Police in Greece are investigating four members of foreign NGOs and six other foreigners over alleged facilitation of illegal migration. The suspects also face accusation of espionage and other crimes listed in the immigration law, the AP agency reported. NGOs have long claimed that Greece illegally pushes migrants back to Turkey, which Athens denies. Investigators have not yet commented on the police allegations.
According to the police, the investigation has been underway for many months, focusing on Lesbos and other Greek islands off the Turkish coast which are a frequent destination of migrants. Police say that the foreigners, under the pretext of humanitarian action, provided “substantial support to organized networks of illegal migrants smugglers.” According to the police, the suspects intended to pass on information to migrants about where it was better to disembark, which areas to avoid, and where to get medical treatment.
The AFP agency noted that Greece published information about the investigation at a time when international organizations such as the European Union or the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) call on Greece to investigate the alleged Greek Coast Guard’s pushbacks of migrants to Turkey. UNHCR claims to have testimonies of about 300 cases of illegal eviction dated from the beginning of 2020 to March 2021.
Many testimonies were also registered by non-governmental organizations. The government of conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis approved a stricter law on the activities of non-governmental organizations, which led to a reduction of their number in Greece.
Title image: In this file photo dated Monday, March 29, 2021, migrants gather outside their tents in a refugee camp on the Eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. Greek authorities on the island of Lesbos said Tuesday, July 20, 2021, that they are drawing up a criminal case, including on charges of espionage, against 10 people, all foreign nationals, for allegedly helping migrants enter the country illegally. No suspects have been publicly identified. (AP Photo/Panagiotis Balaskas, FILE)