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New accusations against "Frontex": the European Agency was aware of the operations to push back migrants at the border

New accusations against “Frontex”: the European Agency was aware of the operations to push back migrants at the border

The European Border Guard Agency “Frontex” has always faced accusations of participating in violent pushbacks at the borders against migrants, but what is new in the matter is what is revealed by a confidential report prepared by the European Anti-fraud Office, in which it concluded that the European Agency was aware of these violations, and that it participated in financing Pushbacks on the Greek border.

New investigations revealed that the former administration of the Frontex border control agency was aware of the illegal pushbacks against migrants at the Greek-Turkish border.

Several media outlets, including the German “Der Spiegel”, the French “Le Monde” and the investigative website “Lighthouse Report”, have seen a confidential report prepared by the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), which concludes that Frontex was aware very early of the illegal deportation of asylum seekers. Legal and sometimes brutal, towards Turkey.

The new information also revealed that Frontex participated in financing the blocking operations at the European borders, even though these practices violate international laws and the Geneva Convention, which obliges European countries to give asylum seekers an opportunity to study their files.

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Frontex is also accused by humanitarian organizations of complicity with the Libyan Coast Guard in committing violations against migrants in the central Mediterranean.

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“Instead of blocking the deportations, former president Fabrice Leggerie and his aides covered them up. They lied to the European Parliament and hid the fact that the agency supported some of the deportations with European taxpayers’ money,” the German magazine report said. The investigators’ conclusions had caused Leggeri’s resignation at the end of last April.

Withdrawal of reconnaissance planes “so as not to be a witness”

On the Greek-Turkish border, the investigation reveals that on August 5, 2020, the Greek coast guard towed a rubber boat carrying 30 migrants towards Turkey. A Frontex plane filmed the scene, while it was patrolling the place.

But the European Agency, despite possessing these evidences, does not seem to have addressed the Greek authorities in this regard, but rather stopped patrolling aircraft over the Aegean Sea, justifying this by the need for it elsewhere. The report revealed the presence of a written note indicating the withdrawal of the reconnaissance planes “so as not to be a witness.”

The European Anti-Fraud Office report said at least six Greek boats, financed by Frontex, were involved in more than a dozen deportations between April and December 2020, which the former director of the agency denied.

Procedures and control?

“Even if I cannot verify in detail each case, there have been cases of deportations that do not comply with European law,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock said during a visit to Frontex’s offices in Athens.

“Immediate action was taken … we all talked about today, so that more human rights monitors can be present,” she said.

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In response to a question about the report, European Commission spokeswoman Anita Heber said that a “chain of measures” had been taken to resolve the issue of the management of the agency, which has been headed since the beginning of July by Latvian Ija Kalnaga.

“In terms of working with the Greek authorities, there is progress on the ground,” Heber added, also referring to “a proposal for a new law that guarantees a strong monitoring system” for the way migrants are dealt with coming to Greece.

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Greece, for its part, has long denied carrying out any illegal deportations from its borders.

Immigration Minister Notis Mitarashi said Thursday that he had only read the “summary” of the report issued by the European Anti-fraud Office, which “does not directly blame Greece,” as he put it. “We have the right to protect our borders,” the Greek minister was also quoted by media as saying.

This development puts the European Agency, which is responsible for about 10,000 personnel, in the process of examining and investigating and possibly reconsidering its basic tasks and tools. It may re-pose the question that has long reverberated in the corridors of the European Commission about whether border protection is a priority at the expense of European states fulfilling their obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers.