Ships from the European border guard organization Frontex have been involved in at least six cases in the illegal return of asylum seekers at sea to Turkish waters. Investigative journalists report this, among others Bellingcat Friday.
A joint investigation of Belingcat with Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi reveals that between April and August of this year, at least six fallen Frontex ships attempted to block asylum seekers’ boats from reaching Greek waters, mostly in collaboration with the Greek Coast Guard.
Immigrants who reach Greek waters have the right to apply for asylum under international agreements and Frontex is obliged to rescue passengers from overcrowded boats. According to Bellingcat, the organization is therefore guilty of illegal practices.
However, images analyzed by the investigative reporters show that in June a Frontex ship interfered with an inflatable boat with 47 passengers on board northeast of Lesvos by just passing it. The boat floats through the waves back to Turkish waters, assisted by the Greek coast guard. In Turkish waters, the passengers were then picked up by the Turkish coast guard.
Frontex ships were also nearby on five other occasions when Greek coastguard ships pushed back boats, the investigation found. Frontex would not have intervened in all cases and, moreover, would not have reported the incidents.
Frontex says in a written response that the incidents have been reported to the Greek Coast Guard, which would have launched an internal investigation.