Thursday

12th Dec 2019

Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court

  • An EU Triton vessel clearly identified - by a photo released by Frontex, despite its refusal now to release such details (Photo: Frontex)

The EU's border and coast guard agency, Frontex, is about to have another day in court.

On 2 July, the general court of the European Union in Luxembourg will be holding a public hearing after the Warsaw-based Frontex turned down an access to documents request submitted by a pair of pro-transparency campaigners.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Luisa Izuzquiza, along with her colleague Arne Semsrott, had sought access to the name, flag and type of each vessel deployed by Frontex in the central Mediterranean under its Joint Operation Triton.

"It's about the court saying you need to be transparent, you do not have a special status, whatever your activity," Izuzquiza told this website on Tuesday (June 18), noting she hopes for a final judgement before the end of the year.

Triton is a border control and surveillance operation aimed at cracking down on migrant smugglers at sea. It was launched in late 2014 after Italy ended its much larger search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum.

This public hearing comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against the European Union and where Triton is implicated.

On paper, such assets were on loan from EU states and coordinated by Frontex, in an operation based out of Italy.

The limited size and mandate of Triton, in comparison to Mare Nostrum, meant many more people were at risk of dying.

Izuzquiza and Semsrott requested the Triton details spanning the period 1 June 2017 to 30 August 2017. Frontex refused, citing public security issues.

The agency claimed the disclosure of such information, combined with other public information, may end up allowing sophisticated criminals to figure out the location of the boats and thus evade capture.

But Izuzquiza and Semsrott dispute this logic, noting the location of vessels deployed to the operation cannot be traced through any public means and that the information requested relates to events in the past.

Both also pointed out that comparable information for vessels deployed under Joint Operation Triton had already been made public in 2016 without incident.

Izuzquiza says Frontex claims to have a special status on transparency.

"One of the issues with Frontex is that they claim they have a special status when it comes to transparency because they do law enforcement activities," said Izuzquiza, noting that such a status does not exist in EU law.

Frontex has grown over the years in size and in scope, and funding appears to increase as the number of migrants entering Europe actually decreases.

Just under 32,000 have arrived so far this year, compared to some 52,000 over the same period in 2018.

In 2005, the Frontex budget was around €6m. Next year, it may get €420.6m.

Whatever the migrant arrival figures, much of the EU money is set to finance a standing corps of 10,000 border guards by 2027.

Interview

Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC

Juan Branco is a lawyer and co-author of a legal document submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing EU officials and member states of crimes against humanity for their migration policies. "Some people should have to go to prison."

Analysis

Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

The past 18 months have seen the EU's border agency Frontex morph into a law enforcement as it steps up efforts to crack down on crime and terrorism.

Investigation

'Inhumane' Frontex forced returns going unreported

The independence of Frontex's monitoring system to make sure people are treated humanely when they are forcibly returned is in question. Efforts by some national authorities are underway to create a more credible parallel system based on transparency and scrutiny.

Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres

A trend has emerged over the past few months where desperate people are paying to get locked up in Libyan detention centres to escape the conflict and with the hope they stand a better chance of getting resettled to Europe.

Finnish EU presidency brief broadly offshores migration

A Finnish EU presidency paper on migration, designed to feed into the new European Commission, lays out a vision to prevent irregular migration, forced displacement, and boost cooperation on return and readmission.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs protest against PM Babis over EU subsidy 'fraud'
  2. EU disbursed €2.7bn for Turkey refugees
  3. UK ports set to host EU border checks for Northern Ireland
  4. EU puts tech giants in crosshairs
  5. Faroe Islands under pressure to chose Huawei
  6. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  7. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  8. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'

Interview

EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration

Europe's obsession with migration from Africa means it risks losing out the continent's potential when it comes to trade, says the EU's ambassador to the African Union, Ranier Sabatucci. "Africa is a growing continent, it is the future," he says.

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Leaders to battle on climate target and money at summit
  2. Von der Leyen: 'Green Deal is our man-on-moon moment'
  3. North Atlantic mini states in geopolitical turbulence
  4. Survey marks EU optimism on eve of UK's Brexit election
  5. Six priorities for human rights
  6. European shipping's dirty secret
  7. Hungary quizzed over EU rules amid twitter row
  8. Spanish King meets party leaders to break deadlock

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us