authorities deny amount to breaches of international laws.

      But revelations that Frontex has witnessed pushbacks have thrown the agency into a governance crisis that threatens to further blight the European Union’s liberal values, once again calling into question the bloc’s commitment to upholding its own laws on refugees.

      The cases have also highlighted a conundrum at the core of E.U. ambitions to tighten external borders by pooling resources and involving the bloc in the sensitive, zealously shielded work of sovereign border guards.

      Frontex is the European Union’s best-funded agency, with a budget of over $500 million, and will soon deploy the first uniformed officers in the bloc’s history. It has been built up specifically to help in migrant-rescue operations as the burden of policing Europe’s borders has fallen most heavily on its peripheral states, like Greece.

      It was also intended as a deterrent to the kind of mass arrival of refugees that sowed political crises across Europe after 2015, and fanned nationalist and populist movements.

      Yet Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.

      Refugee arrivals to the European Union peaked five years ago and have dropped drastically since, but thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, still attempt the crossing. Unlike in the past, Greeks and their government have turned hostile to the new arrivals, exhausted by years in which asylum seekers have been bottled up in overrun camps on Greek islands.

      There is also a growing belief in the Greek and several other European governments that aggression at the borders and poor conditions at migrant camps will make the attempt to reach Europe less attractive for asylum seekers.

      Earlier this year, an analysis by The Times showed that the Greek government had secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, often by sailing them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and abandoning them in flimsy inflatable life rafts in violation of international laws.

      The Greek Coast Guard has rescued thousands of asylum seekers over the years but has become much more aggressive this year, especially as Turkey used migrants to provoke Greece by encouraging them to cross the border.

      The Greek government has denied it is doing anything illegal in repelling migrant boats from its national waters, characterizing the operations as robust border guarding. But Mr. Knaus said “the denials are not serious,” and the practices are effectively happening in the open — under the eyes of E.U. border patrols.

      The documents obtained by The Times describe, in Coast Guard vernacular littered with acronyms, codes, time-stamps and coordinates, a seemingly incessant Ping-Pong of migrant dinghies between Greek and Turkish waters, with Frontex crews on vessels or aircraft in observer status.

      Four officials with direct knowledge of Frontex operations said that agency officials have been discouraging crews from filing reports on pushback incidents, and, in some cases, have stopped initial alerts of violations from being filed as “serious incident reports,” at times after consulting with the Greek authorities.

      They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were concerned about losing their jobs, or were not authorized to brief the press.

      The Frontex spokesman, Chris Borowski, said the agency took the reporting of violations very seriously. “Pushbacks are illegal under international law,” Mr. Borowski said.

      In the latest case to come to light, a Swedish Coast Guard crew on deployment under Frontex witnessed a pushback to Turkish waters of a boat full of migrants by the Greek authorities on Oct. 30 off the Greek island of Chios.

      The Swedish crew was later advised by a Frontex officer to not report it, documents reviewed by The Times show. The Swedish representative to the management board of Frontex described the incident, and the suppression of the attempt to report it, at a meeting on Nov. 10 — the first known case of an E.U. member state reporting active interference by Frontex officials.

      The Swedish government did not comment. A spokesman for Frontex said the agency wouldn’t comment because of an “ongoing procedure.”

      Frontex has been working in Greece for more than a decade, providing sea, land and aerial surveillance and rescue capabilities and deploying crews from other member states under its command.

      The details now emerging push the agency deeper into a governance crisis which began in October when a consortium of news organizations, including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, reported a number of occasions when Frontex crews witnessed pushbacks in Greece.

      The European Commission, which is part of the Frontex oversight system but does not control the agency, pushed for a special inquiry into these allegations and, at an emergency agency board meeting on Nov. 10, asked its leadership to answer detailed questions in writing.

      The answers arrived with a four-day delay, just 15 hours before the start of another meeting to discuss the problems on Wednesday. Yet another emergency meeting has been called in December, mounting pressure on the agency.

      Frontex has promised internal investigations but also quickly dismissed allegations, saying for example, in a letter seen by The Times, that it would look into the Swedish case, but that it had so far found no evidence that it happened.

      How these investigations shake out will matter a great deal for the future of Frontex, which was once little more than a back-office operation in Warsaw but now finds itself on the front lines of the nettlesome issue of migration that has the potency to make or break governments.

      Apart from helping member states with asylum-seeker arrivals, Frontex’s role as an E.U. agency by law is to respect fundamental rights, and bring up human-rights standards across national E.U. border agencies, which often don’t have a strong culture of upholding them.

      But claims that Frontex does not take fundamental rights seriously enough are growing. This year, only one million euros in its budget of 460 million euros — about $548 million — was allocated to rights monitoring.

      The agency was supposed to hire 40 fundamental-rights officers by Dec. 5 but the jobs have not yet been advertised. The agency is currently hiring for their boss, after years of staffing issues around that position. A Frontex spokesman said the delays stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

      Documents seen by The Times laid out how in one episode the Greek authorities were consulted before a report was made, and were able to suppress it. On Aug. 10, a German crew deployed by Frontex reported that a Greek Coast Guard vessel “took up border control measures prohibiting the landing to Samos.”

      The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. The event was not recorded as a “serious incident,” because, the document said, the Greek Coast Guard argued the activities “do not provide any ground” to initiate such a report.

      Another incident, which a Frontex aerial crew observed and reported in detail to its headquarters, took place on the evening of April 18 to 19 off the coast of Lesbos, and lasted more than five hours.

      A dinghy was detected by the Greek authorities and approximately 20 migrants were rescued and put on board a Greek Coast Guard vessel shortly after midnight, their empty dinghy towed by the Coast Guard toward the island.

      But instead of being taken to shore, at 2:45 a.m., the migrants were put back on their dinghy and tugged to Turkish waters by the Greek Coast Guard, the Frontex aerial crew reported.

      As events unfolded, the Greek command center twice asked the Frontex aircraft to change its flight path, directing it away from the incident.

      “At 03:21 Frontex Surveillance Aircraft communicates that the rubber boat has no engine and it is adrift. Greek assets are departing the area leaving the rubber boat adrift,” the document said.

      The internal Frontex report detailing this incident and categorizing it as a fundamental-rights violation was “dismissed,” the document shows.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html

    • La Grèce fortement soupçonnée de refouler les migrants

      L’agence européenne Frontex, potentiellement impliquée dans les refoulements, mène une enquête interne et doit fournir des explications à la Commission européenne fin novembre. Une plainte a été déposée le 17 novembre auprès du comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU.

      L’étau se resserre autour de la Grèce, de plus en plus fréquemment accusée de refouler les migrants vers la Turquie, aussi bien en mer qu’à terre. Le soupçon n’est pas nouveau, comme l’atteste le terrible récit de Fadi Faj. Ce jeune Syrien de 25 ans est arrivé en 2015 avec l’immense vague de demandeurs d’asile en Allemagne. Berlin lui octroie alors le statut de réfugié et un permis de séjour avec lequel il se rend en Grèce en novembre 2016, à la recherche de son jeune frère de 11 ans dont il a perdu la trace lors de sa traversée de la frontière greco-turque à Evros.

      Fadi Faj est alors arrêté par la police grecque qui lui confisque ses papiers et l’expulse vers la Turquie avec une cinquantaine d’autres demandeurs d’asile. Devenu un sans-papier, il sera à treize reprises repoussé de part et d’autre de la frontière par les forces grecques ou turques. Ayant enfin mis un pied à terre en Grèce en décembre 2017, il y vivra encore deux ans dans le dénuement avant d’obtenir un visa pour regagner l’Allemagne qui lui délivrera un nouveau permis de séjour en mai 2020.

      Une plainte auprès du Comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU

      Ce récit glaçant fait l’objet d’une plainte à l’encontre de la Grèce déposée le 17 novembre auprès du Comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU, par le Global Legal Action Network (Réseau mondial d’action juridique) basé en Irlande et l’ONG grecque HumanRights 360.

      Entre-temps, les cas du même type se sont multipliés. Surtout depuis le printemps dernier, après que le président turc Erdogan a menacé d’ouvrir les frontières et incité les migrants à se diriger vers la Grèce. « J’ai vu de mes yeux vu deux refoulements en mer depuis ma maison sur la côte nord de Lesbos », dénonce ainsi Christina Chatzidaki, une habitante de l’île qui jouxte les côtes turques, et y dirige l’association Siniparxi (Coexistence).

      Alarm phone qui reçoit les appels de détresse des embarcations en mer se déclarait en mai dernier « très préoccupé par la récente augmentation des rapports d’attaques sur les bateaux de migrants ». L’ONG avait alors engrangé les témoignages de survivants de 18 bateaux. « Ils ont fait état d’actions dangereuses, telles que le fait de tourner autour de leurs bateaux et de provoquer des vagues, des menaces avec des armes à feu, le vol de leur essence, la destruction de moteurs et, également, le remorquage de bateaux vers les eaux turques où ils ont été laissés à la dérive », précise l’ONG.
      Intimer la Commission d’agir

      Les dénonciations de pratiques qui violent les droits humains, et contreviennent au droit de la mer et au droit européen n’ont pas cessé par la suite. Le porte-parole du Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) déclarait le 12 juin dernier : « le HCR a continuellement fait état de ses préoccupations auprès du gouvernement grec et a demandé des enquêtes urgentes sur une série d’incidents présumés ». Il soulignait alors la corrélation entre la forte baisse du nombre d’arrivées de migrants en Grèce et l’augmentation du nombre de refoulements signalés. En 2019, 60 000 personnes avaient débarqué en Grèce par la mer et 15 000 par la terre. En 2020, jusqu’au 22 novembre, ils ne sont plus, respectivement, que 9 400 et 5 400.

      Jusqu’à présent la Grèce a nié ces allégations. « Nous protégeons nos frontières en accord avec les lois internationales et européennes » a encore affirmé le ministre grec de l’immigration Notis Mitarakis le 13 novembre dernier au site Infomigrants. Deux mois auparavant, le 22 septembre, les ONG Oxfam et WeMove adressaient une plainte auprès de la Commission européenne pour l’intimer de mener « une enquête sur les violations systématiques du droit européen concernant le traitement des demandeurs d’asile en Grèce ».
      La possible implication de Frontex

      Enfin, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine allemand Der Spiegel apportèrent en octobre un coup de grâce supplémentaire, en dénonçant, images à l’appui, le laisser-faire, voire l’implication, de l’agence européenne de surveillance aux frontières Frontex - qui a déployé plus de 600 agents en Grèce - dans six cas documentés de pratique illégale de refoulement.

      Un soupçon repris par le comité contre la torture du Conseil de l’Europe. Dans son rapport publié le 19 novembre, le comité a indiqué « avoir de nouveau reçu des allégations cohérentes et crédibles de migrants repoussés vers la Turquie ».

      Il s’est déclaré « inquiet des actes commis par les garde-côtes grecs pour empêcher les bateaux transportant des migrants d’atteindre les îles grecques » et « s’interroge sur le rôle et l’implication de Frontex dans de telles opérations ».

      Face à une telle avalanche, l’Union européenne pouvait difficilement continuer à se voiler la face. La suédoise Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures a réclamé des explications pour fin novembre à l’agence Frontex, laquelle a indiqué avoir ouvert une enquête interne.

      https://www.la-croix.com/Monde/Grece-fortement-soupconnee-refouler-migrants-2020-11-24-1201126401

    • Refoulements de demandeurs d’asile : le directeur de Frontex interrogé par les députés

      La supposée implication d’agents de Frontex dans les refoulements de demandeurs d’asile à la frontière grecque sera au cœur du débat en commission des libertés civiles mardi.

      Les députés seront en attente de réponses de la part du directeur exécutif de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Fabrice Leggeri, concernant les incidents révélés récemment par les médias au cours desquels des garde-côtes grecs (avec la connaissance présumée et même l’implication d’agents de Frontex) ont arrêté des migrants qui tentaient d’atteindre les côtes de l’UE et les ont renvoyés dans les eaux turques. Les députés devraient s’enquérir des résultats de l’enquête interne menée par l’Agence européenne de gestion des frontières et de la réunion du conseil d’administration convoquée à la demande de la Commission européenne.

      En octobre dernier, avant les révélations des médias, le forum consultatif de Frontex (qui réunit notamment des représentants du Bureau européen d’appui en matière d’asile (EASO), de l’Agence des droits fondamentaux de l’UE (FRA), du HCR, du Conseil de l’Europe et de l’OIM) avait exprimé son inquiétude dans son rapport annuel. Le forum pointait du doigt l’absence de véritable système de contrôle permettant de prévenir et de traiter les violations potentielles des droits fondamentaux dans les activités de l’Agence.

      Le 6 juillet, au cours d’une précédente réunion de la commission des libertés civiles, Fabrice Leggeri avait assuré aux eurodéputés que Frontex n’était pas impliquée dans les refoulements et avait qualifié l’incident avec l’équipe danoise à bord de l’un des navires de l’Agence de ‘‘malentendu’’.

      DATE : mardi 1er décembre de 13h50 à 14h45

      LIEU : Parlement européen à Bruxelles, bâtiment Antall, salle 4Q2 et à distance

      https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/fr/press-room/20201126IPR92509

    • EU border chief urged to quit over migrant pushback claims

      European Union lawmakers lashed out Tuesday at the head of Frontex over allegations that the border and coast guard agency helped illegally stop migrants or refugees entering Europe, calling for his resignation and demanding an independent inquiry.

      The lawmakers grilled Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri over an investigation in October by media outlets Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said that video and other publicly available data suggest Frontex “assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea.”

      The report said personnel from the agency, which monitors and polices migrant movements around Europe’s borders, were present at another incident and “have been in the vicinity of four more since March.” Frontex launched an internal probe after the news broke.

      “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign,” senior Socialist lawmaker Kati Piri said in a statement after the parliamentary civil liberties committee hearing. “There are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.”

      Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which say people shouldn’t be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or being members of a social or political group.

      Frontex’s board met to discuss the allegations late last month. The board said afterwards that the European Commission had ordered it to “hold a further extraordinary meeting within the next two weeks in order to consider in more detail the replies provided by the agency.” That meeting is scheduled to take place on Dec. 9.

      “Migrants and refugees are very vulnerable to pushbacks by border guards,” Greens lawmaker Tineke Strik said. “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.”

      Strik raised doubts about whether the internal Frontex probe would produce results and urged the assembly’s political groups to consider launching their own inquiry.

      Leggeri said that no evidence of any Frontex involvement in pushbacks had been found so far. He said EU member countries have control over operations in their waters, not Frontex, and he called for the rules governing surveillance of Europe’s external borders to be clarified.

      “We have not found evidence that there were active, direct or indirect participation of Frontex staff or officers deployed by Frontex in pushbacks,” he told the lawmakers. When it comes to operations, Leggeri said, “only the host member state authorities can decide what has to be done.”

      Leggeri also said that Frontex staff were under extreme pressure around the time of the alleged incidents in March and April. He said that Turkish F-16 fighter jets had “surrounded” a Danish plane working for Frontex, while vessels were harassed by the Turkish coast guard and shots fired at personnel at land borders.

      He called for EU “guidance” on how to handle such situations.

      The allegations are extremely embarrassing for the European Commission. In September it unveiled sweeping new reforms to the EU’s asylum system, which proved dismally inadequate when over 1 million migrants arrived in 2015, many of them Syrian refugees entering the Greek islands via Turkey.

      Part of the EU’s migration reforms includes a system of independent monitoring involving rights experts to ensure that there are no pushbacks at Europe’s borders. Migrant entries have dropped to a relative trickle in recent years, although many migrants still languish on some Greek islands waiting for their asylum claims to be processed or to be sent back.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she still has confidence in Frontex’s managing board but remains deeply concerned about the allegations.

      During a visit to Morocco, Johansson said that the report “concerns me a lot. If it’s true, it’s totally unacceptable. A European agency has to comply to EU law and fundamental rights with no excuse.”

      Johansson said she has “full confidence in the process that (has) gone on in the management board and the sub-group they are setting up” to continue the investigation, but, she noted that “there were a lot of questions put to the director. And he has not answered these questions.”

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/259789/article/ekathimerini/news/eu-border-chief-urged-to-quit-over-migrant-pushback-claims

    • Frontex is taking us to court

      The EU border police Frontex is under fire for its involvement in human rights violations at the EU’s borders. Now, they want to silence those exposing their wrongdoing.

      For many years, we have been fighting to make Frontex, the EU’s border police, more transparent and accountable. We have made public over a thousand of their documents, including those that show the agency has been complicit in human rights violations and violence against migrants at the EU’s borders.

      Frontex is currently under fire for its involvement in illegal pushbacks in the Aegean and for having concealed evidence about these illegal acts. Confronted with such serious accusations, the EU border agency has now chosen to go after those who investigate them: they are taking us to court.

      Frontex has filed a case against us before the General Court of the European Union in order to force us to pay them a large amount of money. Last year, we lost our lawsuit for information about Frontex and now, the agency is demanding from us excessive legal fees. The message is clear: they want to make sure that we never take them to court again.
      Details must remain secret

      For the time being, we will not be able to disclose further details related to the case due to the court’s rules on keeping all information secret while proceedings are ongoing. Back in January, the agency justified their excessive legal fees on their decision to hire expensive private lawyers.

      Frontex, which has a billion-euro budget, making it the best resourced EU agency, employs a well-staffed internal legal department. Both the decision to hire private lawyers and to then claim these costs from civil society are highly unusual in court cases against the EU authorities.
      What happens if Frontex wins?

      If Frontex succeeds, in the future only corporations and the rich will be able to afford legal action against EU authorities. Activists, journalists, NGOs and individuals will not be able to defend human rights before the EU court. Frontex bringing a case like this directly against civil society, let alone winning, discourages others from holding them accountable in the future. It’s this chilling effect that we believe they’re hoping for.

      In the spring, more than 87,000 people petitioned Frontex to withdraw their legal bill. 44 civil society organizations also called on Frontex to retract its demand. Frontex has nonetheless chosen to ignore their voices.

      In recent years, Frontex has experienced an enormous increase of power and resources. Not only is it about to receive € 11 billion under the next EU budget, but it can also now hire its own border guards and buy its own equipment, including aircrafts, ships, drones and weapons.

      Investigating Frontex and holding it accountable is now more important than ever. As recent publications have revealed, the EU border force has been involved in numerous human rights violations at the EU borders.
      What you can do

      Our freedom of information work is financed by individual donations. We will fight in court for a judgement that gives Frontex as little money as possible. If you want to support us in this, we would be very happy to receive a donation. We will use every extra euro for new investigations and legal action against Frontex.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/en/blog/2020/12/02/frontex-costs-court-transparency

    • S&Ds call for Frontex Director to resign

      The S&D Group in the European Parliament today called for the Executive Director of Frontex to resign following months of allegations on the agency’s involvement in illegal practices and violations of fundamental rights.

      In today’s hearing of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE), Director Fabrice Leggeri failed to answer questions relating to the agency’s involvement in pushbacks at the EU’s external borders aimed at preventing asylum-seekers from entering the EU.

      Following the hearing, S&D MEPs concluded Mr Leggeri’s position at the head of Frontex is not sustainable, especially in light of the important role for Frontex in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

      Kati Piri, S&D vice-president for migration and LIBE member taking part in the hearing, said

      “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign. After months of the S&D Group calling for explanations, Director Leggeri had the chance to set the record straight. But there are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.

      “Pushbacks are a violation of international law and every single incident must be fully investigated. Do we have the confidence in Frontex to ensure alleged incidents are properly investigated? After today, the answer is no.

      “As long as allegations hang over Frontex, its reputation remains severely damaged and in desperate need of repair. In our view, Director Leggeri is not the right person to fix the damage.”

      Birgit Sippel, S&D LIBE coordinator, added:

      “We have to ask ourselves how we got to the point where we have to rely on journalists and whistle-blowers in Frontex to inform us of instances of fundamental and human rights violations at our borders. This is unacceptable and deeply disturbing, in particular when considering the potentially increased role of Frontex as part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

      “The series of alleged pushbacks and cover-ups from Frontex show that we need a strong and independent border monitoring mechanism to investigate any and all alleged violations of fundamental and human rights and international laws at European borders.

      “Under the 2019 Frontex mandate, the Agency was obliged to have recruited at least 40 Fundamental Rights Monitors by 5 December 2020. It is now clear that Frontex will not even have come close to fulfilling this task, and therefore will not comply with the new mandate. Blaming bureaucratic hurdles for the delay of such an important task is insufficient, while the Commission’s role in this delay requires further examination as well. Mr Leggeri has failed in many of his responsibilities and must bear the consequences of his actions.”

      https://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-call-frontex-director-resign

    • E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

      Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

      Mounting evidence indicates that the European Union’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with officials.

      In at least one case, Frontex, as the E.U. border agency is known, is accused of having helped cover up the violations, when a crew said it was discouraged by agency officials from reporting that they had seen the Greek authorities setting a boatload of migrants adrift in Turkish waters.

      The case is currently being investigated by Frontex. But it has fueled suspicions that the agency, newly boosted in its role as upholder of the rule of law at E.U. borders, is not just sporadically aware of such abuses, but that it plays a role in concealing them.

      “We are seeing an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful,” said Gerald Knaus, a migration expert. “This is deeply worrying because it is eroding the refugee convention on the continent on which it was created.”

      Throughout this year, The New York Times and others have reported on growing operations by the Greek Coast Guard to repel migrants from Greek waters back to Turkey, reports the Greek authorities deny amount to breaches of international laws.

      But revelations that Frontex has witnessed pushbacks have thrown the agency into a governance crisis that threatens to further blight the European Union’s liberal values, once again calling into question the bloc’s commitment to upholding its own laws on refugees.

      The cases have also highlighted a conundrum at the core of E.U. ambitions to tighten external borders by pooling resources and involving the bloc in the sensitive, zealously shielded work of sovereign border guards.

      Frontex is the European Union’s best-funded agency, with a budget of over $500 million, and will soon deploy the first uniformed officers in the bloc’s history. It has been built up specifically to help in migrant-rescue operations as the burden of policing Europe’s borders has fallen most heavily on its peripheral states, like Greece.

      It was also intended as a deterrent to the kind of mass arrival of refugees that sowed political crises across Europe after 2015, and fanned nationalist and populist movements.

      Yet Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.

      Refugee arrivals to the European Union peaked five years ago and have dropped drastically since, but thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, still attempt the crossing. Unlike in the past, Greeks and their government have turned hostile to the new arrivals, exhausted by years in which asylum seekers have been bottled up in overrun camps on Greek islands.

      There is also a growing belief in the Greek and several other European governments that aggression at the borders and poor conditions at migrant camps will make the attempt to reach Europe less attractive for asylum seekers.

      Earlier this year, an analysis by The Times showed that the Greek government had secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, often by sailing them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and abandoning them in flimsy inflatable life rafts in violation of international laws.

      The Greek Coast Guard has rescued thousands of asylum seekers over the years but has become much more aggressive this year, especially as Turkey used migrants to provoke Greece by encouraging them to cross the border.

      The Greek government has denied it is doing anything illegal in repelling migrant boats from its national waters, characterizing the operations as robust border guarding. But Mr. Knaus said “the denials are not serious,” and the practices are effectively happening in the open — under the eyes of E.U. border patrols.

      The documents obtained by The Times describe, in Coast Guard vernacular littered with acronyms, codes, time-stamps and coordinates, a seemingly incessant Ping-Pong of migrant dinghies between Greek and Turkish waters, with Frontex crews on vessels or aircraft in observer status.

      Four officials with direct knowledge of Frontex operations said that agency officials have been discouraging crews from filing reports on pushback incidents, and, in some cases, have stopped initial alerts of violations from being filed as “serious incident reports,” at times after consulting with the Greek authorities.

      They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were concerned about losing their jobs, or were not authorized to brief the press.

      The Frontex spokesman, Chris Borowski, said the agency took the reporting of violations very seriously. “Pushbacks are illegal under international law,” Mr. Borowski said.

      In the latest case to come to light, a Swedish Coast Guard crew on deployment under Frontex witnessed a pushback to Turkish waters of a boat full of migrants by the Greek authorities on Oct. 30 off the Greek island of Chios.

      The Swedish crew was later advised by a Frontex officer to not report it, documents reviewed by The Times show. The Swedish representative to the management board of Frontex described the incident, and the suppression of the attempt to report it, at a meeting on Nov. 10 — the first known case of an E.U. member state reporting active interference by Frontex officials.

      The Swedish government did not comment. A spokesman for Frontex said the agency wouldn’t comment because of an “ongoing procedure.”

      Frontex has been working in Greece for more than a decade, providing sea, land and aerial surveillance and rescue capabilities and deploying crews from other member states under its command.

      The details now emerging push the agency deeper into a governance crisis which began in October when a consortium of news organizations, including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, reported a number of occasions when Frontex crews witnessed pushbacks in Greece.

      The European Commission, which is part of the Frontex oversight system but does not control the agency, pushed for a special inquiry into these allegations and, at an emergency agency board meeting on Nov. 10, asked its leadership to answer detailed questions in writing.

      The answers arrived with a four-day delay, just 15 hours before the start of another meeting to discuss the problems on Wednesday. Yet another emergency meeting has been called in December, mounting pressure on the agency.

