Brussels presses Frontex guards on refugee push-back

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, in a file photo dated 27 October 2020. [Europe by Satellite]

The European Commission said Tuesday (10 November) it expects answers this month from the Frontex border agency after allegations that migrants crossing from Turkey towards Greece were pushed back.

At an extraordinary meeting of the guard agency’s management board on Tuesday, executive director Fabrice Leggeri vowed to improve human rights reporting standards.

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, described this in a tweet as “a good start to what I want to be a transparent process.”

But she added that Brussels has asked “the Frontex Executive Director to reply to questions ahead of the next scheduled board meeting (end November).”

Several media reports, including from the respected German weekly Der Spiegel, have uncovered evidence of Frontex guards working with Greek authorities to push migrants back into Turkish waters.

Commission calls for meeting with Frontex over alleged 'push-back incidents'

The European Commission has called for an urgent extraordinary meeting of the Management Board of EU border agency Frontex, which has been accused of “illegal pushbacks” of migrants in the Aegan Sea. EURACTIV’s partner Euroefe reports.

Migrant rights agencies have warned that the arrivals, many of them refugees from conflict, have a right to claim asylum and are put in danger by aggressive tactics from border guards.

The reports have embarrassed the European Commission, whose president Ursula von der Leyen travelled to see the refugee crisis on the ground in March and hailed Greece as “Europe’s shield”.

Leggeri, a former senior French official, told Tuesday’s meeting that the agency should set up an evaluation committee to monitor compliance with regulations.

“Any allegation of misconduct or infringement of international treaties or fundamental rights in the framework of joint operations coordinated by Frontex is treated with grave concern and carefully investigated,” he said.

“I am committed to reinforce the office of the Fundamental Rights Officer and to gradually increase its budget.”

Earlier this year, European capitals accused Turkey of exploiting the refugee flow to apply pressure in other political disputes, but the EU has also struggled to agree its own asylum policy.

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