• Will the Kaliningrad Crisis Lead to War?

    I have to wonder if the Lithuanians consulted with their allies in Western Europe or with the United States before they made this choice? This seems like a potential case of alliance entrapment to me. That’s when one alliance member—typically the smaller, weaker party—succeeds in pulling their alliance partner into a fight that isn’t in that partner’s interest.

    There’s been a lively scholarly debate on the question of entrapment and whether it happens frequently, but this seems like an excellent real-world example of a state (Lithuania) that appears to be more risk-tolerant and willing to see conflict than some of its allies (i.e., France, Germany, or the United States).

    European officials scramble to douse Kaliningrad tensions

    Two officials told POLITICO the new guidance makes clear that Lithuanian customs authorities have to check the goods to avoid sanctions evasion, but can allow onward transport of metals if they are destined for Russia’s internal market — meaning Kaliningrad.

    #Lituanie #Kaliningrad

  • We’re not all Ukrainians now
    L’article pointe l’écart entre la retenue relative des dirigeants occidentaux, qui ne donnent pas tout ce qu’elle veut à l’#Ukraine, et leurs discours, dans lesquels ils prétendent s’aligner sans réserve sur les objectifs ukrainiens et présentent la situation comme une guerre entre monde libre et autocratie. Cet écart est dangereux, selon les auteurs, pour plusieurs raisons.

    For one, it attracts domestic calls for escalation, including demands for maximal war aims, from the restoration of Crimea to direct military intervention.

    Secondly, the White House’s rhetoric also undermines its own refusal to comply with Ukraine’s demands for high-risk assistance in the form of no-fly zones, the complete economic shutdown of Russia or actual troop deployments, undercutting its own restraint.

    [...] Crucially, this rhetoric-policy gap could also raise excessive Ukrainian expectations of support. But those insisting the West should give Ukraine whatever it wants ignore that what Ukraine wants partly depends on what the West will give them — or at least what it says it will. And claims of fully aligned interests may fuel Ukrainian dreams of total victory that are probably untenable and only conducive to prolonging war.

    [...] The problem here isn’t helping Ukraine, it’s pretending the help is unconditional.

    [...] The idea that nations can heavily contribute to a war effort without any say in its execution is offensive. Those arming Ukraine may not be risking enough to suit Ukraine, but they aren’t risking nothing — the danger of Russian retaliation remains. And sanctions entail economic pain for those sanctioning as well as the sanctioned.

    • The War in Ukraine Is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready | THE EDITORIAL BOARD

      But as the war continues, Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain.

      Confronting this reality may be painful, but it is not appeasement. This is what governments are duty bound to do, not chase after an illusory “win.” Russia will be feeling the pain of isolation and debilitating economic sanctions for years to come, and Mr. Putin will go down in history as a butcher. The challenge now is to shake off the euphoria, stop the taunting and focus on defining and completing the mission.

    • Ukraine’s Way Out

      But Kyiv’s right to fight for complete territorial sovereignty does not make doing so strategically wise. Nor should Ukraine’s remarkable success in repelling Russia’s initial advance be cause for overconfidence about the next phases of the conflict. Indeed, strategic pragmatism warrants a frank conversation between NATO and Ukraine about curbing Kyiv’s ambitions and settling for an outcome that falls short of “victory.”

    • What is America’s end-game for the war in Ukraine?

      Increasingly diplomats and analysts are debating how far Ukraine will go as the war drags on. America’s promises to leave the final borders up to Ukraine have left some allies uneasy, analysts said.

      Stefanini, Italy’s former ambassador to Nato, expresses concern at the lack of clarity over the eventual objectives. “Does it mean getting back to the pre-February 24 situation? Does it mean rolling back the territorial gains that Russia made in 2014? Does it mean regime change in Moscow?” he asks. “Nothing of that is clear.”

      Charap, of the Rand Institute, said the US and Ukraine’s interests are aligned on the war’s outcome, but that could change in the months ahead.

      “If they decide victory looks like something the US finds to be hugely escalatory, our interests may diverge. But we’re not there yet,” he said.

  • Démission de Leggeri à la tête de Frontex

    BREAKING OVERNIGHT: Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri is quitting, POLITICO hears. The head of the EU border agency has tendered his resignation, several people in the know told us, with further details expected today. Frontex did not respond to a request for comment. Leggeri has led the agency, which has come under scrutiny for its alleged role in so-called pushbacks of migrants, since 2015. The development comes as the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog, #OLAF, is poised to present the full findings of its long-running probe into Frontex.
    #Leggeri #Fabrice_Leggeri #Frontex #démission #frontières #migrations #réfugiés

    • Démission du Directeur de Frontex : une occasion à prendre pour une réorientation radicale

      Suite aux nombreuses enquêtes et rapports émanant de la société civile et d’institutions officielles européennes, tel le tout récent et explosif rapport de l’Office européen de la lutte anti-fraude (OLAF), qui mettent en cause l’agence Frontex pour ses agissements complices en matière de refoulements et de violences en vers des personnes exilées ainsi que pour sa mauvaise gestion interne (pour plus de détails, lire la récente Note politique #28 du CNCD-11.11.11 « Frontex : droits humains en danger »), le directeur de Frontex, s’est vu dans l’obligation de donner sa démission le 28 avril 2022. Cette démission a été acceptée ce 29 avril par le CA de l’agence.

      Ce 4 mai, tirant les leçons de cet épisode, le CNCD-11.11.11 encourage les membres du Parlement européen à refuser à Frontex la décharge de ses comptes pour l’exercice 2020 lors du vote en séance plénière. En effet, bloquer la décharge budgétaire est un bon levier pour exiger la réforme en profondeur de l’orientation et du fonctionnement de Frontex pour plus de transparence, de contrôle démocratique et de responsabilisation en cas de non-respect des droits humains. Les faits ayant amené à la démission du directeur doivent maintenant être analysés posément et des engagements formels pris pour garantir le respect des lois et des traités internationaux. C’est pourquoi il importe de reporter la décharge jusqu’à la démonstration de la mise en œuvre effective de mesures correctrices. Plus globalement, ce vote est l’occasion d’un signal fort pour exiger une réorientation radicale du pacte européen pour l’asile et la migration vers le respect des droits humains, la mobilité et la solidarité (pour plus de détails, lire notre récente étude « Migration et asile : analyse du pacte européen » :

    • Frontex | Faire sauter la tête ne suffira pas

      L’annonce de la démission du directeur de Frontex, Fabrizio Leggeri, vendredi 29 avril, ne représente que la première fissure dans l’édifice opaque qui s’est constitué depuis la création de l’Agence européenne des garde-frontières. Mais suffira-t-elle ? Semaine après semaine, les révélations se succèdent. D’autres membres du Conseil d’administration seraient impliqués dans la falsification de preuves de refoulements illégaux de personnes exilées. Des refoulements qui auraient conduit à la noyade de personnes migrantes, documentée par une équipe de journalistes. [1]

      Il faut rappeler que la Suisse a deux représentant·es au sein de ce conseil d’administration. L’un ou l’autre étaient-ils impliqués dans les faits reprochés à Leggeri ? Qu’en savaient-ils et qu’ont-ils communiqué au Conseil fédéral ? Alors que la Suisse est en pleine campagne de votation sur un arrêté fédéral visant à octroyer davantage de moyens financiers et de personnel à cette agence, les conseillers fédéraux concerné·es Karin Keller-Sutter et Ueli Maurer devraient répondre à cette question avant le jour du scrutin. C’est ce que demande depuis fin mars 2022 une Lettre ouverte publiée par et relayée sur le site Une exigence de transparence légitime dans le cadre du débat démocratique.

      Au lieu de cela, c’est une crispation voire une censure que cherchent à imposer les autorités fédérales aux journalistes qui tentent de faire leur travail d’information. La RTS s’en est fait écho le 28 avril [2], évoquant même la possible intervention de Frontex dans cette interférence, alors que Le Temps dénonçait 4 jours plus tôt une censure de la part de l’Administration fédérale des douanes. Son vice-directeur Marco Benz est justement membre du conseil d’administration de Frontex.

      L’information est un outil essentiel de notre démocratie. Ce n’est que grâce au travail acharné de journalistes et d’ONG que les actes de Frontex commencent à voir le jour. L’agence a tenté par tous les moyens -y compris par des poursuites financières- d’empêcher leurs investigations. Celles-ci ont contribué au lancement de certaines enquêtes par des organes européens, notamment celle de l’Organe de lutte antifraude de l’Union européenne, dont le rapport a conduit à la démission de Leggeri. Pas plus tard que le 28 avril, l’enquête conjuguée du Monde, SRF, Republik, en collaboration avec Lighthouse report, a montré combien les refoulements illégaux pratiqués par l’agence sont « normalisés ». La question de savoir si les pushback font partie de l’ADN de Frontex reste entière.

      La justice internationale est également en train d’être activée par des ONG. Une autre façon de demander des comptes sur les pratiques de l’Agence et des États européens à leurs frontières extérieures. La dernière en date a été déposée par Sea-Watch, suite au refoulement d’un bateau vers la Libye, pays où, selon l’ONU, « ils seront placés dans des centres de détention inhumains et seront exposés à la famine, aux abus sexuels et à la torture. » [3]

      Est-ce cela que nous voulons ? Refuser aux personnes fuyant les guerres et la persécution le droit de déposer une demande de protection internationale ? Veut-on tripler les moyens financiers d’une agence qui renvoie vers la mort et la torture plusieurs milliers de personnes, ceci sans demander de comptes ?

      Refuser le 15 mai l’arrêté fédéral proposé par le Conseil fédéral et le Parlement ne met de loin pas en danger notre démocratie. Celle-ci a besoin de contre-pouvoirs forts.

      Un refus ne mettra pas davantage en danger notre participation à Schengen. Cet argument est de la poudre aux yeux. [4] Un rejet permettra de relégiférer, à la lumière des éléments qui se font jour aujourd’hui. D’ajouter des mesures d’accompagnement humanitaires qui avaient initialement été proposées lors des travaux parlementaires, pour assurer la sécurité des personnes qui sont elles-mêmes en danger et doivent être protégées.

