EU: Frontex and pushbacks: Management Board "very concerned" over agency’s compliance with investigation


Frontex’s Management Board met on 20-21 January 2021 to discuss the preliminary report of its ‘Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations in the Aegean Sea’. Its conclusions express concern over the agency’s compliance with the investigation.

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Frontex’s management board, made up of representatives from the border authorities of member states and two representatives of the European Commission, established the Working Group in November in response to allegations that Frontex knew about or was involved in pushbacks at sea.

Though the Working Group itself does not include the agency’s Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO) or the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights as members, the FRO and representatives of the Consultative Forum were involved in the group’s discussions. The Working Group’s final report on the incidents is due by 26 February 2021.

The Working Group examined 13 possible “serious incidents” to ascertain whether fundamental rights violations had occurred. Five of these incidents “require further inquiry by the Working Group and additional clarifications”.

Frontex failed to provide the information requested on three further incidents in time for this meeting, which the Management Board says it is "very concerned" about.

The following recommendations can be found in the management board’s statement here

"The Management Board invites the Executive Director of the Agency to immediately provide the missing information and to implement the recommendations made in the report for the improvement of the Agency’s internal process and procedures, in particular:

    • To apply its current reporting system and to revise it in order to make it more efficient, including by
      • clearly documenting a detailed allocation of responsibilities within the agency and ensuring that all staff responsible (including the Fundamental Rights Officer and the members of the Management Board) can fully exercise their duties;
      • setting minimum requirements as to the qualification of the experts in the Frontex Situation Centre (FSC),
      • ensuring that Serious Incident Reports on alleged violation of Fundamental Rights are always reported to the Fundamental Rights Officer,
      • providing that every Operational Plan should include a transparent reporting mechanism, inviting the Host Member States to involve in this transparent approach all assets which are acting in the operational area, with the objective that every incident in the operational area is reported.
    • To establish a systematic monitoring of the reporting mechanism;
    • To clarify the relation between its system of protecting whistleblowers and the exceptional reporting under the Serious Incident Reports mechanism, ensuring that confidential reports from Frontex employees and team members are handled in an appropriate way, given prompt follow-up and that the protection of the identity is guaranteed;
    • To ensure clear communication to staff and team members on these mechanisms, including mandatory training sessions;
    • To establish transparent rules on the Frontex-internal process to follow-up on serious incidents that have been established, including on the application of Art. 46 of the EBCG Regulation;
    • To recruit immediately the 40 Fundamental Rights Monitors (in accordance with the Regulation), which should have been in place by 5 December 2020 under the EBCG Regulation."

Image: Frontex

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