Question: Use of sound cannons against refugees in Greece

More than forty MEPs from four political groups jointly tabled this question to the European Commission on 17 June. In its reply, the Commission stresses that it has asked the Greek authorities about the 'long-range acoustic devices' reported in the media and that such devices have never been used by its forces in the Evros border area in connection with border surveillance operations. Furthermore, the Commission writes that it does not finance long-range acoustic devices in Greece. However, press reports indicate that the Greek Government does use these sound cannons. These and other questions can be found in full on the homepage of the European Parliament.

Our request

One Message from the Associated Press of 31 May 2021 According to reports, the Greek police are firing deafening acoustic salvos into Turkey from a truck. The Greek police have announced that they intend to use high decibel messages to deter those seeking protection. This action is part of a series of new physical and experimental digital barriers being installed and tested along Greece's 200 km border with Turkey to prevent people from entering the EU without proper authorization.

These long-range acoustic devices, typically used to break up demonstrations, emit deafening sound waves of up to 162 decibels, which is equivalent to the noise of a jet engine and can cause serious health problems or even deafness.

On 3 June 2021, Commission Spokesperson, Adalbert Jahnz expressed the Commission's concern and stated that the Commission would seek further information, noting that the measures must be proportionate and respect fundamental rights, including the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.

Commission's reply

The management of the EU's external borders and the provision of infrastructure are the responsibility of the Member States. In accordance with the Schengen Borders Code external borders may only be crossed at border crossing points and border checks should be carried out in a professional and respectful manner and be proportionate to the objectives pursued.

The Commission encourages Member States to use efficient and proportionate instruments based on risk analysis, cooperation and exchange of information. Under EU law, border controls must be proportionate and carried out with respect for fundamental rights, including human dignity, with respect for the principle of non-refoulement and without prejudice to the rights of persons seeking international protection. The use of equipment should be in accordance with those criteria.

The Commission has enquired with the Greek authorities about the 'long-range acoustic devices' reported in the media. Such devices have never been used by their forces in the Evros border area in connection with border surveillance operations.

The Commission provides financial support to Member States to improve the management of the EU external borders under the Internal Security Fund. Regulation (EU) No 513/2014 provides that actions financed under this Fund must be implemented in full compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. If ineligible expenditure is found, EU funds used irregularly will be recovered. The Commission does not finance long-range acoustic devices in Greece.

As part of the migration and asylum package, the Commission proposes a humane and dignified migration management system, including fast and fair procedures and a monitoring mechanism at the external borders to ensure compliance with EU law.