      Le 15 mai, nous avons l’occasion de refuser d’adouber des pratiques antidémocratiques et illégales qui foulent au pied les valeurs que l’Europe essaie aujourd’hui de défendre face à la Russie de Poutine. Et de renforcer les voix européennes qui demandent un monitoring véritablement indépendant des pratiques de Frontex.

    • Le patron de Frontex Fabrice Leggeri démissionne sur fond d’accusations

      Le patron de Frontex, le Français Fabrice Leggeri, a présenté jeudi sa démission. Son départ fait suite à une enquête sur sa gestion de l’agence européenne de garde-côtes et de gardes-frontières.

      Directeur exécutif de Frontex depuis 2015, Fabrice Leggeri a été visé par un rapport de l’Office européen de lutte antifraude (Olaf) qui, selon Le Point, lui reproche en substance de « ne pas avoir respecté les procédures, s’être démontré déloyal vis-à-vis de l’Union européenne et un mauvais management personnel ».

      Cette enquête intervient sur fond d’accusations régulières, notamment de la part d’ONG ces dernières années, de pratiques de refoulements illégaux de migrants (dits « pushbacks ») et de complaisance envers les autorités grecques, par exemple, sur des renvois brutaux vers la Turquie.

      Mercredi encore, une enquête publiée par le quotidien Le Monde et Lighthouse Reports a démontré qu’entre mars 2020 et septembre 2021, Frontex a répertorié des renvois illégaux de migrants, parvenus dans les eaux grecques, comme de simples « opérations de prévention au départ, menées dans les eaux turques ».

      Enquête internationale

      En sept ans à la tête de Frontex, qui doit surveiller les frontières extérieures de l’UE, Fabrice Leggeri a accompagné le renforcement de l’agence qui a été considérablement musclée et dont les effectifs doivent atteindre 10’000 garde-côtes et gardes-frontières d’ici 2027 (voir encadré).

      Dans le courrier où il annonce remettre son mandat au comité de gestion de l’agence, Fabrice Leggeri affirme que depuis son élection et sa reconduction en 2019, le mandat de Frontex a été modifié « tacitement mais effectivement », ce qu’a réfuté la Commission européenne.

      La gauche du Parlement européen, en particulier, réclamait la démission de Fabrice Leggeri depuis l’automne 2020, à la suite d’une enquête journalistique internationale qui impliquait Frontex dans plusieurs refoulements en mer Egée.

    • Commission statement on the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri

      The Commission takes note of the resignation with immediate effect of the Executive Director of the European Border and Coastguard Agency (Frontex), Fabrice Leggeri.

      As the most senior Deputy Executive Director of Frontex, Aija Kalnaja will deputise and assume the lead of the Agency with immediate effect. To ensure full continuity of the agency, the Commission will proceed quickly with recruitment and appointment of a new Executive Director.

      It is a priority for the Commission to have in place a strong, effective, and well-functioning European Border and Coast Guard.

      Frontex fulfils a critically important task to support Member States manage common European Union external borders, and to uphold fundamental rights in doing so. For that purpose, Frontex must be a robust and well-functioning agency. The Commission will continue to fully support Frontex in this mission.

      Over the past year, the Commission has stepped up significantly its support and advice to Frontex to ensure the full implementation of its mandate. To this end, the Commission initiated several extraordinary Management Board meetings dedicated to governance issues and fundamental rights. The Commission is committed to the continuous improvement of the agency.

    • Refoulement de migrants aux frontières : Fabrice Leggeri, directeur de Frontex, démissionne

      Les accusations de renvois illégaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Union européenne se succèdent depuis plusieurs années à l’égard de l’agence européenne de gardes-côtes. La teneur d’une enquête de l’Office européen de lutte anti-fraude, pas encore rendue publique, a poussé Fabrice Leggeri, directeur controversé de l’institution, à démissionner.

      Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de l’agence de gardes-frontières et de gardes-côtes Frontex, a finalement jeté l’éponge. La pression qui s’exerce sur ses épaules n’a cessé de croître à mesure que les allégations de refoulements de demandeurs d’asile, couverts ou effectués par Frontex, se sont multipliées ces dernières années.

      Dernier scandale en date, révélé le 27 avril par Lighthouse Report, Der Spiegel et Le Monde : Frontex aurait volontairement « maquillé » des renvois illégaux de migrants vers la Turquie, à partir de la Grèce, les privant ainsi de leur droit à demander l’asile.

      Les nombreux rapports compilant les violations de droits fondamentaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Europe ont toujours été reçus par le silence ou les dénégations de Fabrice Leggeri, dont les arrières ont été protégés au Conseil d’administration de Frontex, composé de représentants des États membres.

      Les manquements organisationnels de Frontex – l’inefficacité des mécanismes de plaintes, de rapport d’incidents et de contrôle interne des violations des droits fondamentaux – sont pourtant dans le collimateur de nombreuses institutions. La médiatrice européenne et le Parlement ont publié des rapports pointant des #dysfonctionnements_majeurs. Même la Commission européenne s’y est mise. Le 18 décembre 2020, Monique Pariat, directrice générale chargée des migrations et des affaires intérieures pointait, dans une lettre envoyée à Fabrice Leggeri, la manière « trompeuse » dont le directeur de Frontex présentait les faits au Parlement européen.

      L’enquête de l’Olaf et la « gravité des faits »

      C’est surtout l’enquête menée par l’Office européen de lutte anti-fraude (Olaf) qui a fait vaciller Fabrice Leggeri et l’a poussé à la démission.

      Cela fait plus d’un an que l’Olaf scrute les agissements de la direction de Frontex. Deux enquêtes sont menées en parallèle et touchent trois personnalités de haut rang, dont le directeur exécutif. La première enquête, clôturée le 15 février dernier, porte sur les allégations de refoulement aux frontières extérieures de l’Union européenne et de violations des droits fondamentaux, notamment à la frontière gréco-turque.

      Frontex a-t-elle couvert des actions illégales de la part des gardes-côtes grecs ? Dans quelle mesure Frontex est-elle impliquée dans ces refoulements ? Comment l’agence et ses dirigeants ont-ils réagi face aux incidents qui leur étaient rapportés ? La seconde enquête, dont les conclusions sont attendues avant l’été, devrait faire la lumière sur des cas supposés de #harcèlement de travailleurs de l’agence.

      Ces enquêtes sont encore confidentielles. Mais quelques députés de la commission du contrôle budgétaire du Parlement européen ont pu prendre connaissance de leurs grandes lignes, lors d’une audition à huis clos du directeur général de l’Olaf, en mars dernier. Ils ont été convaincus, le 31 mars, « au vu de la gravité des faits », de suspendre la décharge budgétaire de Frontex. « Entre le rapport de l’Olaf et les dernières allégations de refoulement, la position de Fabrice Leggeri devenait intenable. Il était jusqu’à présent protégé par des États membres, dont la France, mais l’image de Frontex devenait trop abîmée », commente Tineke Strik, eurodéputée écologiste néerlandaise membre du groupe de contrôle de Frontex au Parlement européen. Pour la députée, le départ de Fabrice Leggeri est « un premier pas. L’organisation, la structure, la culture de Frontex devront changer ». Dans sa lettre de démission, Fabrice Leggeri, amer, regrettait que le mandat de Frontex ait « silencieusement, mais effectivement changé ».

    • Leggeri est parti, mais c’est Frontex qu’il faut renvoyer !

      Le directeur exécutif de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes vient de démissionner suite à des accusations de refoulements illégaux. Il est temps d’en finir avec l’approche restrictive et militarisée de l’UE envers les migrants.

      Fabrice Leggeri vient de présenter sa démission en tant que directeur exécutif de Frontex, l’agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes. Cette démission survient après des mois de révélations successives concernant l’implication de Frontex dans les violations des droits humains, en particulier dans le cadre de ses opérations aux frontières de l’Europe de l’Est et en Grèce. Ayant focalisé mes recherches sur la Méditerranée centrale pendant plus de dix ans, ces révélations ne me surprennent absolument pas. Dans le cadre d’une des enquêtes que j’ai menées au sein du projet Forensic Oceanography (Death by Rescue, 2016), j’ai démontré qu’au cours de l’été 2014 Frontex a mené une véritable campagne pour que l’opération militaire et humanitaire italienne Mare Nostrum soit stoppée. Alors que l’opération déployée en 2013-2014 avait permis de secourir de manière proactive un grand nombre de migrant·e·s fuyant la Libye dans des conditions dramatiques, Frontex l’a accusée de constituer un « appel d’air » menant à plus de traversées.

      Dans le but de dissuader les migrant·e·s de rejoindre le continent européen, l’agence a mis tout en œuvre pour que soit mis fin à l’opération Mare Nostrum et que celle-ci soit remplacée par une opération de Frontex, Triton, bien plus éloignée des côtes libyennes, et dont l’objectif était le contrôle des frontières et non le secours en mer. Ce changement opérationnel a été mis en place malgré l’unanimité des acteurs défendant les droits des migrant·e·s, et même des évaluations internes à Frontex qui prévoyaient que la fin de Mare Nostrum ne mènerait pas à moins de traversées mais à plus de morts en mer.

      C’est bien cette réalité qui s’est tragiquement matérialisée, notamment avec le naufrage du 18 avril 2015, le plus meurtrier de l’histoire récente de la Méditerranée avec plus de 950 morts. A la suite de cette catastrophe, le président de la Commission européenne, Jean-Claude Juncker, a admis que « cela a été une sérieuse erreur que de mettre fin à Mare Nostrum. Cela a coûté des vies » (1). On aurait pu s’attendre à ce qu’à la suite de cette reconnaissance, Frontex soit sanctionnée pour son rôle dans ce changement opérationnel meurtrier. Il n’en a rien été : l’opération de Frontex fut renforcée et son budget augmenté. Et le vide de secours mortel laissé par la fin de Mare Nostrum n’a jamais été comblé.

