In an investigation carried out by the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group, MEPs found that the border agency’s management failed to address illegal pushbacks, did nothing to prevent these violations of fundamental rights and has done nothing to reduce the risk of future violations. Drawing on evidence from various international organisations, reporters and NGOs, the report recommends an urgent change in the culture of Frontex on fundamental rights compliance and a change in the agency’s approach to handling complaints, to reporting procedures and transparency overall.
The fact-finding investigation also shows that the Executive Director of Frontex repeatedly failed to respond to serious concerns and clear recommendations from the agency’s own Fundamental Rights Officers. As a result, the S&D Group continues to have serious doubts about Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri’s ability to lead Frontex through the urgently required changes.
The report points to a pattern of behaviour from coastguards that put lives at risk at sea, which is why MEPs also recommend Frontex do more to strengthen its search and rescue capacity and work more in co-operation with host member states, not just under their instruction, so that fundamental rights are more carefully monitored and fully protected. The findings of the report are being presented to the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee today.
Bettina Vollath, S&D MEP and member of the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group, said:
“The findings of our investigations found evidence to support the allegations of fundamental rights violations in member states with which Frontex had joint operations. In these cases, it was clear Frontex failed to address and follow up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively. The failure to prevent these violations and the lack of action to reduce the risk of future fundamental rights violations demands clear change in how the agency works This investigation is just the beginning. The report must be followed up by a political resolution from the European Parliament so that our clear recommendations for change from the agency, member states and the Commission become Parliament’s official position. The only way to put an end to rights violations at the EU’s external borders and to rebuild trust and confidence in Frontex as an agency is to put our recommendations into action.”
Javier Moreno Sánchez, S&D MEP and member of the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group, said:
“These investigations are about correcting past failings and putting Frontex back on track. One of our overarching priorities must always be saving lives at sea but the haphazard, unco-ordinated efforts in search and rescue have instead put people’s lives at risk. That is why the scrutiny group recommends Frontex, the Commission and member states coordinate better and work hand-in-hand when responding to search and rescue needs. The report finds huge deficiencies in the capacity of Frontex to deliver on its obligations to comply with fundamental rights. The delay in recruiting fundamental rights monitors is clearly a major hindrance to the agency’s work in guaranteeing compliance. The mismanagement of Frontex in this area is of considerable concern for our group, particularly when Director Leggeri has his eyes on personnel expansion in other parts of the organisation. We also need regular, open and structured communication channels between Frontex and MEPs so that important information can be shared first-hand with the European Parliament.”