The National Transparency Authority (NTA) Inspectors-Auditors Unit completed an investigation, which started on 15 November 2021 and was completed on 24/03/2022, concerning the audit-evaluation of the management of migration flows and border management by the competent national authorities.
The mission was triggered by an article, published on 06.10.2021, by the news platform “ LightHouse Reports” in cooperation with a coalition of media organisations, under the title “ Unmasking Europe’s Shadow Armies”, where there were allegations of informal forced returns (pushbacks) of irregular migrants by masked groups. The mission scope included the audit of the operations of the national authorities tasked with the surveillance of sea and land borders, taking into consideration, among other evidence sources, the testimonial data of local communities on how irregular migration flows are managed by national authorities.
The team of auditors-inspectors conducted thorough investigation activities on the basis of a structured audit programme, developed on the basis of the national, EU and international legal framework and the evaluation of the information contained in the press report. More specifically, on-the-spot visits and autopsies were carried out at critical border management sites, and interviews-examinations were taken by law enforcement officers, residents and guests on the islands of the North and South Aegean (Mytilini-Samos-Kos-Rhodos-Kastelizo-Symi), as well as in towns in the region of Evros (Alexandroupoli-Orestiada-Didymoteicho).
In order to investigate the allegations of pushbacks in Greece and to collect the documentation referred to in the press report of the “ LightHouse Reports” platform, the audit team contacted the media organisations involved in order to ask them to provide relevant documentation materials to corroborate the content of the article.
With the assistance of the Hellenic Police Forensic Science Division (F.S.D.), the audit team contacted a visual and laboratory forensic examination of the data provided (video and photographic material), in order to verify the authenticity of the material, as well as the existence of identifying data (metadata such as time stamping, geographical position, etc.) of the available audiovisual archives.
All the testimonies and other data gathered and evaluated during the mission, document the implementation of a structured process flow, which is part of a strict protocol of actions, which constitute the framework for the engagement of the competent national authorities. The allegations of pushbacks, included in the ‘Lighthouse Reports’ article, were not confirmed, given that after the completion of all the actions encompassed in the mission’s audit programme, including the forensic examination of all relevant audiovisual data, there were no evidence to corroborate these allegations.