      Du dédain à l’#impunité

      Tout cela peut sembler lointain. Mais aujourd’hui, des avions et drones de Frontex informent les garde-côtes libyens de la présence de migrant·e·s pour qu’ils et elles soient intercepté·e·s et ramené·e·s en Libye, et ce malgré tout ce que nous savons des conditions inhumaines qui leur sont réservées. Pourtant, cet épisode plus ancien mérite d’être rappelé car il démontre clairement le rôle de Frontex dans la construction des migrant·e·s comme une menace, la mise en place d’opérations de contrôle des frontières toujours plus coûteuses et militarisées, le dédain pour les vies et des droits des migrant·e·s qui anime l’agence, et l’impunité qui a été organisée autour de ses activités. Malgré la pression publique et politique dont Frontex fait aujourd’hui l’objet, cet état de fait n’est pas fondamentalement remis en cause, et le départ de Fabrice Leggeri ne changera pas significativement la donne.

      Mais il y a plus. L’Union européenne applique depuis deux mois une politique d’ouverture sélective face aux migrant·e·s fuyant l’Ukraine. Pour un groupe de personnes (trop) limité, un changement de paradigme a été opéré : celui de permettre la mobilité des personnes en quête de refuge et de reconnaître leurs droits plutôt que de chercher à les bloquer à tout prix. Cette brèche ouverte rend aujourd’hui évident pour le plus grand nombre ce qui l’a été depuis longtemps pour nombre de chercheurs, chercheuses, acteurs et actrices de la société civile : l’approche restrictive et militarisée de l’UE n’est pas une fatalité, une politique plus ouverte et respectueuse des droits est possible, et celle-ci rendrait des acteurs comme Frontex superflus.

      Le 15 mai, les citoyen·ne·s suisses se prononceront concernant le financement de Frontex. Ce référendum donne une opportunité à la population suisse de cesser d’être complice d’une agence dont les activités de plus en plus coûteuses n’ont jamais mis fin à la « menace migratoire » que Frontex a contribué à construire, et qui se soldent par la violation des droits des migrant·e·s et des milliers de morts en toute impunité. Un « non » des Suisse·sse·s au financement de Frontex pourrait avoir une résonance européenne et contribuer non seulement à une remise en cause de l’agence mais à une réorientation fondamentale des politiques migratoires européennes.

      (1) European Commission, « Speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker at the debate in the European Parliament on the conclusions of the Special European Council on 23 April : Tackling the migration crisis », 29 avril 2015, (dernier accès le 12 April 2016).

    • Frontex’s evolution from the undisputable to the untenable EU border agency

      Fabrice Leggeri, the Executive Director of the European Union border agency “Frontex”, resigned on 29th April 2022 following the release of the initial findings of an anti-fraud investigation. Last February the EU anti-fraud watchdog “OLAF” closed a year-long probe into Leggeri’s management over allegations of harassment, misconduct and migrant pushbacks. The investigation reveals how the agency’s own reporting system is used to cover-up pushbacks in the Aegean and its direct involvement. The resignations came after constant scrutiny by NGOs, journalists and the European Parliament in 2020 and 2021, claiming that the massive expansion of the EU border agency had not been matched by a corresponding increase in transparency and accountability. At the end of 2019, Leggeri, a 51-year-old French official who hails from the Alsace region, declared that his organization would not face the same troubles as the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). In June 2018, EASO’s executive director had resigned after an investigation by the same OLAF over alleged misconduct in procurement procedures, irregularities in management of human resources and possible breaches of data protection. 17 years after its foundation, Frontex faced the same process. How did it come to this?

      Frontex and the accountability problem

      The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (from the french Frontières extérieures, Frontex) was established by Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004 in 2004, expanded with Regulation (EU) No 1168/2011. In September 2016, the founding regulation was amended and expanded by Regulation 2016/1624/EU creating the ‘European Border and Coast Guard Agency’. Less than two years after, the fourth revision of Frontex regulation was launched, and the new Regulation 2019/1896 entered into force on 4 December 2019. The new Frontex mandate stipulated that the number of EU border guards should double from 1,500 to 3,000 following an evaluation in 2024. Together with the forces of the Member States, Frontex is to reach its full strength of 10,000 border guards by 2027 (Bossong 2019). At the same time, Frontex has experienced a particularly significant growth in its budget, which has risen from merely 6.2 million euros (2005) to 395.6 million euros (2020) (Loschi, Slominski 2022).

      The Regulation 2019/1896 and all the narratives that led to its approval granted Frontex the power of resorting to crisis and securitisation narrative to justify the lack of transparency in its work. Since 2015, crises and security rationales have been often exploited by Frontex Executive Director to hamper access to documents, personnel and premises. Often, addressing requests of access by members of the European Parliament during the hearings, Frontex avoided commitments and cooperation, or, if put under pressure, it released documents that were extensively redacted on the ground of exceptions permitted on the basis of public security concerns.

      While according to Regulation 2019/1896 Frontex would be subjected to more oversight and legal obligations to uphold fundamental rights, holding Frontex accountable, in particular on grounds of fundamental rights, is the actual issue at stake. While European Member States can be held accountable before their own national courts and before international courts, in particular the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), this does not apply with Frontex. As an EU body, neither of these options is viable. It can be brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to account for the conformity of its conduct with EU law (Fink 2020). The nature of Frontex’s activities, however, poses a particular challenge. The operational support in border management provided by the Agency occurs in the form of “factual” conduct, coordination, and under formal request by Member States, which are the first responsible and does not entail the adoption of legally binding texts. In other terms, legal responsibility is often shared between several member states as well as Frontex, which makes it difficult for individuals to lodge a complaint before a court. Hence, until 2021, cases that have been handled by the Court of Justice of the EU do not deal with Frontex operations but with refusals of access to documents or procurement actions and public services. Academics, in particular legal scholars, as well as members of the European parliament have advocated for the establishment of stronger accountability mechanisms, for example specific mechanism that allows individuals to hold Frontex to account (Fink 2020; Gkliati 2021).

      Frontex: from undisputable to untenable border agency

      Frontex’s expansion of financial and operational resources over the years and especially the increasing operational profile introduced with Regulations 2016/1624 and 2019/1896 set the clock in motion for a long tug of war between Frontex on one side and European parliament, NGOs, and watchdogs on the other side, leading to Leggeri’s resignation. Especially after the 2015 so-called migration crisis, the operational profile of the agency has been under strict scrutiny by humanitarian organizations and in particular from members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

      In 2015, against increasing migrations flows at the EU external borders and the reinstitution of border checks by member states throughout 2015 (Guild et alii), Frontex became the main instrument of the European Commission to avoid the collapse of the entire Schengen acquis. Frontex missions already deployed in Italy and Greece were expanded in both mandates and resources. As a leading agency of hotspots operations established with the European agenda in migration in 2015, Frontex monitored that frontline member states authorities were adequately implementing EURODAC regulation and fingerprinting third-country nationals, to ensure compliance with the Dublin regime and avoid uncontrolled secondary movements (Loschi, Slominski 2022). In this frame, the agency served not only as an operational device but also as the legal instrument through which introducing sensitive reform in national administrative and police procedures at the borders. The EU Commission included the legal definition of hotspots in Frontex Regulation 2016/1624, an act that allowed the European Commission to avoid parliamentary scrutiny on the establishment of hotspot operations. However, this strict cooperation and indirect protection from Commission to the agency had an expiration date.

      Indeed, Leggeri’s resignation comes after a series of important processes toward Frontex accountability. Especially after Regulation 2019/1896, Frontex has been under intense and constant scrutiny. Back in 2016, several human rights groups as well as the internal body of Frontex the Consultative Forum for human rights, flagged the risks and unclear support by Frontex at the Hungarian Serbian border. Hungary passed new border control measures in 2016 which, amongst others, obliged officers to return migrants apprehended within 8 km of the border back to the fence with Serbia. The new restrictive border measures along with Hungarian asylum laws passed on 2015 deterring access to asylum, raised several concerns with regard to the compatibility of Frontex operations with international and European law on fundamental rights. Frontex, despite increasing requests to revise and suspend activities to avoid complicity, decided to continue with operational support. It suspended its activities only in 2021, in the context of strong criticism emerging against the agency. Moreover, the first lawsuit against Frontex brought in 2018 by two activists to the Court of Justice of the EU did not deal with Frontex operations but with refusals of access to documents related to Search and Rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and was not successful (Case T-31/88 Izuzquiza and Semsrott v. Frontex). Frontex indeed claimed that “disclosure of details related to technical equipment deployed in the current and ongoing operations would undermine public security”.

      However, since 2020, a number of investigations and accountability actions had created the background for OLAF probe and Leggeri’s quitting. Here follows a list of most the relevant steps of this process.

      In March 2020, attention has particularly been focused on the modus operandi of the Greek authorities. According to reports related to Greece, pushbacks, sometimes undertaken by unidentified forces wearing uniforms and masks and carrying weapons, have expanded to migrants after arrival on the islands or the mainland. However, direct participation by Frontex in these alleged actions could not be proven. In late 2020, a joint investigation by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi (also known as the Bellingcat report) stated that Frontex planes were near the maritime Greek-Turkish border where alleged pushback operations were ongoing. The reporters claimed to have found evidence that Frontex had knowledge of the pushbacks, did nothing to ensure compliance with legal obligations, and in some cases even cooperated with the authorities carrying out the illegal pushbacks and collective expulsions.

      In December 2020, the watchdog Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) compiled a 1,500-page “black book” documenting hundreds of illegal pushbacks by authorities on Europe’s external borders. The same month, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Hungary’s legislation on the rules and practice in the transit zones situated at the Serbian-Hungarian border was contrary to EU law. And that the procedure for granting international protection in so far as third-country nationals […] were in practice confronted with the virtual impossibility of making their application” (Case C-808/18, Commission v Hungary).

      Against this context, in late 2020 the Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) decided to investigate the allegations and in January 2021 established the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) to monitor all aspects of the functioning of the agency, including compliance with fundamental rights and accountability towards Parliament. In its first hearing on 4 March, the Working Group questioned Commissioner for Home Affairs Johansson and Leggeri about the implementation of the fundamental rights provisions included in the Regulation 2019/1896 (among which the obligations to appoint fundamental rights monitors); the investigation related to the agency’s activities in the Aegean Sea; the interpretation of applicable rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders and inquired about the political scrutiny role of the European Commission over the agency. According to the Working Group, Commissioner Johansson appeared eager to listen to the scrutiny activity and criticized the ‘reluctance of compliance’ with the fundamental rights mandate from Leggeri. A preliminary report flagged out that five push-back incidents have not been clarified due to unclear data provided by Frontex, and stressed the general unsatisfactory attitude and documents provided by the Agency. On Wednesday 28 April 2021, the European Parliament decided to postpone the discharge to the 2019 budget of Frontex, as long as the OLAF investigation and the parliamentary inquiry were still ongoing.

