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 2020.

The role of Frontex assets in such incidents has never been recorded before. The IJ4EU-funded investigation made global headlines, with coverage in media outlets as diverse as The Guardian, Le Monde, Politico and Al Jazeera.

Following publication of the investigation, Frontex launched an investigation into the allegations and the European Commission called for an urgent Frontex board meeting.

“This report shows in a larger and starker degree than previously known the deep involvement of Frontex in the most egregious violations of refugee law that we have seen in Europe, basically, ever,” Itamar Mann, associate law professor at the University of Haifa, told The Guardian, adding that it was now down to the European public and politicians to push for accountability.

“Frontex as an organisation is gradually embracing more and more the harsh reality of violations that have regretfully become systematic. The sources exposed by this report show a level of toleration by Frontex officials, which unquestionably amounts to complicity.”

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