Turned away: Frontex 'complicit' in illegal pushback of asylum seekers

Review finds EU border agency failed to investigate human rights breaches

EU border agency Frontex was accused of complicity in the illegal turning back of migrants. AP
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The EU’s border agency was complicit in the illegal turning away of migrants at the bloc’s borders, a European Parliament inquiry has found.

A committee of MEPs who led a four-month investigation into allegations of pushbacks found the border agency Frontex failed to investigate such reports promptly.

The group said Frontex “found evidence in support of allegations of fundamental rights violations … but failed to address and follow-up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively”.

“As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduce the risk of future fundamental rights violations,” the report said.

The group “did not find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks” by the border agency.

Allegations of the border agency’s complicity in turning people away illegally surfaced last year after a video appeared to show one of its ships blocking a small dinghy crammed with asylum seekers from landing in Greece from Turkey.

Experts said the incident appeared to defy a ban on the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to countries where they could face persecution.

Tineke Strik, a Dutch MEP and one of the report’s authors, said it was clear that Frontex was "at least aware of what was going on” in the Aegean Sea.

“They asked for a response from the [Greek] government and when the government denied the case was closed,” she told The Guardian.

Ms Strik called for the resignation of Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri. “We don’t have confidence in him any more,” she said.

Frontex is undergoing a major expansion to cope with a surge in arrivals. By 2027, the agency will have 10,000 border and coastguards.

The report “strongly disapproves of the delay in the recruitment of the fundamental rights monitors” alongside the expansion.

The committee recommended that EU countries “should step up their involvement and actions to ensure that Frontex’s support of border surveillance goes hand in hand with adequately preventing and combating fundamental rights violations”.

Updated: July 15, 2021, 8:47 AM