      Meanwhile, other investigations were pending or concluded. In April 2021, der Spiegel claimed that Frontex was coordinating with the Libyan Coast Guard to engage in illegal pullbacks. Albeit ED Leggeri claimed during EP hearings Frontex does not work with the Libyan Coast Guard and only informs sea rescue control centres about sea rescue cases, a joint investigation by Lighthouse-Report, Der Spiegel, Libération, and ARD claimed the contrary. Drawing on a variety of data, including available sources from flight and vessel trackers, data from international and NGOs, eyewitness accounts and testimonies from survivors, the reporting parties concluded that Frontex plays a crucial role in the interceptions and return of people fleeing Libya by the Libyan coastguard. The report identified a number of cases in which Frontex planes were present in the vicinity, and likely aware, of boats in distress that were later incepted by Libyan patrol boats, despite data showing that commercial or NGO vessels were present in the area.

      Establishment of first accountability procedures against Frontex

      Under an administrative accountability action, in November 2020, the European Ombudsman started an own-initiative inquiry on the functioning of the complaint mechanism, which was released on 15 June 2021 and which recommended the creation of an independent mechanism for handling complaints about Frontex operations, while the system established with Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 is an internal mechanism (European Ombudsman, Case OI/5/2020/MHZ). On 7 June 2021, the European Court of Auditors, released its report on the limited effectiveness of Frontex’s support to external border management.

      The agency reacted by trying to dissimulate cooperation. To address investigations by journalists regarding the alleged involvement of Frontex with pushbacks in the Eastern Mediterranean, in November 2020, Frontex Management Board established a Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations (WG FRaLO). In its final report of 1 March 2021, the Management Board concluded that out of the 13 incidents put forward by the Bellingcat report, eight cases had not caused a violation of the Frontex Regulation, and five examined incidents were not yet, or could not yet be clarified. At its extraordinary meeting in May 2021, the Management Board concluded that “the strong belief that the presented facts support an allegation of possible violation of fundamental rights or international protection obligations such as the principle of non-refoulement, and that it cannot be excluded that the incident has characteristics of a case of unprocessed return and violation of the principle of non-refoulement”.

      At the level of legal accountability, in May 2021, a relevant change occurred. In the first human rights case against Frontex, two applicants brought an action against the agency to the European Court of Justice (CJEU), on the grounds that the agency had ’failed to act’ in accordance with Article 265 TFEU (Case T-282/21). This represented a legal precedent with relevant implications. The action is supported by three pleas in law. The first is about ‘serious or persisting violations of fundamental rights and international protection obligations in the Aegean Sea Region’, which resulted in a ‘policy of systematic and widespread attack directed against civilian populations seeking asylum in the EU’. The second is about the agency’s failure to fulfil ‘its positive obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights’ or take any action to prevent fundamental rights violations in the context of its operation. The third involves the applicants’ claim of having been directly and individually affected by Frontex operations, which resulted in ‘unlawful refoulement, collective expulsion, and prevention of access to asylum’ (EPRS Study 2021). The case is still under evaluation.

      At the level of political accountability, in July 2021, the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) of the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee delivered its final report with recommendations. These were focusing mainly on ED responsibilities; division of responsibilities between the Agency and Member States in relation to fundamental rights; the importance of strengthening internal mechanisms already existing, namely the Fundamental Rights Officer and the Consultative Forum for fundamental rights; the role of the Management board which has been weak supporter of fundamental rights protection in agency’s activities; and finally recommending to the European Commission to engage more proactively to ensure adequate compliance with fundamental rights principles, vis-à-vis the management board, member states, and to apply conditional financial support on bases of humanitarian principles compliance. The report allows for the comprehensive steps for the judicial and non-judicial accountability of the agency and set the framework for the definition of agency’s responsility. This responsibility can be indirect, through assisting Greece or Hungary in the commission of violations, either actively (e.g., technical and financial support) or by omission due to the agency’s positive obligations (e.g., failure to suspend or terminate an operation).

      All these processes, together with the OLAF probe, created the conditions for Fabrice Leggeri’s resignation and the formal and informal condemnation of his management.

      What’s next?
      In a press release on 29th April, Frontex confirmed Leggeri’s departure, adding that since he had already stepped down, it “is not necessary anymore” to launch further disciplinary procedures. Aija Kalnaja, Deputy Executive Director for Standing Corps Management will lead the Agency until the Frontex Management Board appoints the Executive Director ad interim in June 2022. However, the question emerging now is: what happens next? Frontex is still under scrutiny, but the Ukrainian crisis will keep the attention of the European Commission and the Parliament elsewhere than a new legislative initiative to reorganize Frontex profile. At the same time, Leggeri’s resignation comes not only after OLAF probe ended, but also during the French presidency of the European Union (ending on 30th June) and Macron re-election last 22nd April. Beginning of February, Macron, shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reformulation of the international political agenda, was advancing the idea of a more operational “Schengen Council” which would evaluate how the border-free area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis. One may speculate on the forthcoming political destiny of Leggeri, which could also be considered by the French administration. Leggeri comes from France’s ministry of the interior where he has been heading the division on irregular migration. At the same time, Macron has a history of grandiose statements in denial of reality, from being a supporter of Libyan political reconciliation while violating the UN arms embargo, to peace talks with Putin right before the latter launched the invasion of Ukraine. It would be wise to wait before advancing any speculation. However, French representatives in Brussels do not hide their aspiration for a practical and operational solution to long-standing issues in European Justice and Home Affairs, including the creation of external border buffer zones that should allow for ’third-country nationals processing’ without being paralyzed by NGOs or civil society actors (phone interview with French representative of Justice and Home Affairs, Vienna, March 2019). Leggeri himself declared to Die Welt in 2017 that ’By rescuing migrants off the North African coasts, non-governmental organisations are playing into the hands of human traffickers’.

      The first comprehensive steps for the judicial and non-judicial accountability of the agency have been taken. Frontex cannot ignore new and unprecedented legal, political and administrative accountability procedures now set in motion. The risk for their repeal and weakening may come from new and urgent needs and rationales linked to the war in Ukraine.

    • Frontex, la chute d’une « affaire française »

      D’après une note du ministère de l’intérieur, récupérée par « Le Monde » et le média collaboratif « Lighthouse Reports », un rapport accuse le directeur de Frontex, le Français Fabrice Leggeri, d’avoir « fermé les yeux » sur des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Egée, de s’être entendu avec les autorités grecques pour fournir une version concordante à la Commission européenne et d’avoir « commis un parjure » devant le Parlement européen.

      Dans les couloirs du Parlement européen, à Strasbourg, Fabrice Leggeri est venu prendre un café, mercredi 4 mai. Certains croient savoir qu’il se trouvait dans la région pour des raisons personnelles, lui qui est natif de Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin). Celui qui a dirigé l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Frontex, jusqu’au 29 avril aurait saisi l’occasion pour échanger avec des eurodéputés, notamment les anciens ministres de Nicolas Sarkozy, Nadine Morano et Brice Hortefeux (Les Républicains), mais aussi le porte-parole de Reconquête ! et transfuge du Rassemblement national (RN), Nicolas Bay. Des figures parmi celles qui l’ont publiquement soutenu depuis qu’il a été poussé à la démission, après sept ans à la tête de la plus riche agence européenne.

      « Il a un raisonnement assez solide même s’il n’est pas très satisfait d’être contraint à la démission », rapporte #Brice_Hortefeux. « Je l’ai croisé rapidement dans les couloirs », témoigne, à son tour, #Nicolas_Bay, qui se dit convaincu que M. Leggeri est « l’objet d’une cabale très politique ». Le patron de Frontex est « persécuté », avait aussi twitté, le 29 avril, l’eurodéputé et président par intérim du RN, #Jordan_Bardella. « Cette crise doit être l’occasion de lever certaines ambiguïtés sur le rôle de Frontex, ajoute M. Hortefeux. Est-ce que son rôle est de protéger les frontières ou ceux qui veulent venir ? »

      Tous reprennent à leur compte la défense de M. Leggeri, détaillée dans un courrier adressé à ses équipes, le 29 avril : « Au cours des deux dernières années, discrètement mais efficacement, une narration a pris le dessus [selon laquelle] Frontex devrait être transformée en une sorte d’organisme de défense des droits fondamentaux contrôlant ce que les Etats membres font à leurs frontières extérieures (…). Ma vision est et a toujours été que Frontex est, au travers de son corps opérationnel de gardes-frontières, une agence qui soutient les Etats membres. (…) Cette vision n’est plus soutenue au niveau politique. C’est pourquoi j’ai pris hier la décision de démissionner. »

      Un récit qui heurte certains observateurs. « M. Leggeri présente les choses comme une espèce de lutte philosophique sur le rôle de l’agence et on peut difficilement l’entendre », estime une source gouvernementale française. « A Frontex, on ne peut choisir entre les droits fondamentaux et la protection des frontières », affirme, de son côté, Anna Garphult, représentante suédoise au conseil d’administration de l’agence.

      « Manque de loyauté »

      Cela fait déjà de nombreux mois que des enquêtes journalistiques ou des ONG, et même la gauche parlementaire européenne, accusent le patron de Frontex de fermer les yeux sur des refoulements illégaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Union européenne (UE), voire d’en être complice. Pas de quoi entamer jusque-là le soutien de Paris, qui estimait qu’« il n’y avait pas de responsabilité avérée de l’agence ».

      La bascule aurait eu lieu à l’issue d’une enquête de l’Office européen de lutte antifraude (OLAF), lancée en novembre 2020. Pendant plus d’un an, ses agents ont entendu près d’une vingtaine de personnes, perquisitionné les bureaux de Fabrice Leggeri et de son directeur de cabinet, le 7 décembre 2020, saisi des téléphones et des ordinateurs… Un premier rapport est clôturé le 15 février 2022. Communiqué aussitôt au conseil d’administration de Frontex et à la Commission européenne, il « porte sur la façon dont la direction exécutive a géré [en mer Egée, à la frontière gréco-turque] les “pushbacks” [les refoulements illégaux de migrants], indique la source gouvernementale française. Il évoque notamment le manque de loyauté et de transparence vis-à-vis de la Commission et du Parlement, un style de management opaque et le manquement à certaines procédures de signalement sur les droits fondamentaux ».

