Frontex violations of human rights

Frontex violations of human rights

Oct 20, 2022
On Tuesday, Members of the European Parliament rejected granting a 2020 budget discharge to the EU’s Border Guard Agency, Frontex.

On Tuesday, Members of the European Parliament rejected granting a 2020 budget discharge to the EU’s Border Guard Agency, Frontex. A step in the right direction towards condemning illegal and often violent pushbacks.

Photo of Frontex people on a ship

The vote comes after countless reports of investigative journalists and the publication of a damning report from the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF, pointing to internal misconducts and the Agency’s complicity with blatant human rights violations, including its involvement in covering up pushbacks from Greece to Turkey.

OLAF opened its investigation over allegations of harassment, misconduct and unlawful pushbacks back in January 2021. The investigation was concluded over a year later and the shocking results were presented to the Budgetary and Civil Liberties committee in February 2022. The report follows months of public scrutiny, numerous reports by investigative journalists on the Agency’s involvement in violations of fundamental rights, and formal inquiry by the European Parliament of the Agency’s misconduct. In April, Frontex’s Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri — who openly lied to the European Parliament and the Commission — was forced to resign amid the scandals surrounding the Agency.

The denial of discharge to Frontex is a win for democracy after a series of internal fights. The Parliament finally sends a strong signal: no EU agency should be complicit in human rights violations. Volt, together with our MEP, has been calling for greater accountability and transparency of all EU agencies, and in particular Frontex. But this is only the first step: the reports show that Frontex and its top management are responsible for numerous internal dysfunctions and ignored violations of human rights carried on behalf of the national authorities. We call the EU to take this evidence seriously and address the Member States’ active engagement in pushbacks at the external border.

Then on to Frontex. With a view to enhance transparency and traceability of the agency’s activities, Frontex should publish summaries of its operational plans, including an assessment of the Fundamental Right Officer on the latest operations. In terms of operations, the complaint mechanism of the agency should be strengthened and made more accessible to potential complainants. This should include ensuring availability of information to complainants, the possibility to fill anonymous complaints, and the creation of review mechanisms to ensure that all complaints are treated and transmitted. At the same time, such changes would be toothless without a complete U-turn in Frontex’s management culture. The European Parliament should be an enabler in this process, and a group of MEPs should nominate human rights and cultural experts to conduct regular training with Frontex staff, both in HQ and deployed.

The sad reality is, however, that while Frontex and its leadership were under scrutiny on all fronts, thousands of refugees will have been affected by their illegal practices. That is a failure of our democracy and of the upholding of the rule of law. The EU is in desperate need of a common and humane migration and asylum policy, with a transparent mechanism to hold the institutions accountable.