EU border chief refuses to quit over pushback claims

File photo. Director of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Fabrice Leggeri, addresses a press conference at Algeciras Port, Southern Spain, 23 August 2018. [EPA-EFE/A.Carrasco Ragel]

The head of the EU border agency will not step down, a Frontex spokesman said, as the force’s board met Wednesday (20 January) to air claims guards were involved in illegal migrant pushbacks.

The online managing board meeting was due to continue Thursday and discuss an internal report on allegations that Frontex guards helped force migrants out of EU waters and back to Turkey.

“Mr (Fabrice) Leggeri has no plans to resign and remains determined to lead the agency in these challenging times,” a Frontex spokesman said.

“The Frontex Management Board, which represents the border authorities of member states, has not raised any objections to his leadership,” he said.

The EU’s independent corruption watchdog confirmed this month that it was investigating Frontex over the allegations.

Several MEPs have called for Leggeri’s resignation.

Reports said officials from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) searched Frontex headquarters in the Polish capital Warsaw.

Media and rights organisations have documented multiple cases of Frontex border officers, alongside national counterparts in EU countries, forcing migrants back, particularly along Greek waters with Turkey.

Erdogan drops the ‘human bomb’ on EU

The situation at the Greek-Turkish land border worsened dramatically on Saturday (29 February) following Ankara’s official decision to let thousands of migrants enter EU territory.

Such actions prevent asylum-seekers making refugee claims and if practised indiscriminately against a group of migrants can constitute “refoulement”, which would violate EU human rights laws and the 1951 Geneva Convention.

Greece’s government has denied conducting pushbacks and Leggeri told the European Parliament on 1 December that there was no evidence of Frontex involvement in such practices.

The European Commission in November called an extraordinary meeting of Frontex’s board, which consists of representatives of EU member states and two members from the EU executive, during which explanations were demanded of Leggeri.

Created in 2004, Frontex has become the first EU agency to build up a standing, uniformed force. It aims to have 10,000 border guards on its payroll by 2027.

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