      « Fabrice Leggeri a voulu de façon notable concentrer entre ses mains le pouvoir de décision », selon Gil Arias-Fernandez, directeur adjoint de Frontex

      Le 28 février, lors d’une présentation orale de l’enquête devant des parlementaires européens, le patron de l’OLAF, le Finlandais Ville Itälä prévient : « Nous avons beaucoup de preuves. » « Il était évident pour tout le monde que Fabrice Leggeri ne pouvait pas rester », avance un ancien membre du conseil d’administration. La France estime qu’« il n’y a plus de confiance ». La Commission européenne adopte la même ligne.

      Une note du ministère de l’intérieur français, datée du 29 avril, que Le Monde et ses partenaires – le média à but non lucratif Lighthouse Reports et l’hebdomadaire allemand Der Spiegel – ont pu consulter, rapporte que l’OLAF reproche au directeur « d’avoir fermé les yeux sur des “pushbacks” commis par les gardes-frontières grecs en 2019 sur les îles de Samos et Lesbos » et de « s’être accordé avec les autorités grecques, dont le représentant au conseil d’administration de l’agence, pour rendre les mêmes conclusions sur les demandes d’explication de la Commission européenne ». M. Leggeri aurait même « commis un parjure lors de son audition devant le Parlement européen en niant les accusations de manière formelle ». Interrogé à ce sujet, ce dernier n’a pas répondu à nos questions.

      Deux autres volets d’investigation sont toujours ouverts, indiquent des sources concordantes au sein du conseil d’administration de l’agence et au ministère de l’intérieur français. L’une porterait sur des faits de harcèlement moral visant la direction de Frontex et le cabinet du directeur exécutif, l’autre sur des irrégularités financières.

      « Il ne rendait de compte à personne »

      Malgré cela, M. Leggeri aurait « tout fait pour éviter la démission », rapporte la source gouvernementale française. Le 28 avril, au cours d’une audition organisée par le conseil d’administration de l’agence, une heure durant, il tente de défendre son bilan face aux représentants des Etats membres, mais sa stratégie n’opère pas. Il se résout à présenter sa démission dans la foulée, afin d’éviter l’ouverture d’une procédure disciplinaire à son encontre. Son directeur de cabinet, Thibauld de la Haye Jousselin, l’a précédé dans cette démarche dès le 22 avril.

      C’est ainsi que s’achèvent sept années pendant lesquelles Frontex a été considérée aux yeux de beaucoup comme une « affaire française ». En obtenant la nomination de M. Leggeri à la tête de l’institution, dont le siège se situe à Varsovie, fin 2014, la France décroche un poste stratégique au sein des institutions européennes à un moment où son influence décroît. Polyglotte, normalien, énarque, rattaché au ministère de l’intérieur tout en étant passé par celui de la défense, puis détaché à la Commission européenne, M. Leggeri « remplissait toutes les cases » : « C’est un type brillant », estime un haut fonctionnaire à l’époque en poste au cabinet de Manuel Valls, alors ministre de l’intérieur.

      M. Leggeri arrive à Frontex avec un mandat : renforcer les pouvoirs de l’agence. « Face à la crise des réfugiés, il y avait une pression politique élevée, de la Commission, du Conseil et du Parlement, pour donner à l’agence beaucoup d’argent et de moyens humains », se souvient l’Espagnol Gil Arias-Fernandez, directeur adjoint de Frontex entre 2014 et 2015.

      Le budget explose, 10 000 gardes-frontières doivent être recrutés. Frontex est sommée de se transformer en machine à protéger les frontières extérieures de l’UE. Nombreux sont ceux qui estiment que la montée en puissance a été trop rapide. Même la Cour des comptes européenne s’étonne, dans un rapport de juin 2021, que le budget soit planifié à 900 millions d’euros par an « sans même chercher à déterminer les besoins de Frontex » et « sans aucune évaluation de son impact sur les Etats membres ».

      « En externe, [M. Leggeri] pouvait donner l’impression que Frontex était une agence indépendante de la Commission. Il ne rendait compte à personne, négociait en bilatéral avec les Etats membres », dit un haut fonctionnaire français qui a beaucoup œuvré au sein des institutions européennes.

      Voix dissonantes ignorées

      « Il a voulu de façon notable concentrer entre ses mains le pouvoir de décision, ajoute Gil Arias-Fernandez. Par exemple, les compétences qui m’avaient été déléguées par son prédécesseur, comme l’évaluation des directeurs, m’ont été retirées. » Il s’appuie sur une équipe restreinte, composée en grande partie de francophones, dont son directeur de cabinet Thibauld de la Haye Jousselin. Ce dernier est membre de la préfectorale, passé notamment par le cabinet de Brice Hortefeux, place Beauvau, et officier de réserve. « Il est travailleur, organisé et il a le sens de l’autorité, ajoute l’ancien ministre sarkozyste. Il est clair que ce n’est pas un écolo-libertaire ».

      En 2019, malgré des réticences au sein de la Commission, le mandat de M. Leggeri est renouvelé. Les voix dissonantes auraient été ignorées. Inmaculada Arnaez Fernandez, la responsable des droits fondamentaux de l’époque, censée contrôler l’action de l’agence et son respect des traités, en fait l’amère expérience. Gil Arias-Fernandez se souvient de la « marginalisation » de cette avocate espagnole, arrivée en 2012. « Dès le début, Fabrice Leggeri n’a pas considéré ses tâches comme importantes, dit-il. Nombre de ses rapports sur des violations potentielles des droits fondamentaux n’ont pas été pris en compte. »

      En 2019, à la suite d’un congé maladie de Mme Arnaez, le directeur annonce l’ouverture de son poste et tente de la remplacer, en vain. La même année, le recrutement de quarante observateurs des droits de l’homme prend du retard, au point que, fin 2021, il n’a toujours pas été finalisé.

      M. Leggeri quitte l’agence dans une crise profonde, politique mais aussi opérationnelle. C’est la Lettone Aija Kalnaja, directrice adjointe avec le plus d’ancienneté, qui a été nommée à la tête de l’agence jusqu’au conseil d’administration des 7 et 8 juin, à Paris. Affable, pratiquant un anglais parfait, cette ancienne fonctionnaire de police présente un profil idoine. « [Sa] désignation n’est pas forcément très réjouissante », estime pourtant une note diplomatique française du jour de son arrivée.

      Le document épingle notamment sa gestion d’une « situation dramatique » dans laquelle des dizaines d’agents de Frontex déployés aux frontières se trouvent actuellement. Certains ont dû avancer plusieurs milliers d’euros pour leurs frais de déplacement et d’hébergement. Sur ce dossier, Mme Kalnaja « n’a pris aucune décision forte », poursuit la note. A Varsovie, le temps des tempêtes n’est pas encore passé. Mercredi 4 mai, le Parlement européen a décidé de suspendre le vote du budget de l’agence, « jusqu’à la publication complète du rapport d’enquête de l’OLAF ».

    • Il ne suffit pas de changer le Directeur, c’est Frontex qu’il faut supprimer !

      L’UE et ses Etats membres doivent sanctionner les pratiques illégales de Frontex et mettre fin à l’#impunité !

      Le 29 avril 2022, Le Directeur exécutif de l’agence de garde-côtes et garde-frontières européens Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri (en poste depuis 2015) a remis sa démission.

      Depuis octobre 2020 [1], Frontex fait face à de nombreuses accusations de complaisance ou de complicité dans des opérations de refoulements en mer Egée et en Europe de l’Est, mais aussi de graves #dysfonctionnements et de #mauvaise_gouvernance. Au point que de nombreuses enquêtes ont été menées par les institutions européennes (Parlement européen, médiatrice européenne, Cour des comptes de l’UE, Office européen anti-fraude OLAF), et que la décharge budgétaire de Frontex pour l’année 2020 a été bloquée par le Parlement européen, le 4 mai 2022, signe évident de défiance [2] . Les conclusions du rapport de l’OLAF [3], et les dernières révélations de refoulements maquillés en « préventions au départ » en mer Egée dans les rapports de Frontex [4], ont sans doute accéléré la chute de son Directeur, qui paraissait jusqu’ici intouchable.

      Mais Leggeri n’a pas été licencié, il a démissionné. Non pas car il assume sa responsabilité dans les violations avérées des droits commises ou couvertes par Frontex aux frontières [5], mais car le rôle de l’agence prend selon lui une orientation qu’il désapprouve. Son mandat et la vision politique des institutions auraient ainsi « silencieusement mais effectivement été modifiés » durant les deux dernières années, et il existerait selon lui une contradiction manifeste entre le mandat de contrôle et de protection des frontières européennes qui lui a été confié en 2015, et le respect des droits des personnes tentant d’atteindre ces frontières, les deux n’étant pas compatibles. Il démissionne donc car « il ne peut rester pour mettre en œuvre ce qui n’est pas le mandat de l’Agence » [6]. Dans son communiqué du 29 avril, le Conseil d’administration de Frontex a, lui, balayé tout dilemme en affirmant au contraire « qu’un contrôle efficace des frontières et la protection des droits fondamentaux sont pleinement compatibles » … Ce que la société civile réfute, documents à l’appui, depuis plus de dix ans [7].

      Et de fait, Leggeri évincé, rien ne change. Ni l’incompatibilité effective du mandat et des activités de Frontex avec le respect des droits fondamentaux, ni l’impunité structurelle dont elle jouit. Car il ne s’agit pas de la responsabilité d’un (seul) homme, mais bien de celle d’un système à l’échelle européenne qui a permis depuis des décennies la multiplication en toute impunité des violations des droits des personnes exilées aux frontières maritimes et terrestres de l’Europe.

