As the European Council meets to adopt strategic guidelines that will shape future EU policies in the area of freedom, security and justice, “Incompatibility between Frontex’s activities and the full respect of fundamental rights persists,” reaffirms the Frontexit Campaign. Frontexit is publishing today an overview of the information it has collected about the Agency since the campaign’s launch in March 2013.
We trust that the new guidelines will take into account the tragic death of 366 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013, as well as the recommendations made by the Task Force for the Mediterranean, responsible for devising policies to avoid future deaths at sea. However, and despite the fact that dangerous crossings across the Mediterranean have been prompted by the reduction of legal entry avenues in the EU, the solution put forward by the Task Force seems to be oriented towards more, rather than less, border control.
Since its creation in 2004, Frontex’s role in EU migration policies has continued to expand. With a budget of 89 million Euros, it is the most funded agency in the European Union. The Agency’s growth, as well as its extensive use of quasi-military equipment and technologies reflects the EU’s increasingly security-centered approach to migration, which prioritises border control and surveillance over respect for human rights. Cooperation with Frontex also appears to be central to migration agreements concluded by the EU with third countries, whose main aim is to control migration flows even when “partner countries” are known for violating the human rights of migrants and refugees.
Since the launch of the campaign in March 2013, Frontexit (www.frontexit.org) and its members have collected extensive information regarding Frontex’s operations and internal procedures via several correspondences with the Agency as well as a field mission to the Greek-Turkish border. Findings – published in the attached overview – confirm that, despite recent amendments to the Agency’s mandate and founding regulation, aimed at further integrating human rights into Frontex’s role and activities, these remain incompatible with the respect of fundamental rights.
Indeed, the Agency continues to operate with a disconcerting lack of transparency and in the absence of any accountability mechanism to address allegations of human rights violations, despite mounting evidence of Frontex participation in cases where EU member states have carried out push-backs and other abuses. The Agency’s cooperation agreements with third countries – which do not require parliamentary approval – also appear to have the primary aim of preventing migrants from leaving these territories, in violation of the right to leave a country, including one’s own, and in potential breach of the right to seek asylum.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the European Ombudsman as well as the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe have also raised concerns and questioned the Agency’s responsibility in human rights violations.
Be they detained, pushed back, rescued or have they lost their life at sea, migrants are hostages of an EU strategy that priorities security at the expense of human rights. As EU Heads of States are set to adopt strategic guidelines that will orient EU action, including on migration, for the next years, the Frontexit campaign calls on the EU and its Member States to use this as an opportunity to overhaul a policy that has already exacted a far too high toll in terms of human lives, and to put human rights at the center of their approach to migration. This should include conducting prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of human rights violations during Frontex past and present operations, to ensure that those responsible are held to account.
The Frontexit campaign denounces the incompatibility between Frontex’s mandate and the respect for Human rights and European law. It asks the European Union to take note and act in order to stop the activities of Frontex.