Yet a collection of incident reports from Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, obtained by The Intercept, reveals a broader Greek and European tactic of using weapons to stop boats driven by suspected smugglers — and injuring or killing refugees in the process. (In the Greek islands, Frontex operates alongside the coast guard, patrolling the sea border with Turkey. In many cases, the information in these documents was reported to Frontex by the Greek coast guard as part of their joint operations.) The documents, which were meant to be redacted to shield operational details but were inadvertently released by Frontex in full, reveal multiple cases of firearms use against boats carrying refugees (The Intercept has elected to publish the unredacted versions to demonstrate how refugees’ lives were endangered during these incidents). The reports span a 20-month period from May 2014, two months after the Chios shooting, to December 2015. Each case of firearms use — even if it resulted in someone being wounded — was described as part of the standard rules of engagement for stopping boats at sea (…) Frontex officers must abide by the same rules of engagement as police in the host country where they are operating. Greek law divides weapon use into four categories: shooting for intimidation, shooting against objects, shooting to immobilize, and shooting to kill. According to the rules of engagement for Greek coast guard officers, as well as Frontex officers working in Greece, shooting to disable a vehicle is legal if it is done to prevent someone from illegally entering or exiting a country, if they have a firearm (…) Frontex, through its press office, acknowledges that these shootings have, in multiple cases, caused the injury and death of refugees aboard smuggler boats, though it would not provide information on the number of such cases. Nor would it clarify who on board a Frontex ship makes the decision to shoot. The agency maintains that the purpose of shooting is not to prevent boats from crossing the sea border, but to stop the smugglers. The effect, however, appears to be the same.
Zach Campbell in Shoot First (Intercept)