      Car le mandat de Frontex et ses activités, tout comme la politique sécuritaire et mortifère de lutte contre l’immigration de l’Union, demeurent. Frontex continuera de « sécuriser » les frontières européennes, avec violence et au mépris des droits et de la vie des personnes [8], en procédant à des vols collectifs d’expulsion [9], en entravant le droit d’asile, en prévenant les pseudo garde-côtes libyens (qu’elle forme par ailleurs) de venir intercepter les bateaux d’exilé.e.s avant qu’ils ne franchissement les eaux territoriales européennes [10], et continuera d’ériger les personnes désireuses de rejoindre le territoire européens en « menaces » dont il faudrait se protéger. En somme, Frontex continuera d’entraver les mobilités - en violation du droit international [11] -, et à contraindre les personnes à emprunter des voies de passages risquées et mortelles, car tel est bien son mandat, et ce quel que soit le nom de son Directeur.

      Et tandis que la société civile n’a eu de cesse depuis une décennie de documenter et dénoncer ces dérives, Frontex n’a jamais été sanctionnée pour ses agissements attentatoires aux droits. En 2014, Migreurop évoquait déjà des refoulements entre la Grèce et la Turquie, dans le cadre de l’opération Poséidon de Frontex, ayant été rapportés à la chargée des droits fondamentaux de l’agence, sans qu’il n’y soit donné suite [12]. En décembre 2020, son Directeur avait déjà admis devant le Parlement européen que l’agence procédait à des « opérations de prévention au départ », assimilables à des refoulements [13]. Malgré cela, aucune décision officielle n’a jamais été prise pour faire cesser les opérations de l’agence dans cette zone, aucun de ses agents n’a été mis en cause, et il n’a pas été mis un terme aux responsabilités de son Directeur, qui n’a jamais été sanctionné, et qui est démissionnaire.

      Lorsque les accusations ne peuvent plus être dissimulées et que les pratiques illégales de l’agence Frontex ne peuvent plus être ignorées ni remises en cause, l’unique conséquence semblerait donc être la démission (et non le licenciement) d’un Directeur, qui ne fera par ailleurs l’objet d’aucune sanction disciplinaire ou judiciaire. Face à l’accumulation de preuves, lorsque les institutions de contrôle démocratique ne peuvent plus se taire, elles ne sont donc capables que de produire des changements cosmétiques.

      Frontex s’est vue renforcée à chaque révision de mandat (2011, 2016, 2019) malgré les « rapports d’incidents » internes, les rapports d’ONG et les enquêtes médiatiques, et est de plus en plus rétive à rendre des comptes, tant aux institutions qu’aux [14]. Quel que soit son Directeur, l’agence a, en de trop nombreuses occasions, prouvé qu’elle pouvait en toute impunité s’affranchir du droit européen pour satisfaire une politique sécuritaire de lutte contre l’immigration, qui a démontré ne pouvoir être respectueuse des droits.

      En acceptant le départ volontaire de Leggeri, les institutions européennes lui font indirectement porter la responsabilité des dérives de l’agence, une façon également de faire silence sur celles-ci et de ne pas remettre en cause les fondements mêmes de Frontex, tout en prétendant reprendre les choses en main et « assainir » une entité « abîmée ». Mais les bases sur lesquelles s’appuie Frontex n’ont pas changé d’un iota, et Frontex est irrécupérable.

      Remplacer le Directeur ne modifiera pas le mandat ni les activités de Frontex. Il ne s’agit plus désormais d’apporter des changements cosmétiques, mais de supprimer enfin l’agence Frontex pour faire cesser les violations des droits aux frontières, perpétrées impunément au nom de leur protection.

    • Inside the Final Days of the Frontex Chief

      Radical views, internal resistance, merciless investigators: Why Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri had to go – and what his resignation means for the future of the EU border agency.

      In the end, once it was all over, it looked as though Fabrice Leggeri wanted to sneak out through the back door. Close advisers urged the Frontex chief to address his staff one last time after his resignation. “You were these people’s boss for many years. They’ve earned the right to know what is going on,” his advisers argued. But Leggeri refused to budge. It was a sad thing to watch, says one of those who had worked with Leggeri for many years.

      On Friday afternoon, at 3:22 p.m., once everybody had learned of his resignation, Leggeri did ultimately send a farewell message to his staff. In the email, the outgoing Frontex chief thanked the employees for their efforts – and fired a last parting shot at his critics. Frontex, Leggeri wrote, has been accused of either being involved in pushbacks or of having covered them up. He, too, was personally targeted by such accusations, he wrote, claiming that such allegations were unjust. There is still, he claimed, no proof. “I could rebuke all of them,” he wrote. Just that, in the end, nobody believed him any longer.

      Fabrice Leggeri was the head of Frontex for seven years. During his tenure, he was able to transform a meaningless EU authority into one of the bloc’s largest agencies, with an annual budget of 750 million euros. Leggeri created a cabinet suited to his tastes, concentrating almost all the power in his own hands. In the end, he ran the agency like a monarch – until he was pushed off the throne.

      Leggeri’s resignation was not widely expected. Even many Frontex staff members didn’t think they would be getting a new boss any time soon. To be sure, he was faced with an entire catalogue of accusations: DER SPIEGEL, Lighthouse Reports and several other media outlets had clearly demonstrated
      over the past 18 months that Frontex was involved in legal violations committed by Greece. Frontex units would intercept rickety refugee vessels on the Aegean and turn the asylum-seekers over to the Greek coast guard, which would then abandon the men, women and children at sea – frequently on life rafts with no motor.

      Human rights activists call such operations “pushbacks,” and they are not legal under European law. According to its own codex, Frontex should have been doing all it could to stop such pushbacks. But instead, the agency helped out: It was involved in illegal pushbacks affecting hundreds of asylum-seekers.

      Leggeri, though, has consistently rejected all such accusations. And for quite some time, it looked as though EU member states were wiling to simply accept the situation, as though the assistance Frontex provided to the pushbacks was actually in their interest. There were demands that he resign, but they mostly came from left-wing and center-left European parliamentarians – and not from EU heads of state and government, who control Frontex via the Management Board.

      What, then, led to Leggeri’s resignation? What happened behind closed doors in those decisive moments? And what does it mean for the future of the border protection agency?

      A team of reporters from DER SPIEGEL, Lighthouse Reports and the French daily Le Monde spoke with more than a dozen Frontex employees and European officials for this article. Some of them worked closely with Leggeri, while others were responsible for oversight of his agency. Leggeri himself declined to be interviewed.

      Taken together, the comments from confidants and employees produce the image of a man whose views grew increasingly radical as time passed, and whose shortcomings ultimately became so conspicuous that EU member states no longer had much of an option other than pushing him out of office. Fabrice Leggeri didn’t lose his job because of pushbacks as such, but more because he had become a PR problem for the EU.
      The Oracle of Delphi

      When seeking to understand Leggeri’s downfall, Delphi is a good place to start. On a warm day in April, Leggeri found himself in a stuffy conference center in the small Greek town, which takes its name from the Oracle of Delphi, who once predicted the future for petitioners. “Know thyself” was thought to have been inscribed at the entrance to the temple.

      The trip to Delphi was to become one of Leggeri’s final official journeys. Next to him on the stage of the Delphi Economic Forum was Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi. A noted hardliner, nobody defends the Greek approach to cross-Aegean migration as passionately as he does. Indeed, between the lines, it frequently sounds as though he finds pushbacks to be not such a bad idea.

      Leggeri gets along well with Mitarachi, and recently even received a medal from the Greek minister for his service on the EU external border. For Frontex, Greece is more important than any other European country. One of the most important migration routes to Europe leads from Turkey to the Greek islands across the Aegean Sea, and nowhere does Frontex have as many agents stationed. Leggeri dreamed of an even larger agency, and without a significant presence in Greece, such a vision would have been impossible.

      On stage in Delphi, Leggeri said that he was proud that Frontex under his leadership had always stood at Greece’s side. Not everybody can be allowed in, he said, that’s just a fact. Rather astounding sentences coming from somebody accused of covering up for Greek legal violations.

      A close parsing of Leggeri’s comments in Delphi reveals the broader motifs with which he would seek to defend himself from his critics a short time later. Frontex, he said, is a law enforcement authority and not an immigration agency, not showing much empathy for the women and children that had been abandoned at sea in the Aegean. He wrote something similar in his email to Frontex staff following his resignation. Frontex, Leggeri contended, is to be transformed into a sort of fundamental rights body, with a narrative to that effect spreading “discretely, but efficiently.” Such sentiments make it sound as though Leggeri believes in some kind of large-scale conspiracy. Even in Delphi, many listeners found themselves wondering how long Leggeri would be able to last with his impertinent bluster.

      Leggeri didn’t always sound so extreme. When he took over the position of Frontex director in 2015, he was considered to be an able technocrat. The Frenchman’s fluent command of German and excellent English were the qualities that initially stuck out for many. He was reputed to be consistently meticulously prepared for his meetings.

      In 2016, shortly after the apex of the refugee crisis, Leggeri emphasized in an interview with the influential German weekly Die Zeit that Europe had the obligation to provide protection to asylum-seekers. “We don’t reject anybody and we aren’t allowed to do so,” he said.

      Since then, the use of force on the EU’s external borders has escalated. Some EU member states, with Greece leading the way, are now in favor of turning pushbacks into standard practice. Leggeri put himself at the front of that movement, becoming a mouthpiece of the most radical camp within the EU in the process – and assumed that the other member states would tolerate it.

      Leggeri’s transformation didn’t go unnoticed within Frontex. One staff member who worked with him for several years says that his boss became more and more uncompromising over time. He increasingly adopted a black-and-white view of the world with no gray areas apparent, the staff member says, adding that Leggeri completely lost any kind of balance. At some point, says an additional staff member, Leggeri would only speak to members of his innermost circle.

      Towards the end of his tenure, there was a significant amount of grumbling at Frontex. Support for Leggeri within the agency began eroding while leaks to the outside world increased. Staffers at the Frontex Situation Center, who saw on their computer screens what was going on in the Aegean every day, grew defiant. In at least one case in which a Frontex aircraft recorded video of a pushback from above, a staff member explicitly wrote of a suspected human rights violation. Leggeri, though, ignored it.
      Leggeri’s Final Battle

      When EU anti-corruption officials get involved, the situation for those concerned tends to grow serious. Investigators from the European Anti-Fraud Office, known as OLAF for short, operate independently and are charged with uncovering rules violations committed by EU officials. Very little about their investigations tends to make it into the press.