      Frontex has promised internal investigations but also quickly dismissed allegations, saying for example, in a letter seen by The Times, that it would look into the Swedish case, but that it had so far found no evidence that it happened.

      How these investigations shake out will matter a great deal for the future of Frontex, which was once little more than a back-office operation in Warsaw but now finds itself on the front lines of the nettlesome issue of migration that has the potency to make or break governments.

      Apart from helping member states with asylum-seeker arrivals, Frontex’s role as an E.U. agency by law is to respect fundamental rights, and bring up human-rights standards across national E.U. border agencies, which often don’t have a strong culture of upholding them.

      But claims that Frontex does not take fundamental rights seriously enough are growing. This year, only one million euros in its budget of 460 million euros — about $548 million — was allocated to rights monitoring.

      The agency was supposed to hire 40 fundamental-rights officers by Dec. 5 but the jobs have not yet been advertised. The agency is currently hiring for their boss, after years of staffing issues around that position. A Frontex spokesman said the delays stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

      Documents seen by The Times laid out how in one episode the Greek authorities were consulted before a report was made, and were able to suppress it. On Aug. 10, a German crew deployed by Frontex reported that a Greek Coast Guard vessel “took up border control measures prohibiting the landing to Samos.”

      The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. The event was not recorded as a “serious incident,” because, the document said, the Greek Coast Guard argued the activities “do not provide any ground” to initiate such a report.

      Another incident, which a Frontex aerial crew observed and reported in detail to its headquarters, took place on the evening of April 18 to 19 off the coast of Lesbos, and lasted more than five hours.

      A dinghy was detected by the Greek authorities and approximately 20 migrants were rescued and put on board a Greek Coast Guard vessel shortly after midnight, their empty dinghy towed by the Coast Guard toward the island.

      But instead of being taken to shore, at 2:45 a.m., the migrants were put back on their dinghy and tugged to Turkish waters by the Greek Coast Guard, the Frontex aerial crew reported.

      As events unfolded, the Greek command center twice asked the Frontex aircraft to change its flight path, directing it away from the incident.

      “At 03:21 Frontex Surveillance Aircraft communicates that the rubber boat has no engine and it is adrift. Greek assets are departing the area leaving the rubber boat adrift,” the document said.

      The internal Frontex report detailing this incident and categorizing it as a fundamental-rights violation was “dismissed,” the document shows.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html?smid=tw-share

    • #Seehofer deckte offenbar griechische Verbrechen

      Griechische Grenzschützer setzen Flüchtlinge systematisch auf dem Meer aus. Ein internes Dokument legt nun nahe, dass Innenminister #Horst_Seehofer einen Rechtsbruch kaschierte. SPD-Vize Kühnert stellt ihm ein Ultimatum.

      Die Sprecherin von Bundesinnenminister Horst Seehofer war sichtlich nervös, als sie sich Ende November den Fragen der Journalisten stellen musste. Zwei Tage zuvor hatten der SPIEGEL und das ARD-Magazin »Report Mainz« berichtet, dass die Bundespolizei in der Ägäis in eine illegale Zurückweisung von Flüchtlingen verwickelt war. Wiederholt fragten die Journalisten nach. »Ich weiß nicht, wie Sie zu der Einschätzung kommen, dass es sich hierbei um einen illegalen Pushback gehandelt hat«, sagte die Sprecherin schließlich.

      Dabei lagen dem Bundesinnenministerium zu diesem Zeitpunkt längst Informationen vor, die genau darauf hindeuten.

      Im Auftrag der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex patrouillierten die deutschen Einsatzkräfte am 10. August in der Ägäis, nur wenige Hundert Meter von der griechischen Insel Samos entfernt. Dabei entdeckten sie ein Schlauchboot mit 40 Flüchtlingen an Bord. Auftragsgemäß hielten sie es an, allerdings nahmen sie die Menschen auf dem völlig überfüllten Boot nicht an Bord. Stattdessen warteten sie mehr als eine halbe Stunde, bis die griechische Küstenwache das Schlauchboot übernahm.

      Wenig später fanden sich die Flüchtlinge plötzlich in türkischen Gewässern wieder. So beschreiben es interne Dokumente der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex, die dem SPIEGEL vorliegen. Die türkische Küstenwache musste die 40 Migranten später retten. Fotos zeigen Männer, Frauen und kleine Kinder auf dem überfüllten Schlauchboot. Offensichtlich wurden die Menschen von den griechischen Grenzschützern illegal zurückgedrängt.

      Als die griechischen Beamten in den Hafen zurückkehrten, wunderten sich die deutschen Polizisten. Die Küstenwache hatte keine Migranten an Bord und auch kein Schlauchboot im Schlepptau. Die Deutschen meldeten im Anschluss zwar die Details des Einsatzes – aber keine mögliche Menschenrechtsverletzung.
      Was genau haben die Deutschen von diesem illegalen Pushback mitbekommen?

      Bis heute haben die Bundespolizei und das Innenministerium nicht auf die Fragen des SPIEGEL geantwortet. Dabei finden sich die Antworten auf diese Fragen seit Wochen im Intranet der Bundespolizei, also in einem nur für Mitarbeiter zugänglichen Netzwerk. Anhand der elf SPIEGEL-Fragen legte die Bundespolizei-Führung ihre Sicht der Dinge ausführlich dar – noch am Tag der Veröffentlichung des Berichts. Die Fragen waren also längst beantwortet, nur abgeschickt wurden sie nie. Das Innenministerium erklärt das inzwischen auf Anfrage mit einem »Büroversehen«.

      Die Ausführungen im Intranet der Bundespolizei sind politisch heikel. Auf den ersten Blick entlasten sie die deutschen Einsatzkräfte. Wörtlich heißt es, die Bundespolizisten hätten beobachtet, »dass durch die (…) griechischen Einsatzkräfte Migranten physisch an Bord genommen wurden.« Die deutschen Frontex-Beamten konnten also davon ausgehen, dass die Flüchtlinge zunächst in Sicherheit waren. Schließlich wurden sie vor ihren Augen auf ein Schiff der griechischen Küstenwache geholt und trieben nicht mehr in ihrem überfüllten Schlauchboot.

      Warum hat das Innenministerium dieses Detail trotzdem bis heute verschwiegen? Will man im Ministerium die Griechen nicht als Lügner entlarven? Das Flüchtlingsboot, so hatten die griechischen Behörden erklärt, sei beim Anblick der Küstenwache umgekehrt und zurück in türkische Gewässer gefahren.
      Beobachtungen der Deutschen entlarven die Ausrede der Griechen

      Die Beobachtungen der Bundespolizisten widersprechen dieser Darstellung, die Bundespolizei stellt das in ihrem Bericht selbst fest. Wenn die Geflüchteten bereits an Bord des Schiffes der griechischen Küstenwache waren, können sie unmöglich freiwillig auf ihrem Schlauchboot umgekehrt sein. Sollten die Aussagen der Deutschen zutreffen, und davon ist auszugehen, bleibt keine andere vernünftige Erklärung als ein illegaler Pushback der griechischen Küstenwache.

      Horst Seehofer muss sich deshalb die Frage gefallen lassen, warum sein Haus die Verbrechen der griechischen Behörden deckt. Statt aufzuklären, führt er die Öffentlichkeit offenbar in die Irre. So fügt Seehofer sich in das System des Schweigens.

      Seit Juni hat SPIEGEL in gemeinsamen Recherchen mit der Medienorganisation Lighthouse Reports und »Report Mainz« genau dokumentiert, wie die griechischen Pushbacks ablaufen: Die Küstenwache fängt die Migrantinnen und Migranten meist noch auf dem Wasser ab. Manchmal zerstört sie den Außenbordmotor der Schlauchboote, um diese manövrierunfähig zu machen. Dann werden die Schutzsuchenden mit gefährlichen Manövern Richtung Türkei zurückgedrängt. Die Menschen werden auf den Booten oder auf aufblasbaren Rettungsflößen mit Seilen aufs offene Meer gezogen, vom SPIEGEL ausgewertete Videos belegen das.

      Griechische Grenzschützer bedrohen die Geflüchteten mit Waffen, nicht selten fallen Schüsse. Bisweilen schleppen die Beamten sogar Menschen aufs Meer, die es schon auf die griechischen Inseln geschafft haben.

      Auch Frontex-Einheiten stoppen immer wieder Flüchtlingsboote und übergeben sie anschließend an die griechische Küstenwache. Seit Anfang März wird das so gehandhabt. Die Frontex-Einheiten, darunter deutsche Bundespolizisten, unterstehen in der Ägäis der griechischen Küstenwache. Sie werden so zu Gehilfen der Griechen, die bei ihren illegalen Praktiken nicht mal besonders verdeckt vorgehen.

      »Das Innenministerium scheint sich zum Komplizen der Griechen zu machen«, sagt der menschenrechtspolitische Sprecher der Sozialdemokraten, Frank Schwabe. »Dazu müssen sowohl Frontex als auch Innenminister Seehofer dem Bundestag Rede und Antwort stehen.«

      Das Innenministerium teilte auf Anfrage mit, dass eine abschließende Bewertung des Sachverhaltes aufgrund der vorliegenden Informationen nicht möglich sei. Die Bundespolizei habe sich jedenfalls nicht an illegalen Pushbacks beteiligt. Eine vollständige Aufklärung bleibe abzuwarten und Berichte von griechischen Behörden würden nicht kommentiert.

      Die griechischen Behörden bleiben bei ihrer Version der Ereignisse. Das für die Küstenwache zuständige Ministerium teilte mit, der Fahrer der Schlauchbootes sei in Richtung Türkei zurückgefahren, nachdem er die griechische Küstenwache erblickt habe.
      »Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass Seehofer die Regelverstöße der griechischen Küstenwache deckt, weil sie ihm politisch in den Kram passen«

      SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert

      Doch in der Opposition und auch beim eigenen Koalitionspartner ist der Unmut groß. Selbst SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert schaltet sich nun in die Debatte ein. Durch die schriftlich festgehaltenen Erkenntnisse der eigenen Beamten festige sich der Eindruck, dass es in der Ägäis in der Tat zu Pushbacks komme, sagt er. Deshalb müsse Seehofer nun politisch reagieren. »Frontex muss die mutmaßliche griechische Pushback-Praxis endlich effektiv verhindern und die Zugänge zum Asylverfahren sicherstellen«, so Kühnert. »Sollte dies durch die Bundesregierung kurzfristig nicht durchsetzbar sein, muss das deutsche Kontingent unverzüglich aus der Mission abgezogen werden.«

      Kühnert möchte nun von Seehofer »noch in diesem Jahr dargelegt bekommen, wie und bis wann er auf Frontex einwirken wolle, um die Zusammenarbeit mit der griechischen Küstenwache wieder auf eine rechtskonforme Grundlage zu stellen.« Mit seiner Salamitaktik bei der Preisgabe von Informationen werde der Innenminister auch der Fürsorgepflicht gegenüber seinen eigenen Beamten nicht gerecht, mahnt Kühnert. »Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass Seehofer die Regelverstöße der griechischen Küstenwache deckt, weil sie ihm politisch in den Kram passen. Alles daran wäre inakzeptabel.«

      Neben Seehofer gerät auch Frontex-Chef Fabrice Leggeri durch die Beobachtungen der deutschen Polizisten in Erklärungsnot. Bis heute beteuert Leggeri, dass sich seine Grenzschützer nicht an Pushbacks beteiligen oder von ihnen wissen. Daran zweifelt aber inzwischen selbst die EU-Kommission.

      Auf deren Drängen schilderte Leggeri schriftlich die Details des Vorfalls vom 10. August. In seinen Antworten verschwieg aber auch Leggeri, dass die griechische Küstenwache laut den Deutschen die Flüchtlinge bereits an Bord geholt hatten – obwohl er wohl davon hätte wissen müssen. Die Bundespolizei jedenfalls hat auch dieses Detail des Einsatzes nach eigener Aussage an Frontex gemeldet.

      Frontex teilte auf Anfrage mit, wegen der laufenden Untersuchung keine Angaben zum Vorfall machen zu können.

      Für Leggeri ist die Angelegenheit besonders misslich, weil sich in seinen Aussagen ein Muster erkennen lässt: Der Frontex-Direktor täuscht die Öffentlichkeit, um die Pushbacks zu vertuschen. Vor den EU-Parlamentariern verteidigte er sich unlängst mit einer Falschaussage, indem er behauptete, dass der SPIEGEL und seine Recherchepartner sich bei ihren Recherchen zu einem Pushback im April geirrt hätten. Am fraglichen Tag habe es gar keinen Frontex-Aufklärungsflug gegeben, sagte Leggeri. Keine zwei Tage später musste er einräumen, dass das nicht stimmte. Weitere Vorfälle, die Experten als klare Pushbacks werten, erwähnte Leggeri entweder gar nicht oder nur auf Nachfrage in internen Schreiben.
      EU-Kommission rechnet mit Leggeri ab

      Inzwischen wirft auch die EU-Kommission Leggeri »irreführende« Aussagen vor. Das geht aus einem Brief der Kommission an ihn hervor. In dem Streit geht es um die Einstellung von Grundrechtsbeobachtern. Eigentlich hätte Frontex bis zum 5. Dezember 40 Mitarbeiter einstellen müssen, die darauf achten soll, dass die Rechte von Migranten an Europas Grenzen gewahrt werden. Bis heute hat Leggeri allerdings nicht einen solchen Mitarbeiter eingestellt.

      Der Frontex-Direktor macht die Kommission für die Verzögerung verantwortlich, die wiederum gibt Leggeri die Schuld. Leggeris Äußerungen zu dem Thema würden die Kommission »bestürzen« und »beunruhigen« heißt es in dem Brief. Das Schreiben liegt dem SPIEGEL vor, es liest sich wie eine Kampfansage.

      Die Verzögerungen bei den Grundrechtsbeobachtern seien skandalös, sagt die Grünenbundestagsabgeordnete Luise Amtsberg. Die Sache zeige, dass die Grenzschutzagentur den Menschenrechtsschutz schlicht nicht ernst genug nehme. »Die Bundesregierung muss endlich klare Konsequenzen aus den völkerrechtswidrigen Handlungen im Rahmen von Frontex-Missionen ziehen.«

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/frontex-skandal-horst-seehofer-deckte-offenbar-griechische-verbrechen-a-bd06

    • Push backs and violations of human rights at sea: a #timeline

      The following timeline provides a non-exhaustive compilation of main reports of push backs and other violations of human rights at the Greek-Turkish sea borders since March 2020, following Greece’s decision to impose a one-month suspension of its asylum procedure in response to declarations by Turkey that it would not prevent refugees from crossing its western borders. On 2 March, the Hellenic Armed Forces began live-fire military exercises along the Aegean, from Samothrace to Kastellorizo.

      Timeline dates refer to the date of publication of reports, separately indicating the date of alleged incidents, where available.

      This timeline solely purports to reproduce material made publicly available by media and civil society organisations and does not amount to an assessment by RSA or PRO ASYL of the allegations contained therein.

      https://rsaegean.org/en/push-backs-and-violations-of-human-rights-at-sea-a-timeline
      #chronologie

    • EU: Frontex director accused of misleading parliament over fundamental rights obligations

      Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri has been accused by a senior European Commission official of making statements “in a misleading manner” at a parliamentary hearing in December, when MEPs questioned him over the agency’s alleged role in pushbacks and the new fundamental rights monitoring framework included in 2019 legislation.

      Bang to rights

      In a letter obtained by Statewatch, Monique Pariat (the Director-General of the Commission’s migration and home affairs department), expresses “dismay” at Leggeri’s appearance before the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) on 1 December and rebukes, in no uncertain terms, the account he provided of the agency’s attempts to implement its new fundamental rights obligations.

      Those obligations include a fully functioning and independent fundamental rights office, an accessible complaints mechanism, and a credible serious incident reporting mechanism – the aim of which is to prevent, or at least ensure the reporting and investigation of, human rights abuses witnessed or committed by officials deployed on Frontex operations.

      A key role is foreseen in all this for the fundamental rights officer (FRO), who is supposed to head a team of at least 40 fundamental rights monitors – all of whom the agency was legally obliged to have recruited by 5 December 2020. However, it failed to do so.

      Blame game

      Leggeri told MEPs that although he personally prioritised the swift recruitment of fundamental rights staff, vacancy notices published by the agency in November 2019 were withdrawn on the request of the Commission, and subsequent delays in agreeing the seniority of the posts meant that vacancy notices were only published again in November 2020.

      Pariat does not dispute these points, but underlines that the Commission was obliged to request the withdrawal of the notices, because the Management Board had not approved them, as required by the 2019 Frontex Regulation. Without that approval, the letter says that “the publication of these vacancies was plain and simply unlawful” (emphasis in original).

      She adds that the Frontex Regulation requires the involvement of the FRO in the appointment of their deputy, but there was no such involvement prior to the 2019 vacancy notice publication. The Commission had to intervene to request removal of the vacancy notices, says Pariat, “to prevent serious irregularities which could jeopardise the well-functioning and the reputation of the Agency.”

      Bad reputation

      The agency’s reputation has nevertheless taken a battering in recent months. Frontex has faced numerous accusations that it either knew of or has been involved in pushbacks at Greece’s sea border with Turkey, leading the Socialists & Democrats – the second-largest group in the European Parliament – to call for Leggeri’s resignation. There are numerous other reports of similar violent incidents in the Balkans involving officials deployed on Frontex missions.

      The EU anti-fraud agency, OLAF, has also launched an investigation into the border agency, although the exact reasons for this remain unclear. OLAF’s remit allows it to carry out “administrative investigations for the purpose of fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the Union.”

      Leggeri has said that the agency will be undertaking a thorough investigation into the allegations of pushbacks, although the working group set up to investigate the affair is made up representatives from the agency’s Management Board and does not include the Fundamental Rights Officer or the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights.

      “Active resistance”

      A document cited by Greek newspaper Kathimerini suggests that fundamental rights are not one of Leggeri’s main interests. The document, provided to the paper by someone described as having “knowledge of the inner workings of Frontex,” says Leggeri told agency staff that “reporting pushbacks involving Frontex personnel is not a route to popularity or promotion,” and that the serous incident reporting (SIR) mechanism is “intentionally centralized to be slow, cumbersome and very discreet”.

      According to the paper, the document also says that Leggeri “actively resisted” hiring the 40 fundamental rights officers required by the Frontex Regulation, and told staff at the agency in early 2020 that “it is not a priority.”

      Pariat’s letter suggests that Leggeri himself delayed the procedure for recruiting new fundamental rights staff by five months, because of his “insistence on an arrangement which would not have been compatible with the EBCG [Frontex] Regulation”.

      There was a “surprising reluctance” from the agency to follow the Commission’s advice on implementing the new fundamental rights framework, says Pariat. She argues that “if the Agency had followed the Commission’s timely guidance and suggestions, the main milestones… could have been completed on time.”

      Even though the recruitment procedure is now going ahead, concerns remain. At the LIBE hearing in December, several MEPs questioned whether the staff grade applicable to the 40 posts will confer adequate authority and independence to the fundamental rights officers.

      At the time of publication, Frontex had not responded to a request for comment.

      Documentation

      - European Commission letter to Mr Leggeri, 18 December: Subject: Your letter of 4 December 2020 (ref: CAB/KARO/10563/2020) (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1708/eu-com-letter-to-frontex-18-12-20.pdf
      – Fabrice Leggeri, Answers to written questions following the LIBE Committee meeting 1 December (pdf) - annex to this letter (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1709/eu-frontex-written-questions-answers-libe-hearing-1-12-20.pdf

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-frontex-director-accused-of-misleading-parliament-over-fundamental-ri

    • Refoulements et gestion contestée : la pression s’intensifie sur le patron de Frontex

      Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de l’agence européenne de protection des frontières, est sous la pression de la Commission et du Parlement.

      Ce n’est pas un appel à la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de Frontex, mais cela y ressemble fort. Rencontrant, lundi 18 janvier, plusieurs médias européens, dont Le Monde, Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, a été interrogée sur un éventuel départ du patron français de ce qui est désormais l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes. « Je ne fais pas de commentaire là-dessus. Des procédures ont été lancées, elles ne sont pas terminées. Mais je pense qu’elles doivent l’être », indiquait la commissaire socialiste suédoise.

      Des propos prudents mais qui cachent mal le fait qu’entre la Commission et Frontex le torchon brûle. Pour preuve, une lettre envoyée au siège de l’agence en décembre 2020 par #Monique_Pariat, chef de la direction générale de la migration et des affaires intérieures à Bruxelles. Un long réquisitoire reprochant à M. Leggeri des retards, des carences dans la gestion et des « hésitations incompréhensibles » à suivre les instructions. Voire un #mensonge au sujet du recrutement des personnels qui devaient être chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux au sein de l’Agence.

      Les « procédures » visant M. Leggeri et évoquées par Mme Johansson sont multiples. Et elles visent essentiellement la possible implication de Frontex dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Union, avant qu’ils aient pu introduire d’éventuelles demandes d’asile. En octobre 2020, plusieurs médias évoquaient, témoignages et images à l’appui, six cas de refoulements en mer Egée. Avec, notamment, les manœuvres dangereuses d’un navire de Frontex, qui aurait pu entraîner le #naufrage d’une embarcation. La direction de l’Agence démentait à l’époque toute infraction.

      Constitution d’un groupe de travail

      L’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union a lancé une enquête et, le 7 décembre 2020, les bureaux de M. Leggeri et de son directeur de cabinet ont été perquisitionnés. L’investigation porterait, aussi, sur des faits de #harcèlement et des erreurs de gestion.

      Plusieurs groupes politiques du Parlement européen ont, eux, transmis une longue liste de questions au directeur exécutif après qu’il a été entendu, le 1er décembre 2020, par l’Assemblée. M. Leggeri avait indiqué qu’une #enquête_interne n’avait pas prouvé l’implication de membres de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux. Peu convaincus, les eurodéputés du groupe socialiste ont exigé sa #démission, d’autres groupes ont réclamé des explications complémentaires.

      Au sein de Frontex même, un #groupe_de_travail avait été constitué en novembre, sur insistance de la Commission. Son rapport devrait être examiné lors d’une réunion du conseil d’administration, mercredi 20 et jeudi 21 janvier. Ce conseil est composé de représentants des pays membres de l’Union et de deux membres de la Commission.

      L’un des principaux reproches adressés à M. Leggeri est qu’il aurait tergiversé pour embaucher la quarantaine de personnes qui, en théorie, auraient dû être à pied d’œuvre dès décembre 2020 pour veiller au respect des droits des migrants et demandeurs d’asile. Dans la lettre de Mme Pariat qu’il a reçue en décembre, le directeur se voit reprocher d’avoir agi « de manière trompeuse » en ne livrant pas les explications correctes aux parlementaires quant à l’absence de ces employés. Mme Johansson pense également que certains des propos qu’il avait tenus n’étaient « pas vrais ».

      Action « illégale »

      La commissaire suédoise n’a, jusqu’ici, pas officiellement retiré sa confiance au directeur. Elle endosse cependant les critiques qui lui sont adressées par sa direction générale, qui évoque encore une action « illégale » de M. Leggeri en 2019, avec la publication de deux vacances de postes dirigeants qui n’avaient pas été approuvées par le conseil d’administration.

      Au Parlement, où la plénière débattait, mardi, du pacte migratoire proposé récemment par la Commission, la tension monte également. Mme Johansson a insisté sur la nécessité pour les pays de l’Union, les candidats à l’adhésion et « les agences européennes aussi » d’adhérer pleinement au respect des #droits_fondamentaux. Et plusieurs députés ont à nouveau mis en cause Frontex, l’élue socialiste bulgare #Elena_Yoncheva jugeant qu’en matière de « pushbacks » l’agence fait désormais « partie du problème, pas de la solution ».

      Une situation embarrassante pour toute l’Union : dotée maintenant d’uniformes, d’armes et d’un budget passé au total à 5,6 milliards d’euros pour la période 2021-2027, l’agence des garde-frontières peut difficilement voir la #légitimité de son principal dirigeant remise en question au plus haut niveau. A ce stade, celui-ci n’a pas réagi officiellement aux accusations qui le visent. Il pourrait le faire prochainement, selon un membre de son entourage.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/20/refoulements-et-gestion-contestee-la-pression-s-intensifie-sur-le-patron-de-

    • Le garde-frontière Frontex en pleine tourmente

      Les refoulements aux frontières européennes fragilisent la position du directeur de Frontex, l’agence européenne de garde-frontières. La Commission reproche à Fabrice Leggeri d’avoir ralenti l’embauche d’officiers de contrôle des droits fondamentaux. Son agence est soumise à plusieurs #enquêtes, dont une de l’#office_européen_anti-fraude. Des députés demandent sa #démission.

      Bruxelles (Belgique).– Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur de Frontex, est cerné de toutes parts. Sa position, à la tête de l’agence européenne de garde-côtes et de garde-frontières, est fragilisée suite à de récents scandales concernant des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile vers la Turquie, auxquels aurait participé Frontex. Des députés appellent à sa démission. La médiatrice européenne, #Emily_O’Reilly, a ouvert une #enquête le 11 novembre dernier pour évaluer le fonctionnement du mécanisme de #plainte_interne à Frontex. Même l’office européen de lutte anti-fraude investigue et scrute la gestion de l’agence.

