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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Mitarachis fights as the walls close in over pushbacks

Updated: May 13, 2022

Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis has continued to attempt to mislead the public over pushbacks and international law.

On Friday 29 April 2022, Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri was forced to resign when an investigation into the agency’s affairs – including its own records – revealed that it had not only carried out, but also witnessed and covered up the Greek government carrying out, pushbacks from the Greek borders.

When this was put to him, Mitarachis responded: ‘States have every right to protect their borders. It is provided for by International Law, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Regulations. It is self-evident and expected that Frontex will assist Member States in cases of threats to Europe's external borders. This is the mission, role and mandate of Frontex as the European Union's armed force to protect our external borders.

First of all, it is of course not legal for any state to ‘protect their borders’ from people seeking safe places to live, learn and work. For K. Mitarachis to claim otherwise is either an admission that he does not know the law, or an effort from him to attempt to mislead the general public about it. There are no other options.

It is not ‘provided for by International Law, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Regulations’. The opposite is in fact the case.

Secondly, Frontex’ role has never been to ‘assist member states in cases of threats to Europe’s external borders': that is the sole duty of the country in question, and the role of its armed forces.

Thirdly, Frontex is not, and never was, an ‘armed force’ of any description, let alone one charged with ‘protecting our external borders’.

For Mitarachis to claim this is genuinely mind-blowing.

He is arguing that the EU has an armed force.

It does not.

And that its stated mission is to break the law.

It is not.

To put it another way, Leggeri resigned because he had overseen his agency breaking international law. Mitarachis claims that he was wrong to resign, because he was supposed to break the law.

He went on: ‘Those who adopt and indiscriminately reproduce the complaints of NGOs and news organisations by serving a specific narrative are incorrect. Any complaints have been examined in recent months by the Agency's own board, but also by a special audit committee of the European Parliament, without confirming the validity of any of them and without finding anything against Frontex.

This goes back to a point we have made on several previous occasions: in order for Mitarachis’ narrative to work, we would have to accept that international and Greek NGOs, the international media, the European Court of Human Rights, and the United Nations were all engaged in a conspiracy against Greece, a country of 10.7m people, tucked away in the far south-eastern corner of Europe.

The far simpler – and correct – possibility is that in fact NGOs, the UN, the courts and to some extent international media care about people and the law, and are committed to highlighting the Greek government’s consistent, unacceptable, and unforgivable violations against both.

His claim that the European Parliament failed to confirm the validity of claims of pushbacks is in fact the opposite of the truth.

The Parliament’s investigation, which concluded in July last year, specifically stated that Frontex had failed in its role in protecting the human rights of people seeking asylum, and that Leggeri should resign.

In fairness to Mitarachis, it did say that it had not found ‘concrete evidence’ that Frontex itself had carried out pushbacks, but this is hardly good news for Mitarachis because it specifically stated that Frontex did know that pushbacks were being carried out by the Greek government, and did nothing to prevent them.

The investigation which forced Leggeri to resign found that Frontex had carried out pushbacks and – as the Parliamentary investigation stated – that the Greek government had consistently broken the law and Frontex had failed in its duty by covering them up.

He added: ‘The independent National Transparency Authority, concluded that there is insufficient documentation of repatriation actions.

The National Transparency Authority was set up by the Greek government, using EU money. It was packed with friends of the government and consulted the Greek police – one of the uniformed forces specifically implicated in the 1,709 documented pushback cases in which 37,571 men, women and children were usually beaten, sometimes stripped, occasionally killed and always robbed and illegally pushed back to Turkey, from the Aegean islands alone, since 1 March 2020.

Using the police’s advice and guidance – which it should of course not have used (it is like asking a person who is suspected of committing a burglary whether they believe there is evidence that the burglary was committed) – the Authority still did not say what Mitarachis claims, that: ‘there is insufficient documentation of repatriation actions’ (and we should be very careful to note here that even what Mitarachis incorrectly claims is not that the Authority said pushbacks had not happened).

It in fact said that it had found enormous amounts of evidence (despite saying it had ‘found no evidence’ of pushbacks) but – having astonishingly and inexplicably asked advice from the Greek Police force which is one of only three groups (including the Greek government) directly implicated as carrying out pushbacks from Greece – it refused to accept it as ‘evidence’.

It is clear now that the walls are closing in on Mitarachis. It is to be hoped that this is why he is so openly peddling falsehoods to the general public, because the alternative is that he has done not even the most basic of research into matters central to his role.

That is, either he is lying about deliberately breaking the law and his increasingly transparent falsehoods are the result of the pressure upon him, or he actually believes what he is saying.

If the former is true, he must be removed from his current job immediately, but he may at least find another elsewhere.

If it is the latter, he is not only not fit to be Greece’s Migration Minister, he is also completely unemployable in literally any other role.


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