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In a damning report by the European Parliament, Frontex, the bloc’s border agency, was found to have overlooked evidence that migrants were being illegally turned away at the EU’s borders. The report, written by Dutch Green MEP Tineke Strik following the group’s investigation over the past four months, “did not find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions” by the border agency “in the serious incident cases that could be examined.”
However, it concluded that “the agency found evidence in support of allegations of fundamental rights violations in [EU] member states with which it had a joint operation, but failed to address and follow-up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively”.
It added: “As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduce the risk of future fundamental rights violations.”
The report also criticised how “several reliable actors, such as national and international human rights bodies and organisations, consistently reported about fundamental rights violations at the border in a number of member states with which Frontex is carrying out a joint operation,” yet “Frontex generally disregarded these reports.”
A Frontex spokesperson said the agency “welcomes the report” and added that the “recommendations will be thoroughly looked at and evaluated accordingly.”
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They added: “Over the last five years, the agency has undergone a tremendous transformation and growth of responsibility and accountability under the executive director.
“We acknowledge the need to upgrade our reporting mechanism to make sure no possible violation of fundamental rights goes unreported, but also that the operational reporting is upgraded at the expected level.”
The agency had already been lambasted by human rights campaigners Amnesty International last month.
The activists said the agency had failed to follow up on claims of alleged abuse of migrants in Greece.
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The group called on the bloc’s border and coastguard to scrutinise the allegations or withdraw from Greece altogether.
Adriana Tidona, migration researcher for Europe at Amnesty, said many migrants had been subjected to violence before being sent back to Turkey.
The claims were made by Amnesty in a new report, that highlights 21 incidents involving around 1,000 people.
Ms Tidona added: “It is clear that multiple arms of the Greek authorities are closely coordinating to brutally apprehend and detain people who are seeking safety in Greece.”
The alleged pushbacks, on land and at sea, sometimes involved people being caught as far as 435 miles inside Greek territory, according to the rights campaigners.
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“Our research shows that violent pushbacks have become the de facto Greek border control policy in the Evros region,” Ms Tidona said.
“The level of organisation needed to execute these returns, which affected up to 1,000 people in the incidents we documented … shows just how far Greece is going to illegally return people and cover it up.”
In a separate analysis of border activity across the EU, Human Rights Watch accused Frontex of failing to protect people against serious human rights abuses.
The group said the border agency had failed to investigate or take steps to curb abuses.
Eva Cosse, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Frontex has repeatedly failed to take effective action when allegations of human rights violations are brought to its attention.
“It’s rapid growth into an executive agency of the EU, with increased powers, funding and legal responsibilities makes it all the more urgent for Frontex to put in place effective tools to safeguard fundamental rights.”
The Greek ministry of migration and asylum told the FT that authorities abide by a “strict legal framework” in probing allegations of ill-treatment at the border
It added that the claims “have so far proven to be largely unsubstantiated.”
The ministry said all actions taken by Greek authorities complied with international laws.
Frontex also denied all allegations.