Frontex logo on an agent's arm | Photo: DW/E. Elezi
Frontex logo on an agent's arm | Photo: DW/E. Elezi

The managing board the EU’s border agency Frontex announced that following an internal investigation, it did not yet find enough proof of any rights violations at sea involving Frontex agents. However, it also didn't rule out that pushbacks might have occurred in some of the instances.

Frontex examined a total of 13 cases where the possible involvement of EU border agency officials in pushing back migrants in the Aegean Sea at the Greek-Turkish maritime border had been alleged. It said that five of the cases remained unresolved due to lack of information.

Those five cases still required "further inquiry … and additional clarifications," a statement published by Frontex said, adding that management was "very concerned" that Frontex did not provide information on three incidents in time, "so that the Working Group could not yet draw any conclusions with a view to certain cases."

The working group is due to present its final report on February 26.

Calls for resignation

The management board called on Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri to "immediately provide the missing information" and to implement various recommended agency improvements. Leggeri has denied the involvement of Frontex personnel in pushbacks despite video footage allegedly proving otherwise.

Several EU lawmakers have meanwhile called for Leggeri's resignation over the scandal, but Frontex said the executive director had no plans to resign.

Meanwhile, the other eight incident cases were closed, as the working group found no evidence of fundamental rights violations on the basis of information provided, the statement read.

The EU's independent corruption watchdog confirmed earlier this month that it was investigating Frontex over the allegations. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) said it had searched Frontex headquarters in the Polish capital Warsaw in connection with those allegations.

Breach of international law?

The inquest came after various human rights organizations had alleged that Frontex border officers had assisted national border units in forcing migrants back, particularly along Greece's sea border with Turkey.

Such pushbacks are illegal under EU human rights laws and also under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as they prevent would-be asylum seekers from lodging their claims for refugee status.

Frontex meanwhile continues to grow as the EU’s first uniformed force. It aims to have 10,000 border guards on its payroll by 2027.

with dpa, AFP

 

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