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26th May 2022

Frontex implicated 'to some extent' in violations, says officer

  • EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson (r) visited Lithuania in August (Photo: European Union)
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Almost seven months into his new job as the fundamental rights officer of the EU's border agency Frontex and Jonas Grimheden is voicing frustrations.

Without going into details, Grimheden on Monday (29 November) said the Warsaw-based agency was not applying his advice when it comes to possible violations.

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  • Jonas Grimheden is Frontex's fundamental rights officer (Photo: Frontex)

"We have recommended a number of mitigating measures that could be introduced to ensure that Frontex support is underpinning EU and international obligations to a greater extent," he said, in an email.

"I am hopeful that these measures will be considered and applied at some point, but I am also impatient since they are not yet implemented," he said.

"Frontex is not directly involved in such actions but the mere fact that they are supporting national authorities that does, implicates the agency to some extent," he said - noting the agency's presence in a member state leads to greater responsibility and transparency.

Grimheden had made similar statements earlier this month at the European Parliament, noting that his current team of 20 people monitoring rights had collectively spent 250 days deployed in the field.

He told MEPs that Frontex "could be seen as being implicated or supportive of fundamental rights violations" in some member states.

"We have some very specific concerns about practices that that makes me most concerned as well," he added.

Those concerns were later raised in mid-November at the Frontex Management Board, composed of border authority heads from 26 EU states.

Problems with Lithuania

Grimheden's comments were made amid a raft of other complaints about Lithuania.

Frontex has between 100 and 120 guards deployed in Lithuania, mostly used for border surveillance. Some are also stationed at crossing points with Belarus.

It is also organising return flights to Iraq and Tajikistan from Lithuania.

The agency's executive director, Fabrice Leggeri, had earlier cited possible violations on the Belarus border.

He said up to 20 reports on the "suspicion of the violation of fundamental rights in Lithuania" had been filed by Grimheden's team of monitors.

The violations appear to be over illegal "collective expulsions", following recent amendments of Lithuania's national laws.

Leggeri said most deal with the interpretation of EU law, noting he had asked the European Commission in August for a legal assessment of Lithuania's new laws.

"Well, I would say that the letter, the reply that I got was not so helpful. But I see that this is the main question mark," he said.

Grimheden was more direct.

"The national legislation is not in compliance, as according to my assessment, it is not in Lithuania," he said.

"And there [Lithuania] we are simply running into a wall, where we are saying that this is the issue. This is not in compliance," he had told the EU lawmakers.

Grimheden's team of 20 monitors is set to expand to 40 for possible deployment after next summer.

"That will not be enough," he said.

Frontex documents 'collective expulsion' in Lithuania

Collective expulsions of people seeking asylum violates the European Convention of Human Rights. At least 14 reports of collective expulsions in Lithuania have been lodged by officers from the EU's border agency, Frontex.

EU skirts pushbacks, suggests people seek asylum in Belarus

The EU Commission presented a proposal to allow relaxing EU asylum laws in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia for six months. It says all rights will be respected - but deflected questions on whether a Polish law on pushbacks complies.

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