Sant rails at ‘armchair goodies’ on lack of EU migration response in Lighthouse debate

Lighthouse Reports revealed that masked men operate in a grey zone of deniability to carry out physical assaults, illegal pushbacks, reckless endangerment and rights abuses of asylum seekers and migrants

EU governments deny the existence of a violent campaign by masked men to turn away asylum seekers at EU borders
EU governments deny the existence of a violent campaign by masked men to turn away asylum seekers at EU borders

Labour MEP Alfred Sant has hit out at “armchair goodie-goodies” from mainland Europe in a statement to the plenary debate on pushbacks at the EU’s external border, launched following a Lighthouse report exposing campaign of illicit and brutal pushbacks in Croatia, Greece and Romania.

From the forests of the Western Balkans to the Aegean Sea, consistent reports have emerged of physical assaults, illegal pushbacks, reckless endangerment and rights abuses of asylum seekers and migrants.

Lighthouse Reports revealed that masked men operate in a grey zone of deniability which considerable efforts by activists and other civil society actors have only been able to partially penetrate.

Sant complained that Mediterranean islands like Malta were often left alone to cope with bursts of irregular migration when “no really coherent, long-term EU support is available” to deal with migratory waves.

“In no way could this excuse any disregard for the human rights of those attempting to cross over towards the European continent.

“Yet, lectures about what should be done from mainland Europe (not least by armchair goodie-goodies) without the offer of a structured and permanent form of help cannot be taken seriously.”

Sant condemned the abuse of the human rights of immigrants and deplored the loss of lives of immigrants irregularly attempting to enter Europe.

But he complained that EC policymakers lack solutions that apply for all of Europe.

“The EU’s external border regions, especially islands, have been hard hit by a crisis in tourism, exacerbated by mounting energy and transport prices... Europe has to come clean on what it is really doing to combat the people trafficking that is feeding the supply chains which push people towards desperate journeys across the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Is Europe turning a blind eye to this ghastly criminal activity?”

A new investigation by Lighthouse Reports and various European media outlets has exposed a violent campaign of pushbacks at the EU’s external borders despite denials and cover-ups by member states.

“Violence at our borders is never acceptable. Especially if it is structural and organised. We must protect our EU external borders, while upholding fundamental rights. And it’s possible to do both,” EU Commissioner for migration Ylva Johannson told the European Parliament.

She raised these reports in personal meetings with the Croatian minister of the Interior Davor Božinovic and the Greek minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi, who later ordered an investigation.

Since then, Croatia’s national chief of police said that three policemen involved in violent pushbacks will face disciplinary proceedings. And I received assurances that any necessary follow-up action will be taken.

The Romanian home affairs minister also told Johannson he was ready to take disciplinary measures or initiate criminal proceedings if the investigation concludes on wrongdoings.

“I expect Greece now to also investigate these allegations swiftly and thoroughly,” Johannson said.

Lighthouse also published claims of abuse of EU funding, with Johansson asking national authorities in Croatia, Greece and Romania to investigate any confirmed reports of misuse of funds. “The Commission will take action, if such allegations are confirmed and recover the funds unduly used. European taxpayers expect us to protect our borders – and to uphold our rules,” she said.

The Left requested the debate on pushbacks. MEP Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) said: “The merciless, sadistic and degrading violence by the Croatian border police, as evidenced by the investigation, is a crime against humanity... This is Europe: violent pushbacks have become mainstream policy tolerated by the EU, be it in Croatia, Greece or Poland. These crimes must end and the governments responsible must finally be held accountable.”

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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