Brussels (Brussels Morning) Greek authorities are resorting to bogus criminal investigations to harass non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their workers who report abuses of migrants, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
During a 19 July press conference, Greek police on the island of Lesbos announced a criminal case against 10 foreign nationals, four of whom work for NGOs.
While the identities of the NGOs were not disclosed, pro-government media mentioned the Aegean Boat Report as being one. It monitors migrant movements in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey.
Reports of migrants pushbacks from Greece have been roundly criticized for some time. The European Court of Auditors recently condemning Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, for its failures to take appropriate action, citing its lack of capacity to fulfill its role and uphold EU values.
Bogus criminal investigations
The case against the NGOs alleges that their workers helped migrants enter Greek territory illegally, that they conducted espionage, and that they complicated investigations by the Greek authorities, HRW said.
The Aegean Boat Report, for example, has a history of reporting Greek border guards engaged in pushbacks, sometimes violently, as migrants and asylum seekers approach or cross territorial water boundaries, thereby preventing them from seeking protection, according to HRW.
The new criminal cases seem to be part of a wider pattern. In September 2020, Greek police announced a similar criminal case against 33 foreign nationals and members of four unnamed NGOs. Apparently, no indictment followed, HRW said.
Last year, Greece introduced rules on the registration and certification of NGOs working on asylum, migration, and social inclusion, a move that raised widespread concerns about the ability of such groups to operate effectively in the country.
Aegean Sea pushbacks
Meanwhile, pro-refugee groups continue to allege that the Greek coast guard is endangering migrants in the Aegean Sea and that the service is in breach of international law with a newly aggressive migration policy that involves pushbacks towards Turkish waters, PBS reported on 22 July.
“It seems that the Greek authorities prefer to intimidate their critics rather than tackle the abuses they uncover”, HRW asserted.