From a study, among others: Le Monde And from the mirror Frontex appears to have been involved in illegal pushbacks of at least 957 asylum seekers in the Aegean, between March 2020 and September 2021. According to international media, the European Border Agency incorrectly recorded the pushbacks as “departure prevention” in an internal database .
What’s in the joint investigation of the nonprofit Lighthouse Reports and the global media from the mirror† SRF Rundschau† Republic And Le Monde Recording as mere ‘departure prevention’ in the Frontex database, after investigation, actually amounts to illegal immigrant returns. Various media outlets learned about this after a Freedom of Information request from the European organization and a comparison of Frontex’s internal data with reports from the Turkish Coast Guard associations and guards.
At their request, the various media were provided with an edited copy of the internal database of Frontex, the so-called Joint Operations Reporting Application (JORA), which contained a description of 145 cases marked “Departure Prevention”. This concept is defined in the Frontex Regulations as an incident in which migrants are stopped at sea by the authorities of non-European countries in their territorial waters and then returned to their point of departure.
Investigators scrutinized these 145 incidents with various reports from the Turkish Coast Guard associations and guards. It found that in at least 22 incidents, asylum seekers were taken from their boats, put into Greek lifeboats, and left at sea.
On May 28, 2021, a group of about 50 asylum seekers who arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos contacted the Norwegian NGO “Aegean Boat Report”, which sent photos and a WhatsApp message showing their location near the island’s capital. A few hours later, the Turkish Coast Guard found part of the same group at sea in the typical orange lifeboats of the Greek Ministry of the Navy. This case has also been recorded in the Jora database as “preventing to leave”.
Two anonymous European Border Agency sources confirmed that the returns entered the database as “preventing departure”. “Why don’t they call it what it really is and then we’re done with it?” Greek coast guard officer said.
Other international research has repeatedly shown that migrants often reach the Greek coast before the Turkish coast guard finds them at sea. That would have prevented them from applying for asylum in Greece, a practice that goes against international law.