      On Dec. 7, 2020, a few weeks after DER SPIEGEL published the initial revelations, investigators searched Leggeri’s office in Warsaw along with that of his then chief-of-staff, Thibauld de la Haye Jousselin. The investigators apparently also confiscated their mobile phones. In early March 2022, they presented a more than 200-page investigative report, which still hasn’t been made available to the public.

      Essentially, the report works through what DER SPIEGEL and its media partners have already reported: Leggeri covered up the Greek pushbacks and thus violated the regulations of his own agency. He then lied to the European Parliament when confronted with specific questions. Furthermore, according to a summary of the OLAF report compiled by French officials, which DER SPIEGEL has acquired, he coordinated with the Greek government before responding to growing questions.

      The investigators documented each lapse. And they recommended that disciplinary measures be taken against Leggeri and two additional senior Frontex leaders. The report essentially forced the overseers of Frontex to take a stand. And with that, Leggeri was never able to shake the detailed accusations documented in the OLAF report.

      The Management Board of Frontex is primarily made up of representatives from Schengen member states. Border protection agents and senior officials from European interior ministries supervise the Frontex chief. Their meetings take place behind closed doors and leaks are rare. Even the brief meeting summaries are classified.

      On the morning of April 28, members came together virtually for the decisive meeting. The German Management Board chair Alexander Fritsch led the proceedings. Leggeri joined from France – together with his lawyer.

      It immediately became apparent that Leggeri had no intention of giving up. The Frontex chief had had two months to prepare his defense, and according to sources who took part in the meeting, he repeated what he had said in Delphi and what he would later write in his final email to staff: namely that he sees Frontex as a law enforcement agency and not as a pro-migration NGO. It’s not his fault, he says, that the agency’s mandate had been changed.

      Later in the meeting, the Management Board considered the situation without Leggeri’s participation. And it quickly became clear that there was a majority against the Frontex chief, with many apparently concerned that Leggeri could pull the agency into the abyss along with him. “Because of the OLAF report, we wanted to do something,” says one meeting participant. Now that EU investigators had also leveled accusations against Leggeri, says the participant, the situation had simply become untenable.

      Leggeri had long since lost the trust of European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johannson. Now, Leggeri’s supporters also realized that he had to go. Even the French government, shortly after the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron, distanced itself from the Frontex chief. The Greek representative on the Board was one of the few who continued to support Leggeri.

      That same evening, Leggeri gave in. He contacted Alexander Fritsch, the German chairman of the Management Board, and announced he was stepping down. The next day, a broad majority of the board voted to accept Leggeri’s resignation. The board decided not to implement disciplinary measures as OLAF had recommended, but only because Leggeri was no longer a Frontex employee. It is ultimately a compromise that allowed Leggeri to save face, but nothing more.

      In a press released, the Management Board made clear that border control and the protection of human rights are not mutually exclusive. The press release also clarified that the agency’s mandate, which Leggeri had claimed was being changed “discretely and efficiently,” is clearly described in Frontex documents. The statement essentially amounted to a final slap in the face for Leggeri, and the beginning of the effort to limit the amount of damage to the agency’s reputation.
      A New Beginning?

      The woman who is now to take over from Leggeri is named Aija Kalnaja. The Management Board installed the Latvian as interim chief on the day of Leggeri’s resignation. A career police officer, she had been deputy executive director of Frontex. In her very first email to agency staff, Kalnaja distanced herself from Leggeri. The rights of asylum-seekers, she wrote, must be protected, and Frontex must set an example.

      It is going to be a long road to becoming an exemplary EU agency. Leggeri left behind a fair amount of chaos, and Kalnaja, as deputy director, wasn’t entirely uninvolved. Currently, for example, Frontex officials must pay for their lodgings at the EU’s external border out of their own pockets because the agency isn’t able to arrange official trips. Frontex cancelled its contract with a travel agency because costs were skyrocketing, and a replacement hasn’t yet been found.

      Many in the agency believe that Kalnaja would like to remain in the top spot. In contrast to Leggeri, she is thought to have good relations with the European Commission. The final decision on her status will be made in early June, which is when the Management Board will gather to elect a new director.

      The German government is now stressing that Leggeri’s departure presents an opportunity for a new beginning. That, though, wouldn’t just require a new Frontex chief, but also a policy shift in the EU member states that Leggeri spent so long protecting. A first test is on the horizon: The Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer could soon recommend that the agency withdraw from the Aegean. And then, nobody could hide behind Fabrice Leggeri any longer.

  • EU anti-fraud watchdog has completed Frontex probe

    The EU’s anti-fraud office Olaf has finalised its year-long investigation into Europe’s border and coast guard force, Frontex.

    The probe was launched in January 2021 after investigators raided the offices of Frontex’s executive director #Fabrice_Leggeri and his chief of staff, #Thibauld_de_La_Haye_Jousselin.

    The investigation, or investigations, that then ensued could lead to sanctions for officials at the Warsaw-based agency, but details so far are scant, and Olaf has not described the grounds on which it undertook the probe.

    On Monday (21 February) Olaf offered only a brief confirmation that it had “closed an investigation concerning Frontex on 15 February 2022.”

    But previous press reports by EUobserver ( and Politico Europe ( have suggested the probe could be linked to human resource problems with recruitment and staff travel woes, as well as internal office harassment - not just the illegal #pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers.

    The Olaf investigation is expected to be discussed by the Frontex #management board later this week.

    That board is composed of national police and interior ministry officials, plus two representatives from the European Commission, and is tasked “to exercise oversight over the agency,” according to the EU regulation underpinning Frontex.

    The board also is expected to determine the severity of #sanctions, if any, and that determination could come around the beginning of March.

    Olaf’s director general Ville Itala is expected, on 28 February, to brief European Parliament lawmakers who are members of a budget oversight committee — but those talks will not be public.

    The budget for Frontex last year was €543m, making it the EU’s best funded agency.

    The European Parliament had decided to reduce the size of the agency’s 2022 budget by roughly €90m as a result of concerns, including the agency’s failure to hire fundamental rights monitors to hold border guards accountable for possible violations of the rights of asylum seekers.

    But just over a year later, it had missed that target, and others, triggering an internal spat between the agency and EU commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson.

    The parliament also took issue with the agency’s slow response in setting up a system to make it easier for border guards to report possible wrongdoing, including violations of the rights of asylum-seekers along the EU’s external border.

    Separately, Frontex has come in for criticism from the European Court of Auditors, the EU’s official spending watchdog, which took issue with Frontex accounting standards.

    The auditors found, among other things, that the agency’s operational reporting lacks information on actual costs and performance. Frontex was “its own worst enemy,” the auditors said (

    The European Ombudsman, an EU administrative watchdog, also has faulted Frontex for lack of transparency and for failing to set up an adequate system allowing asylum seekers to issue complaints about their treatment.

    #Olaf #fraude #anti-fraude #Frontex #frontières #migrations #réfugiés #enquête #refoulements #conditions_de_travail #droits_humains #transparence

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • La #Pologne érigera une clôture en barbelés à sa frontière avec le #Bélarus

    La Pologne a annoncé lundi qu’elle allait ériger une « solide #clôture » de barbelés, haute de 2,5 mètres, à la frontière polono-bélarusse et y augmenter ses effectifs militaires pour empêcher les migrants de pénétrer sur son sol.

    La Pologne a annoncé lundi qu’elle allait ériger une « solide clôture » de barbelés, haute de 2,5 mètres, à la frontière polono-bélarusse et y augmenter ses effectifs militaires pour empêcher les migrants de pénétrer sur son sol.

    Varsovie et les trois pays baltes (la Lituanie, la Lettonie et l’Estonie) dénoncent ensemble une « attaque hybride » organisée par le Bélarus qui, selon eux, encourage les migrants à passer illégalement sur le territoire de l’Union européenne.

    Le ministre polonais de la Défense, Mariusz Blaszczak, a précisé lundi qu’une nouvelle clôture « à l’instar de celle qui a fait ses preuves à la frontière serbo-hongroise », composée de quelques spirales superposées de fils barbelés, doublerait la première barrière à fil unique qui s’étend déjà sur environ 130 kilomètres, soit sur près d’un tiers de la longueur de la frontière entre les deux pays.

    « Les travaux commenceront dès la semaine prochaine », a déclaré M. Blaszczak à la presse.

    Le ministre a annoncé que les effectifs militaires à la frontière allaient prochainement doubler, pour atteindre environ 2.000 soldats dépêchés sur place afin de soutenir la police des frontières.

    « Nous nous opposerons à la naissance d’une nouvelle voie de trafic d’immigrés, via le territoire polonais », a-t-il insisté.

    Les quatre pays de la partie orientale de l’Union européenne ont exhorté lundi l’Organisation des Nations unies à prendre des mesures à l’encontre du Bélarus.

    Les Premiers ministres d’Estonie, de Lettonie, de Lituanie et de Pologne ont assuré dans une déclaration commune que l’afflux des migrants avait été « planifié et systématiquement organisé par le régime d’Alexandre Loukachenko ».

    Des milliers de migrants, pour la plupart originaires du Moyen-Orient, ont franchi la frontière bélarusso-européenne ces derniers mois, ce que l’Union européenne considère comme une forme de représailles du régime bélarusse face aux sanctions de plus en plus sévères que l’UE lui impose.

    « Il est grand temps de porter la question du mauvais traitement infligé aux migrants sur le territoire bélarusse à l’attention des Nations unies, notamment du Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies », peut-on lire dans la déclaration.

    Les quatre pays affirment qu’ils accorderont toute la protection nécessaire aux réfugiés traversant la frontière, conformément au droit international, mais ils demandent également d’« éventuelles nouvelles mesures restrictives de la part de l’UE pour empêcher toute nouvelle immigration illégale organisée par l’Etat bélarusse ».

    Dans de nombreux cas, les autorités de Minsk repoussent les migrants vers la frontière de l’UE, ce qui a déjà conduit à des situations inextricables.

    Un groupe de migrants afghans reste ainsi bloqué depuis deux semaines sur une section de la frontière entre la Pologne et le Bélarus.

