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Greek Minister Confirms Pushbacks!

For the last five months the Greek government has categorically denied any involvement in pushback’s or illegal activities in the Aegean Sea. And then the Greek shipping minister, Giannis Plakiotakis, blows the whistle, bragging about their achievement on a new conference.

“Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented,” Plakiotakis said during a news conference. In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was interviewed on CNN, where he was asked a direct question regarding reports on pushbacks from an article written by Patrick Kingsley in The New York Times. He denied involvement in any illegal activities, and referred to the article in NYT as Turkish propaganda.

The Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, has been interviewed several times by international press, last time was on Monday on BBC World news. He was also asked a direct question regarding pushbacks on a live interview from Samos by BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, he also denied any involvement in pushbacks, they are both obviously lying.

Plakiotakis would not say anything about how the boats were stopped from entering Greek waters, which also is the southeastern border of the EU. But he stressed that the coast guard “operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and,.. with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life.”

Question is, how can pushing back boats filled with asylum seekers be seen as legal, without allowing them to apply for asylum, and how can forcing people, children, women, into life rafts and leaving them drifting, be seen as dignifying , respectful of human lives?

The UN refugee agency said on Aug. 21 it was “deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months.” The agency called on Greece to “seriously investigate” the reports.

Frontex involvement in these pushbacks has been questioned, although there has been a few officials reports from Frontex regarding illegal returns by the Hellenic coast guard, they are strangely quiet. With a massive presence in the Aegean Sea, 13 boats, four plains, a helicopter, 650 officers and 72 patrol cars, they seems to be unwilling to report on these illegal activities, they know what is going on, question is, how involved are they?

Aegean Boat Report has documented hundreds of illegal pushbacks since March. With the massive amount of evidence, there is no question if this is going on, and who is responsible. The questions that remains to be answered is, how far are Europe willing to go to protect its borders, and how long will the European Union turn a blind eye to member states who are deliberately breaking international law and violating human rights?

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