Greece promises investigation into migrant pushback accusations

FILE PHOTO: A Greek national flag and a European Union flag flutter inside a newly inaugurated closed-type migrant camp on the island of Samos, Greece, September 18, 2021. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Greece said on Friday it would investigate reports that some of its officials were illegally pushing back migrants at the border, a day after Brussels pressed it to look into the accusations.

Several European media outlets reported this week that Greek and Croatian officials were illegally and sometimes violently pushing back migrants. The European Union's executive called for an investigation on Thursday.

Reuters has not independently verified the media reports.

Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Friday he had told EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson that the claims would be investigated.

"Every claim made is investigated by the judiciary and by our internal audit," he told reporters at an EU meeting in Luxembourg.

Johansson earlier said Croatia had promised to investigate the accusations and she had made it clear to Greece that it needed to do the same.

She said EU countries needed to protect the bloc's external borders, but they also had to uphold values, the rule of law and fundamental rights.

Under international law, migrants have a right to claim asylum and it is forbidden to send potential asylum-seekers back to where their lives or well-being might be in danger.

Croatia's Interior Minister, Davor Bozinovic, said on Thursday police would conduct an investigation. He added that Croatian border police acted in line with the law and did not tolerate any abuse of authority.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Philip Blenkinsop and Andrew Heavens)

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