      Le dernier coup de boutoir vient de la #Commission_européenne. Dans une lettre du 18 décembre, la directrice générale chargée des migrations et des affaires intérieures, Monique Pariat, adressait des mots durs à Fabrice Leggeri au sujet d’irrégularités et de retards dans les procédures de recrutement d’un officier des droits fondamentaux, de son adjoint et de 40 contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux, qui devaient faire partie de l’agence le 5 décembre 2020 au plus tard et qui ne sont toujours pas embauchés : « C’est la responsabilité de la Commission […] d’intervenir pour empêcher que des irrégularités sérieuses viennent compromettre le bon fonctionnement et la réputation de l’agence. »

      La réputation de Frontex a pourtant déjà été écornée à de multiples reprises dans le passé, sans que l’exécutif bruxellois s’en émeuve. « Pendant longtemps la Commission a protégé Fabrice Leggeri, commente #Birgit_Sippel, eurodéputée allemande du groupe des socialistes et démocrates. Il semble que le vent tourne, notamment sous la pression du #Parlement_européen. »

      C’est le 23 octobre 2020 que le vent a tourné. Une série de médias européens, dont Der Spiegel et Bellingcat, publiaient alors une enquête fouillée suggérant que l’agence européenne avait, entre mars et août 2020, soit assisté à des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile en mer Égée par des garde-côtes grecs, sans les avoir rapportés, soit participé activement au renvoi de canots vers les côtes turques, alors que les refoulements sont strictement prohibés par le droit international. Le 8 juin, un navire de l’opération « #Poséidon » de Frontex, battant pavillon roumain, aurait même bloqué un canot de migrants avant de contribuer à le repousser.

      Fabrice Leggeri est venu s’expliquer devant le Parlement européen le 1er décembre. Selon lui, l’enquête interne menée par ses services concluait à « l’absence de preuves » de refoulement dans les cas mentionnés par la presse. Il insistait sur le fait que les activités de contrôle aux frontières avaient toujours lieu « à la demande et sous le commandement des autorités nationales », Frontex intervenant en coordination des opérations maritimes, en mobilisant des avions, des navires et des garde-frontières originaires des 27 États membres.

      Ces déclarations élusives ont hérissé de nombreux députés européens. « La façon dont il a répondu à nos questions montre que Fabrice Leggeri ne prend pas vraiment au sérieux ces allégations. Frontex a besoin de changements structurels, et je pense qu’il n’est pas la bonne personne pour les mener », avance Tineke Strik, eurodéputée néerlandaise des Verts.

      De la #gauche_unitaire_européenne (#GUE) au groupe centriste de #Renew, les critiques pleuvent à l’encontre de Fabrice Leggeri, mais l’attitude à adopter crée des divisions. La centriste néerlandaise, #Sophie_In’t_Veld, du groupe Renew, milite pour qu’une commission d’enquête parlementaire soit mise sur pied, « car on parle d’actes criminels ». Avant de réclamer la démission du directeur – qui ne peut être décidée que par le conseil d’administration de Frontex composé des États membres et de la Commission – la députée pense « qu’il faut d’abord faire toute la lumière sur les faits ».

      Au sein du groupe des socialistes et démocrates, des députés veulent aller plus vite. « Pourquoi perdre un an avec une #commission_d’enquête ?, s’interroge #Birgit_Sippel. Les rapports décrivant les violations des droits humains aux frontières sont là. Pour l’instant, Fabrice Leggeri se cache et échappe à ses responsabilités. » Des députés de la GUE comme des #Verts réclament à la fois une commission d’enquête et la #démission du directeur. Quant à la droite, le Parti populaire européen n’a pas encore de position sur ces thèmes, mais voit d’un mauvais œil cette idée de commission d’enquête.

      Le mastodonte sans contrôle

      Pour Yves Pascouau, directeur du programme Europe à l’association Res-Publica, par ailleurs spécialiste des questions migratoires européenne (et élu de la majorité nantaise), « l’augmentation des moyens et des pouvoirs de Frontex ne peut pas se faire sans une augmentation de ses responsabilités ».

      Frontex, au fil des ans, est devenu un mastodonte. En 2012, son budget était de 89,5 millions d’euros. Il est en 2020 de 460 millions. 5,6 milliards d’euros ont été dégagés pour la période 2021-2027. Il s’agit de la plus grosse agence de l’UE qui sera dotée, d’ici 2027, de 10 000 garde-côtes véritablement européens, avec leurs propres uniformes. « Cela permettra d’augmenter la transparence et la responsabilité de Frontex », veut croire une source européenne.

      Aujourd’hui, Frontex se déploie sous commandement des autorités nationales. Mais les agents qui agissent en son nom ne sont pas exempts de responsabilités. Ils ont l’obligation d’envoyer un rapport aux dirigeants de Frontex à chaque incident sérieux auquel ils assistent, y compris lorsque des violations des droits humains sont observées.

      Le Forum consultatif de Frontex, qui réunit des institutions européennes, des organisations internationales et ONG, s’interroge inlassablement sur « l’effectivité » de ce système. En 2018, seuls 3 incidents sérieux relatifs à des violations de droits humains furent comptabilisés par l’agence, et 9 en 2019, sans que l’on sache quel a été le suivi de ces dossiers.

      Quant à l’embauche des milliers de garde-frontières, elle doit être contrebalancée par davantage de contrôles des activités de Frontex. L’officier des droits fondamentaux, son adjoint et sa petite équipe d’au minimum 40 contrôleurs sont considérés comme la clef de voûte de ce système de surveillance du respect des #droits_humains.

      Dans la lettre adressée à Fabrice Leggeri, Monique Pariat regrette qu’au 18 décembre, aucun de ces recrutements n’ait été effectué. Elle pointe la « réticence surprenante de Frontex » à suivre les lignes directrices de la Commission, « ce qui a encore davantage entravé et retardé cet important processus ». La directrice générale dénonce encore la démarche « illégale » du directeur général qui avait publié, en 2019, une première annonce pour le poste d’officier des droits fondamentaux, sans l’accord du conseil d’administration de Frontex qui sera pourtant le supérieur hiérarchique direct de ce futur employé.

      Elle l’accuse encore d’avoir présenté les faits aux eurodéputés « de manière trompeuse ». L’attaque est frontale. Au-delà de l’enjeu institutionnel, Giorgos Kosmopoulos, du bureau européen d’Amnesty International, estime que « l’embauche de contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux n’est pas une mauvaise chose à condition qu’ils aient véritablement les moyens de mener des enquêtes, d’aller sur le terrain ». Et sur le terrain, justement, les refoulements aux frontières de l’Europe sont documentés et très nombreux. En #Grèce, en #Croatie, en #Hongrie.

      En mars 2020, le comité européen pour la prévention de la torture rapportait des allégations « crédibles et consistantes » de refoulements et détentions arbitraires, souvent accompagnées de violences, à la frontière gréco-turque. « On ne parle pas de cas isolés, ajoute Giorgos Kosmopoulos. La pratique est si répandue et généralisée qu’il est impossible que Frontex ne soit pas au courant, vu son implication sur le terrain. »

      Le directeur de Frontex, s’il estime qu’il existe « des violations graves […] des droits fondamentaux » doit mettre un terme à l’activité litigieuse à laquelle participe son agence. « Le directeur doit vérifier la situation sur le terrain et le cas échéant il doit retirer ses équipes pour qu’elles ne soient pas liées à des violations de droits humains, mais ce n’est jamais arrivé », conclut Giorgos Kosmopoulos.

      Dans ce contexte, Tineke Strik pense qu’une démission de Fabrice Leggeri, certes bienvenue, « ne résoudra pas tout. Les problèmes sont structurels. Il faudra lancer une enquête approfondie sur le fonctionnement de Frontex ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/210121/le-garde-frontiere-frontex-en-pleine-tourmente?onglet=full

    • Validating Border Violence on the Aegean: Frontex’s Internal Records

      The Aegean Sea, separating Turkey from Greece’s ‘hotspot’ islands, is a site of longstanding and increasingly visible border violence: the systematic use of inflatable life rafts by the Hellenic Coast Guard to push people back to Turkey has been widely documented since March last year. This maritime borderzone also stages the operational theatre of Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon, under which patrol boats, helicopters and surveillance planes have been deployed to patrol the extensive breadth of water.

      Frontex repeatedly denied any involvement in these pushbacks (see here and here), stressing its commitment to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of fundamental rights. This ‘modus operandi’ in which fundamental rights become a rhetorical defence could no longer hold after investigative reporters showed visual evidence of Frontex’s complicit role in pushbacks, prompting further media scrutiny and pressure by the European Parliament and Commission.

      In November, Efsyn, a Greek media outlet, published an eighteen-page long Frontex internal document addressed to the agency’s Management Board. The document aimed at answering questions by Member States and the Commission about the on-going pushbacks in the Aegean. The document, which fuelled Frontex’s recent internal inquiry, lists a series of so-called ‘incidents’ and, at times, offers detailed accounts of the previously denied pushbacks. However, these were not recorded as such.

      A closer look at the document reveals numerous ‘#JORA_incidents’ classified as ‘prevention of departure’, as this transcript from August 19, 2020, illustrates:

      frontex

      The #Joint_Operations_Reporting_Application (#JORA) is the main information system that collects and stores all ‘border related incidents’ from Frontex joint operations. Such incidents range from Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, interceptions, Serious Incident Reports to, as the one above, so-called preventions of departure. The leaked document contains twenty of the latter, all following a similar pattern: Firstly, the location of the rubber boat is recorded in Turkish territorial waters; second, Frontex assets are “excused from the scene” after detection; and, finally, a rehearsed ending: the boat “altered course on her own initiative/will and headed towards the Turkish coasts” or, alternately, the Turkish Coast Guard “took over responsibility”.

      Importantly, these JORA incidents coexist with the regular documenting of border violence. Descriptions of boats of asylum-seekers returning to Turkey of their own volition jar with regular testimonies describing the coercive methods employed to push them back. Alarm Phone, Aegean Boat Report and Border Violence Monitoring Network document human rights violations occurring at the same border, on the same dates and, often, at the same time as the JORA incidents.

      On the same day as the JORA incident above:

      Logging the border

      JORA incidents, together with information collected via Eurosur, form the backbone of Europe’s external borders and migration situational picture, Frontex’s narrative of the border. Yet, what is and is not accounted for in JORA and how, has not received much attention. Contrary to the few Serious Incident Reports related to violations of fundamental rights, which are dealt with by the Fundamental Rights Officer and presented to the Management Board, other incidents recorded in JORA don’t reach the public domain. Once inserted and validated, they become a dot on a map at the Frontex Situation Centre in Warsaw. They are devised to feed into risk analyses, maps and weekly analytical overviews.

      This ‘business-as-usual’ mode of reporting is mostly done by a few officers from the host Member State— in Greece, by the Hellenic Coast Guard and Police—who insert incidents into a standardised template through a set of rigid, mandatory fields. Reporting is not done by the officers on the patrol boats but mostly those who sit at coordination centres. Once inserted in the system, incidents are sent to the International Coordination Centre and the Frontex Situation Centre where they are cross-checked with reports from both Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex deployed officers for validation. This validation process does not statically move in one direction; incidents can go back and forth in the validation chain. The final validation is done by a “specialized team of experts” at Frontex headquarters as the leaked document explains. Yet, incidents can be re-initiated and modified even after finalisation (see work by Pollozek).

      The design of the system allows for the rehearsed recording of formulaic bordering practices that, if closely examined, resemble its coexistent violent forms. Shading into the routine, the JORA records circulate regularly from the islands to Piraeus and Warsaw. While the full JORA archive is inaccessible to the public, the reviewed incidents give us insight into how a particular doctrine of border enforcement is being sustained by the agency and to what effects.

      Normalising violence, eroding rights

      The effects of these records arguably extend beyond the tactical level of border policing. Through their production, a narrative arc is formed by the recorded incidents, generating a specific mode of understanding. Data must be made intelligible to the JORA system and officials along the chain before it can be validated. As a result, even acts of violence such as pushbacks can get translated into mundane logs and thus, brought within the remit of everyday border enforcement and legality.

      The leaked document asserts that the “the notion of ‘prevention of departure”, according to which these ‘incidents’ are classified, should be interpreted “in conjunction with the provisions of Regulation 656/2014, in particular Articles 6 and 7”. While the precise legal meaning of this category in this context remains unclear, its ramifications for the right to leave a country are concerning.

      Regulation 656/2014 indeed provides legal basis (in certain factual circumstances) for the interception of boats carrying asylum-seekers. Yet, it clearly stipulates that the actions that official entities may lawfully take to enforce the border must be compliant with their obligations under EU and international law, including, inter alia, international human rights and refugee law. Moreover, it states: “This Regulation should not affect the responsibilities of search and rescue authorities, including for ensuring that coordination and cooperation is conducted in such a way that the persons rescued can be delivered to a place of safety.”

      The records, however, present an account of border enforcement that exists in isolation from human rights and humanitarian commitments. The dangerous conditions in which border enforcement takes place and the vulnerability of asylum seekers to these conditions are rendered irrelevant and thereby, banalised. Rubber boats carrying illegalized migrants are generally considered seaworthy, not recognised as in distress, regardless of how many people they carry or the fluctuating weather conditions in the Aegean. In none of the incidents contained in the leaked document was a SAR triggered by the Hellenic Coast Guard or Frontex. In this sense, JORA acts as a mediator that transforms, translates, distorts and modifies the meaning of these ‘incidents’. Through the designation of bureaucratic categories (e.g. prevention of departure), JORA codifies and transforms situations that should trigger humanitarian and human rights obligations into legitimate practices of border control. In the process, the duty to render assistance at sea is distorted, and the obligation to facilitate access to asylum is obscured.

      In the context of on-going internal discussions about the legality of interceptions at sea, Frontex’s internal records reveal the practices deemed acceptable by the agency and their interpretation of international legal obligations. The records provide insight into a vision of border enforcement, crystallised at the boundaries of the global north, that perpetuates the violent securitisation of borders to the detriment of human mobility, dignity and safety. They carve out a space where border control activities are shielded from scrutiny, erasing human rights from the operational script.

      Any comments about this post? Get in touch with us! Send us an email, or post a comment here or on Facebook. You can also tweet us.

      https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2021/01/validating-border

    • Five migrant pushback claims under scrutiny

      The board of directors of the European border agency Frontex, which met on Wednesday and Thursday, has decided to further investigate five of 13 reported cases of illegal migrants pushbacks last year, with the alleged help of Frontex guards, from Greece into Turkish territorial waters in the eastern Aegean.

      The board deemed that Frontex did not provide the necessary information and clarifications for the five cases under investigation.

      In view of this, the team investigating the claims has been given additional time to complete its work and present its final conclusions to a new extraordinary board meeting scheduled for February 26.

      With regard to the other eight cases, the board said that there is no evidence to confirm any violations. It also accepted that some of these incidents unfolded in Turkish territorial waters, and in others the migrant boats turned back on their own accord.

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/261560/article/ekathimerini/news/five-migrant-pushback-claims-under-scrutiny

    • L’agence européenne Frontex fragilisée par les accusations d’expulsions illégales

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, qui a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie, est accusée d’avoir participé au « pushback », qui consiste à repousser les migrants sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile.
      Accusations d’implication dans des « pushbacks » – des refoulements illégaux de migrants et demandeurs d’asile aux frontières –, enquêtes de l’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union européenne (UE) et de la Commission de Bruxelles, mise en cause de son directeur, Fabrice Leggeri : l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Frontex, chargée de surveiller les frontières extérieures de l’UE, traverse de grosses turbulences. Mercredi 27 janvier, elle a même été contrainte d’annoncer qu’elle allait arrêter ses opérations en Hongrie, une première dans l’histoire de cette institution, fondée en 2004.
      « Nos efforts communs pour protéger les frontières extérieures ne peuvent réussir que si nous veillons à ce que notre coopération et nos activités soient pleinement conformes aux lois de l’UE », a expliqué un porte-parole, en critiquant implicitement les pratiques illégales de la police hongroise, auxquelles l’agence européenne participait pourtant depuis la crise des réfugiés de 2015.
      En cause, la pratique du « pushback », systématisée par le premier ministre ultranationaliste, Viktor Orban, et développée ailleurs dans l’Union. Le fait de repousser les migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile n’a pas été partout aussi clairement assumé qu’en Hongrie, mais la Grèce, la Croatie, l’Italie ou la Slovénie, notamment, ont été mises an cause pour s’être livrées, elles aussi, à cette pratique illégale. Un « Livre noir », épais de 1 500 pages et présenté récemment par un réseau d’ONG, a recensé pas moins de 900 cas de ce type, concernant près de 13 000 personnes.
      Expulsions inhumaines
      Depuis une loi adoptée en 2016, la Hongrie considère, elle, que tous les migrants arrivant sur son sol peuvent être immédiatement renvoyés vers la Serbie voisine. Lorsqu’ils sont arrêtés, après avoir réussi à franchir la clôture que M. Orban a fait construire tout le long de la frontière, ou même à Budapest, les migrants se voient systématiquement refuser de déposer une demande d’asile et sont expulsés sans autre forme de procès, dans des conditions parfois inhumaines.
      Présents à la frontière hongroise depuis 2015, les agents de Frontex ont participé à cette politique, malgré les critiques des organisations non gouvernementales. « La Hongrie est le seul pays à avoir légalisé les “pushbacks” et à les pratiquer aussi ouvertement. La police hongroise publie même des chiffres tous les jours sur le nombre de personnes renvoyées en Serbie », dénonce Andras Lederer, du Comité Helsinki hongrois, une ONG spécialisée dans l’aide aux migrants. Il estime que la Hongrie a pratiqué 50 000 refoulements depuis 2016. A l’issue d’une longue bataille juridique, la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne a estimé, le 17 décembre 2020, que les pratiques hongroises enfreignent les directives régissant le droit d’asile.
      Malgré cet arrêt, le gouvernement de Budapest a refusé de modifier sa législation et a continué ces pratiques. « La Hongrie ne va pas céder devant la pression des forces pro-immigration », affirmait encore le porte-parole du gouvernement, Zoltan Kovacs, jeudi 28 janvier. « Bruxelles veut nous prendre le peu d’aide qu’on avait », a-t-il ajouté en réaction au retrait de Frontex, devenu inéluctable après l’arrêt de la Cour de Luxembourg. Pour M. Lederer, ce retrait est en revanche « bienvenu » : « La Hongrie ne pourra plus se cacher derrière la présence de Frontex pour continuer cette pratique. »
      Violences aux frontières de l’Union
      Avec un contingent censé atteindre 10 000 hommes, un budget pluriannuel passé à 5,6 milliards d’euros et son rôle de gardienne stricte des frontières, en association avec les forces nationales, l’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est l’une des pièces essentielles de la politique migratoire de l’UE et du « pacte » proposé en 2020 pour la Commission. Sa mise en cause, alors même qu’elle est loin de tourner à plein régime, est de mauvais augure.
      Jeudi 28 janvier, alors que les vingt-sept ministres de l’intérieur, réunis en visioconférence, évoquaient – en présence du directeur de Frontex – le dossier de la migration, l’Agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés évoquait un droit d’asile « menacé » en Europe et disait recevoir « de nombreux rapports » sur les violences exercées aux frontières de l’Union.
      D’où l’attention toute particulière que porte la commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, au dossier des « pushbacks ». La responsable suédoise se satisfait-elle des explications de la direction de Frontex, dont le conseil d’administration affirmait, le 21 janvier, qu’il n’avait pas trouvé de preuves de violation des droits de l’homme dans les cas qu’il a examinés ? « Sur la base des informations fournies », il n’aurait « pu établir de preuves ». Il a toutefois précisé que ses conclusions ne concernaient que certains incidents en Grèce et que des clarifications étaient nécessaires. Cinq cas problématiques de possibles refoulements impliquant Frontex sont encore examinés.
      Jeudi, devant les ministres, Mme Johansson a réclamé « toutes les analyses nécessaires » pour, dit-elle, rétablir la confiance dans l’agence. Elle a aussi évoqué un projet de réforme, incluant la nomination de trois sous-directeurs et la mise en place – enfin – d’un système de surveillance des droits humains.
      Le débat « recule »
      Au-delà du sort de Frontex, la question est de savoir si une définition d’une véritable politique migratoire européenne, avec une refonte des règles de l’asile et une solidarité accrue entre les pays, a une chance de se réaliser. Confirmant que le débat sur le « pacte » élaboré par la Commission « n’a pas beaucoup avancé », le secrétaire d’Etat belge à la migration, Sammy Mahdi, déclarait, jeudi, au quotidien La Libre Belgique qu’il fallait le rendre « rationnel ». Pour sortir les discussions de l’ornière, pour vérifier que la proposition de la Commission est opérationnelle et, enfin, pour que chacun annonce vraiment ses intentions, M. Mahdi propose « une simulation » : sur la base des chiffres de l’année 2019, chaque pays préciserait ce qu’il pourrait accomplir concernant l’accueil, la solidarité, le financement des infrastructures d’accueil aux frontières, etc.
      Un communiqué du secrétaire d’Etat évoquait une possible évolution de la Hongrie et de ses partenaires du groupe de Visegrad, à condition que soit satisfaite leur revendication (très floue) d’une solidarité « flexible ». Un participant à la réunion de jeudi faisait preuve de moins de conviction : « Faire avancer le débat ? Mais il recule ! » Vétéran des conseils européens sur la migration, le ministre luxembourgeois Jean Asselborn n’est pas loin de confirmer : « Nous sommes sans doute tous d’accord sur les contrôles aux frontières extérieures ou sur les retours. Mais pas sur la manière de respecter les droits humains des demandeurs d’asile, sur les relocalisations obligatoires ou sur l’impératif de solidarité » entre les pays européens. Les Etats prêts à respecter ces principes se compteraient, en effet, désormais sur les doigts d’une main.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/29/l-agence-europeenne-frontex-fragilisee-par-les-accusations-d-expulsions-ille

    • Refoulement de migrants : « Frontex se retranche toujours derrière ses États hôtes » (Migreurop)

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie après une décision de la Cour de justice européenne critiquant le système d’asile de ce pays. L’Office européen de lutte antifraude enquête de son côté sur la gouvernance de l’agence par son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri dont plusieurs eurodéputés demandent la démission. Frontex a-t-elle participé à des opérations de « pushback », initiées par la Hongrie, qui consistent à repousser des migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile ? Le décryptage de Brijitte Espuche, co-coordinatrice du réseau Migreurop.

      https://www.rfi.fr/fr/podcasts/invit%C3%A9-international/20210129-refoulement-de-migrants-frontex-se-retranche-toujours-derri%C3%A8re-ses

    • Frontex: Management Board pushes back against secrecy proposals in preliminary report

      Statewatch is publishing the preliminary report of the working group set up by the agency’s Management Board following allegations of involvement in pushbacks from Turkey to Greece. Amongst other things, the report indicates that Frontex has proposed labelling Serious Incident Reports as EU Classified Information, which would reduce transparency and, in turn, accountability.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim

    • Scandals Plunge Europe’s Border Agency into Turmoil

      Accusations of workplace harassment, mismanagement and financial irregularities have led to chaos at Europe’s border agency. The allegations weigh heavily on Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri.

      The men and women who are part of Europe’s new elite border force meet every morning at 9 a.m. for a video conference that is viewed on screens in countries like Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania. The Frontex officials usually discuss migration movements and human trafficking, But since the beginning of January, the internal meetings have focused primarily on low morale within the team.

      "Do something at last, or soon no one will work here anymore,” one border guard warned in one of the calls. The policemen and women who regularly complain about their woes are the European Union’s first dedicated border guards. They’re part of Frontex’s standing corps.

      For months now, Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency, and its head Fabrice Leggeri, have been embroiled in a series of scandals. Frontex has been accused of being involved in illegal repatriations of refugees at Europe’s external borders, workplace harassment and a possible case of fraud linked to the agency. Now the crisis has also reached the standing corps, the border management agency’s prestige project.

      Frontex plans to deploy up to 10,000 border guards to the EU’s external borders in the coming years. The civil servants were promised brand new equipment and EU jobs with lavish salaries and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally pushed for the creation of the standing corps. The stars of the EU flag sparkle on the sleeves of the new dark blue uniforms worn by the reserves.

      The job may sound glamorous on paper, but it is anything but in the countries where the reserve guards have been deployed, like Greece, Croatia and Albania. Several officers have told DER SPIEGEL of a shortage of agency vehicles, such that expensive SUVs must be rented instead — with officers allegedly even having to pay for gas themselves in some cases. They claim that expenses weren’t reimbursed for bureaucratic reasons, and that parts of the new uniforms were missing and had to be bought by the border guards themselves.

      The officers should be out hunting down criminals and catching smugglers, but Category 1 officers, who are directly employed by Frontex, so far haven’t been allowed to carry weapons because the agency failed to provide the legal basis for doing so in time. The result is that the border guards, supposedly members of an elite European force, have to be escorted on every one of their patrols by national security forces.

      When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex also said that the pandemic has created additional challenges for deploying the force, but things are back on track again. Yet the agency’s own officers don’t see it that way. It’s a "Potemkin reserve,” scoffs one. "It’s not worth it,” says another officer, who is thinking about quitting.

