Rights violations. Hot returns. And ill-treatment committed by Greek border guards in the Aegean Sea, to the point of throwing refugees in inflatable life rafts into the middle of the sea so that they could not exercise their right to seek asylum. They are the undercover actions by officials of Frontex (EU border agency), according to a report of more than 120 pages that made the former director Frabrice Leggeri resign and has now come to light through several European media, among them Der Spiegelwhich uncovered the scandal through a joint investigation (Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, SRF Rundschau, Republik and Le Monde).
The report of the EU Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF) revealed this Thursday shows how the EU’s European border agency, Frontex, has been complicit in these human rights violations.
Why? Because, according to the report, Frontex management repeatedly concealed suspected fundamental rights cases from its own officers and prevented them from working; because the agency withdrew its aerial surveillance to stop recording the violations; because it co-financed some of the Greek entities that made the hot returns; because he deceived the bodies in charge of supervising the agency; and although the pushbacks are “serious or persistent legal infractions”, Frontex did not withdraw from the joint operations as required by the agency’s regulations.
The report speaks of “serious misconduct”, “lack of fiduciary duty”, “lack of leadership”… According to the text, Frontex management not only ignored the indications of human rights violations, but was complicit. Former Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri and his team were instructed to look the other way so as not to witness pushbacks and covered up the illegal practices of Greek border officials, according to the investigation.
Frontex’s budget has continued to grow in recent years, from the initial €6 million to the current €754 million.
According to an investigation published by The Guardian, Frontex has been involved in the refoulement of at least 957 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea between March 2020 and September 2021. And according to a European Parliament report, Frontex was not doing enough to respect the rights humans on European borders. Moreover, it is claimed that Frontex looks the other way when faced with actions by countries such as Hungary, Croatia or Greece that are contrary to fundamental rights in relation to migrants. “The group did not find conclusive evidence on the direct conduct of hot returns and / or collective expulsions by Frontex in cases of serious incidents”, the report’s conclusions say: “However, the Agency found evidence to support the allegations of violations of fundamental rights in the Member States with which it had a joint operation, but failed to address and follow up on these violations in a prompt, vigilant and effective manner. As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations or reduce the risk of future fundamental rights violations.”