Wednesday

26th Sep 2018

Border agency accused of failing migrants' rights

  • Frontex says member states are responsible for dealing with human rights violations (Photo: frontex.europa.eu)

In her debut appearance at the European Parliament, EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly criticised the EU border agency Frontex for skirting its responsibilities on fundamental rights.

O’Reilly told euro-deputies in the parliament’s petitions committee on Tuesday (26 November) that the border agency cannot distance itself from rights violations committed during its joint operations with member states.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Warsaw-based border Fronex had earlier rejected her recommendation to set up an internal system whereby migrants could file complaints if they feel their rights were breached.

“An institution’s failure to implement an ombudsman recommendation should be a rare event,” said O’Reilly.

Frontex, for its part, says it is up to national authorities in the member state where the violation took place to handle complaints filed by migrants on the ground.

The agency does act on reports of abuse made by other officers by referring them back to national authorities, but it refuses to deal directly with migrants' complaints.

“We cannot investigate, we cannot process personal data, but member states can, they can investigate,” a contact at Frontex told this website.

The director of the US-based NGO Human Rights Watch, Bill Frelick, in a letter addressed to the EU ombudsman last August, said the argument means the agency cannot be held accountable for any involvement in rights violations.

“We reject the notion that a co-ordination function absolves Frontex of its responsibility,” he noted.

O’Reilly agrees.

She said the agency must make “administrative arrangements” to promote and monitor compliance to the charter of fundamental rights.

The agency should also be held responsible for the behaviour of any officer operating under the Frontex banner, she said.

“Any person, working in an official capacity, who wears an EU flag on the uniform or an armband, must be at least jointly with member states, accountable,” said O’Reilly.

Patrol officers wear their own respective national uniforms but also the blue armbands, which identify them as participating in a Frontex operation.

Frontex already has a code of conduct, a new fundamental rights officer, a fundamental rights strategy, and a consultative fundamental rights forum.

All stem from new EU rules set up in late 2011 to make sure the agency applies the charter of fundamental rights.

The ombudsman based her investigation on whether the agency had implemented them, which they did for the most part, she noted.

But O’Reilly says it is not enough.

“I see the lack of a internal complaints mechanism as a significant gap in Frontex’s arrangements,” she said.

The human rights watchdog in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe, had put forward a similar plan in April.

It described Frontex’ position as “a shortcut” that would not “stand up under a court’s assessment.”

Investigation

Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?

Five years and €10bn after its EU bailout, Cyprus is a weak link in Europe's banking system - amid renewed fears on Russia money-laundering.

News in Brief

  1. UK opposition demand election if parliament rejects Brexit plan
  2. EU to have coordinated plan on AI by December
  3. No UK election before Brexit, says May
  4. Former French PM wants to be mayor of Barcelona
  5. Merkel's wingman in surprise defeat in internal party vote
  6. Orban sends thank-you letters to supportive MEPs
  7. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  8. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. EU agrees 'hair-trigger' chemical weapons sanctions
  2. World upside down as EU and Russia unite against US
  3. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  4. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  5. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  6. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  7. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  8. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us