The European Border Agency Frontex could have carried out thousands of “hot” returns of migrants, a practice by which they are expelled at the very moment they try to cross the border without being applied the country’s immigration legislation . A video from October 2020 in the magazine Der Spiegel1 shows a return in the middle of the Aegean Sea of a boat with refugees. Fabrice Leggeri, director of Frontex, denied that an agency flight coincided with that return2 but according to Der Spiegel Frontex’s own reports confirmed the flight.
On January 11th the magazine Politico3 confirmed that OLAF4,the European Anti-Fraud Agency, had launched an investigation to delimit the scope of the complaints about the illegal returns, harassment and malpractice received by Frontex. Since December the European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, Frontex’s policy officer, has had a 1,500-page “black book”5 compiled by the Border Violence Monitoring Network6 which details more than 20,000 cases of hot returns, abuses at the border and criminalization of NGOs on the so-called “Balkan route”. Already nine months ago, the Croatian guard was accused of spray-painting the heads of migrants7, in an operation that could have been supervised by Frontex.
The agency has authorization to supervise the actions of the border police of the different member countries, but in practice they intervene in all those countries without authorization, even against the sovereignty of any member state. In their social networks they were proud not long ago to be “the first uniformed service of the European Union”8, since they already have a first armed contingent of 5000 agents that will double in the next six years.
Director Fabrice Leggeri, who continues to maintain a strongly anti-immigration rhetoric, sees scandals looming over his agency. But there are strong interests of European political balance to prevent the investigations or the possible dismissal of Fabrice, given that they do not want to question migration policy in a context of the immigration crisis in the Canary Islands9. It is therefore necessary to question cooperation on migration matters at the European level and force an in-depth control of an agency that until now has escaped any supervision.
1 https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/fluechtlinge-frontex-in-griechenland-in-illegale-pushbacks-verwickelt-a-00000000-0002-0001-0000-000173654787 2 https://euroefe.euractiv.es/section/exteriores-y-defensa/news/la-olaf-investiga-denuncias-de-expulsiones-ilegales-por-frontex-en-el-mar-egeo/ 3 https://www.politico.eu/article/olaf-opens-investigation-on-frontex-for-allegations-of-pushbacks-and-misconduct/ 4 https://ec.europa.eu/anti-fraud/home_en 5 https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/23/black-book-of-thousands-of-migrant-pushbacks-presented-to-eu 6 https://www.borderviolence.eu/ 7 https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/may/12/croatian-police-accused-of-shaving-and-spray-painting-heads-of-asylum-seekers 8 https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1348653085422460929 9 https://elpais.com/espana/2021-01-24/los-desahuciados-de-la-crisis-migratoria-en-canarias.html