Frontex confronted with allegations of violence in North Macedonia

Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter sent to Frontex today by Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).


Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter sent to Frontex today by Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).

Since September 2019, volunteers for BVMN have gathered five separate testimonies from people pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece alleging the presence of Frontex officers on North Macedonian territory, where the agency has no legal authority to act. The reports involve a total of 130 people.

The testimonies include allegations that officers deployed by Frontex engaged in or condoned brutal violence – including the use of tasers and electroshock batons, throwing people into rivers, and tying people up and beating them.

Frontex says it has no records of any such incidents. The agency’s press office said to Statewatch last month that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

The letter, addressed to Frontex’s executive director, the new Fundamental Rights Officer, and the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, calls for a thorough investigation into the allegations to clarify the facts and ensure appropriate action against any individuals found to have engaged in, condoned or consented to violence and/or to have acted on North Macedonian territory.

The violence allegedly meted out or condoned by Frontex officials is part of a broader wave of violence against people on the move through North Macedonia. Since February 2019, BVMN volunteers have gathered 37 reports of pushbacks from North Macedonia to Greece, which are likely only a fraction of the total number of pushback cases.

The five reports alleging the presence of Frontex officials are a subset of 15 testimonies that cite the involvement of foreign officials working alongside North Macedonian officers.

An analysis published today by Statewatch looks at the deployment of foreign border guards to North Macedonia, which since 2015 has played a key role in the EU’s efforts to prevent migrants and refugees departing from Greece to reach ‘core’ EU territory further north.

A number of states (members of the EU and other states in the region) have signed bilateral deals with the North Macedonian government that allow the deployment of border guards in the country.

Frontex, meanwhile, is not yet legally able to operate there. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia is in the works, but is being held up in a dispute over language.

The agency must provide answers and an investigation into the numerous allegations of its officials being involved in abuse.

Read the letter to Frontex here and the analysis, Foreign agents and violence against migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border, here.

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