Amid the ongoing revelations of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s (Frontex) involvement in pushbacks and their cover up, MEPs from the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) are calling on Fabrice Leggeri, head of the agency, to resign.
Documentation of direct and indirect Frontex involvement in pushbacks from Greece caused the European Commission to call for an urgent extraordinary meeting of the agency’s board on 10 November. Despite Frontex’s own initial internal investigation finding no evidence of its involvement, the meeting resulted in increased scrutiny of the agency as member states and European Commission agreed to establish a special committee to investigate incidents and interpret Article 6 of European Regulation 656 on “Interception in the territorial sea”, with a report expected in January. Following a meeting on 1 December where MEPs of the LIBE Committee received a briefing and questioned head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, on the allegations, members are calling for his resignation: “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign…”, said Kati Piri, Vice-President for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D).
Documentation of incidents being ignored or covered up and internal reporting being discouraged continues to mount as do denials from the Greek government and authorities of countries supplying staff operating under the Frontex banner. In a letter of response to Leggeri, the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service rejects reports of involvement of the two vessels Nortada and Molivos in pushback operations off Lesvos as reported by Der Spiegel and other media. German authorities also publicly denied involvement in pushbacks off Samos. However, according to Der Spiegel an internal letter from Leggeri to the European Commission confirms that on 10 August the German vessel BP62 encountered a dinghy with 40 people onboard in Greek territorial waters and awaited the arrival of the Greek coastguard rather than rescuing, reportedly as part of a standing order. The 40 people were later rescued by the Turkish coastguard. Human rights spokesman for Germany’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Frank Schwabe, calls for the withdrawal of German federal police assigned to EU Frontex patrols if they are implicated in pushbacks.
For further information:
- ECRE, Greece: Frontex Denies Involvement in Pushbacks, Expert Council Critique of NGO Registration Rules, November 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Father of Drowned Child Arrested, Thousands of Pushbacks Documented, Frontex Involvement in Pushbacks Under Scrutiny, November 2020
- Joint statement, Turning rhetoric into reality: New monitoring mechanism at European borders should ensure fundamental rights and accountability, November 2020
- ECRE, Frontex: Commission Calls for Urgent Meeting over Complicity in Pushbacks, Critique of 100 Million Euro Investment in Drone Surveillance, October 2020
Photo: (CC) Rock Cohen, November 2010
This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.