Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Union border monitoring agency Frontex dismissed its director Fabrice Leggeri on Friday, following a probe by the bloc’s anti-fraud agency into alleged human rights violations by the agency.
Frontex faced years of accusations that it was turning its head away from obvious human rights abuses by member states facing significant refugee influx, such as Greece and Croatia. Human rights organisations warned for years that the local authorities are using violence and engaging in illegal pushbacks of migrants attempting to enter their borders.
Independent media claimed since 2020 that Frontex was at least partially complicit in the practice of pushbacks, while local and international NGOs investigating abuse of migrants in Greece and Croatia suffered intimidation and obstruction by the local authorities.
While European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson announced in February last year, during her visit to the infamous Lipa refugee camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that the Commission was working close with Croatian authorities on setting up a monitoring mechanism to prevent violent pushbacks, the practice nevertheless continued, and no reliable independent monitoring mechanism was put in place.
European Union’s anti-fraud office OLAF opened a probe last year into allegations of Frontex’s participation in human rights violations. Greens’ MEP Erik Marquardt, who saw OLAF’s summary report on the matter, told the German dpa agency in early March that it revealed Frontex’s leadership was aware human rights violations were taking place, though they have deliberately chosen not to report or investigate further.
A 2021 European Parliament report on Frontex did not find evidence that Frontex participated in human rights abuses, but had also concluded that the agency “generally disregarded” numerous reports by reliable national and international human rights bodies and organisations.