      The establishment of the standing corps is one of the EU’s most important migration policy projects. The purpose is to control irregular immigration. But now the European Commission and the member states must stand by and watch as it becomes the focus of ridicule.

      The fiasco over the standing corps has become emblematic of an agency that has been falling short of public expectations for years, and of an agency head who is accumulating more and more power but doesn’t seem to know how to use it correctly.

      Under Leggeri, Frontex has stumbled from one scandal to the next. Last autumn, DER SPIEGEL, together with international media partners, first reported that Frontex forces in the Aegean Sea were involved in illegal repatriations of refugees, which are called pushbacks. The Frontex Management Board is investigating the allegations and the EU Ombudsman has opened an inquiry. Leggeri himself is apparently obstructing the investigations.

      In January, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced it had launched an investigation into Frontex. Leggeri claims that the investigators are looking into the pushback reports and that he cannot provide any further comment. But DER SPIEGEL has found in its reporting that the accusations go much further. The investigation involves a possible case of fraud involving a service provider, allegations of workplace harassment and whether information was withheld from the agency’s fundamental rights officer, whose job is to monitor Frontex’s adherence to basic human rights laid out in EU charters, conventions and international law. Internal documents suggest that Leggeri’s entire leadership style is under scrutiny.

      What happened? How could the authority charged with protecting the EU’s external borders descend into such chaos? And what does it all mean for the EU’s migration policy?

      DER SPIEGEL, the media organization Lighthouse Reports and the French newspaper Libération interviewed nearly a dozen current and former Frontex officials in the reporting of this story. Most insisted that their names not be mentioned in the story for fear that they could lose their jobs. Leggeri, for his part, rejected an interview request.

      When combined with internal documents that DER SPIEGEL and its partners were able to view, the insiders’ reports paint a picture of an agency in turmoil.

      France Télécom: How Leggeri seized power at Frontex

      The headquarters of Frontex are located in an office complex in Warsaw’s Wola district, not far from the city center. For years, only a few officials worked here compiling reports on migration routes. Actual border guards were borrowed from national police forces.

      But the agency has grown from a budget of just over 6 million euros in 2005 to 460 million euros in 2020. By 2027, Europe’s taxpayers will have provided 5.6 billion euros in funding to the agency.

      Frontex now has its own border guards, called the standing corps, in addition to aircraft and drones that will soon be complemented by unmanned airships that will provide surveillance as they circle over the Aegean Sea. Frontex’s rise has had a lot to do with Leggeri, the man who has done more than anyone else to shape the agency.

      Leggeri, 52, was born in Mulhouse, in France’s Alsace region, and speaks fluent German. He studied at the École Nationale d’Administration in Strasbourg, a university that has long produced the French elite. Starting in 2013, he worked at the Interior Ministry in Paris in the department for irregular immigration. At the time, the government advocated for Frontex’s expansion, and two years later, Leggeri was named head of the agency.

      Colleagues describe Leggeri as a technocrat. At a Christmas party once, the team gathered around and he began talking with great pathos about the achievements of the "Frontex family.” But Leggeri was reading from his notepad. "It seemed like the whole things was out of his league,” recalled one audience member.

      During the course of Frontex’s expansion, Leggeri tailored the agency to precisely fit his needs. He expanded his cabinet, filling many important posts with fellow French compatriots.

      Frontex workers say Leggeri is on rarely seen in the hallways, and that all important decisions are made by a small inner circle. They describe him as being a control freak, with some former staffers even going so far as to call him a "dictator.” Leggeri "runs the agency like it’s a sub-prefecture,” says someone who has worked with him for a long time. "You may be able to run a French ministry that way, but not an international organization.”

      Frontex staffers have taken to calling Leggeri’s cabinet "France Télécom” when the bosses aren’t around. It’s a reference to the scandal at the French telecommunications authority, which involved systematic bullying and harassment so bad that it drove a number of employees to commit suicide.

      The resentment felt by many Frontex staffers is largely directed at one of Leggeri’s closest confidants: Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin. The Frenchman comes from an aristocratic family from southern France. He once worked for Bernard Carayon, a member of the French parliament, who used to be part of a far-right student union. De La Haye Jousselin is a reserve officer in the French army and has a thing for the military and uniforms. “De La Haye Jousselin is clearly on the right politically,” says someone who has known him for years. Now, he serves Leggeri as the head of his cabinet.

      Insiders say that de La Haye Jousselin leads with an iron fist, and that he is quick to lose his temper. Employees claim he insults people and engages in disrespectful behavior. The agency stated that Frontex has not received any official complaints about de La Haye Jousselin and also claimed that no cabinet member has been hired solely on the basis of their nationality. De La Haye Jousselin dismissed the accusations as "false and baseless.”

      But the behavior of Leggeri and his cabinet chief has consequences. Dissent seems to be frowned upon. And this is likely one of the reasons internal control mechanisms at the agency are becoming less effective.

      Inmaculada Arnáez has more than 20 years of experience in human rights issues. The Spanish lawyer has worked for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and she has been with Frontex since 2012. As the fundamental rights officer, she is supposed to operate independently of the executive director in her job as the agency’s internal watchdog. But when Leggeri took the helm in 2015, she quickly became aware of how little concern the new leader apparently had for human rights.

      Former Frontex employees report that Arnáez was left out in the cold. "We felt like Leggeri just bypassed her.” They claim that human rights had never been his priority.

      The final break between Leggeri and Arnáez came when the European Parliament granted the fundamental rights commissioner more powers in 2019. Arnáez was to be assisted by 40 human rights observers, which would have enabled her office to conduct its own investigations at Europe’s external borders. Apparently that was unthinkable for Leggeri.

      On Nov. 19, 2019, just as Arnáez was returning from an extended illness, the Frontex chief publicly advertised her position. In doing so, Leggeri had also bypassed the Frontex Management Board, since such a job posting requires the board’s approval. He had informed Arnáez only a short time before. In a written assessment obtained by DER SPIEGEL, the European Commission states that Leggeri’s move had been "plain and simply unlawful” and "could be considered as an attempt to discredit or weaken” Arnáez.

      The Commission forced Leggeri to withdraw the job posting. But the Frontex chief didn’t give up. He claimed Arnáez had to be replaced because she doesn’t have enough management experience to lead 40 employees.

      It seems likely, though, that the Frontex chief was mainly bothered by Arnáez because of her advocacy for human rights. Arnáez has repeatedly warned Leggeri against breaking the law. Colleagues say that she believed in the power of her reports. She regularly informed Leggeri about human rights violations in the Aegean Sea and recommended that he abandon the mission in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán legalized pushbacks in 2016.

      Leggeri ignored the fundamental rights officer’s reports and continued the operation in the Aegean Sea. He only withdrew his officers from Hungary a few weeks ago after a ruling by the European Court of Justice forced him to do so. When contacted for comment, Leggeri stated that he had always valued working together with Arnáez. He added that management experience is needed in the post because of the sharp increase in the budget.

      Leggeri still hasn’t hired the 40 human rights monitors to this day. When grilled by the European Parliament, Leggeri blamed the European Commission for the delays. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for the portfolio that includes Frontex, then accused him of having misled parliament.

      Arnáez has been on medical leave again since last March. The Frontex Management Board replaced her on an interim basis with Annegret Kohler, a German national who had previously worked in Leggeri’s cabinet. "It’s a clear conflict of interest,” says a Frontex official.
      The Pushback Affair: How Frontex Covered Up Human Rights Violations

      The walls of the Frontex Situation Centre are covered in monitors, with surveillance planes and satellites transmitting real-time images from border regions. From their desks, Frontex officers can closely monitor events taking place on the edges of Europe. “You can see how many people are sitting in a refugee boat,” says someone who knows the room well.

      A collection of images that appeared on screens here on the night of April 18-19, 2020, continue to occupy members of European Parliament until today. They come from a Frontex surveillance plane flying over the Aegean, according to several internal Frontex reports that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      Shortly before midnight, Greek border patrol officers intercepted a rubber dinghy just north of the island of Lesbos and transferred the 20 to 30 refugees onboard their ship. According to prevailing law, they should have then brought the asylum-seekers to Lesbos, where they could apply for asylum. Instead, though, they put the refugees back into the dinghy and then towed them back toward Turkey.

      Greek officials in the coordination center in Piraeus ordered the Frontex pilots to change course away from the dinghy. The Frontex team leader asked if there was a particular reason for the change in course. “Negative,” came the response from the Greeks.

      At 3:15 a.m., the Frontex plane began running low on fuel. The pilot took one last image, which showed the refugees alone at sea, a few hundred meters from the Turkish coast. No Turkish units were in the area, the pilot reported. The dinghy, he reported, had no motor and the Greek Coast Guard had sailed off. The refugees, including four children, were only rescued the next morning at 6:52 a.m. by the Turkish Navy.

      The Greek Coast Guard has been systematically conducting pushbacks for several months. They stop refugee boats in Greek territorial waters and sometimes destroy their motors before then towing them back toward Turkey. “Aggressive surveillance,” is the official term the government in Athens has come up with to describe the practice. In fact, it is illegal.

      Frontex regulations require Leggeri to suspend missions when he learns of rights violations of a serious nature or that are likely to persist. His forces, after all, are supposed to protect human rights. But Leggeri insists that he has no reliable information about pushbacks in his possession – despite the fact that DER SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have exhaustively documented how Frontex units were nearby during at least seven illegal pushback operations.

      During their operations, Frontex personnel are under the command of Greek border officials. Already last March, a Greek liaison officer ordered a Danish Frontex unit to abandon a group of intercepted refugees at sea, according to internal emails that DER SPIEGEL has reviewed. Nevertheless, Frontex decided nothing was wrong and closed the matter within a day. Later, in testimony he delivered before the European Parliament, Leggeri claimed the incident had merely been a misunderstanding.

      The pushback that took place off Lesbos in the night of April 18-19 was exhaustively documented by Frontex officers themselves. There is a strong belief “that presented facts support an allegation of possible violation of Fundamental Rights or international protection obligations such as the principle of non-refoulement,” reads an internal Frontex report that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      The case was apparently so sensitive that Leggeri took personal control over the investigation and did not, as was standard procedure, delegate it to his Fundamental Rights Officer. On May 8, he wrote to Ioannis Plakiotakis, the Greek minister of maritime affairs, a letter that DER SPIEGEL has obtained. In it, Leggeri voiced his concern and requested an internal investigation. The observance of human rights, particularly the principle of non-refoulement, is an “ultimate requirement” of the Frontex mission, he wrote.

      The answer from the Greek government is a smorgasbord of attempts to explain it away. Migration flows in the Aegean represent a “hybrid nature threat,” the response reads. Because of the corona crisis, it continues, it is more important than ever to prevent illegal border crossings and none of the migrants had requested asylum. According to an initial assessment by Greek officials, the letter claims, none of those on board were in particular need of protection.

      Legal experts see the Greek response as worthless. “The Greek Coast Guard without a doubt committed a human rights violation in the case,” says Dana Schmalz, an international law expert with the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. From her perspective, it is a clear case of an illegal pushback. It is impossible, she says, to determine if someone needs protection or if they are faced with danger back in Turkey on board a rickety dinghy. Individual proceedings conducted on land are necessary to make such a determination, she says. Furthermore, she continues, the Greek Coast Guard put the migrants’ lives in danger by abandoning them at sea in a dinghy without a motor.

      But Leggeri was satisfied with the report. The verdict: There was no pushback, there were no human rights violations. The head of Frontex silently buried the incident. “There have been several occasions when Leggeri has not provided us with adequate information,” says Tineke Strik, a member of European Parliament from the Netherlands.

      When reached for comment, Frontex said the Greek government had not ascertained any human rights violations. The agency has to rely on national authorities to investigate such incidents, Frontex insisted, since it is not authorized to undertake such investigations itself.

      Frontex officials are actually required to report incidents where they suspect that human rights violations may have occurred, so-called “Serious Incident Reports.” But such reports are hardly ever written. For years, Frontex officials have followed the example of their boss Leggeri: When in doubt, keep quiet.

      Insiders describe the rules as a kind of omertà, a code of silence. Hardly anyone is willing to risk their career or cause problems for their host country. In one case, an official even tried to prevent a Swedish colleague from submitting a Serious Incident Report, the head of Swedish border control told the Frontex Management Board.

      A German federal police officer is one of the few willing to dissent, though he has asked that we not publish his real name. On Nov. 28, 2020, his first day on a Frontex mission on the Greek island of Samos, an article from DER SPIEGEL popped up on his mobile phone. The story was about the Uckermark, the ship on which he was scheduled to serve that very evening. The article reported that the Germans had stopped a refugee boat on August 10 and handed it over to the Greek Coast Guard, which then proceeded to abandon the refugees at sea.

      The federal policeman went to his commanding officer and said he couldn’t participate in such operations and essentially said he didn’t want to be an accessory to any legal transgressions. Later, he sent an explanation around to his comrades via WhatsApp: “I have decided for me personally that I cannot tolerate the measures taken by the Greeks and certainly cannot support them.”

      His commanding officer responded a few minutes later: “The fact is that our actions are legal! Covered by the Frontex mandate.” He apparently was referring to the requirement to obey orders from the Greek Coast Guard.

      The German Federal Police does not contradict the man’s account, but when contacted, the force denied having taken part in any legal violations. The policeman himself, however, had a different view of the situation. He refused to take part in the mission, preferring instead to stay on land. He says he will never again volunteer to take part in a Frontex mission.

      Dodgy Business: How Leggeri Landed in the Sights of the European Anti-Fraud Office

      The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) always gets involved when there are suspicions that EU financial interests have been violated. And recently, OLAF opened an investigation into Frontex. On Dec. 7, OLAF officials searched Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, including the offices belonging to Leggeri and to Head of Cabinet Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin.

      Leggeri has yet to comment publicly on the investigation. According to members of the German parliament, the Bundestag, Leggeri testified before the Committee on Internal Affairs in January in Berlin and said that the inquiry had to do with the pushback accusations and that he couldn’t say any more. That, though, is at best only half true.

      DER SPIEGEL has learned that the investigation has a much broader scope than that. For weeks, OLAF officials have been summoning witnesses and interrogating Frontex staff members.

      One focus of the investigation is apparently a possible case of fraud. A Polish IT company sold the agency a business software solution that cost hundreds of thousands of euros, in part for the training of border guards. Frontex employees complained to their superiors, however, that the software didn’t work well. But the agency nevertheless paid most of the negotiated purchase price. According to documentation DER SPEIGEL has seen, employees informed management in 2018 that the inconsistencies in the case could amount to fraud.

      Leggeri, too, learned of the allegations, and an internal investigation was undertaken. “But according to EU regulations, the Frontex director is required to immediately report potential cases of fraud to OLAF,” says Valentina Azarova of the Manchester International Law Centre. Frontex declined to comment on the OLAF investigation. The Polish software company in question insisted that it has thus far correctly fulfilled all of its contractual obligations to Frontex. And the company is still getting contracts from the European border agency, some of them worth millions.

      The OLAF investigators are also apparently interested in suspicions of workplace harassment at Frontex. They hope to find out if Leggeri or his head of cabinet have yelled at or otherwise harassed agency employees. They are also investigating whether staff members were ordered to withhold information from Fundamental Rights Officer Arnáez and her successor – and if so, by whom.

      OLAF emphasizes that the presumption of innocence still applies, despite the inquiry, explaining that the existence of the investigation offers no proof that anything untoward took place. But there are apparently serious indications of personal misconduct on the part of Leggeri. The collection of questions being asked by investigators indicate significant doubts about his leadership style.

      In Brussels, some refer to Leggeri as “Fabrice Teflon,” with the Frontex boss having thus far survived despite accusations of mismanagement and allegations that his agency was involved in pushbacks. Now, though, the pressure has been cranked up.

      European Commissioner Johansson has more or less made it clear that she no longer considers Leggeri to be tenable in his position. “It has been difficult to keep track of the missteps,” says a high-ranking Commission official. “The priority must be on the long-term reputation of the agency. But it has been hard to reconcile recent actions with that aim.”

      It is not, however, up to the European Commission to decide Leggeri’s fate. That is a decision that must be made by the Frontex Management Board. The board is essentially made up of representatives from those countries that are part of the Schengen Area, with the Commission having just two deputies on the board. EU member states have always thrown their support behind Leggeri in the past. And many of them are likely pleased by the occasionally ruthless methods employed by Frontex to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing into the EU, believes Giulia Laganà, a migration expert with the Open Society European Policy Institute.

      The question is whether the Management Board will continue to back Leggeri once the accusations of workplace harassment and even potential fraud are made public. The European Parliament has already announced its intention to conduct a four-month inquiry into the agency, with the investigation’s mandate having been kept intentionally broad. Leggeri’s leadership style and the workplace atmosphere at Frontex are to be included in the inquiry.

      Even Leggeri’s own staff members in Warsaw have begun wondering how long their boss will continue to cling to his post. “OLAF is onto us, morale is down,” says one official. “I wonder why he doesn’t just leave.”

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/missteps-and-mismanagement-at-frontex-scandals-plunge-europe-s-border-agency

    • Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières, à nouveau mise en cause pour ses liens avec des lobbyistes

      Premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne, l’organisme n’aurait pas déclaré ses liens avec des lobbyistes de l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      De nouvelles accusations contre Frontex ont été lancées, vendredi 5 février, par la chaîne publique allemande ZDF, laquelle a, avec la collaboration de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), mené une enquête sur les liens entre l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      Des dizaines de documents, auxquels Le Monde a également eu accès, démontrent des infractions aux règles des institutions européennes sur le lobbying, un défaut de transparence et une absence quasi complète de préoccupation pour le respect des droits humains. Ce dernier point était déjà au cœur d’un débat récent sur le rôle du corps européen dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants, en Grèce et en Hongrie notamment.

      Dotée d’un budget en forte hausse (6 millions d’euros lors de sa création en 2005, 460 millions en 2020, 5,6 milliards prévus pour 2021-2027) et d’un effectif qui devrait atteindre 10 000 personnes à terme, Frontex, premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne (UE), effectue actuellement des missions de sauvetage et de surveillance, en appui des forces nationales. Elle lutte aussi contre divers trafics et participe aux expulsions des migrants irréguliers.

      Mais l’agence est, en réalité, en train de devenir un véritable corps de police appelé à se doter de nombreux équipements : armes, radars, drones, systèmes de vérification des documents et de reconnaissance faciale, véhicules, avions, etc.
      Profiter des opportunités

      Devient-elle, du même coup, une sorte d’acteur du secteur de la sécurité et de l’armement ? Et échappe-t-elle au contrôle démocratique, celui du Parlement européen notamment, qui, en 2019, exigeait de l’institution dirigée par le Français Fabrice Leggeri la mise au point d’un « registre transparence », conforme aux pratiques des autres institutions de l’UE ? Ce sont les questions posées par les investigateurs de la ZDF et de CEO, qui ont examiné les dernières années de fonctionnement de l’institution installée à Varsovie.

      Le registre, qui était réclamé par les eurodéputés, devait notamment recenser l’ensemble des réunions tenues avec des représentants des entreprises. Il est « en préparation », dit-on chez Frontex. Et il ne devrait pas satisfaire les attentes : en 2018 et 2019, indiquent des documents de CEO, 91 des 125 lobbyistes reçus par Frontex (soit 72 %) n’étaient pas inscrits au registre européen de la transparence, comme le veulent pourtant les règles fixées pour les institutions de l’UE.

      Idem pour 58 % des entreprises consultées. Sur une application créée pour centraliser les demandes de contacts, aucune demande ne leur est d’ailleurs formulée quant à leur inscription dans ce registre. Etonnamment, le service de presse de Frontex affirme de son côté que l’agence « ne rencontre pas de lobbyistes ».

      Il semble évident, pourtant, que le secteur de la défense entend profiter des opportunités offertes par le développement des missions et des moyens de l’agence. Le programme Horizon 2020 avait déjà affecté 118 millions d’euros au développement de la recherche en lien avec le projet de « Sécurité aux frontières extérieures » de l’UE. Un fonds avait, lui, été doté de 2,8 milliards d’euros pour la période 2018-2020. Et la nécessité d’équiper Frontex a évidemment aiguisé un peu plus les appétits des acteurs du marché mondial du « border control », qui enfle de 8 % chaque année et frôle désormais les 20 milliards d’euros.
      « Surveillance agressive »

      L’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est-elle sortie de son rôle en s’arrogeant un statut d’intermédiaire de fait entre l’industrie et des institutions européennes soucieuses de conjurer à tout prix le risque de nouveaux flux migratoires ? Serait-elle, même, devenue un acteur qui entend stimuler cette industrie, voire lui confier les rênes d’une politique à vocation essentiellement sécuritaire ?

      Avec son objectif de « faciliter la coopération entre les autorités de contrôle aux frontières, la recherche et l’industrie », Frontex a, en tout cas, multiplié les congrès, les rencontres et les « ateliers » où grands patrons, hauts fonctionnaires, mais aussi délégués des Etats membres échangent beaucoup. Sur des questions de technologie, de sécurité, de « surveillance agressive », mais rarement de droits humains.

      Déjà mise en cause pour avoir tardé à mettre en place un service interne chargé de la surveillance du respect des droits fondamentaux des migrants, l’agence n’aurait, en effet, presque jamais consulté le « Forum des droits fondamentaux » constitué à cette fin. Une organisation qui était membre du forum indique d’ailleurs n’avoir aucun souvenir d’un quelconque échange sur la question des droits et des libertés dans le cadre du lancement d’appels d’offres.

      « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », notent les responsables de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory

      Parmi les participants à des réunions, on a noté, en revanche, la présence de représentants de pays très critiqués pour leur politique à l’égard des migrants, comme la Bosnie-Herzégovine ou l’Australie. Des responsables du département américain de la Homeland Security ont été également conviés.

      « Les conclusions de tout cela sont extrêmement préoccupantes », notent les responsables de CEO. Ils déplorent une politique migratoire qui risque de reposer seulement sur une force de police armée et des techniques comme la surveillance biométrique. « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », relèvent-ils.

      « Nous vivons une métamorphose du rôle de Frontex. Il faut en prendre la mesure et s’y habituer », affirmait, vendredi, M. Leggeri, interrogé par Europe 1. On ne sait pas si Ylva Johansson, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, qui demande que la confiance en Frontex soit « entièrement rétablie », approuvera totalement ce propos.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/02/05/nouvelles-accusations-contre-frontex-l-agence-europeenne-des-gardes-frontier

    • PUSHBACK REPORT 2020

      VIOLENCE IS INCREASING – IN #2020 MARE LIBERUM COUNTED AT LEAST 9,000 PEOPLE ILLEGALLY PUSHED BACK

      #Mare_Liberum monitors the current human rights situation in the Aegean Sea using its own ships. As independent observers, we conduct research in order to document and publicise circumstances at the European border. Since March 2020, Mare Liberum has witnessed a dramatic increase in human rights violations in the Aegean, both at sea and on land. Illegal pushbacks, in which those fleeing and migrating people are pushed back across a national border, play an especially crucial role. Over the past year in particular, pushbacks have become an inhumane everyday reality for people on the move. Pushbacks happen almost daily at the Greek-Turkish border and in 2020 alone, we counted 321 pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with some 9,798 people pushed back.

      Although pushbacks have demonstrably been carried out at the EU’s external border for years, media attention has now increased notably, especially in recent months. News magazines such as Der Spiegel and the research collective Bellingcat have been able to publicly demonstrate how the Hellenic Coast Guard forcibly pushes those seeking protection back to Turkey, thereby violating international, European and national law. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, as has become all too clear, not only turns a blind eye to illegal repatriation operations, but rather actively and systematically participates.

      Within the framework of the annual report, we seek to adopt a perspective on pushbacks that looks at the long-term development of these practices at the EU’s external border. The comprehensive documentation of pushbacks forms the basis of the report and is an essential part of our monitoring work in the Aegean. Beyond the mere counting of pushbacks, our work also includes the collection of relevant information on the persons affected by pushbacks, practices by the responsible actors and related geographical data. We have gained deeper insights into these issues by conducting interviews with people who have themselves been pushed back at the Greek-Turkish border.

      https://mare-liberum.org/en/pushback-report

    • NEW REPORT ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE AEGEAN

      Since March 2020, collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea have been perpetrated with impunity.

      Legal Centre Lesvos’ new report contributes to the growing body of evidence, media coverage, civil society reports and other investigations which have documented how Greek authorities are deliberately and systematically abandoning hundreds of migrants in the middle of the Aegean sea, without means to call for rescue, on unseaworthy, motorless dinghies and liferafts. It is intended to serve as a resource for survivors of collective expulsions and solidarity actors.

      Following the Legal Centre Lesvos’ first report, the present report is based on evidence shared by over fifty survivors of collective expulsions, and underscores the widespread, systematic and violent nature of this attack against migrants. Beyond being egregious violations of international, European and national human rights law, this report argues that the constituent elements of the modus operandi of collective expulsions in the Aegean amount to crimes against humanity within the definition of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

      Despite overwhelming evidence of collective expulsions in the Aegean, the national and European response has been to turn a blind eye: failing to even attempt to hold the responsible Greek authorities to account, let alone other public and private actors directly or indirectly involved. On the contrary, the European Commission has praised the violent “border and migration management” practices implemented in Greece and underwritten its support with substantial financial and material assistance. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented Greece carrying out “official” deportations to Turkey, collective expulsions have conveniently served as an unofficial implementation of the “EU-Turkey Deal” and other bilateral “readmission” agreements with Turkey, which form part of fortress Europe’s border externalisation drive.

