Border guards 'beat up and deported EU interpreter after mistaking him for a migrant'

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Members of European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex stand outside the new closed migrant camp in the Greek island of Kos on November 27, 2021 – AFP

The Greek ombudsman said Wednesday it is investigating a claim by an interpreter for the EU border agency Frontex that Greek border guards assaulted him and illegally expelled him to Turkey.

European Union officials are already separately looking into allegations of maltreatment of the man, who says the guards mistook him for an asylum seeker.

The Greek agency for citizens’ rights said it had received a report from Frontex on the case of the “alleged illegal repatriation to Turkey in the Evros region of a Frontex interpreter with other foreigners” in the first week of September.

In a New York Times article published on Wednesday, the interpreter, who is originally from Afghanistan but had been living in Italy for several years, said that Greek border guards detained him along with around 100 migrants.

The interpreter said that he as well as many of the migrants were then beaten, stripped and forced to hand over money, telephones and documentation.

He said when he tried to explain his position he was met with laughter and was beaten, adding that he had informed Frontex what had happened.

Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for migration, told the New York Times she had spoken with the man on November 25 and then raised the matter with the Greek government four days later.

“On hearing of this case I reached out to the person in question for a first hand account,” said Johansson.

EC demands answers

In comments which the European Commission confirmed to AFP, she said she had demanded “an independent, thorough and rapid investigation” of the incident.

“After direct in-depth discussion with the person I was extremely concerned by his account,” said Johansson.

“In addition to his personal story, his assertion that this was not an isolated case, is a serious issue. His account stated that there were at least another 100 people who he witnessed experiencing a similar situation.

“After this meeting I requested an urgent call with the Greek minister concerned.”

The Greek ministry for migration did not immediately comment.

Human rights organisations and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have for months been denouncing the illegal turning back across the border of migrants by Greek border guards — which Athens has denied.

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