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.”
Today’s @Frontex extraordinary management board was a good start to what I want to be a transparent process. The @EU_Commission has asked the Frontex Executive Director to reply to Qs ahead of the next scheduled board meeting (end November).
— Ylva Johansson (@YlvaJohansson) November 10, 2020
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.
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.