Probe launched into Frontex over alleged rights violations

A working group led by MEPs in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee will probe recent alleged violations of fundamental rights against the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Feb 2021

MEPs have called for Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of Frontex, to quit over his repeated denial of any crimes and his perceived failure to effectively investigate Frontex’s alleged involvement in reported pushbacks in the Aegean Sea and alleged violations in Hungary.

MEPs say the aim of the probe is to address issues such as the “lack of transparency” in Frontex and its reporting procedures, as well as the internal management of the EU’s largest agency.

The EU's border security agency's role in the illegal “pushbacks” of refugees will also be investigated and recommendations will follow on how to prevent fundamental rights violations in future.

Kati Piri, S&D member responsible for migration issues, said, “It has been nearly two months since we called for Leggeri to resign, due to his persistent failures to properly address the serious allegations of Frontex involvement in illegal pushbacks of migrants.”

“The extent of the allegations that plague Frontex, and the number of blatant rights violations that we see every day, are a clear sign that the agency has much deeper-rooted problems. Through an investigation in Parliament we want to see the full extent of Frontex’s failings when it comes to respecting fundamental rights.”

Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, added, “Frontex’s reputation has gone from bad to worse in recent months. Change starts from the top and that’s why we urged the director to stand down, following repeated allegations of fundamental rights violations at the EU’s borders.”

“While Leggeri is still in office, he is not in control of the situation. The result is not only that the credibility of the EU’s largest agency is in shreds, but it has meant that the disgraceful and unacceptable pushbacks of vulnerable people at Europe’s borders keep taking place.”

“It has been nearly two months since we called for Leggeri to resign, due to his persistent failures to properly address the serious allegations of Frontex involvement in illegal pushbacks of migrants” Kati Piri, S&D

“Frontex’ decision to pull out of Hungary, where pushbacks were well documented even after a recent ECJ ruling, is a welcome first step in the right direction. But this step comes too late and is too little to restore the confidence in the director of the EU's largest agency.”

“There are serious allegations that still require answers. There is gross mismanagement that still requires transparency and accountability.”

She added, “To put it simply, we know there have been serious failings in Frontex and with the full picture we can start to put the agency back on the right course. With this investigation we can shine a much-needed light on the agency’s operations and give clear instructions on how to change the way Frontex works to ensure full compliance with fundamental rights and prevent any further violations in the future.”

Renew Europe said “all allegations must be fully investigated and clarified.”

Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, Renew Europe coordinator in LIBE Committee, said, “This is what Parliaments need to do: hold executive power accountable. In this case we need to ensure that those wearing an EU uniform comply with EU law and respect fundamental rights. Frontex is the largest and best-funded EU agency, and with power comes responsibility. This scrutiny is about rebuilding trust and fostering it continuously through transparency.”

Greens deputy Tineke Strik added, “Violations cannot go unanswered. We need to find out what exactly is going on and which structures have made this situation possible. The reaction by Frontex into worrying claims of illegal activity has been weak and disappointing. The only way to restore trust in the functioning of Frontex is through a thorough parliamentary investigation.”

“If the allegations of misconduct prove to be true, then there must be consequences. We cannot allow EU agencies to act outside of the law and against European values. This inquiry is the first step towards the protection of refugees and migrants and much needed accountability for Frontex.”

“Frontex is the largest and best-funded EU agency, and with power comes responsibility. This scrutiny is about rebuilding trust and fostering it continuously through transparency” Sophie in ‘t Veld, Renew Europe

GUE/NGL member Sira Rego said, “The creation of a working group is an important first step in ending the current impunity of the agency after numerous reports of fundamental rights violations.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the situation of migrants and refugees on the Greek islands will be debated by the LIBE Committee with the Commission and NGO representatives.

The Commission will present a pilot project to MEPs that involves Frontex along with the EU Asylum Office (EASO), Europol, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) as well as the Greek government, to establish and operate a new reception and identification centre on Lesvos.

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