Last week the European Parliament published a working document on the fact-finding investigation on Frontex, specifically dealing with alleged fundamental rights violations. Its author, Tineke Strik, EU Parliament member for the Greens/EFA, suggests that Frontex agency’s director Fabrice Leggeri should resign. The report sheds light on the actions and decisions of Frontex’s Executive Director and judges how he treated the wide-spread concerns: he claims not to be aware “of any information that fundamental rights have been or are being violated, and even denies that he had received reports from actors that have confirmed they shared their findings with the Agency.”
As Strik told the Guardian prior to the publication of the paper, Frontex “did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations”. According to the report, the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group’s (FSWG) main responsibility is to monitor “all aspects of the functioning of Frontex, including its reinforced role and resources for integrated border management.” The report was published after a series of allegations that Frontex has been involved in pushbacks of refugee boats into the Aegean Sea, forcing asylum seekers back against international law. As a consequence, many human rights organizations have requested Frontex to be abolished altogether and, according to Strik, the agency had failed to respond to any of the reports of violations of human rights. The report dedicates a chapter to addressing “allegations of fundamental rights violations in which Frontex was reportedly involved, aware of and/or did not act upon“. It describes how Frontex has been accused by several NGO’s like Amnesty International, UNHCR and Human Rights Watch – among others – of a series of actions, an overall pattern that violates human rights, “jeopardises access to asylum and uses violence to deter people”.
Some investigated topics, such as the role of Frontex concerning pushbacks in Greece, that were „sometimes undertaken by unidentified forces wearing uniforms and masks and carrying weapons, have expanded to migrants after arrival on the islands or the mainland“ remain unclear to the author of the report. The FSWG’s general conclusion was that human rights organisations “consistently reported about fundamental rights violations at the border in a number of Member States, but that Frontex generally disregarded these reports. The Agency also failed to adequately respond to internal observations about certain cases of probable fundamental rights violations in Member States. (…) The FSWG did not find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions by Frontex in the serious incident cases that could be examined by the FSWG. However, the FSWG concludes that the Agency found evidence in support of allegations of fundamental rights violations in Member States with which it had a joint operation, but failed to address and follow-up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively. As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduced the risk of future fundamental rights violations.” The main and crucial challenge for Frontex remains: to not compromise human rights in order to protect borders.