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EU Calls for Inquiry Into Greece’s Expulsion of Migrants

Greece migrant incident
A video purporting to show the expulsion of migrants at sea by Greece has prompted the EU to call for an investigation. Credit: Video screenshot / NYT

The EU has called on Greece to open an independent inquiry into video footage that emerged purportedly showing the forced expulsion of migrants at sea from Greek territory.

The video footage was captured by an Austrian activist on the Greek island of Lesbos. It was then published in a report by the New York Times last Friday. Allegedly, 12 migrants, including women and children, were transported by van and then put out to sea on an inflatable raft.

The EU Home Affairs Commissioner revealed that she had contacted Athens and urged Greece to investigate the migrant incident, alluding to concerns that European laws had been broken. Greece has responded to similar incidents in the past by stressing that it has a right to repulse undocumented migrants attempting to enter the country illegally.

EU urges Greece to investigate migrant incident

On Monday Ylva Johansson, the EU Home Affairs Commissioner, revealed on social media that she had contacted the Greek government and urged them to investigate the incident.

“One year ago I met with the Greek Government to discuss border management and I made clear that there is no place for illegal deportations,” she wrote on Twitter. “Last Friday, 19 May, The New York Times presented a report on an alleged illegal deportation, in April…”

“My services have sent a formal request to Greek authorities that this incident be fully and independently investigated,” Johansson continued. “It is necessary that proper follow up is taken by Greek authorities, also based on the new independent monitoring mechanism.”

Johansson concluded by saying that she had met with members of the Greek government, including Minister of State Georgios Gerapetritis, Minister of Citizen Protection Takis Theodorikakos, and Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Giannis Plakiotakis.

Video of the incident

In the footage, 12 individuals, including men, women, and children, were seen being removed from a van and then left on an inflatable raft, which was subsequently towed out to sea, leaving them stranded.

Following the publication of the video, the New York Times interviewed 11 of the affected migrants who were later located at a detention center in Izmir, situated on the Turkish coast. To validate the authenticity of the footage, the newspaper cross-referenced the coordinates of other vessels present in the area.

“We didn’t expect to survive on that day,” Naima Hassan Aden, a 27-year-old mother from Somalia, reportedly told the New York Times. “When they were putting us on the inflatable raft, they did so without any mercy.”

Political ramifications

Although the EU Home Affairs Commissioner is keen to press ahead with an investigation, the European Commission will not take immediate action, as the inquiry is currently the responsibility of Greek prosecutors, the Ombudsman, and the National Transparency Authority.

Dana Spinant, the deputy spokesperson of the Commission, stated during a press briefing that “We are not going to draw conclusions and announce actions or activity that we take before becoming aware of the conclusions of that investigation which will be carried out at the national level.”

However, EU legislators urged the Commission to adopt a more stringent approach towards Greece, even proposing the initiation of an infringement procedure. This course of action would grant the Court of Justice the authority to impose penalties if it determined that Athens had violated EU laws.

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