EU border agency indicted on serious rights abuses in leaked report
A classified document claims that Frontex was involved in cover-ups and illegal detentions of asylum seekers from Greece and Malta.
In a classified EU report on Frontex, the EU Border, and Coast Guard Agency provided information about serious allegations of the agency and its staff covering up human rights violations in EU member states.
The report, which runs to more than 120 pages, is the result of a months-long investigation and dozens of witness interviews conducted by Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud agency.
The findings prompted Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri to resign abruptly in April of this year.
So far, the classified document was only available under strict conditions to members of the European Parliament.
The report was leaked to German freedom of information specialists Frag Den Staat, Lighthouse Reports, and Der Spiegel, who have now published it in full, citing public interest, mainly for European taxpayers, whose taxes help fund the agency.
With a budget of £650 million, the EU's best-funded agency has been under scrutiny since Leggeri's resignation in April, and there have been calls for it to withdraw from operations in Greece due to reports of human rights violations, most notably regarding illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers.
Athens denied such practices, claiming an unwavering adherence to international law.
Frontex's new interim leader, Aija Kalnaja, issued a statement last week stating that its "actions in the Aegean Sea region were carried out in accordance with the applicable legal framework."
Concerns about human rights violations have been addressed by the agency by suggesting an increased Frontex presence in Greece.
It is also worth noting that the report contains excerpts from private WhatsApp messages and interviews that reveal internal discussions and concerns about how to report sightings of pushbacks in Greece.
In one exchange, the staff discusses how long they can wait to launch a serious incident report into an incident in which a Frontex surveillance craft spotted a migrant boat being towed back to Turkish waters by the Greek coastguard in April 2020.
"Don't think we can wait much longer," one message says, "and we also have to consider our reputation once it is thoroughly investigated."
The report confirms the veracity of many of the pushback allegations investigated and reveals internal schisms.
Frontex operations would be terminated if there were "serious and persistent violations of fundamental rights," according to its own regulations.
Frontex stated in July, in response to initial media reports about the findings of the EU anti-fraud investigation, that it "strongly believes" the agency should strengthen its presence in Greece, which operates in a "very complex geopolitical environment."
However, Front-Omer Lex's Shatz and Iftach Cohen, who are suing the agency in response to the allegations and report, argue: “We are looking at 43,000 toddlers, women and men who were kidnapped by European agents from safety in EU territory and abandoned at sea by Frontex and Greece in 2.5 years, with the full support of the commission and all member states.”
“Our case requests the court to order Frontex to comply with EU law, terminate this operation and stop this despicable madness,” they said.
Last year, some 3,231 men, women, and children have lost their lives drowning while attempting to reach European shores, with 1,881 in 2020, 1,510 in 2019, and more than 2,277 in 2018, according to data from the UNHCR.
While such a tragedy is staged on an almost daily basis, EU governments are proceeding with their ongoing practice of evading responsibilities and throwing the blame onto one another.
For instance, last April, it was reported that Berlin forcefully evicted Afghan refugees from their houses to put up refugees from Ukraine in their stead.
Meanwhile, many have ironically remained silent on Poland's new anti-immigration wall, which has had severe consequences on the environment.
As for Ukrainian refugees which the UK so dearly welcomed, it is estimated that 50,000 could be made homeless by next year due to ministers' reluctance of renewing a new package of support.
On top of everything, far-right political parties are thriving on anti-immigration positions, such as the fascist Brothers party in Italy or the National Rally in France.
Not an isolated incident
Unfortunately, Frontex's case is not an isolated incident. Several incidents have been repeatedly documented in Europe, detailing how immigrants were killed.
What seemed like an "unfortunate event" on the Morocco-Melilla border was revealed to be, thanks to videos circulated by the media, a massacre that brutally killed 37 mostly-African refugees coming from Chad, Niger, South Sudan, and Sudan. Over 150 were injured in the systemic violence, which included charges and beatings by security forces coming from both the Spanish and the Moroccan sides.
Europe has been taking on an anti-refugee concept – rigid and violent. Last winter, Poland left refugees to freeze to death in the forests on its border. In 2019, Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, called on the EU to suspend all naval rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, which left thousands of people to drown. “Progressive” Finland, with its application to join NATO, declared its intention to begin constructing barriers along its border with Russia to guard against any refugees being used as “hybrid warfare” by Russia.
In short, Europe’s imperialist viewpoint of the world comes as no surprise – the increasing militarization and systemic brutality of the continent’s armies are resurrecting grounds for fascist violence on its borders as well as its neo-colonies.