Frontex faces exhaustive scrutiny over alleged involvement in pushbacks

Fourteen MEPs to conduct fact-finding investigation into actions of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency

Photo: EP Roberta Metsola.

In seeking more clarity over the alleged involvement of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency -  Frontex staff in pushbacks of asylum-seekers the new EP Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG), composed of  fourteen MEPs, formally began its work on Tuesday.

Within the first four months of its existence, the FSWG should carry out a fact-finding investigation, gathering all relevant information and evidence regarding alleged violations of fundamental rights in which the Agency was involved. The group's meetings will take place twice per month.

We are determined that this process will lead to clear answers to the questions that are being asked and recommend improvements in the way things are done, said Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT), who will chair the WG. The investigation will focus on different aspects including the compliance and respect for fundamental rights, the Agency’s internal management, and in ensuring that the transparency and accountability standards that are expected are reached, she specified.

According to her it is a purposefully wide remit that focuses on different aspects of the Agency’s operations and how it fits into the larger picture of the EU’s role in this issue.

We will get to work immediately and top of our agenda will be speaking to European Commissioner Johansson and the Frontex Executive Director, as well as planning to visit Frontex’s headquarters in Poland when possible, Metsola said, adding that she hopes the process will give clarity and confidence to people looking at the EU’s role in external border management.

The report summarising the group’s conclusions will be drafted by Tineke Strik (Greens/EFA,NL). It is the task of the European Parliament to hold EU agencies accountable in cases of mismanagement or fundamental rights violations, she commented adding that  the allegations against Frontex on complicity to pushback operations are worrying and require a thorough investigation, as people at our borders should be able to rely on respect for their human rights.

This investigation has to examine the facts and present recommendations to ensure that Frontex actively ensures respect for fundamental rights, but also transparency and accountability in the future, she also stressed.

“Our first step in this process will be to conduct hearings with all actors involved, ranging from people within the Agency, to the European Commission, and investigative journalists. An open and democratic process is the only way to restore the trust in the ability of Frontex to manage our borders in compliance with our fundamental rights obligations," Strik said.

The EU's anti-fraud office OLAF also investigates whether there are evidences for the alleged pushbacks of migrants, for which several non-governmental organisations and media are alerting.

Frontex also established its Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations in the Aegean Sea, which report a month ago concludes that on the basis of the information provided, “it could not establish evidence of fundamental rights violations”.

 

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