      There are only so many times legal and civil society actors can list and table such human rights violations and be met with deafening silence and inaction before this itself becomes evidence of Greek and European liability for collective expulsions as an egregious attack on migrants’ lives. Such inaction also reveals how migrants’ lives are increasingly treated as disposable, in a manner that has historically accompanied the commission of atrocity crimes.

      While the systematic violence of pushbacks in the Aegean is scandalous, it is also the logical endpoint of a dehumanising and punitive European border regime that has systematically obstructed access to territory and the right to asylum by prioritising and funding the ‘hotspot’ containment system, accelerated procedures, detention, deportations, border militarisation and externalisation through deals of questionable legality with third countries; as well as by prosecuting migrants and solidarity actors in a manner that successfully obscures Europe’s own violent, imperialist role in many of the reasons people migrate.

      The absence of serious investigations, let alone practical steps to redress violations are a clear sign that collective expulsions form part of a Greek and European migration policy: instrumentalising human suffering in acts of spectacular state violence for the purpose of deterring migration, at any cost.

      In this context, it is important to ask what justice might look like for survivors of crimes against humanity in the Aegean, many of whom experience ongoing psychological trauma and distress as a result of these crimes. Survivors who have been in contact with the Legal Centre Lesvos have spoken about justice in terms of being able to safely reach Europe. Justice for collective expulsions as crimes against humanity must therefore include safe and legal routes to Europe, as well as defunding, demilitarising and dismantling Europe’s violent border regime.

      https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2021/02/01/crimesagainstumanityintheaegean

      #crimes_contre_l'humanité

      pour télécharger le rapport :
      legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Collective-Expulsions-in-the-Aegean-LCL-01.02.2021-1.pdf

    • UE : Frontex accusée d’incarner l’« Europe forteresse »

      Soupçons de refoulements illégaux de migrants et de bafouement des droits fondamentaux, l’agence Frontex est dans la tourmente. Au point de diviser la Commission européenne.

      C’est potentiellement ce que les Anglo-Saxons appellent la « tempête parfaite », la « poly polémique » qui couve chez Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes.

      Entre les accusations de fermer les yeux ou de participer à des refoulements illégaux de migrants, l’enquête de l’Office anti-fraude sur des allégations de harcèlement et d’inconduite ayant poussé des responsables à quitter l’agence ou l’absence, à ce jour, de recrutement des quarante agents chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux, Frontex accumule les tuiles.

      Après l’enquête de la médiatrice européenne, qui s’est aussi penchée sur son cas, c’est le Parlement européen qui s’en mêle. Outre la mise en place d’un « groupe d’enquête permanent », les eurodéputés ont aussi refusé, fin de la semaine dernière, d’octroyer « la décharge budgétaire » à l’agence, nous explique l’élue belge Saskia Bricmont (Ecolo). « Chaque année, le Parlement a un pouvoir de contrôle budgétaire. Donner la décharge, cela signifie qu’on considère que Frontex a accompli ses missions, a respecté le cadre légal et a donc droit au budget suivant », explique-t-elle. En commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures, les eurodéputés ont donc décidé de reporter de six mois cette décharge, une décision qui doit être validée en plénière mais que « tous les groupes politiques » soutiennent, ajoute l’élue. D’ici là, il est principalement attendu de Frontex qu’elle recrute les agents chargés de défendre en interne les droits fondamentaux.
      Mandat et budget élargis

      Depuis cinq ans, le mandat de l’agence a été élargi considérablement. Ses effectifs multipliés. En 2016, Frontex se félicitait du fait qu’elle emploierait 1500 agents à l’horizon 2020. Elle devrait être à 10.000 d’ici 2027, pour un budget de plus de cinq milliards sur sept ans, contre une enveloppe annuelle de 19 millions il y a quinze ans.

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      Car pour Fabrice Leggeri, le patron de Frontex, les critiques trouvent bien leur source dans ce renforcement des pouvoirs de l’agence. « Pour la première fois, une agence cesse d’être un objet simplement administratif européen, mais a du personnel sur le terrain. C’est une responsabilité d’autant plus grande que nous avons l’usage de la force, sous l’autorité et le contrôle des Etats, et qu’il y a bien sûr des contrepoids, les droits fondamentaux. C’est tout à fait normal que cela suscite des réactions, parce que c’est inhabituel », a-t-il expliqué la semaine dernière lors d’un événement organisé par la Fondation Robert Schuman. « Il peut y avoir des retards de mise en œuvre de certaines choses, tout ne sera certainement pas parfait. Il faut utiliser cette période où il y a beaucoup de questionnements sur l’agence pour expliquer, faire de la pédagogie », a-t-il ajouté.

      A ses côtés, le vice-président de la commission en charge de la Promotion du mode de vie européen, Margaritis Schinas, a évoqué la tentative de « quelques milieux » de bâtir « un narratif qui affaiblit Frontex au moment où nous avons le plus besoin de l’agence. Ça, je ne l’accepterai jamais ». Un ton qui contraste avec celui de sa collègue aux Affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, qui a démenti fin janvier les explications données par Leggeri pour justifier le retard de l’embauche des 40 agents pour les droits fondamentaux.

      Selon le quotidien français Le Monde, François Xavier-Bellamy, chef de la délégation Les Républicains au sein du groupe du Parti populaire européen (PPE, conservateurs) du Parlement européen, a écrit à Ylva Johansson en évoquant de sa part une tentative de déstabilisation voire de procès politique envers Fabrice Leggeri.
      Pas en ligne sur le lobbying

      S’ajoutent à tout cela les accusations de relations troubles avec l’industrie de l’armement et de la biométrie (par exemple, la reconnaissance faciale), étudiées de long en large par l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) le mois dernier. Cette dernière estime que l’élargissement des compétences de Frontex et son besoin d’équipement neuf (y compris en matière de défense) ont été une aubaine pour ces industries.

      Entre 2017 et 2019, Frontex a rencontré pas moins de 108 entreprises pour discuter d’armes à feu et de munitions, d’équipements de surveillance etc. Contre dix think tanks, 15 universités et seulement une ONG. Dans les procès-verbaux de ces réunions obtenus par CEO grâce à des demandes d’accès aux documents, elle a pu constater que les droits fondamentaux figuraient rarement à l’agenda. « Sans surprise, il y a des chevauchements significatifs entre les entreprises qui font du lobbying à Frontex et celles qui bénéficient le plus des marchés publics » de l’agence, explique l’ONG.

      En outre, l’agence ne publie pas toutes ses rencontres et voit majoritairement (72 %) des représentants du privé qui ne sont pas enregistrés dans le registre de transparence de l’UE. Frontex s’en est défendu en répondant qu’elle ne faisait pas l’objet de lobbying, compte tenu du fait qu’elle n’est pas impliquée dans le processus législatif européen. Alors, acharnement ou véritable scandale ? L’enquête des eurodéputés devrait permettre d’y voir clair. C’est aussi l’avis/l’espoir de Fabrice Leggeri, qui a jusqu’ici résisté aux appels à la démission.

      https://plus.lesoir.be/358143/article/2021-03-01/ue-frontex-accusee-dincarner-leurope-forteresse

    • La droite française au secours de Fabrice Leggeri, patron de Frontex

      Le groupe #LR au Parlement européen critique la « tentative de déstabilisation » à laquelle se livrerait la commissaire Ylva Johansson à l’égard du directeur de l’agence.

      Le torchon brûle entre la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, #Ylva_Johansson, et la droite française. Dans une lettre au ton cinglant adressée vendredi 26 février à l’ancienne ministre sociale-démocrate suédoise et lue par Le Monde, #François_Xavier-Bellamy, chef de la délégation #Les_Républicains (LR) au sein du groupe du #Parti_populaire_européen (#PPE, conservateurs) interroge la commissaire. Et il parle de « tentative de déstabilisation », de « divergence de fond », voire de « procès politique » que la commissaire instruirait contre Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’agence des gardes-frontières et gardes-côtes Frontex.

      Ce responsable français est sur la sellette depuis des mois. Pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants (pushbacks) qu’aurait favorisés l’agence. Pour des retards dans le recrutement d’une quarantaine d’officiers chargés précisément de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux par les agents de Frontex. Pour d’apparentes réticences à se conformer à des règles administratives en matière budgétaire. Ou encore pour ne pas avoir souscrit à des obligations de transparence en ce qui concerne des réunions avec des lobbys et des responsables de l’industrie de la défense et de la surveillance.

      Le groupe socialiste du Parlement a demandé la démission du numéro un de Frontex

      Ce dernier point n’est pas mentionné dans la lettre de M. Bellamy et l’entourage de Mme Johansson semble, par ailleurs, considérer qu’il n’y a pas de quoi mettre en cause M. Leggeri pour ces contacts, dénoncés notamment par l’ONG #Corporate_Europe_Observatory. Sur les autres questions, en revanche, la commissaire a demandé des explications. Et le groupe socialiste du Parlement a demandé la démission du numéro un de Frontex. En décembre, la responsable de la direction générale des affaires intérieures de la Commission adressait, elle, une longue lettre à M. Leggeri, avec, à la clé, de nombreux griefs.

      Demande de preuves

      Les élus LR volent, eux, au secours du directeur et demandent très fermement des explications à la commissaire. Quelles preuves a-t-elle, interrogent-ils, quand elle accuse M. Leggeri de ne pas se conformer aux directives budgétaires, comme elle l’a fait le 22 février dans la commission de contrôle du Parlement ? Sans éléments incontestables, cela pourrait s’apparenter à une volonté de déstabiliser le patron de l’agence, estiment-ils.

      A propos des refoulements illégaux de migrants, les eurodéputés français endossent les explications livrées jusqu’ici par Frontex : sur treize épisodes douteux, huit ont été jugés conformes par un groupe de travail constitué par la Commission. Cinq autres cas sont encore à l’examen, sur lesquels Mme Johansson a exigé « toutes les explications nécessaires ».

      La Turquie est soupçonnée d’être à l’origine d’informations sur les refoulements illégaux de migrants

      M. Bellamy lui demande à son tour si elle a répondu à un courrier qui lui a été adressé en novembre par M. Leggeri, et dans lequel il réclamait des instructions claires quant à l’attitude à adopter à l’égard de la Turquie. Celle-ci, qui a orienté massivement des migrants vers la Grèce et la Bulgarie en mars 2020, est aussi soupçonnée par certaines sources d’être à l’origine d’informations sur les refoulements illégaux de migrants.
      « Reproches infondés »

      Le groupe LR, qui bénéficie du soutien tacite d’autres élus du PPE, exige, dès lors, de disposer de tous les échanges entre Frontex et la Commission. La lettre se termine par des questions sur l’éventuel désaccord entre la commissaire Johansson et Frontex au sujet des missions mêmes de l’agence.

      Relayant l’idée que la commissaire serait partisane des « frontières ouvertes » – ce qu’elle conteste – les eurodéputés lui demandent s’il y a, de sa part, « un désaccord de fond » sur la stratégie actuelle de la Commission von der Leyen, qui vise à garantir le « mode de vie européen » ? A savoir la maîtrise des frontières, la lutte contre l’immigration clandestine et la contribution à « la sécurité intérieure ».

      « En instruisant un procès politique au moyen de reproches infondés, vous prendriez le risque de violer les principes fondamentaux de l’Etat de droit, de salir des fonctionnaires intègres et loyaux, de fragiliser la cohérence de l’action européenne », conclut la lettre. Contacté dimanche, le cabinet de Mme Johansson a déclaré avoir reçu la lettre mais ne pas souhaiter réagir immédiatement.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/03/01/la-droite-francaise-au-secours-de-fabrice-leggeri-patron-de-frontex_6071549_

    • Un rapport d’enquête interne peu concluant sur le rôle de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      Le document présenté lundi s’abstient d’impliquer des membres de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et garde-côtes dans des incidents en mer Egée.

      Un long rapport, lu par Le Monde et présenté, le 1er mars, par un groupe de travail désigné par le conseil d’administration de Frontex, confirme qu’il ne sera décidément pas simple, voire pas possible, de démontrer que des membres de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et garde-côtes ont été impliqués dans des « pushbacks » en mer Egée, des refoulements illégaux de migrants.

      Ce document final, pourtant très attendu, n’apporte aucune conclusion déterminante. D’autant que, sur quatre des cinq incidents encore jugés litigieux (huit ont été classés en janvier), l’enquête se poursuit.

      Sur la base des informations qui lui ont été livrées, le groupe de travail, composé de représentants de diverses institutions européennes et d’Etats membres, formule quelques recommandations qui peuvent être lues comme des critiques implicites du fonctionnement actuel de Frontex. Il prône ainsi une amélioration des rapports et de la surveillance des missions, une utilisation systématique de la vidéo, la recension de toute possible violation des droits humains et la suspension de l’aide apportée aux pays qui ne les respecteraient pas.
      Situations douteuses

      Pour le reste, la liste des « incidents » qui se seraient déroulés entre le 18 avril et le 21 octobre 2020 ne mentionne que les soupçons, parfois lourds mais jugés insuffisants, qui pèsent plutôt, en réalité, sur les gardes-côtes grecs et la marine turque, qui agissent aux limites des eaux territoriales des deux pays. Embarcations chassées, menacées, remorquées : dans certains cas, un navire suédois ou un avion danois mis à la disposition de l’agence ont recensé des situations douteuses, mais le groupe de travail conclut qu’il semble « impossible de les élucider entièrement ». D’autant que ce sont les autorités nationales qui assurent le commandement des opérations.

      Le rapport tient à souligner cependant l’importance de la mission de Frontex, présentée comme la « principale garantie de frontières solides et protégées ». Il y est rappelé aussi que, grâce aux interventions de Frontex, 28 000 personnes ont été sauvées en 2019 et près de 3 000 en 2020, tandis que 10 433 illégaux et 84 trafiquants étaient arrêtés. A propos des incidents considérés comme des « pushbacks » par des journalistes et des ONG, le document invite à considérer qu’aucun décès, aucune disparition et aucune blessure n’y seraient liés.

      Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’agence, qui doit être entendu jeudi 4 mars par un comité spécial du Parlement européen, pourra se prévaloir de ces conclusions face aux diverses accusations dont il faitl’objet. L’Office de lutte antifraude (OLAF) et la médiatrice de l’Union européenne enquêtent aussi sur la gestion de l’agence, basée à Varsovie, tandis que la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, a réclamé toutes les explications sur l’action en mer Egée.
      Action de la Turquie

      M. Leggeri soulignera sans doute, jeudi, qu’il espère obtenir de la Commission qu’elle lui indique les lignes directrices précises qu’il doit suivre en ce qui concerne, notamment, l’action de la Turquie. Dans les considérations qu’il a formulées à destination du groupe de travail de son conseil d’administration, il rappelle d’ailleurs que les autorités d’Ankara entendent utiliser la migration comme un « levier politique » et il souligne que la Grèce se dit soumise aux « menaces hybrides » du régime turc.

      Soutenu entre autres par la droite française au Parlement, le directeur de Frontex transforme ainsi le débat sur le rôle humanitaire de son agence en une question géostratégique, et il incite la Commission à se positionner par rapport à l’encombrant partenaire avec lequel elle a signé, en 2016, un accord visant à réduire les flux migratoires vers l’Europe.

      Pendant ce temps, la Ligue hellénique des droits de l’homme, l’ONG Legal Centre Lesvos et l’organisation juridique Front-Lex demandent à Frontex « de suspendre immédiatement ou de cesser » ses activités en mer Egée, sous peine d’une action devant la justice européenne. Legal Centre Lesvos aurait documenté, depuis mars 2020, 17 refoulements de plus de 50 migrants entre la Grèce et la Turquie. L’ONG estime aussi que l’agence a enfreint le droit européen et violé la convention de Genève de 1951 relative aux droits des réfugiés.

      Frontex est aussi taxée de complicité dans la « détention sommaire de migrants sur les îles de la mer Egée dans des ports, des bus, des navires, des plages où l’accès aux procédures d’asile leur a été refusé ». Le 12 février, l’ONG allemande Mare Liberum faisait état, pour sa part, d’une « escalade inédite » des refoulements de migrants en mer Egée impliquant Frontex en 2020.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/03/03/un-rapport-d-enquete-interne-peu-concluant-sur-le-role-de-frontex-dans-des-r

    • Le patron de Frontex se défend devant les eurodéputés, Bruxelles maintient la pression

      Le patron de Frontex a souligné jeudi devant des eurodéputés qu’aucune « preuve » d’une implication de l’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants n’avait été établie par une enquête, mais Bruxelles a réitéré ses critiques.

      Le patron de Frontex a souligné jeudi devant des eurodéputés qu’aucune « preuve » d’une implication de l’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants n’avait été établie par une enquête, mais Bruxelles a réitéré ses critiques.

      Ce rapport interne, qui doit être examiné vendredi par le conseil d’administration de Frontex et consulté mercredi par l’AFP, n’a pas permis de « clarifier complètement » les circonstances de plusieurs incidents au cours desquels des refoulements de migrants auraient eu lieu. Il préconise d’ailleurs d’améliorer le système de signalement et de surveillance des missions de l’agence.

      « Il n’y a pas eu de faits étayés ou prouvés pour aboutir à la conclusion que Frontex aurait participé ou se serait livrée à des violations des droits fondamentaux », a déclaré son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri, devant un groupe d’eurodéputés qui a ouvert sa propre enquête sur ces incidents.

      L’agence est montrée du doigt depuis la publication en octobre 2020 d’une enquête de plusieurs médias l’accusant d’être impliquée avec les garde-côtes grecs dans des incidents de refoulement de bateaux de migrants à la frontière entre la Grèce et la Turquie.

      Ces accusations ont également entraîné une enquête du gendarme européen antifraude, l’Olaf, ainsi que de la médiatrice de l’UE.

      La Commission européenne, membre du conseil d’administration de Frontex aux côtés des 27 Etats membres, s’est montrée critique sur la gestion de l’agence, fustigeant notamment la lenteur du recrutement des officiers chargés de surveiller le respect des droits fondamentaux et des agents devant constituer le nouveau contingent permanent.

      Créée en 2004, Frontex a vu son mandat renforcé en 2019. Elle doit se doter d’agents en uniforme et armés, employés directement par l’agence, et non plus mis à disposition provisoirement par les Etats membres.

      Le directeur exécutif a notamment dit qu’un officier et 40 « moniteurs » chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux étaient en cours de recrutement et que 300 officiers du contingent permanent étaient déployés sur le terrain ou allaient l’être la semaine prochaine.

      La commissaire européenne aux Affaires intérieures Ylva Johansson a toutefois souligné que 700 officiers auraient dû être déployés en janvier.

      Elle a aussi estimé que les « clarifications » sur les accusations de refoulements n’avaient que « trop tardé », et que ce délai n’était « pas bon pour la réputation et la confiance » dans Frontex.

      « Une agence de première classe a besoin d’une gouvernance de première classe », a-t-elle poursuivi, se réjouissant toutefois d’« entendre que beaucoup de choses sont en train d’être réglées ».

      Si des eurodéputés à gauche ont demandé la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, la droite française au Parlement européen a quant à elle pris la défense du patron de Frontex.

      Dans une lettre adressée le 26 février à la responsable suédoise, le président de la délégation française du groupe PPE (droite) François-Xavier Bellamy lui a demandé des « justifications solides et vérifiées » à ses « accusations », dénonçant une « tentative de déstabilisation » du chef de Frontex et « un procès politique ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/fil-dactualites/040321/le-patron-de-frontex-se-defend-devant-les-eurodeputes-bruxelles-maintient-

    • Greece accused of ‘shocking’ illegal pushback against refugees at sea

      Lawsuit filed at European court of human rights says group were abandoned in life rafts after some were beaten.

      A lawsuit filed against the Greek state at the European court of human rights accuses Athens of a shocking level of violence in sophisticated inter-agency operations that form part of an illegal pushback strategy to stop the arrival of refugees and migrants.

      The suit, filed by the NGO Legal Centre Lesvos, centres on an incident in October last year in which a fishing boat set off from Marmaris in Turkey for Italy carrying about 200 people, including 40 children and a pregnant woman. The boat ran into difficulty in a storm off the south coast of Crete, leading the captain to radio for assistance.

      The legal case claims that in an operation of unprecedented size and sophistication, instead of helping the stranded people onboard, a Greek search and rescue vessel and two small patrol boats stalled the smuggler’s boat for five hours until speedboats carrying masked commandos arrived. Several passengers claim they were beaten in the ensuing incident.

      Those onboard were separated into two groups and taken to two large coastguard boats, where armed crews of between 10 and 15 men, most wearing balaclavas, searched them and confiscated belongings including phones, passports and money.

      The passengers were then reportedly forced on to several small life rafts, towed back to Turkish waters and abandoned at sea without food, water, life jackets or any means to call for help. By the time they were picked up by the Turkish coastguard, their ordeal had lasted more than 24 hours.

      “It was like watching a movie. The men from the speedboats jumped onboard screaming and shouting, they all had guns and knives and were wearing black and masks,” said Mahmoud, a witness from Syria whose name has been changed.

      “They began beating people with batons, looking for the captain. They punched me in the face and broke my glasses … I understand they don’t want us, but you could send us back to Turkey without the need for violence. When they cut us loose on the rafts we all thought we were going to die,” he said.

      The lawsuit claims the practice of “pushbacks” has become standard for the Greek coastguard since March 2020, when Turkey, in an effort to pressure the EU, told its 4 million registered refugees that it would no longer stop them trying to reach Europe as per a 2016 deal between Ankara and Brussels.

      Athens reacted by temporarily halting all new asylum applications and allegedly employing increasingly brutal tactics to dissuade people in Turkey from making the journey.

      Exact figures are difficult to verify, but rights groups and journalists have recorded hundreds of alleged pushback incidents over the last 12 months. In most cases, people trying to cross the Aegean have been intercepted and towed back to Turkish waters. They are then cut loose either in their own boats, after the Greek coastguard has disabled their engines, or on overcrowded life rafts.

      On several occasions people claim to have been pushed back after landing on Greek soil, and passengers have been abandoned on an uninhabited Turkish islet at least twice, according to reporting by Der Spiegel, Lighthouse Reports and the New York Times.

      In at least one case, the EU border agency, Frontex, is accused of covering up evidence of a Greek pushback operation.

      These collective expulsions, as they are known, are illegal under international law but not under Greek national law. The Guardian’s requests for comment from Greek officials went unanswered. Greece has denied illegality in the past.

      The incident in October stands out because of the reported level of violence involved and the size and scope of the operation, which would have taken hours to coordinate and involved eight Greek vessels and two dozen crew from different agencies.

      “‘Pushback’ isn’t even really the right term. It’s a decision by the authorities to deliberately abandon people at sea putting their lives at risk, with no means to call for rescue and no chance at all to claim asylum,” said Natasha Ntailiani, a Legal Centre Lesvos lawyer representing some of the survivors before the ECHR.

      “It’s a new and disturbing trend characterised by planned and systematic violence, which has increased over the last year in the Aegean region. Even search and rescue vessels and materials are now being used against migrants, which is a remarkable insight into the lengths the Greek authorities are now willing to go to.”

      Testimony from 11 complainants and dozens of pages of collaborating evidence – including geo-located pictures and video, GPS coordinates, and phone and message logs from the ship’s radio, passengers, the Alarm Phone hotline and the Greek and Turkish coastguards – painted a complete and damning picture of the new tactics, the centre said.

      The suit is the fifth LCL has filed at the ECHR in recent years to allege violations of migrant and refugee rights in Greece. Progress is slow, but the applicants hope the latest case will persuade the court that pushbacks, despite the fact they are now reportedly a systemic and regular feature of Greek border policing, are illegal.

      A decision at the court last year that Spain did not breach the rights of two men it expelled from the Melilla enclave on the basis they had tried to enter illegally “as part of a large group” sets a worrying precedent.

      In light of the judgment, Frontex has since asked the European commission if it can refuse to process individual asylum claims if people are travelling in groups, as is often the case in the Aegean.

      “I didn’t even want to go to Greece. We knew that they were harming refugees when they arrive, but it was shocking to experience the reality, which is that Europe doesn’t care at all about human rights and dignity,” said Yara from Damascus, whose name has also been changed. She said she had been traumatised by her experiences on the day the storm hit the fishing boat.

      “Despite all of that, I will still try again. I can’t build a life in Syria or Turkey,” she said.

      Mahmoud echoed Yara’s thoughts. “I got kicked out of Qatar because of the pandemic. I would rather have stayed there,” he said. “If there was a legal way to get to Europe I would take it, but there isn’t. I don’t want to make that journey again, but I will, because I have to.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/greece-accused-of-shocking-pushback-against-refugees-at-sea

    • Grèce : refoulements illégaux en Mer Egée

      En Grèce, les « pushbacks » ou refoulements illégaux de potentiels demandeurs d’asile par les garde-côtes grecs vers les eaux turques, se sont systématisés depuis un an.

      Le gouvernement grec se félicite d’avoir réussi à tenir une de ses promesses électorales : réduire le flux de migrants.

