Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Commission has urged Greece to investigate allegations of pushbacks against migrants, following credible media accounts of what appears to be Croatian and Greek police officers forcing migrants back across state borders.
A cooperative report by a number of international media contacted unnamed police officers and recorded hidden camera footage of men, clad in unmarked special police uniforms and using standard-issue police batons and sidearms, beating migrants in Croatian forests before sending them on their way towards the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Further footage showed what appeared to be members of the Greek coast guard pushing migrants back into the Aegean Sea.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson blasted Greece on Friday for failing to open an immediate investigation into the allegations. ”I must say that the Croatian government takes this very seriously, they are going to immediately investigate”, Johansson said. “My discussion with the Greek Minister was different, and I have made clear that I will not accept that Greece does not do investigations on this.”
Johansson conceded that the EU needs to protect its external borders, but stressed it also has to protect its values, the rule of law and fundamental rights, noting it should be absolutely possible to do it all together.
Under international conventions on refugee rights, people have the right to seek asylum, regardless of whether they entered a country legally or illegally. While their asylum request can be denied, the process needs to be documented and must go through proper channels. Moreover, migrants who have had their request denied should be returned to the country from which they entered in cooperation with local authorities.
The apparent pushback practices, other than involving a degree of violence and human rights violations, are also illegal in that the authorities are required to offer migrants the right to seek asylum, and cannot push them back into the neighbouring country by forcing them to pass over unmarked crossings.