A Danish patrol boat monitoring the Aegean sea refused an order to push back migrants they rescued, Danish officials told public broadcaster DR.
The Danish boat was patrolling the sea between Turkey and Greece’s easternmost islands as part of Operation Poseidon, a border surveillance mission in support of Greece, coordinated by EU border protection agency Frontex.
Jens Møller, the police chief in charge of the Danish unit participating in the operation, told DR that the crew had rescued 33 migrants headed for Greece in a rubber dinghy when they received a radio order from Operation Poseidon’s headquarters to put the migrants back into to their dinghy and tow it out of Greek waters.
The crew refused the order, believing it would endanger the lives of the migrants. “The commander considered that [the order] was not justifiable,” Møller said, adding that he eventually managed to get the order overturned. The rescued migrants were brought to the Greek island of Kos.
Lieutenant Commander Jan Niegsch, in charge of the Danish military personnel taking part in the operation, confirmed the incident to POLITICO. DR’s article, which was published on Thursday night, does not state when the incident took place.
Møller and Niegsch also told DR that the Greek coast guard has orders to try and prevent migrant boats from crossing the sea border between Turkey and Greece. Athens has stepped up border security measures after Turkey announced last week that it would no longer stop migrants from crossing into the European Union.
Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen, who visited the patrol crew stationed on Kos Wednesday, told DR she was pleased with how Møller and Niegsch had handled the incident, saying: “They solved the task based on the mandate they were given.”
So-called pushbacks of migrants are illegal under international law.