      La pratique est en infraction avec le droit maritime et l’obligation de porter assistance aux personnes en détresse en mer, mais aussi au regard du droit européen et international dont l’article 3 de la Convention des Droits de l’Homme stipule l’interdiction du refoulement des réfugiés.

      Informés, le Haut-Commissariat aux Réfugiés de l’ONU et des commissaires européens se disent “alarmés” mais semblent jusqu’à présent bien impuissants à faire respecter le droit d’asile par Athènes. Documentés et dénoncés par des avocats et des ONG internationales, ces refoulements illégaux révèlent des pratiques cruelles et cyniques. Mais rares sont les voix en Grèce à s’élever la voix contre ces renvois aux frontières de l’Europe.

      https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/102791-000-A/grece-refoulements-illegaux-en-mer-egee
      #Samos

    • Message de Claire Rodier via la mailing-list Migreurop :

      Dans une interview au Guardian, Gil Arias Fernández, ancien directeur adjoint de Frontex a déclaré qu’il était profondément inquiet de l’atteinte à la réputation de l’agence, de sa décision d’armer les agents et de son incapacité à empêcher l’extrême droite d’infiltrer ses rangs, dans un contexte de mouvements anti-migrants en Europe.

      –—

      Frontex turning ‘blind eye’ to human rights violations, says former deputy

      The former deputy head of Europe’s border and coastguard agency has said the state of the beleaguered force “pains” him and that it is vulnerable to the “alarming” rise of populism across the continent.

      In his first interview since leaving office, #Gil_Arias_Fernández, former deputy director at Frontex and once tipped for the top post, said he was deeply worried about the agency’s damaged reputation, its decision to arm officers, and its inability to stop the far-right infiltrating its ranks, amid anti-migrant movements across Europe.

      “Weapons are not needed for Frontex operations,” he said. “They are more of a problem than a help.”

      Frontex is experiencing the most acute crisis in its 16-year history. The agency is being investigated by the European parliament over allegations of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean and its head, Fabrice Leggeri, is facing calls to quit over allegations he misled the EU commission. Leggeri has strongly rejected allegations about the agency’s operations.

      Arias Fernández, 65, now retired, lost out on the top role to Leggeri in 2015. He admits he did not get on with Leggeri when they worked together for a year.

      “From the first moment I saw that he had a perhaps excessive eagerness to change things. Maybe it was to put his personal stamp on things,” said Arias Fernández.

      He said decisions made by one of the EU’s most powerful agencies had led to complicity in human rights violations.

      “Frontex pains me,” he said. “Especially for the staff, because they don’t deserve what they are going through. We saw the agency as an instrument to help the member states and the migrants. These events put a dent in all that effort.

      “I do not believe that the agency has proactively violated the rights of migrants, but there are reasons to believe that it has turned a blind eye.”
      Gil Arias Fernández. ‘Frontex pains me,’ he said. Photograph: Jose Bautista/Courtesy of Fundation for Causa

      In January 2015, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, several European politicians suggested the presence of refugees among the terrorists.

      When the media asked Frontex about any link between refugees and the Paris attack, Arias Fernández, a former police commissioner in Spain, told them there was no evidence.

      Arias Fernández believes this cost him the director’s job.

      The political pressure made the job a tough one, Arias Fernández said. “There is a lot of pressure on the part of certain states to put their people in positions of responsibility. Whether the agency is headed by a Frenchman or a Finn may determine whether there is more or less sensitivity to migration problems. The agency is independent, but ‘independent’ should be put in quotation marks because without a fluid relationship with the [European] commission, you have a hard time.

      “Operations have always been conducted unarmed and there have never been any problems. In operations where Libyan tribal clans smuggling migrants shot in the air to frighten the patrols, even there it was not considered appropriate to carry weapons. In this case, weapons are more a problem than a help. The proposal of carrying weapons came from the European Commission, which I do not know to what extent is influenced by lobbyists in Brussels.

      “There is no filter in the recruitment system. You cannot prevent people with extremist ideas from entering, unless they clearly express their position in favour of hate crimes, xenophobia and racism.”

      Arias Fernández pointed to the dearth of human rights training for Frontex officers. “But lack of information should not be used to justify certain things,” he said. “The incidents under investigation were carried out by Greek units following the instructions of their commanders.

      “When there are irregularities like this in operations, it is usually because there are instructions from the authorities responsible for coordinating the operation. The decision to turn back a boat with migrants is not taken by an officer but is an order from above.”
      A rescue boat escorts a dinghy with migrants from Afghanistan as a Frontex ship patrols off Lesbos in Greece. Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters

      He said he appreciated borders needed a certain level of security to know who was entering but added that immigration was vitally important for the survival of all European states.

      “I come to this conclusion because there are studies that show that if we do not resort to immigration and other incentives, the EU will have serious problems and the welfare state will be a chimera. We should learn these lessons. In the first half of the pandemic, migrants saved our bacon.

      “In Europe, movements that use populism are growing at an alarming rate, and the fight against immigrants is one of those arguments. States are excessively prudent in not touching this issue. The commission presented the new pact on migration and asylum, which contains no proposals for channelling migration through legal channels. They tried to satisfy all the blocs, Visegrád [Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia], southern states, northern states, and I fear that in the end it satisfies no one.”

      Arias Fernández said the lack of migrants being allowed into Europe would have a severe economic impact amid an ageing workforce: “Who will pay the pensions of the growing number of pensioners?”

      A Frontex spokesman denied the agency ignored migrants’ rights. “The executive director of Frontex has written several letters to the Greek authorities to address incidents that raised his concerns. Two inquiries, including one that was conducted by representatives of national authorities and the European Commission, have found no evidence of violations of human rights in Frontex operations in Greece.”

      The spokesman also denied that officers had always conducted operations while unarmed, saying: “Before this year, Frontex relied exclusively on officers provided by national authorities, who brought their own weapons to the agency’s operational activities. Today, Frontex has its own operational arm, the standing corps, whose core is made up of officers directly employed by the agency who require weapons for self-defence and to protect others.

      “Since Mr Arias left more than half-a-decade ago, Frontex has undergone a massive transformation that included a much bigger focus on cross-border crime, which means a greater chance that our officers may encounter life-threatening situations while patrolling the borders or performing other duties.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jun/11/frontex-turning-blind-eye-to-human-rights-violations-says-former-deputy

      #extrême_droite

    • Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads

      It is not a ‘one-off’. It did not take place six, twelve or eighteen months ago, and now things are better.

      It was just one of 491 incidents since March 2020, in which 14,720 men, women and children have been denied their fundamental human rights by a coastguard armed with assault rifles and behaving like a sea-militia ‘defending’ Greece against innocent, unarmed, and peaceful men, women and children attempting to find safe places to live.

      In the morning of 10 June, a boat carrying 31 people travelled towards Kos. Closing in on Ag. Fokas, on the south east side of the island, the boat was approached by several vessels from the Hellenic coast guard, and forced back towards Turkey.

      If anyone is wondering what a pushback at sea looks like, this is how it’s being carried out. And it is illegal.

      https://videopress.com/v/vPX3Vme3

      This shocking, immoral and illegal practice has become ‘normal’ in the Aegean Sea. Greece carries it out without let or hindrance, while the EU seems unable or unwilling to act.

      Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads.

      According to the Greek government and Frontex, this isn’t a pushback, but a ‘prevention of entry’.

      There are two major problems with this assessment. First, under international law, no country is allowed to ‘prevent the entry’ of men, women and children not suspected of any crime (as these people are not) and who intend to apply for asylum. Even if the people in this boat had not entered Greek waters, the Greek coastguard would have broken international law, by forcibly preventing people who wish to apply for asylum, from entering Greece.

      But in fact, secondly, these people had in fact already entered Greek water. It cannot be a ‘prevention of entry’ if people have already ‘entered’: it is a pushback. And it is absolutely illegal.

      In the video we can hear one of the officers on the Hellenic coast guard vessel ΛΣ150, say “everyone abide by the rules, because he’s filming”. It’s disturbing that this even needed to be said. First, because what would have happened had this person not had the presence of mind, and technology, to film? What would have happened then? How would the heavily-armed coastguard have responded to these innocent, unarmed people trying to exercise their fundamental human rights? Why did this coastguard, who noticed a person filming, need to advise his colleagues to abide by the law? What did he fear they would do?

      Secondly, the disturbing images we can see in this video are in fact not ‘abiding by the rules’. It appears the coastguard does not understand – or perhaps accept – the rules. This is a video of the Greek coastguard breaking the law, even as one member of the coastguard warns his colleagues not to do something even worse.

      Nor is this an isolated incident.

      It’s how the Hellenic coastguard – and in some cases also Frontex – have been operating for the last 15 months.

      We must demand that Notis Mitarachis, and Fabrice Leggeri, are held to account for their continued, immoral, unacceptable, and illegal activity in the Aegean Sea. We must demand that the EU – or if, as increasingly seems to be the case, the EU is unwilling – the wider international community takes legal action, now, to prevent the Greek coastguard, the Greek government, Frontex and the EU, breaking international law, and shaming the whole of Europe in the process.

      None of this is acceptable. None of it is even beneficial to either Greece or the EU.

      The time to stop this is now. The time to act is now. The EU can and must act. If it refuses, it is time for the international court to prosecute Mitarachis, Nea Dimokratia, Leggeri, Frontex, and the European Commission. Anything else is to further damage, and indeed make a laughing stock of international law, and all our human rights.

      https://aegeanboatreport.com/2021/06/28/human-rights-in-europe-are-at-a-crossroads

    • Communiqué de presse : Frontex a besoin d’une #réorganisation radicale

      Les députés du groupe de travail sur le contrôle de Frontex, sous l’égide de l’eurodéputée écologiste Tineke Strik, ont présenté aujourd’hui en commission des libertés civiles (LIBE) du Parlement européen, le rapport sur le rôle de Frontex dans le #refoulement illégal des réfugiés. Un des principaux enseignements est la nécessité d’ une réorganisation radicale de l’agence pour qu’elle respecte les droits humains.

      L’enquête menée par les eurodéputés confirme que Frontex a manqué à ses responsabilités en matière de protection des droits humains aux frontières de l’UE. L’agence avait connaissance de violations des droits fondamentaux commises dans des pays de l’UE avec lesquels elle coopère, et n’a pas réagi face à ces allégations. La direction de Frontex a sciemment ignoré les rapports des journalistes d’investigation et d’ONG, les avertissements internes du personnel et même les séquences vidéo dans lesquelles ces violations étaient visibles.

      Saskia Bricmont, députée européenne Vert/ALE, membre de la commission LIBE et responsable du rapport sur la décharge budgétaire Frontex, déclare :

      “En ne faisant pas respecter les droits fondamentaux aux frontières de l’UE, Frontex a failli à son devoir. L’agence a besoin d’une réorganisation radicale. Je salue le travail d’enquête mené par mes collègues : il est essentiel d’identifier les lacunes et les fautes afin d’y remédier au plus vite.”

      “Le rapport dévoile que Frontex était non seulement conscient des violations des droits fondamentaux, mais n’a de surcroît pas réagi de manière appropriée face à son obligation de prévenir les violations des droits humains. En dépit des différents signaux d’alerte provenant d’acteurs internes et externes, l’agence a fait preuve d’inactivité manifeste, voire de réticence à agir. Nous sommes particulièrement préoccupés par le respect des normes en matière de droits humains dans les opérations menées en Grèce et en Hongrie. Nous demandons au directeur exécutif de suspendre immédiatement les opérations en Hongrie et d’évaluer les opérations en Grèce.”

      “Il existe des signes clairs de mauvaise gestion : les rapports internes faisant état de violations des droits fondamentaux ont été ignorés, le recrutement des agents spécialisés dans les droits fondamentaux a été retardé et reste incomplet. Nous ne croyons pas en la capacité de l’actuel directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri, à résoudre les problèmes que nous avons exposés. M. Leggeri a induit le Parlement européen en erreur à plusieurs reprises et a encouragé une culture d’impunité, tout en continuant à nier l’existence des refoulements illégaux.”

      “Notre rapport exhorte le Conseil d’administration de Frontex à reconsidérer la position de M. Leggeri et de l’ensemble de la direction générale. Dans un tel contexte, la décharge budgétaire ne doit pas être octroyée à l’agence. Par ailleurs, il est temps que les États membres assument leur responsabilité commune dans la défense des valeurs européennes en matière de gestion des frontières et le respect des droits fondamentaux.”

      https://twitter.com/saskiabricmont/status/1415611092894724097

      Recommandations du #rapport :

      – Frontex ne doit effectuer des opérations conjointes qu’avec des pays qui agissent dans le plein respect des droits fondamentaux. Pour remplir cette obligation, Frontex devrait surveiller l’ensemble de la zone opérationnelle et enquêter sur tous les incidents ou autres indications de non-conformité.

      – Si un refoulement est signalé à Frontex, l’agence ne devrait pas seulement enquêter en s’appuyant sur les réponses des autorités gouvernementales, mais également vérifier les informations fournies.

      – La Commission européenne devrait conditionner le financement européen de la gestion des frontières au respect des droits fondamentaux par l’État membre concerné.

      https://saskiabricmont.eu/frontex-besoin-reorganisation-radicale
      #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés

      –—

      Réaction de Frontex :

      Frontex welcomes report by the Scrutiny Working Group

      Frontex welcomes the report by the Scrutiny Working Group and its conclusions which reaffirmed that there is no evidence of the Agency’s involvement in any violation of human rights.

      The agency has been working with the Parliament’s scrutiny group in an open and transparent manner, sharing information and receiving the MEPs during an online visit to Frontex. The agency remains committed to cooperating with the European Parliament.

      “I acknowledge the conclusion of Parliament’s fact-finding scrutiny and its recommendations. Frontex is a bigger, more complex organisation than a couple of years ago, so a system that was designed in the past needs to undergo further transformation. The report underlined the challenges of the Agency’s transformation in a more and more complex security environment,” said Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri.

      “We are determined to uphold the highest standards of border control within our operations. We will look into the recommendations and see how we can implement them to further strengthen the respect of fundamental rights in all our activities,” he added.

      Frontex has completed two stages of the inquiry into last autumn’s media allegations. Both an internal inquiry and the report by a special working group appointed by the Management Board (with Commission and Member states representatives) have found no evidence of any Frontex involvement in violation of human rights.

      The agency has already taken on board many of the recommendations issued by the working group, upgraded its reporting mechanism and reinforced its operational coordination centres to improve information exchange. It will continue working towards an effective and transparent management of EU external borders in full respect of fundamental rights.

      Recent events at the European Union’s external borders have shown that Frontex is an essential assistance for Member States and the whole EU in situations of increased migratory pressure. Our security environment is increasingly volatile and complex.

      Today, Frontex has officially launched its rapid border intervention at Lithuania’s border with Belarus and deployed standing corps officers and equipment to help secure EU’s common external border.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news/news-release/frontex-welcomes-report-by-the-scrutiny-working-group-0AQJWY
      https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1415654854412877824

    • EU border agency ‘has failed to protect asylum seekers’ rights’

      Author of European parliament report says Frontex agency’s director should resign or be sacked

      The EU border agency has failed to protect the human rights of asylum seekers, according to a damning European parliament report on the organisation.

      After a four-month investigation by MEPs the report’s author, Tineke Strik, told the Guardian, that Frontex “did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations”.

      Strik, a Dutch Green MEP, wants the agency’s director, Fabrice Leggeri, to resign or be fired, but the special cross-party group of eight MEPs, spanning rightwing nationalists to the radical left, that was convened to investigate Frontex has not made that call.

      Speaking before the report was released on Thursday, Strik continued: “We should consider in the end, can we have confidence in this executive director to really implement those recommendations [in her report] and really change it into a human rights sensitive agency? My group [Green MEPs], we don’t have confidence in him any more. We think it would be sound if the management board would draw the same conclusion and start the search for a new executive director.”

      Once an obscure EU agency, Frontex has become a central pillar of EU border management. After more than a 1.2 million people sought asylum in the EU in 2015, European leaders agreed to give the Warsaw-based organisation more staff and money, a point of consensus in the often fraught EU debate on how to manage migration. By 2027, Frontex will have 10,000 border and coastguards, while its budget has already increased more than 19-fold since its creation in 2006.

      But the agency has come under growing scrutiny over its role in alleged pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with dozens of human rights organisations calling for it to be abolished.

      Last year Frontex was accused of complicity in forcing back asylum seekers in breach of international law, after video footage emerged of one of its ships creating waves that drove back a dingy in the Aegean Sea crammed with people. That footage came through a joint investigation by Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said it had found six incidents where the agency was directly involved in a pushback in the Aegean or in close proximity to one.

      The committee said they had not found “conclusive evidence” that the agency was involved in pushbacks but concluded Frontex had failed to investigate such reports promptly. “As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduced the risk of future fundamental rights violations,” said the report.

      Strik said it was “pretty clear that [Frontex] were at least aware of what was going on” in the Aegean Sea. The agency’s investigations were “very superficial”, she said. “They asked for a response from the [Greek] government and when the government denied [pushbacks] the case was closed.”

      She said Frontex’s modus operandi was to rely on the word of the EU member state it was working with. “They end up asking the government, the host member state, and they almost always accept this response. Our conclusion is that Frontex did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations.”

      The agency had repeatedly failed to respond to reports of rights violations from inside the organisation and external organisations, the MEPs said.

      The blame is placed largely on Leggeri, a former senior official in France’s interior ministry in charge of illegal migration, who has been the agency’s executive director since 2015. He has been singled out for criticism for shoring up his own power base within the agency, while failing to recruit all 40 fundamental rights monitors as required by EU law.

      MEPs found that Leggeri had appointed 63 staff to his private office, a number that far exceeds the average. By contrast, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has 30 staff in her private office. “We contrast that in the way he acts with the monitors, only delaying and undermining, yet he provides for an amazing number of staff measures for his own cabinet,” Strik said.

      The MEPs concluded that Leggeri had delayed the recruitment of three executive directors required under EU law that might have checked his power.

      “That results in a complete lack of checks and balances within the organisation and of course we blame the executive director for that, but also the management board because the management board is overall responsible for good governance in the organisation,” Strik said.

      EU member states, she said, needed to make sure their representatives on the Frontex management board had the required expertise in fundamental rights and a direct line to ministers.

      “One of the problems,” she said, was that Frontex was conceived as a security rather than a rights organisation. EU member states found the agency reassuring: “[They] talk about threats at the border. They always call for Frontex. Maybe as reassurance for their own population, ‘we have secured your borders and we have made you safe’.”

      She said there was a perception inside and outside the agency that upholding human rights was in conflict with border control. “Some of the actors still perceive that when you start acting on fundamental rights, then you become less effective on border control … [Frontex] needs to do both and it’s possible to do both at the same time, so it’s a non-discussion actually.”

      The Guardian has contacted Frontex for a response to the European parliament’s report. The agency has always denied any involvement or knowledge of illegal pushbacks.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/eu-border-agency-has-failed-to-protect-asylum-seekers-rights

    • Frontex wusste von Menschenrechtsverletzungen – und tat nichts

      Monatelang haben EU-Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier SPIEGEL-Enthüllungen zu illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen in der Ägäis untersucht. Der Bericht ist eine Abrechnung mit Frontex-Direktor Leggeri – er soll belastendes Material vernichtet haben.

      Monatelang haben EU-Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier SPIEGEL-Enthüllungen zu illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen in der Ägäis untersucht. Der Bericht ist eine Abrechnung mit Frontex-Direktor Leggeri – er soll belastendes Material vernichtet haben.

      Der europäischen Grenzschutzagentur Frontex lagen Beweise für mutmaßlich illegale Pushbacks durch griechische Grenzschützer vor, die Agentur hat es jedoch »versäumt, die Grundrechtsverletzungen anzusprechen und zu verhindern«. Das ist das Ergebnis einer monatelangen Untersuchung des Europaparlaments.

      Eine Prüfgruppe unter Beteiligung aller Fraktionen hat untersucht, was Frontex von den illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingsbooten in der Ägäis wusste – und ob Frontex-Chef Fabrice Leggeri angemessen auf die Rechtsbrüche reagiert hat. Der Bericht der Arbeitsgruppe, den der SPIEGEL vorab einsehen konnte, liest sich wie eine Abrechnung mit Leggeri. Er zeichnet das Bild eines Direktors, der sich für die Einhaltung von Menschenrechten an den EU-Außengrenzen kaum interessiert und alles tut, um Verstöße zu vertuschen. Auf 17 Seiten listen die Abgeordneten seine Verfehlungen auf.

      Leggeri ignorierte sämtliche Hinweise

      Frontex habe öffentliche Berichte über Menschenrechtsverletzungen an den EU-Grenzen generell abgetan, heißt es im Report. Auch auf interne Informationen über mutmaßliche Rechtsbrüche habe die Agentur nicht angemessen reagiert. Leggeri ignoriere die Stellungnahmen und Anfragen seiner Grundrechtsbeauftragten und des sogenannten Konsultativforums. Diese sollen eigentlich dafür sorgen, dass die Agentur die Rechte von Asylsuchenden achtet.

      Trotz zahlreicher Berichte über mutmaßliche Rechtsbrüche in der Ägäis habe Leggeri nie umfassend erwogen, den Frontex-Einsatz zu beenden, oder überlegt, wie er die Menschenrechtsverletzungen verhindern könne. »Im Gegenteil, der Exekutivdirektor behauptet weiterhin, dass ihm keine Informationen über Grundrechtsverletzungen bekannt sind«, schreiben die Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier.

      Darüber hinaus habe Leggeri das Parlament lange Zeit nicht angemessen informiert. Bei seinen Auftritten im Ausschuss habe der Frontex-Direktor Informationen über einzelne Pushbacks verschwiegen. In mehreren Fällen seien Grenzbeamte davon abgebracht worden, Rechtsbrüche mittels eines sogenannten »Serious Incident Reports« an die Frontex-Führung zu melden. Selbst die Einstellung von 40 Grundrechtsbeobachtern, die die Grenzbeamten kontrollieren sollen, habe Leggeri erheblich verzögert. Sie seien noch immer nicht vollständig rekrutiert.

      Frontex machte sich bei Menschenrechtsverletzungen zum Komplizen

      Die Untersuchung des Europaparlaments ist eine Reaktion auf Enthüllungen des SPIEGEL. Gemeinsame Recherchen mit den Medienorganisationen Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat und dem ARD-Magazin »Report Mainz« zeigten, dass Frontex in der Ägäis in illegale Pushbacks verwickelt ist und sich bei griechischen Menschenrechtsverletzungen zum Komplizen gemacht hatte.

      Frontex-Beamte, darunter auch deutsche Bundespolizisten, stoppen in der Ägäis Flüchtlingsboote, bevor sie die griechischen Inseln erreichen, und übergeben sie an die griechische Küstenwache. Die Grenzschützer setzen die Geflüchteten anschließend systematisch auf dem Meer aus – entweder auf aufblasbaren Rettungsflößen oder auf Schlauchbooten, in denen sie den Motor entfernt haben. So stellen sie sicher, dass die Flüchtlinge nicht erneut griechische Gewässer erreichen können. Oft wenden die griechischen Beamten bei den Aktionen Gewalt an, stechen auf die Schlauchboote ein oder schießen ins Wasser. Bei mindestens sieben Fällen waren Frontex-Einheiten bei solchen Pushbacks in der Nähe oder in sie verstrickt.

      Pushbacks im Mittelmeer: Wie Frontex in Verbrechen verstrickt ist

      Griechische Grenzschützer schleppen Flüchtlinge systematisch aufs offene Meer zurück. Recherchen des SPIEGEL und seiner Partner zeigen, wie Frontex in die illegalen Operationen verwickelt ist. Sehen Sie hier den Film.

      In der Nacht vom 18. auf den 19. April zeichnete Frontex aus der Luft auf, wie die griechische Küstenwache Flüchtlinge auf ein Boot ohne Motor setzte und wegfuhr – ein klarer Rechtsverstoß, der die Menschen in Lebensgefahr brachte. Die Aufarbeitung des Pushbacks vom 18. April übernahm Leggeri persönlich. Dem Parlament verschwieg er den Pushback zunächst. Stattdessen stufte er den Vorfall nachträglich so ein, dass die Grundrechtsbeauftragte der Agentur fortan nicht mehr beteiligt war.

      Leggeri ließ offenbar belastendes Material vernichten

      Einer der brisantesten Vorwürfe im Bericht des Europaparlaments bezieht sich auf den Pushback in jener Nacht. Demnach wies Leggeri die Grundrechtsbeauftragte persönlich an, alle Informationen zu löschen, die sie zu dem Vorfall gesammelt hatte. Nach SPIEGEL-Informationen soll dies aus internen E-Mails hervorgehen, die die Abgeordneten einsehen konnten.

      https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/gefluechtete-in-griechenland-frontex-wusste-von-menschenrechtsverletzungen-u

  • Chrysochoidis meets Austrian interior minister

    Citizens’ Protection Minister #Michalis_Chrysochoidis on Tuesday thanked Austria for helping Greece secure its border with Turkey which tens of thousands of migrants and refugees tried for days to breach in March.

    Chrysochoidis was speaking during a meeting with Austrian Interior Minister #Karl_Nehammer in Athens for talks on security, migration and the novel coronavirus.

