In its Pact on Migration and Asylum, the European Commission envisioned the establishment of an EU Independent Border Monitoring Mechanism (IBMM) aiming to investigate allegations of fundamental rights violations during the screening of newly arrived asylum seekers at Europe’s borders. While negotiations on these proposals are ongoing, the European Commission has repeatedly called on member states to establish these mechanisms in national law. In particular, the “need to put in place a new mechanism to monitor and verify reports of pushbacks” in Greece has been stressed by the European Union’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, given the increasing allegations of pushbacks in the country since 2020. The Commission has further suggested making some funding for migration management conditional on the establishment of an IBMM in the country.
In response to the Commission’s pressure, the Greek government designated the National Transparency Authority (EAD) to act as the national border monitoring mechanism. On 29 March 2022, the EAD issued a press release, stating that its investigation on reports about irregular forced returns (pushbacks) was completed and no evidence was found to prove allegations. Given the number of well-documented testimonies and reports by credible organisations and agencies suggesting the opposite, including the UNHCR, the Border Violence Monitoring Network, and Lighthouse Reports, the EAD’s finding is as worrying and it is telling, and raises concerns about the organisation’s ability to act as an independent monitoring mechanism in Greece. It is also concerning that the full report and methodology have not been made public.
NGOs have long warned that the EAD was not a suitable and sufficiently independent authority to fulfil the role of an IBMM. In October 2021, IRC commissioned a report that presents a comparative analysis of stakeholders that could act as a truly independent and effective national border monitoring mechanism in Greece. The assessment criteria included institutional independence, financial independence, access and transparency.
The final report expresses concerns that the EAD is not specialised in the monitoring of security structures nor on border, migration, or asylum issues. More importantly, as a public authority funded by the state budget, the EAD does not enjoy the independence, transparency, and autonomy that it should. In addition,its selection process for senior appointments is directly linked with the executive power. The report concludes that the best-placed authority to carry out the duties of a new IBMM in Greece would be the Greek Ombudsman. A synthesis of existing capacities based on current mandates the Greek Ombudsman already holds and the existing operational experience of Ombudsman's officials could constitute a suitable foundation for the creation of an IBMM.
Based on the findings the IRC report also recommends that:
- The Greek Government initiates a transparent consultation process involving the Greek Ombudsman, civil society actors and other stakeholders, to produce a road map on establishing an effective and truly independent border monitoring mechanism.
- The European Commission consults with the Greek Ombudsman on policy and technical issues related to the establishment of an IBMM. It also explores possibilities of introducing conditionality as leverage for the creation of IBMMs in member states and of direct financing of national IBMMs.