Frontex cannot keep evading scrutiny
European Court of Auditors is latest official body to point to problems with border agency
Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, is in turmoil. It holds unprecedented power and a budget set to double amid rising controversy. Rights groups have documented thousands of human rights violations against migrants and refugees at the EU’s borders, including violent pushbacks and complicity with the deaths of thousands in the Mediterranean.
The latest European Court of Auditors (ECA) report deemed the agency “ineffective” and, in April, the European Parliament postponed the approval of the agency’s 2019 accounts due to concerns over human rights violations and spending by the agency. The agency’s budget has grown from €19 million, in 2006, to a staggering €900 million a year until 2027.
The ECA’s report points to a lack of transparency in the fields of operation it investigated, and expressed concern over the recent extension of the agency’s responsibilities. Furthermore, Frontex has continued to evade accountability for its human rights violations. The Left has demanded the resignation of Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri over his repeated denial of such crimes and his failure to properly investigate Frontex’s alleged involvement in reported pushbacks in the Aegean sea, or to act over well-known violations in Hungary, for example.
This week, MEPs grilled Leggeri about his leadership, misuse of funds, the fulfilment of the agency’s mandate and intended reforms.
"The fact that the latest ECA report does not address the question of human rights makes me reluctant. It might lead us to the wrong conclusions." pic.twitter.com/ysniVDQTDp
— The Left in the European Parliament (@Left_EU) June 22, 2021
The Left has succeeded in establishing a permanent working group to investigate the agency’s fundamental rights violations and management failures. Left MEPs had visited various locations in the Mediterranean in the past few years, and have heard testimonies about pushbacks and mistreatment of refugees and migrants – including by Frontex agents.
The setting up of the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) means MEPs will have a permanent mandate to investigate all aspects of the functioning of the border agency, including accountability but, above all, whether it is in compliance or in violation of fundamental rights.
Meanwhile, the European court of justice (ECJ) is reviewing a case brought by Amsterdam-based Front-Lex and Legal Centre Lesvos accusing Frontex of “numerous violations of fundamental rights and international protection obligations related to acts and omission in the Aegean Sea.” They claim that many of the violations are of “a serious nature and likely to persist”, which, according to Article 46 should automatically lead to a suspension of its operations. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is also investigating Frontex.
The Left rejects the unrestrained expansion of Frontex, demanding an end to Fortress Europe, for a humane migration policy that respects human rights and the EU’s international law commitments.