    “In #Evros in March, we, you and other Europeans moved Europe forward. We fought for a common cause: our borders,” Chrysochoidis said.

    “There was no hesitation about supporting Greece,” Nehammer said about the decision to send dozens of police officers to the border.

    “At this difficult time, European solidarity depends on actions, not just words,” he said.

    “We had to send a clear message to Turkey that no one will be left alone,” he said.

    https://www.ekathimerini.com/256205/article/ekathimerini/news/chrysochoidis-meets-austrian-interior-minister
    #Autriche #Grèce #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #Turquie #police #solidarité_européenne (sic)

    –---

    Ajouté au fil de discussion sur l’extension du mur dans l’Evros, car l’envoi de policiers participe aussi à la militarisation de la frontière :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/830355

  • Taking Hard Line, Greece Turns Back Migrants by Abandoning Them at Sea

    Many Greeks have grown frustrated as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished on Greek islands. Now, evidence shows, a new conservative government has a new method of keeping them out.

    The Greek government has secretly expelled more than 1,000 refugees from Europe’s borders in recent months, sailing many of them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and then abandoning them in inflatable and sometimes overburdened life rafts.

    Since March, at least 1,072 asylum seekers have been dropped at sea by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions, according to an analysis of evidence by The New York Times from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish Coast Guard. The Times interviewed survivors from five of those episodes and reviewed photographic or video evidence from all 31.

    “It was very inhumane,” said Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian teacher, who says masked Greek officials took her and 22 others, including two babies, under cover of darkness from a detention center on the island of Rhodes on July 26 and abandoned them in a rudderless, motorless life raft before they were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

    “I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” she told The Times.

    Illegal under international law, the expulsions are the most direct and sustained attempt by a European country to block maritime migration using its own forces since the height of the migration crisis in 2015, when Greece was the main thoroughfare for migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe.

    The Greek government denied any illegality.

    “Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities,’’ said a government spokesman, Stelios Petsas. “Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, conventions and protocols. This includes the treatment of refugees and migrants.”

    Since 2015, European countries like Greece and Italy have mainly relied on proxies, like the Turkish and Libyan governments, to head off maritime migration. What is different now is that the Greek government is increasingly taking matters into its own hands, watchdog groups and researchers say.

    ​For example, migrants have been forced onto sometimes leaky life rafts and left to drift at the border between Turkish and Greek waters, while others have been left to drift in their own boats after Greek officials disabled their engines.

    “These pushbacks are totally illegal in all their aspects, in international law and in European law,” said Prof. François Crépeau, an expert on international law and a former United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

    “It is a human rights and humanitarian disaster,” Professor Crépeau added.

    Greeks were once far more understanding of the plight of migrants. But many have grown frustrated and hostile after a half-decade in which other European countries offered Greece only modest assistance as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished in squalid camps on overburdened Greek islands.

    Since the election last year of a new conservative government under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece has taken a far harder line against the migrants — often refugees from the war in Syria — who push off Turkish shores for Europe.

    The harsher approach comes as tensions have mounted with Turkey, itself burdened with 3.6 million refugees from the Syrian war, far more than any other nation.

    Greece believes that Turkey has tried to weaponize the migrants to increase pressure on Europe for aid and assistance in the Syrian War. But it has also added pressure on Greece at a time when the two nations and others spar over contested gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

    For several days in late February and early March, the Turkish authorities openly bused thousands of migrants to the Greek land border in a bid to set off a confrontation, leading to the shooting of at least one Syrian refugee and the immediate extrajudicial expulsions of hundreds of migrants who made it to Greek territory.

    For years, Greek officials have been accused of intercepting and expelling migrants, on a sporadic and infrequent basis, usually before the migrants manage to land their boats on Greek soil.

    But experts say Greece’s behavior during the pandemic has been far more systematic and coordinated. Hundreds of migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum even after they have landed on Greek soil, and they’ve been forbidden to appeal their expulsion through the legal system.

    “They’ve seized the moment,” Professor Crépeau said of the Greeks. “The coronavirus has provided a window of opportunity to close national borders to whoever they’ve wanted.”

    Emboldened by the lack of sustained criticism from the European Union, where the migration issue has roiled politics, Greece has hardened its approach in the eastern Mediterranean in recent months.

    Migrants landing on the Greek islands from Turkey have frequently been forced onto sometimes leaky, inflatable life rafts, dropped at the boundary between Turkish and Greek waters, and left to drift until being spotted and rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

    “This practice is totally unprecedented in Greece,” said Niamh Keady-Tabbal, a doctoral researcher at the Irish Center for Human Rights, and one of the first to document the phenomenon.

    “Greek authorities are now weaponizing rescue equipment to illegally expel asylum seekers in a new, violent and highly visible pattern of pushbacks spanning several Aegean Islands,” Ms. Keady-Tabbal said.

    Ms. al-Khatib, who recounted her ordeal for The Times, said she entered Turkey last November with her two sons, 14 and 12, fleeing the advance of the Syrian Army. Her husband, who had entered several weeks earlier, soon died of cancer, Ms. al-Khatib said.

    With few prospects in Turkey, the family tried to reach Greece by boat three times this summer, failing once in May because their smuggler did not show up, and a second time in June after being intercepted in Greek waters and towed back to the Turkish sea border, she said.

    On their third attempt, on July 23 at around 7 a.m., they landed on the Greek island of Rhodes, Ms. al-Khatib said, an account corroborated by four other passengers interviewed by The Times. They were detained by Greek police officers and taken to a small makeshift detention facility after handing over their identification documents.

    Using footage filmed at this site by two passengers, a Times reporter was able to identify the facility’s location beside the island’s main ferry port and visit the camp.

    A Coast Guard officer and an official at the island’s mayoralty both said the site falls under the jurisdiction of the Port Police, an arm of the Hellenic Coast Guard.

    A Palestinian refugee, living in a disused slaughterhouse beside the camp, confirmed that Ms. al-Khatib had been there, recounting how he had spoken to her through the camp’s fence and bought her tablets to treat her hypertension, which Greek officials had refused to supply her.

    On the evening of July 26, Ms. al-Khatib and the other detainees said that police officers had loaded them onto a bus, telling them they were being taken to a camp on another island, and then to Athens.

    Instead, masked Greek officials transferred them to two vessels that ferried them out to sea before dropping them on rafts at the Turkish maritime border, she and other survivors said.

    Amid choppy waves, the group, which included two babies, was forced to drain the raft using their hands as water slopped over the side, they said.

    The group was rescued at 4:30 a.m. by the Turkish Coast Guard, according to a report by the Coast Guard that included a photograph of Ms. al-Khatib as she left the life raft.

    Ms. al-Khatib tried to reach Greece for a fourth time, on Aug. 6, but said her boat was stopped off the island of Lesbos by Greek officials, who removed its fuel and towed it back to Turkish waters.

    Some groups of migrants have been transferred to the life rafts even before landing on Greek soil.

    On May 13, Amjad Naim, a 24-year-old Palestinian law student, was among a group of 30 migrants intercepted by Greek officials as they approached the shores of Samos, a Greek island close to Turkey.

    The migrants were quickly transferred to two small life rafts that began to deflate under the weight of so many people, Mr. Naim said. Transferred to two other rafts, they were then towed back toward Turkey.

    Videos captured by Mr. Naim on his phone show the two rafts being tugged across the sea by a large white vessel. Footage subsequently published by the Turkish Coast Guard shows the same two rafts being rescued by Turkish officials later in the day.

    Migrants have also been left to drift in the boats they arrived on, after Greek officials disabled their engines, survivors and researchers say. And on at least two occasions, migrants have been abandoned on Ciplak, an uninhabited island within Turkish waters, instead of being placed on life rafts.

    “Eventually the Turkish Coast Guard came to fetch us,” said one Palestinian survivor who was among a group abandoned on Ciplak in early July, and who sent videos of their time on the island. A report from the Turkish Coast Guard corroborated his account.

    In parallel, several rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have documented how the Greek authorities have rounded up migrants living legally in Greece and secretly expelled them without legal recourse across the Evros River, which divides mainland Greece from Turkey.

    Feras Fattouh, a 30-year-old Syrian X-ray technician, said he was arrested by the Greek police on July 24 in Igoumenitsa, a port in western Greece. Mr. Fattouh had been living legally in Greece since November 2019 with his wife and son, and showed The Times documents to prove it.

    But after being detained by the police in Igoumenitsa, Mr. Fattouh said, he was robbed and driven about 400 miles east to the Turkish border, before being secretly put on a dinghy with 18 others and sent across the river to Turkey. His wife and son remain in Greece.

    “Syrians are suffering in Turkey,” Mr. Fattouh said. “We’re suffering in Greece. Where are we supposed to go?”

    Ylva Johansson, who oversees migration policy at the European Commission, the civil service for the European Union, said she was concerned by the accusations but had no power to investigate them.

    “We cannot protect our European border by violating European values and by breaching people’s rights,” Ms. Johansson said in an email. “Border control can and must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental rights.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/world/europe/greece-migrants-abandoning-sea.html?searchResultPosition=1

    #Grèce #refoulement #refoulements #expulsions #Evros #îles #Turquie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-back

    –—

    sur les refoulements dans la région de l’Evros (à partir de 2018), voir aussi :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/710720

    • Message de l’Aegean Boat Report, 12.08.2020 :

      57 people that arrived on two boats on Lesvos north yesterday seems to have disappeared, port police on Lesvos claims there was no arrivals.
      First boat arrived on a Korakas, Lesvos north during the night, locals in the area claims to have heard gunshots coming from Korakas. The boat was carrying 24 people, 7 was picked up by police on arrival location, the rest, 17 people managed to flee to the woods in the dark. Later in the day, the rest was found by port police, transported from the area in a minivan. Question is, where did port police take them? They are not registered as arrived anywhere, neither the quarantine camp in the north or south has any new arrivals registered.
      Second boat landed in Gavathas, Lesvos north west before first light, carrying 33 people. Locals in the area reported on the new arrivals, also these people were taken away by port police, nobody has seen them since, they are not registered anywhere on Lesvos.
      Port police on Lesvos claims that there has been no new arrivals at all yesterday in the north, and that anyone saying otherwise is pushing “fake news”. There are no reports in any local newspaper on arrivals from Lesvos north yesterday, only one boat carrying 55 people that landed in Skala Mistegnon last night.
      Aegean Boat Report has received documentation that proves that these people actually arrived, there is no question about it! Videos, pictures and location data proves that they where there, question is where did port police take them, and why are they not registered anywhere?
      Yesterday before sundown Turkish coast guard picked up 57 people from two life rafts drifting outside Bademli, Turkey. From pictures posted by TCG, Aegean Boat Report has identified 4 people that also are in pictures and videos that ABR received from Korakas yesterday morning, the identification is 100%.
      There is no doubt that the people from the two boats that landed on Lesvos north yesterday was illegal deported by the Greek Coast Guard. They where taken from safety on land on Lesvos, and put back in the sea in life rafts, helplessly drifting, what kind of people would put children adrift at sea, how can they sleep at night.. This is not human behavior, not even animals would be this cruel!
      Many of Aegean Boat Report’s followers have in the past asked “what can we do?”, “how can we stop this?”, and the usual reply was, you can spread the news, share the info. It’s obviously not enough, now the gloves are off, it’s time to take action in a more direct way!
      Aegean Boat Report call’s upon all followers to participate, to make your voice heard, together this voice can make a difference! Pick up your phone and call the port authority of Mytilíni, Lesvos, and demand answers! They will deny any involvement in illegal activities, but we know they are lying!
      Port police Mytilini: +30 2251 040827
      (Number is open 24/7)
      We need them to understand that we don’t tolerate this any longer, and that there are many people all over the world that are watching what they are doing. One call will not change anything, but if 100 people call, 1000 people, perhaps they will start to understand that we do not tolerate this any longer!
      To call any public authority number is a common right, without any conditions or clauses, it’s fully legal activity that can be taken by anyone without any legal consequences. ABR has consulted Greek lawyers on the matter, and it’s totally legal. But ABR ask you to stay clear of all Emergancy channel’s, don’t flood European Emergancy numbers, only use numbers provided her!
      Aegean Boat Report will from now on, in every case regarding pushbacks and other illegal activities, publish the Port Police number of the area the incident has taken place, so that people can call to demand answers. The more people that calls these numbers, asking questions, the better. At some point they will understand that we will not stop before they do!
      These violations of international laws and human rights has been going on for to long, blessed and financed by Europe. The presence of NATO and FRONTEX is massive in the Aegean Sea, they all know what is going on every single day, but they do nothing, they just watch.
      It’s time we make them listen, it’s time to step up and demand answers, it’s time for YOU to take action!!
      Call port police of Mytilíni, tell them how you feel, make your voice heard!
      Port police Mytilini: +30 2251 040827
      Please share this post as much as possible!

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/895342667655505

      #Frontex #OTAN #NATO

  • OP-ed : La guerre faite aux migrants à la frontière grecque de l’Europe par #Vicky_Skoumbi

    La #honte de l’Europe : les #hotspots aux îles grecques
    Devant les Centres de Réception et d’Identification des îles grecques, devant cette ‘ignominie à ciel ouvert’ que sont les camps de Moria à Lesbos et de Vathy à Samos, nous sommes à court de mots ; en effet il est presque impossible de trouver des mots suffisamment forts pour dire l’horreur de l’enfermement dans les hot-spots d’hommes, femmes et enfants dans des conditions abjectes. Les hot-spots sont les Centres de Réception et d’Identification (CIR en français, RIC en anglais) qui ont été créés en 2015 à la demande de l’UE en Italie et en Grèce et plus particulièrement dans les îles grecques de Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros et Kos, afin d’identifier et enregistrer les personnes arrivantes. L’approche ‘hot-spots’ introduite par l’UE en mai 2015 était destinée à ‘faciliter’ l’enregistrement des arrivants en vue d’une relocalisation de ceux-ci vers d’autres pays européens que ceux de première entrée en Europe. Force est de constater que, pendant ces cinq années de fonctionnement, ils n’ont servi que le but contraire de celui initialement affiché, à savoir le confinement de personnes par la restriction géographique voire par la détention sur place.

    Actuellement, dans ces camps, des personnes vulnérables, fuyant la guerre et les persécutions, fragilisées par des voyages longs et éprouvants, parmi lesquels se trouvent des victimes de torture ou de naufrage, sont obligées de vivre dans une promiscuité effroyable et dans des conditions inhumaines. En fait, trois quart jusqu’à quatre cinquième des personnes confinées dans les îles grecques appartiennent à des catégories reconnues comme vulnérables, même aux yeux de critères stricts de vulnérabilité établis par l’UE et la législation grecque[1], tandis qu’un tiers des résidents des camps de Moria et de Vathy sont des enfants, qui n’ont aucun accès à un circuit scolaire. Les habitants de ces zones de non-droit que sont les hot-spots, passent leurs journées à attendre dans des files interminables : attendre pour la distribution d’une nourriture souvent avariée, pour aller aux toilettes, pour se laver, pour voir un médecin. Ils sont pris dans un suspens du temps, sans aucune perspective d’avenir de sorte que plusieurs d’entre eux finissent par perdre leurs repères au détriment de leur équilibre mental et de leur santé.

    Déjà avant l’épidémie de Covid 19, plusieurs organismes internationaux comme le UNHCR[2] avaient dénoncé les conditions indignes dans lesquelles étaient obligées de vivre les demandeurs d’asile dans les hot-spots, tandis que des ONG comme MSF[3] et Amnesty International[4] avaient à plusieurs reprises alerté sur le risque que représentent les conditions sanitaires si dégradées, en y pointant une situation propice au déclenchement des épidémies. De son côté, Jean Ziegler, dans son livre réquisitoire sorti en début 2020, désignait le camp de #Moria, le hot-spot de Lesbos, comme la ‘honte de l’Europe’[5].

    Début mars 2020, 43.000 personnes étaient bloquées dans les îles dont 20.000 à Moria et 7.700 à Samos pour une capacité d’accueil de 2.700 et 650 respectivement[6]. Avec les risques particulièrement accrus de contamination, à cause de l’impossibilité de respecter la distanciation sociale et les mesures d’hygiène, on aurait pu s’attendre à ce que des mesures urgentes de décongestion de ces camps soient prises, avec des transferts massifs vers la Grèce continentale et l’installation dans des logements touristiques vides. A vrai dire c’était l’évacuation complète de camps si insalubres qui s’imposait, mais étant donné la difficulté de trouver dans l’immédiat des alternatives d’hébergement pour 43.000 personnes, le transfert au moins des plus vulnérables à des structures plus petites offrant la possibilité d’isolement- comme les hôtels et autres logements touristiques vides dans le continent- aurait été une mesure minimale de protection. Au lieu de cela, le gouvernement Mitsotakis a décidé d’enfermer les résidents des camps dans les îles dans des conditions inhumaines, sans qu’aucune mesure d’amélioration des conditions sanitaires ne soit prévue[7].

    Car, les mesures prises le 17 mars par le gouvernement pour empêcher la propagation du virus dans les camps, consistaient uniquement en une restriction des déplacements au strict minimum nécessaire et même en deça de celui-ci : une seule personne par famille aura désormais le droit de sortir du camp pour faire des courses entre 7 heures et 19 heures, avec une autorisation fournie par la police, le nombre total de personnes ayant droit de sortir par heure restant limité. Parallèlement l’entrée des visiteurs a été interdite et celle des travailleurs humanitaires strictement limitée à ceux assurant des services vitaux. Une mesure supplémentaire qui a largement contribué à la détérioration de la situation des réfugiés dans les camps, a été la décision du ministère d’arrêter de créditer de fonds leur cartes prépayés (cash cards ) afin d’éviter toute sortie des camps, laissant ainsi les résidents des hot-spots dans l’impossibilité de s’approvisionner avec des produits de première nécessité et notamment de produits d’hygiène. Remarquez que ces mesures sont toujours en vigueur pour les hot-spots et toute autre structure accueillant des réfugiés et des migrants en Grèce, en un moment où toute restriction de mouvement a été déjà levée pour la population grecque. En effet, après une énième prolongation du confinement dans les camps, les mesures de restriction de mouvement ont été reconduites jusqu’au 5 juillet, une mesure d’autant plus discriminatoire que depuis cinq semaines déjà les autres habitants du pays ont retrouvé une entière liberté de mouvement. Etant donné qu’aucune donnée sanitaire ne justifie l’enfermement dans les hot-spots où pas un seul cas n’a été détecté, cette extension de restrictions transforme de facto les Centres de Réception et Identification (RIC) dans les îles en centres fermés ou semi-fermés, anticipant ainsi à la création de nouveaux centres fermés, à la place de hot-spots actuels –voir ici et ici. Il est fort à parier que le gouvernement va étendre de prolongation en prolongation le confinement de RIC pendant au moins toute la période touristique, ce qui risque de faire monter encore plus la tension dans les camps jusqu’à un niveau explosif.

    Ainsi les demandeurs d’asile ont été – et continuent toujours à être – obligés de vivre toute la période de l’épidémie, dans une très grande promiscuité et dans des conditions sanitaires qui suscitaient déjà l’effroi bien avant la menace du Covid-19[8]. Voyons de plus près quelles conditions de vie règnent dans ce drôle de ‘chez soi’, auquel le Ministre grec de la politique migratoire invitait les réfugiés à y passer une période de confinement sans cesse prolongée, en présentant le « Stay in camps » comme le strict équivalent du « Stay home », pour les citoyens grecs. Dans l’extension « hors les murs » du hotspot de Moria, vers l’oliveraie, repartie en Oliveraie I, II et III, il y a des quartiers où il n’existe qu’un seul robinet d’eau pour 1 500 personnes, ce qui rend le respect de règles d’hygiène absolument impossible. Dans le camp de Moria il n’y a qu’une seule toilette pour 167 personnes et une douche pour 242, alors que dans l’Oliveraie, 5 000 personnes n’ont aucun accès à l’électricité, à l’eau et aux toilettes. Selon le directeur des programmes de Médecins sans Frontières, Apostolos Veizis, au hot-spot de Samos à Vathy, il n’y a qu’une seule toilette pour 300 personnes, tandis que l’organisation MSF a installé 80 toilettes et elle fournit 60 000 litres d’eau par jour pour couvrir, ne serait-ce que partiellement- les besoins de résidents à l’extérieur du camp.

    Avec la restriction drastique de mouvement contre le Covid-19, non seulement les sorties du camp, même pour s’approvisionner ou pour aller consulter, étaient faites au compte-goutte, mais aussi les entrées, limitant ainsi dramatiquement les services que les ONG et les collectifs solidaires offraient aux réfugiés. La réduction du nombre des ONG et l’absence de solidaires a créé un manque cruel d’effectifs qui s’est traduit par une désorganisation complète de divers services et notamment de la distribution de la nourriture. Ainsi, dans le camp de Moria en pleine pandémie, ont eu lieu des scènes honteuses de bousculade effroyable où les réfugiés étaient obligés de se battre pour une portion de nourriture- voir la vidéo et l’article de quotidien grec Ephimérida tôn Syntaktôn. Ces scènes indignes ne sauraient que se multiplier dans la mesure où le gouvernement en imposant aux ONG un procédé d’enregistrement très complexe et coûteux a réussi à exclure plus que la moitié de celles qui s’activent dans les camps. Car, par le processus de ‘régulation’ d’un domaine censément opaque, imposé par la récente loi sur l’asile, n’ont réussi à passer que 18 ONG qui elles seules auront désormais droit d’entrée dans les hot-spots[9]. En fait, l’inscription des ONG dans le registre du Ministère s’avère un procédé plein d’embûches bureaucratiques. Qui plus est le Ministre peut décider à son gré de refuser l’inscription des organisations qui remplissent tous les critères requis, ce qui serait une ingérence flagrante du pouvoir dans le domaine humanitaire.

    Car, il faudrait aussi savoir que les réfugiés enfermés dans les camps se trouvent à la limite de la survie, après la décision du Ministère de leur couper, à partir du début mars, les aides –déjà très maigres, 90 euros par mois pour une personne seule- auxquelles ils avaient droit jusqu’à maintenant. En ce qui concerne la couverture sociale de santé, à partir de juillet dernier les demandeurs ne pouvaient plus obtenir un numéro de sécurité sociale et étaient ainsi privés de toute couverture santé. Après des mois de tergiversation et sous la pression des organismes internationaux, le gouvernement grec a enfin décidé de leur accorder un numéro provisoire de sécurité sociale, mais cette mesure reste pour l’instant en attente de sa pleine réalisation. Entretemps, l’exclusion des demandeurs d’asile du système national de santé a fait son effet : non seulement, elle a conduit à une détérioration significative de la santé des requérant, mais elle a également privé des enfants réfugiés de scolarisation, car, faute de carnet de vaccination à jour, ceux-ci ne pouvaient pas s’inscrire à l’école.

    En d’autres termes, au lieu de déployer pendant l’épidémie une politique de décongestion avec transferts massifs à des structures sécurisées, le gouvernement a traité les demandeurs d’asile comme porteurs virtuels du virus, à tenir coûte que coûte à l’écart de la société ; non seulement les réfugiés et les migrants n’ont pas été protégés par un confinement sécurisé, mais ils ont été enfermés dans des conditions sanitaires mettant leur santé et leur vie en danger. La preuve, si besoin est, ce sont les mesures prises par le gouvernement dans des structures d’accueil du continent où des cas de coronavirus ont été détectés ; par ex. la gestion catastrophique de la quarantaine dans une structure d’accueil hôtelière à Kranidi en Péloponnèse où une femme enceinte a été testée positive en avril. Dans cet hôtel géré par l’IOM qui accueille 470 réfugiés de l’Afrique sub-saharienne, après l’indentification de deux cas (une employée et une résidente), un dépistage généralisé a été effectué et le 21 avril 150 cas ont été détectés ; très probablement le virus a été ‘importé’ dans la structure par les contacts des réfugiés et du personnel avec les propriétaires de villas voisines installés dans la région pour la période de confinement et qui les employaient pour divers services. Après une quarantaine de trois semaines, trois nouveaux cas ont été détectés avec comme résultat que toutes les personnes testées négatives ont été placées en quarantaine avec celles testées positives au même endroit[10].

    Exactement la même tactique a été adoptée dans les camps de Ritsona (au nord d’Athènes) et de Malakassa (à l’est d’Attique), où des cas ont été détectés. Au lieu d’isoler les porteurs du virus et d’effectuer un dépistage exhaustif de toute la population du camp, travailleurs compris, ce qui aurait pu permettre d’isoler tout porteur non-symptomatique, les camps avec tous leurs résidents ont été mis en quarantaine. Les autorités « ont imposé ces mesures sans prendre de dispositions nécessaires …pour isoler les personnes atteintes du virus à l’intérieur des camps, ont déclaré deux travailleurs humanitaires et un résident du camp. Dans un troisième cas, les autorités ont fermé le camp sans aucune preuve de la présence du virus à l’intérieur, simplement parce qu’elles soupçonnaient les résidents du camp d’avoir eu des contacts avec une communauté voisine de Roms où des gens avaient été testés positifs [11] » [il s’agit du camp de Koutsohero, près de Larissa, qui accueille 1.500 personnes][12].

