On 28 November 2021, Wissem Ben Abdellatif, a 26-year-old Tunisian man, died in a hospital in Rome after suffering a heart attack. He had been transferred to the hospital from the Ponte Galeria detention centre, where he was being held whilst awaiting deportation. A new report dedicated to his memory examines the experiences of Tunisian citizens deported from Italy. Based on over 50 in-depth interviews with deportees, it concludes that Tunisians are regularly denied their rights after arriving in Italian territory (for example, to legal advice, information, or adequate living conditions), and that the situation is propelled by a security-minded approach to migration that has been implemented across the EU and its member states for at least two decades.
Since 2004, four successive regulations have increased the agency’s resources and mandate, but no adequate control mechanisms have followed to balance these with legal or political accountability.
After the ongoing politico-diplomatic clash between the EU and Belarus reached a peak in the summer of 2021, press attention turned towards the situation at the Polish-Belarussian border, where thousands of people arrived hoping to travel onwards to EU territory. However, the response from the Lithuanian authorities also merits examination: the country's efforts to prevent irregular arrivals have been widely supported by the EU, despite widespread allegations of fundamental rights violations.
In the wake of the so-called “refugee crisis” of 2015, EU governments took the opportunity to reinforce the powers and mandates of EU agencies concerned with immigration and border control. Expanded legal remits were accompanied by vast increases in expenditure. But where has that money gone and what has it been used for?
A legal case alleging that Frontex was involved in an illegal deportation and the annual report of its Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, made up of NGOs and international organisations, show once again that fundamental rights are not at the top of the agency’s agenda.
Depuis le lancement de ses opérations conjointes, Frontex a été accusée de détourner le regard de ses obligations légales en matière de respects des droits, et en particulier concernant le sauvetage en mer. Statewatch, membre de Migreurop, à travers la plume de Jane Kilpatrick, chercheur et membre de l’équipe salariée de Statewatch, et Marie Martin, collaboratrice de Statewatch, a publié une série de trois analyses sur les aspects juridiques et politiques qui ont amené à cette situation « d’impunité choisie ». Vous trouverez ci-joint un résumé en anglais et français, ou qui souhaitent accéder aux arguments principaux émis dans ces analyses. (Versions anglaises ci-dessous).
Submission by Statewatch to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation on reforms to the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018.
The Greek government and the EU have evicted various self-managed hospitality structures and are now closing down the squalid, state-run refugee camps on the islands of the Aegean. People are being transferred to newly-built "closed controlled access centres". These prison-like facilities, which are coming into use at the same time as a the services available to refugees are being cut back, are having injurious effects upon people's mental health and wellbeing. Nevertheless, with the Greek government focusing on preventing "primary flows", it seems the new camps are set to play a growing role in the detention of people awaiting deportation.
While Frontex is currently under unprecedented examination for human rights violations at the EU’s borders, its work beyond EU borders remains barely scrutinised, write Dr Mariana Gkliati and Statewatch researcher Jane Kilpatrick in Forced Migration Review.
Submission by Statewatch to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the human rights implications of the Nationality and Borders Bill.
EU border agency Frontex spends a significant amount of time and money on its public image, and insists that its activities are fully transparent. However, that public image is - unsurprisingly - heavy on spin, and panders to far-right narratives. Meanwhile, its commitment to transparency is questionable - to say the least.
The second part of an analysis looking at the legal firewalls that create blurred responsibilities in cases of search and rescue and pushbacks, shielding EU border agency Frontex from accountability measures.
The first in a four-part series looking into the activities and operations of EU border agency Frontex, examining the evolution of the agency’s search and rescue obligations since it was founded in 2004. Many organisations have warned that “protecting borders” may conflict with “protecting lives” and experience suggests that, what are presented as two distinct objectives are, more often than not, part of conflicting policy agendas. The controversial and deadly practices that have been brought into the spotlight by the Aegean allegations are ultimately the result of political decisions that highlight the dubious priorities of the EU, its member states and its agents – Frontex included.
An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.
In line with concerning recent EU border control proposals, a deliberate policy of inhumane detention, illegal mobility restrictions and an overreliance on deportation ‘solutions’ is converting the Canary Islands into makeshift deportation waiting rooms and a black hole for human rights.
The development of a system for collecting data on people on the move in the Balkans highlights the overall orientation of the EU's migration policies: outsourcing migration management at all costs, to the detriment of provisions for reception. In order to keep those considered as "undesirable" at a distance, would the European Union go so far as to extend beyond its borders the ‘Dublin’ mechanism for allocating state responsibility for asylum claims, at the risk of further aggravating the rights violations along the Balkan route?
The EU institutions have approved a revised 'Blue Card Directive', which sets out rules on the migration of highly-skilled non-EU migrants. Steve Peers, Professor of Law at the University of Essex, explains the new rules and their possible effects.
The growing use of drones and other long-range, increasingly-automated forms of surveillance and data collection are part of the militarisation of Europe’s borders in the Mediterranean, which have led to thousands of unnecessary deaths and push- and pull-backs to Libya, where migrants and refugees face arbitrary detention, violence, mistreatment and torture. This article, by the journalist Antonio Mazzeo, chronicles investments into and tests and deployments of drone technology by EU and national agencies in the Mediterranean.
Since 2020, the EU has been able to use its visa policy as “leverage to improve cooperation with third countries on return and readmission,” as part of the drive to increase deportations. Non-EU states can be threatened with visa restrictions for their nationals if they are not deemed to cooperate sufficiently with the readmission process. A recent European Commission document, published here, sets out the perceived level of cooperation by those non-EU states. The Council is now considering potential next steps to ensure compliance with EU migration policies.
Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is currently under heavy scrutiny from multiple angles, including the European Parliament, the EU Ombudsman, and the European Anti-Fraud Office. At the same time, judicial action has been initiated vis-à-vis the agency.
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