The European Union’s border agency failed to protect the rights of people at European borders yet no conclusive evidence of the Agency performing pushbacks was found.
A four-month-long investigation into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)’s conduct at European borders, spearheaded by First Vice-President Roberta Metsola, “did not find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions”.
However, the report did find evidence supporting allegations of fundamental rights abuses in EU member states where Frontex was involved in joint operations.
On the topic of these fundamental rights violations, Metsola highlighted that “we expected better. We also expected the Frontex management board, in particular, to have played a more proactive role in acknowledging the serious risks of fundamental rights violations”.
Today’s report in @EP_Justice on Frontex is damning to say the least. We must confront its conclusions. Frontex is the EU’s largest agency. Problems there, are by definition big problems. This cloud must be lifted now; looking away would be a grave mistake. https://t.co/w9jgAvUFoC pic.twitter.com/0Nyc6DsO45
— Sophie in ‘t Veld (@SophieintVeld) July 15, 2021
The report found that there has been a failure in taking action to address reports of migrant pushbacks across the management of Frontex, yet particularly it’s executive director, Fabrice Leggeri.
Migrant pushbacks define the illegal practice of summarily forcing migrants to return across a border they have recently crossed or sought to cross. Pushbacks by national border guards have been seen in EU member states such as Greece and Hungary, where Frontex has had a major influence.
While no evidence of direct pushbacks by Frontex agents was found, the report did highlight that management had ignored reports, including video evidence, of human rights abuses violations in places where Frontex operates.
It also identified that Frontex’s executive director deliberately delayed the hiring of personnel whose jobs would be to monitor rights at Frontex operations.
On this, Metsola had harsh words to say over this failure, calling for “an enlarged role for fundamental rights officers, for at least 40 fundamental rights monitors to be recruited by last December and for fundamental rights to be at the heart of the agency’s operations”.
“This did not happen.”
“I maintain the Parliament’s commitment to ensure that at least 40 fundamental rights officers were to have been recruited by December 2020, with their roles to be the agency’s eyes and ears on the ground,” Metsola explained to the LIBE committee.
1. The FSWG urges @EU_Commission to raise cases of problematic cooperation with the Agency in the Management Board, and in case of non-compliance with the Regulation, to consider further steps.
— Marc Tilley (@TilleyMarc) July 15, 2021
Working with the Frontex Security Group, Metsola welcomed the Agency’s development of internal procedures and rules to better comply with the new regulations and recommendations from the fact-finding report.
Yet, she further stressed the importance of the recruitment of the fundamental rights officers; “the recruitment of the fundamental rights officers must be concluded as quickly and as soon as possible and that the officers have to be deployed and able to work within the expectations of that mandate”.
Through the report, several conclusions are put forth by the European Parliament in order to ensure that the agency’s operations respect human rights and ensure that it identifies and addresses future reports of violations.
Frontex is essential to the integrity of the European Union Metsola emphasised, highlighting that MEPs wished to ensure that it was able to fulfil the entirety of its crucial mandate.
“A lot more needs to be done to integrate human rights considerations from the very beginning of planning including by making full use of the fundamental rights officers.”
“Can it be improved? Of course, but Frontex is here to stay and our recommendations are designed so that it is able to ensure it is able to reach citizens’ expectations going forward.”
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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