    Un travailleur humanitaire a déclaré à Human Rights Watch : « Aussi scandaleux que cela puisse paraître, l’approche des autorités lorsqu’elles soupçonnent qu’il pourrait y avoir un cas de virus dans un camp consiste simplement à enfermer tout le monde dans le camp, potentiellement des milliers de personnes, dont certaines très vulnérables, et à jeter la clé, sans prendre les mesures appropriées pour retracer les contacts de porteurs du virus, ni pour isoler les personnes touchées ».

    Il va de soi qu’une telle tactique ne vise nullement à protéger les résidents de camp, mais à les isoler tous, porteurs et non-porteurs, ensemble, au risque de leur santé et de leur vie. Au fond, la stratégie du gouvernement a été simple : retrancher complètement les réfugiés du reste de la population, tout en les excluant de mesures de protection efficiantes. Bref, les réfugiés ont été abandonnés à leur sort, quitte à se contaminer les uns les autres, pourvu qu’ils ne soient plus en contact avec les habitants de la région.

    La gestion par les autorités de la quarantaine à l’ancien camp de Malakasa est également révélatrice de la volonté des autorités non pas de protéger les résidents des camps mais de les isoler à tout prix de la population locale. Une quarantaine a été imposée le 5 avril suite à la détection d’un cas. A l’expiration du délai réglementaire de deux semaines, la quarantaine n’a été que très partiellement levée. Pendant la durée de la quarantaine l’ancien camp de Malakasa abritant 2.500 personnes a été approvisionné en quantité insuffisante en nourriture de basse valeur nutritionnelle, et pratiquement pas du tout en médicaments et aliments pour bébés. Le 22 avril un nouveau cas a été détecté et la quarantaine a été de nouveau imposée à l’ensemble de 2.500 résidents du camp. Entretemps quelques tests de dépistage ont été faits par-ci et par-là, mais aucune mesure spécifique n’a été prise pour les cas détectés afin de les isoler du reste de la population du camp. Pendant cette nouvelle période de quarantaine, la seule mesure prise par les autorités a été de redoubler les effectifs de police à l’entrée du camp, afin d’empêcher toute sortie, et ceci à un moment critique où des produits de première nécessité manquaient cruellement dans le camp. Ni dépistage généralisé, ni visite d’équipes médicales spécialisées, ni non plus séparation spatiale stricte entre porteurs et non-porteurs du virus n’ont été mises en place. La quarantaine, avec une courte période d’allégement de mesures de restriction, dure déjà depuis deux mois et demi. Car, le 20 juin elle a été prolongée jusqu’au 5 juillet, transformant ainsi de facto les résidents du camp en détenus[13].

    La façon aussi dont ont été traités les nouveaux arrivants dans les îles depuis le début de la période du confinement et jusqu’à maintenant est également révélatrice de la volonté du gouvernement de ne pas faire le nécessaire pour assurer la protection des demandeurs d’asile. Non seulement ceux qui sont arrivés après le début mars n’ont pas été mis à l’abri pour y passer la période de quarantaine de 14 jours dans des conditions sécurisées, mais ils ont été systématiquement ‘confinés en plein air’ à la proximité de l’endroit où ils ont débarqué : les nouveaux arrivants, femmes enceintes et enfants compris, ont été obligés de vivre en plein air, exposés aux intempéries dans une zone circonscrite placée sous la surveillance de la police, pendant deux, trois voire quatre semaines et sans aucun accès à des infrastructures sanitaires. Le cas de 450 personnes arrivées début mars est caractéristique : après avoir été gardées en « quarantaine » dans une zone entourée de barrières au port de Mytilène, elles ont été enfermées pendant 13 jours dans des conditions inimaginables dans un navire militaire grec, où ils ont été obligés de dormir sur le sol en fer du navire, vivant littéralement les uns sur les autres, sans même qu’on ne leur fournisse du savon pour se laver les mains.

    Cet enfermement prolongé dans des conditions abjectes, en contre-pied du confinement sécurisé à la maison, que la plupart d’entre nous, citoyens européens, avons connu, transforme de fait les demandeurs en détenus et crée inévitablement des situations explosives avec une montée des incidents violents, des affrontements entre groupes ethniques, des départs d’incendies à Lesbos, à Chios et à Samos. Ne serait-ce qu’à Moria, et surtout dans l’Oliveraie qui entoure le camp officiel, dès la tombée de la nuit l’insécurité règne : depuis le début de l’année on y dénombre au moins 14 agressions à l’arme blanche qui ont fait quatre morts et 14 blessés[14]. Bref aux conditions de vie indignes et dangereuses pour la santé, il faudrait ajouter l’insécurité croissante, encore plus pesante pour les femmes, les personnes LGBT+ et les mineurs isolés.

    Affronté aux réactions des sociétés locales et à la pression des organismes internationaux, le gouvernement grec a fini par reconnaître la nécessité de la décongestion des îles par le biais du transfert de réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile vulnérables au continent. Mais il s’en est rendu compte trop tard ; entretemps le discours haineux qui présente les migrants comme une menace pour la sécurité nationale voire pour l’identité de la nation, ce poison qu’elle-même a administré à la population, a fait son effet. Aujourd’hui, le ministre de la politique migratoire a été pris au piège de sa propre rhétorique xénophobe haineuse ; c’est au nom justement de celle-ci que les autorités régionales et locales (et plus particulièrement celles proches à la majorité actuelle), opposent un refus catégorique à la perspective d’accueillir dans leur région des réfugiés venant des hot-spots des îles. Des hôtels où des familles en provenance de Moria auraient dû être logées ont été en partie brûlés, des cars transportant des femmes et des enfants ont été attaqués à coup de pierres, des tenanciers d’établissements qui s’apprêtaient à les accueillir, ont reçu des menaces, la liste des actes honteux ne prend pas fin[15].

    Mais le ministre grec de la politique migratoire n’est jamais en court de moyens : il a un plan pour libérer plus que 10.000 places dans les structures d’accueil et les appartements en Grèce continentale. A partir du 1 juin, les autorités ont commencé à mettre dans la rue 11.237 réfugiés reconnus comme bénéficiaires de protection internationale, un mois après l’obtention de leur carte de réfugiés ! Evincés de leurs logements, ces réfugiés, femmes, enfants et personnes vulnérables compris, se retrouveront dans la rue et sans ressources, car ils n’ont plus le droit de recevoir les aides qui ne leur sont destinées que pendant les 30 jours qui suivent l’obtention de leur carte[16]. Cette décision du ministre Mitarakis a été mise sur le compte d’une politique moins accueillante, car selon lui, les aides, assez maigres, par ailleurs, constituaient un « appel d’air » trop attractif pour les candidats à l’exil ! Le comble de l’affaire est que tant le programme d’hébergement en appartements et hôtels ESTIA que les aides accordées aux réfugiés et demandeurs d’asile sont financées par l’UE et des organismes internationaux, et ne coûtent strictement rien au budget de l’Etat. Le désastre qui se dessine à l’horizon a déjà pointé son nez : une centaine de réfugiés dont une quarantaine d’enfants, transférés de Lesbos à Athènes, ont été abandonnés sans ressources et sans toit en pleine rue. Ils campent actuellement à la place Victoria, à Athènes.

    Le dernier cercle de l’enfer : les PROKEKA

    Au moment où est écrit cet article, les camps dans les îles fonctionnent cinq, six voire dix fois au-dessus de leur capacité d’accueil. 34.000 personnes sont actuellement entassées dans les îles, dont 30.220 confinées dans les conditions abjectes de hot-spots prévus pour accueillir 6 000 personnes au grand maximum ; 750 en détention dans les centres de détention fermés avant renvoi (PROΚEΚA), et le restant dans d’autres structures[17].

    Plusieurs agents du terrain ont qualifié à juste titre les camps de Moria à Lesbos et celui de Vathy à Samos[18] comme l’enfer sur terre. Car, comment désigner autrement un endroit comme Moria où les enfants – un tiers des habitants du camp- jouent parmi les ordures et les déjections et où plusieurs d’entre eux touchent un tel fond de désespoir qu’ils finissent par s’automutiler et/ou par commettre de tentatives de suicide[19], tandis que d’autres tombent dans un état de prostration et de mutisme ? Comment dire autrement l’horreur d’un endroit comme le camp de Vathy où femmes enceintes et enfants de bas âge côtoient des serpents, des rats et autres scorpions ?

    Cependant, il y a pire, en l’occurrence le dernier cercle de l’Enfer, les ‘Centres de Détention fermés avant renvoi’ (Pre-moval Detention Centers, PROKEKA en grec), l’équivalent grec des CRA (Centre de Rétention Administrative) en France[20]. Aux huit centres fermés de détention et aux postes de police disséminés partout en Grèce, plusieurs milliers de demandeurs d’asile et d’étrangers sans-papiers sont actuellement détenus dans des conditions terrifiantes. Privés même des droits les plus élémentaires de prisonniers, les détenus restent presque sans soins médicaux, sans contact régulier avec l’extérieur, sans droit de visite ni accès assuré à une aide judiciaire. Ces détenus qui sont souvent victimes de mauvais traitements de la part de leurs gardiens, n’ont pas de perspective de sortie, dans la mesure où, en vertu de la nouvelle loi sur l’asile, leur détention peut être prolongée jusqu’à 36 mois. Leur maintien en détention est ‘justifié’ en vue d’une déportation devenue plus qu’improbable – qu’il s’agisse d’une expulsion vers le pays d’origine ou d’une réadmission vers un tiers pays « sûr ». Dans ces conditions il n’est pas étonnant qu’en désespoir de cause, des détenus finissent par attenter à leur jours, en commettant des suicides ou des tentatives de suicide.

    Ce qui est encore plus alarmant est qu’à la fin 2018, à peu près 28% des détenus au sein de ces centres fermés étaient des mineurs[21]. Plus récemment et notamment fin avril dernier, Arsis dans un communiqué de presse du 27 avril 2020, a dénoncé la détention en tout point de vue illégale d’une centaine de mineurs dans un seul centre de détention, celui d’Amygdaleza en Attique. D’après les témoignages, c’est avant tout dans les préfectures et les postes de police où sont gardés plus que 28% de détenus que les conditions de détention virent à un cauchemar, qui rivalise avec celui dépeint dans le film Midnight Express. Les cellules des commissariats où s’entassent souvent des dizaines de personnes sont conçus pour une détention provisoire de quelques heures, les infrastructures sanitaires sont défaillantes, et il n’y a pas de cour pour la promenade quotidienne. Quant aux policiers, ils se comportent comme s’ ils étaient au-dessus de la loi face à des détenus livrés à leur merci : ils leur font subir des humiliations systématiques, des mauvais traitements, des violences voire des tortures.

    Plusieurs témoignages concordants dénoncent des conditions horribles dans les préfectures et les commissariats : les détenus peuvent être privés de nourriture et d’eau pendant des journées entières, plusieurs entre eux sont battus et peuvent rester entravés et ligotés pendant des jours, privés de soins médicaux, même pour des cas urgents. En mars 2017, Ariel Rickel (fondatrice d’Advocates Abroad) avait découvert dans le commissariat du hot-spot de Samos, un mineur de 15 ans, ligoté sur une chaise. Le jeune homme qui avait été violement battu par les policiers, avait eu des côtes cassées et une blessure ouverte au ventre ; il était resté dans cet état ligoté trois jours durant, et ce n’est qu’après l’intervention de l’ombudsman, sollicité par l’avocate, qu’il a fini par être libéré.[22] Le cas rapporté par Ariel Rickel à Valeria Hänsel n’est malheureusement pas exceptionnel. Car, ces conditions inhumaines de détention dans les PROKEKA ont été à plusieurs reprises dénoncées comme un traitement inhumain et dégradant par la Cour Européenne de droits de l’homme[23] et par le Comité Européen pour la prévention de la torture du Conseil de l’Europe (CPT).

    Il faudrait aussi noter qu’au sein de hot-spot de Lesbos et de Kos, il y a de tels centres de détention fermés, ‘de prison dans les prisons à ciel ouvert’ que sont ces camps. Un rapport récent de HIAS Greece décrit les conditions inhumaines qui règnent dans le PROKEKA de Moria où sont détenus en toute illégalité des demandeurs d’asile n’ayant commis d’autre délit que le fait d’être originaire d’un pays dont les ressortissants obtiennent en moyenne en UE moins de 25% de réponses positives à leurs demandes d’asile (low profile scheme). Il est évident que la détention d’un demandeur d’asile sur la seule base de son pays d’origine constitue une mesure de ségrégation discriminatoire qui expose les requérants à des mauvais traitements, vu la quasi inexistence de services médicaux et la très grande difficulté voire l’impossibilité d’avoir accès à l’aide juridique gratuite pendant la détention arbitraire. Ainsi, p.ex. des personnes ressortissant de pays comme le Pakistan ou l’Algérie, même si ils/elles sont LGBT+, ce qui les exposent à des dangers graves dans leur pays d’origine, seront automatiquement détenus dans le PROKEKA de Moria, étant ainsi empêchés d’étayer suffisamment leur demande d’asile, en faisant appel à l’aide juridique gratuite et en la documentant. Début avril, dans deux centres de détention fermés, celui au sein du camp de Moria et celui de Paranesti, près de la ville de Drama au nord de la Grèce, les détenus avaient commencés une grève de la faim pour protester contre la promiscuité effroyable et réclamer leur libération ; dans les deux cas les protestations ont été très violemment réprimées par les forces de l’ordre.

    La déclaration commune UE-Turquie

    Cependant il faudrait garder à l’esprit qu’à l’origine de cette situation infernale se trouve la décision de l’UE en 2016 de fermer ses frontières et d’externaliser en Turquie la prise en charge de réfugiés, tout en bloquant ceux qui arrivent à passer en Grèce. C’est bien l’accord UE-Turquie du 18 mars 2016[24] – en fait une Déclaration commune dépourvue d’un statut juridique équivalent à celui d’un accord en bonne et due forme- qui a transformé les îles grecques en prison à ciel ouvert. En fait, cette Déclaration est un troc avec la Turquie où celle-ci s’engageait non seulement à fermer ses frontières en gardant sur son sol des millions de réfugiés mais aussi à accepte les réadmissions de ceux qui ont réussi à atteindre l’Europe ; en échange une aide de 6 milliards lui serait octroyée afin de couvrir une partie de frais générés par le maintien de 3 millions de réfugiés sur son sol, tandis que les ressortissants turcs n’auraient plus besoin de visa pour voyager en Europe. En fait, comme le dit un rapport de GISTI, la nature juridique de la Déclaration du 18 mars a beau être douteuse, elle ne produit pas moins les « effets d’un accord international sans en respecter les règles d’élaboration ». C’est justement le statut douteux de cette déclaration commune, que certains analystes n’hésitent pas de désigner comme un simple ‘communiqué de presse’, qui a fait que la Cour Européenne a refusé de se prononcer sur la légalité, en se déclarant incompétente, face à un accord d’un statut juridique indéterminé.

    Or, dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre de cet accord a été introduite par l’article 60(4) de la loi grecque L 4375/2016, la procédure d’asile dite ‘accélérée’ dans les îles grecques (fast-track border procedure) qui non seulement réduisaient les garanties de la procédure au plus bas possible en UE, mais qui impliquait aussi comme corrélat l’imposition de la restriction géographique de demandeurs d’asile dans les îles de première arrivée. Celle-ci fut officiellement imposée par la décision 10464/31-5-2017 de la Directrice du Service d’Asile, qui instaurait la restriction de circulation des requérant, afin de garantir le renvoi en Turquie de ceux-ci, en cas de rejet de leurs demandes. Rappelons que ces renvois s’appuient sur la reconnaissance -tout à fait infondée-, de la Turquie comme ‘pays tiers sûr’. Même des réfugiés Syriens ont été renvoyés en Turquie dans le cadre de la mise en application de cette déclaration commune.

    La restriction géographique qui contraint les demandeurs d’asile de ne quitter sous aucun prétexte l’île où ils ont déposé leur demande, jusqu’à l’examen complet de celle-ci, conduit inévitablement au point où nous sommes aujourd’hui à savoir à ce surpeuplement inhumain qui non seulement crée une situation invivable pour les demandeurs, mais a aussi un effet toxique sur les sociétés locales. Déjà en mai 2016, François Crépeau, rapporteur spécial de NU aux droits de l’homme de migrants, soulignait que « la fermeture de frontières de pays au nord de la Grèce, ainsi que le nouvel accord UE-Turquie a abouti à une augmentation exponentielle du nombre de migrants irréguliers dans ce pays ». Et il ajoutait que « le grand nombre de migrants irréguliers bloqués en Grèce est principalement le résultat de la politique migratoire de l’UE et des pays membres de l’UE fondée exclusivement sur la sécurisation des frontières ».

    Gisti, dans un rapport sur les hotspots de Chios et de Lesbos notait également depuis 2016 que, étant donné l’accord UE-Turquie, « ce sont les Etats membres de l’UE et l’Union elle-même qui portent l’essentiel de la responsabilité́ des mauvais traitements et des violations de leurs droits subis par les migrants enfermés dans les hotspots grecs.

    La présence des agences européennes à l’intérieur des hotspots ne fait que souligner cette responsabilité ». On le verra, le rôle de l’EASO est crucial dans la décision finale du service d’asile grec. Quant au rôle joué par Frontex, plusieurs témoignages attestent sa pratique quotidienne de non-assistance à personnes en danger en mer voire sa participation à des refoulements illégaux. Remarquons que c’est bien cette déclaration commune UE-Turquie qui stipule que les demandeurs déboutés doivent être renvoyés en Turquie et à cette fin être maintenus en détention, d’où la situation actuelle dans les centres de détention fermés.

    Enfin la situation dans les hot-spots s’est encore plus aggravée, en raison de la décision du gouvernement Mitsotakis de geler pendant plusieurs mois tout transfert vers la péninsule grecque, bloquant ainsi même les plus vulnérables sur place. Sous le gouvernement précédent, ces derniers étaient exceptés de la restriction géographique dans les hot-spots. Mais à partir du juillet 2020 les transferts de catégories vulnérables -femmes enceintes, mineurs isolés, victimes de torture ou de naufrages, personnes handicapées ou souffrant d’une maladie chronique, victimes de ségrégations à cause de leur orientation sexuelle, – avaient cessé et n’avaient repris qu’au compte-goutte début janvier, plusieurs mois après leurs suspension.

    Le dogme de la ‘surveillance agressive’ des frontières

    Les refoulements groupés sont de plus en plus fréquents, tant à la frontière maritime qu’à la frontière terrestre. A Evros cette pratique était assez courante bien avant la crise à la frontière gréco-turque de mars dernier. Elle consistait non seulement à refouler ceux qui essayaient de passer la frontière, mais aussi à renvoyer en toute clandestinité ceux qui étaient déjà entrés dans le territoire grec. Les faits sont attestés par plusieurs témoignages récoltés par Human Rights 360 dans un rapport publié fin 2018 : "The new normality : Continuous push-backs of third country nationals on the Evros river" (https://www.gcr.gr/en/news/press-releases-announcements/item/1028-the-new-normality-continuous-push-backs-of-third-country-nationals-on-the-e). Les « intrus » qui ont réussi à passer la frontière sont arrêtés et dépouillés de leur biens, téléphone portable compris, pour être ensuite déportés vers la Turquie, soit par des forces de l’ordre en tenue, soit par des groupes masqués et cagoulés difficiles à identifier. En effet, il n’est pas exclu que des patrouilles paramilitaires, qui s’activent dans la région en se prenant violemment aux migrants au vu et au su des autorités, soient impliquées à ses opérations. Les réfugiés peuvent être gardés non seulement dans des postes de police et de centres de détention fermés, mais aussi dans des lieux secrets, sans qu’ils n’aient la moindre possibilité de contact avec un avocat, le service d’asile, ou leurs proches. Par la suite ils sont embarqués de force sur des canots pneumatiques en direction de la Turquie.

    Cette situation qui fut dénoncée par les ONG comme instaurant une nouvelle ‘normalité’, tout sauf normale, s’est dramatiquement aggravée avec la crise à la frontière terrestre fin février et début mars dernier[25]. Non seulement la frontière fut hermétiquement fermée et des refoulements groupés effectués par la police anti-émeute et l’armée, mais, dans le cadre de la soi-disant défense de l’intégrité territoriale, il y a eu plusieurs cas où des balles réelles ont été tirées par les forces grecques contre les migrants, faisant quatre morts et plusieurs blessés[26].

    Cependant ces pratiques criminelles ne sont pas le seul fait des autorités grecques. Depuis le 13 mars dernier, des équipes d’Intervention Rapide à la Frontière de Frontex, les Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) ont été déployées à la frontière gréco-turque d’Evros, afin d’assurer la ‘protection’ de la frontière européenne. Leur intervention qui aurait dû initialement durer deux mois, a été entretemps prolongée. Ces équipes participent elles, et si oui dans quelle mesure, aux opérations de refoulement ? Il faudrait rappeler ici que, d’après plusieurs témoignages récoltés par le Greek Council for Refugees, les équipes qui opéraient les refoulements en 2017 et 2018 illégaux étaient déjà mixtes, composées des agents grecs et des officiers étrangers parlant soit l’allemand soit l’anglais. Il n’y a aucune raison de penser que cette coopération en bonne entente en matière de refoulement, entre forces grecques et celles de Frontex ait cessé depuis, d’autant plus que début mars la Grèce fut désignée par les dirigeants européens pour assurer la protection de l’Europe, censément menacée par les migrants à sa frontière.

    Plusieurs témoignages de réfugiés refoulés à la frontière d’Evros ainsi que des documents vidéo attestent l’existence d’un centre de détention secret destiné aux nouveaux arrivants ; celui-ci n’est répertorié nulle part et son fonctionnement ne respecte aucune procédure légale, concernant l’identification et l’enregistrement des arrivants. Ce centre, fonctionnant au noir, dont l’existence fut révélée par un article du 10 mars 2020 de NYT, se situe à la proximité de la frontière gréco-turque, près du village grec Poros. Les malheureux qui y échouent, restent détenus dans cette zone de non-droit absolu[27], car, non seulement leur existence n’est enregistrée nulle part mais le centre même n’apparaît sur aucun registre de camps et de centres de détention fermés. Au bout de quelques jours de détention dans des conditions inhumaines, les détenus dépouillés de leurs biens sont renvoyés de force vers la Turquie, tandis que plusieurs d’entre eux ont été auparavant battus par la police.

    La situation est aussi alarmante en mer Egée, où les rapports dénonçant des refoulements maritimes violents mettant en danger la vie de réfugiés, ne cessent de se multiplier depuis le début mars. D’après les témoignages il y aurait au moins deux modes opératoires que les garde-côtes grecs ont adoptés : enlever le moteur et le bidon de gasoil d’une embarcation surchargée et fragile, tout en la repoussant vers les eaux territoriaux turques, et/ou créer des vagues, en passant en grande vitesse tout près du bateau, afin d’empêcher l’embarcation de s’approcher à la côte grecque (voir l’incident du 4 juin dernier, dénoncé par Alarm Phone). Cette dernière méthode de dissuasion ne connaît pas de limites ; des vidéos montrent des incidents violents où les garde-côtes n’hésitent pas à tirer des balles réelles dans l’eau à côté des embarcations de réfugiés ou même dans leurs directions ; il y a même des vidéos qui montrent les garde-côtes essayant de percer le canot pneumatique avec des perches.

    Néanmoins, l’arsenal de garde-côtes grecs ne se limite pas à ces méthodes extrêmement dangereuses ; ils recourent à des procédés semblables à ceux employés en 2013 par l’Australie pour renvoyer les migrants arrivés sur son sol : ils obligent des demandeurs d’asile à embarquer sur des life rafts -des canots de survie qui se présentent comme des tentes gonflables flottant sur l’eau-, et ils les repoussent vers la Turquie, en les laissant dériver sans moteur ni gouvernail[28].

    Des incidents de ce type ne cessent de se multiplier depuis le début mars. Victimes de ce type de refoulement qui mettent en danger la vie des passagers, peuvent être même des femmes enceintes, des enfants ou même des bébés –voir la vidéo glaçante tournée sur un tel life raft le 25 mai dernier et les photographies respectives de la garde côtière turque.

    Ce mode opératoire va beaucoup plus loin qu’un refoulement illégal, car il arrive assez souvent que les personnes concernées aient déjà débarqué sur le territoire grec, et dans ce cas ils avaient le droit de déposer une demande d’asile. Cela veut dire que les garde-côtes grecs ne se contentent pas de faire des refoulements maritimes qui violent le droit national et international ainsi que le principe de non-refoulement de la convention de Genève[29]. Ioannis Stevis, responsable du média local Astraparis à Chios, avait déclaré au Guardian « En mer Egée nous pouvions voir se dérouler cette guerre non-déclarée. Nous pouvions apercevoir les embarcations qui ne pouvaient pas atteindre la Grèce, parce qu’elles en étaient empêchées. De push-backs étaient devenus un lot quotidien dans les îles. Ce que nous n’avions pas vu auparavant, c’était de voir les bateaux arriver et les gens disparaître ».

    Cette pratique illégale va beaucoup plus loin, dans la mesure où les garde-côtes s’appliquent à renvoyer en Turquie ceux qui ont réussi à fouler le sol grec, sans qu’aucun protocole ni procédure légale ne soient respectés. Car, ces personnes embarquées sur les life rafts, ne sont pas