    Des organisations polonaises des droits de l’Homme et l’opposition libérale accusent le gouvernement nationaliste-conservateur polonais de refuser de secourir les personnes ayant besoin d’aide et d’ainsi violer le droit international.

    #frontières #murs #barrières_frontalières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Biélorussie #militarisation_de_la_frontière

    voir aussi la métaliste sur la situation à la frontière entre la #Pologne et la #Biélorussie (2021) :

    • On the EU’s eastern border, Poland builds a fence to stop migrants

      Polish soldiers were building a fence on the border with Belarus on Thursday, as the European Union’s largest eastern member takes steps to curb illegal border crossings despite criticism that some migrants are being treated inhumanely.

      Brussels has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as part of a “hybrid war” designed to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions it has imposed, and building the wall is part of Poland’s efforts to beef up border security on the EU’s eastern flank.

      “Almost 3 km of fencing has been erected since yesterday,” Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter, adding that almost 1,800 soldiers were supporting the border guard.

      Blaszczak said on Monday that a new 2.5 metre high solid fence would be built, modelled on the one built by Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Hungary’s border with Serbia.

      On Thursday Reuters saw soldiers next the frontier stringing wire through barbed wire to hook it to posts.

      Poland has received sharp criticism over its treatment of a group of migrants who have been stuck on the Belarus border for over two weeks, living in the open air with little food and water and no access to sanitary facilities.

      On Wednesday refugee charity the Ocalenie Foundation said 12 out of 32 migrants stuck on the border were seriously ill and one was close to death.

      “No fence or wire anywhere in the world has stopped any people fleeing war and persecution,” said Marianna Wartecka from the foundation who was at the border on Thursday.

      Poland says responsibility for the migrants lies with Belarus. The prime minister said this week that a convoy of humanitarian offered by Poland had been refused by Minsk.

      Surveys show that most Poles are against accepting migrants, and Poland’s ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) made a refusal to accept refugee quotas a key plank of its election campaign when it swept to power in 2015.

      An IBRiS poll for private broadcaster Polsat on Wednesday showed that almost 55% of respondents were against accepting migrants and refugees, while over 47% were in favour of a border wall.

      “Our country cannot allow such a large group of people to break our laws,” said Emilia Krystopowicz, a 19-year-old physiotherapy student, in Krynki, a village next the border.

      Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has accused Poland and Lithuania of fuelling the migrant issue on the borders.

    • Poland to build anti-refugee wall on Belarus border

      Poland has become the latest European country to start building an anti-refugee wall, with a new fence on its border with Belarus.

      The 2.5-metre high wall would be modelled on one built by Hungary on its border with Serbia in 2015, Polish defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak said.

      “We are dealing with an attack on Poland. It is an attempt to trigger a migration crisis,” he told press at a briefing near the Belarus frontier on Monday (23 August).

      “It is [also] necessary to increase the number of soldiers [on the border] ... We will soon double the number of soldiers to 2,000,” he added.

      “We will not allow the creation of a route for the transfer of migrants via Poland to the European Union,” he said.

      The minister shared photos of a 100-km razor-wire barrier, which Poland already erected in recent weeks.

      Some 2,100 people from the Middle East and Africa tried to enter Poland via Belarus in the past few months in what Blaszczak called “a dirty game of [Belarus president Alexander] Lukashenko and the Kremlin” to hit back at EU sanctions.

      “These are not refugees, they are economic migrants brought in by the Belarusian government,” deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz also said on Monday.

      Some people were pushed over the border by armed Belarusian police who fired in the air behind them, according to Polish NGO Minority Rights Group.

      Others were pushed back by Polish soldiers, who should have let them file asylum claims, while another 30-or-so people have been stuck in no man’s land without food or shelter.

      “People were asking the [Polish] border guards for protection and the border guards were pushing them back,” Piotr Bystrianin from the Ocalenie Foundation, another Polish NGO, told the Reuters news agency.

      “That means they were in contact and that means they should give them the possibility to apply for protection ... It’s very simple,” he said.

      “We have been very concerned by ... people being stranded for days,” Shabia Mantoo, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, also said.

      But for its part, the Polish government had little time for moral niceties.

      “The statements and behaviour of a significant number of Polish politicians, journalists, and NGO activists show that a scenario in which a foreign country carrying out such an attack against Poland will receive support from allies in our country is very real,” Polish deputy foreign minister Paweł Jabłoński said.

      Belarus has also been pushing refugees into Lithuania and Latvia, with more than 4,000 people recently crossing into Lithuania.

      “Using immigrants to destabilise neighbouring countries constitutes a clear breach of international law and qualifies as a hybrid attack against ... Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and thus against the entire European Union,” the Baltic states and Poland said in a joint statement on Monday.

      Lithuania is building a 3-metre high, 508-km wall on its Belarus border in a €152m project for which it wants EU money.

      The wall would be completed by September 2022, Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Monday.

      “The physical barrier is vital for us to repel this hybrid attack,” she said.
      Fortress Europe

      The latest upsurge in wall-building began with Greece, which said last week it had completed a 40-km fence on its border with Turkey to keep out potential Afghan refugees.

      And Turkey has started building a 3-metre high concrete barrier on its 241-km border with Iran for the same reason.

      “The Afghan crisis is creating new facts in the geopolitical sphere and at the same time it is creating possibilities for migrant flows,” Greece’s citizens’ protection minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said.

      Turkey would not become Europe’s “refugee warehouse”, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.

    • Comme la Lituanie, la Pologne veut sa barrière anti-migrants à la frontière biélorusse

      Varsovie et Vilnius veulent construire des barrières contre les migrants qui transitent par le Bélarus, tandis que la situation humanitaire continue de se détériorer à la frontière orientale de l’Union européenne.

      La pression augmente pour faire de l’Union une forteresse. Vendredi 8 octobre, douze pays, dont la Pologne et la Lituanie, ont réclamé d’une seule voix que l’Union européenne finance la construction de barrières à ses frontières externes. Il s’agit de l’Autriche, la Bulgarie, Chypre, la République tchèque, le Danemark, l’Estonie, la Grèce, la Hongrie, la Lituanie, la Lettonie, la Pologne et la Slovaquie.

      « Je ne suis pas contre », a répondu la commissaire aux Affaires intérieures Ylva Johansson. « Mais quant à savoir si on devrait utiliser les fonds européens qui sont limités, pour financer la construction de clôtures à la place d’autres choses tout aussi importantes, c’est une autre question ».

      La question migratoire agite particulièrement en Pologne, soumise à une pression inédite sur sa frontière orientale, avec le Bélarus. Le 7 octobre, le vice-Premier ministre Jarosław Kaczyński, qui préside aussi la commission des affaires de sécurité nationale et de défense, a confirmé la construction d’une barrière permanente le long de la frontière polono-biélorusse. Lors d’une conférence de presse tenue au siège de l’unité des gardes-frontières de Podlachie, frontalière avec la Biélorussie, il a expliqué : « Nous avons discuté des décisions déjà prises, y compris dans le domaine financier, pour construire une barrière très sérieuse. Le genre de barrière qu’il est très difficile de franchir. L’expérience européenne, l’expérience de plusieurs pays, par exemple la Hongrie et la Grèce, montre que c’est la seule méthode efficace ».

      La Pologne a débuté les travaux en août dernier et des barbelés ont déjà été tirés sur des sections sensibles de la frontière polono-biélorusse. Lorsqu’elle aura atteint son terme, la barrière fera 180 kilomètres de long et plus de deux mètres de haut.

      La Lituanie, autre pays frontalier de la Biélorussie, a elle aussi déroulé les barbelés et alloué 152 millions d’euros pour la construction d’une barrière de quatre mètres de haut, sur cinq cents kilomètres, qui doit être prête en septembre 2022.

      Le gouvernement national-conservateur du Droit et Justice (PiS) a réagi par la manière forte à la pression migratoire inédite sur ses frontières. Plusieurs milliers de soldats ont été déployés pour prêter main-forte aux gardes-frontières.

      Le Sénat a adopté le 8 octobre un amendement qui autorise l’expulsion immédiate des étrangers interpellés après avoir franchi la frontière irrégulièrement, sans examiner leur demande de protection internationale. En clair, il s’agit de passer un vernis de légalité sur la pratique dit de « pushback » qui contrevient aux règles internationales, mais utilisées ailleurs sur la frontière de l’UE, parfois très violemment, comme en témoigne la diffusion récente de vidéos à la frontière de la Croatie.
      Loukachenko accusé de trafic d’êtres humains

      Varsovie et Vilnius accusent de concert le président autocrate du Bélarus, Alexandre Loukachenko, de chercher à ouvrir une nouvelle route migratoire vers l’Europe, dans le but de se venger de leur soutien actif à l’opposition bélarusse en exil et des sanctions européennes consécutives aux élections frauduleuses d’août 2020.

      « Ce sont les immigrants économiques qui arrivent. Ils sont amenés dans le cadre d’une opération organisée par les autorités biélorusses avec l’assentiment clair de la Fédération de Russie. Les agences de sécurité biélorusses le tolèrent totalement et y sont présentes », a noté Jarosław Kaczyński. « Ces personnes sont conduites vers des endroits où elles auront une chance de traverser la frontière. Parfois, des officiers biélorusses participent personnellement au franchissement des barrières et à la coupure des fils », a-t-il ajouté.

      « Des centaines de milliers de personnes seront acheminées à notre frontière orientale », a avancé le ministre polonais de l’Intérieur Mariusz Kamiński, au mois de septembre.
      Soutien de la Commission européenne

      La Commission européenne dénonce, elle aussi, « un trafic de migrants parrainé par l’État [biélorusse] ». Le 5 octobre, Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne chargée des affaires intérieures, a déclaré que « le régime utilise des êtres humains d’une manière sans précédent, pour faire pression sur l’Union européenne. […] Ils attirent les gens à Minsk. Qui sont ensuite transportés vers la frontière. Dans des mini-fourgonnettes banalisées. ».

      C’est aussi une manne économique pour Minsk, a détaillé Ylva Johansson. « Les gens viennent en voyages organisés par l’entreprise touristique d’État Centrkurort. Ils séjournent dans des hôtels agréés par l’état. Ils paient des dépôts de plusieurs milliers de dollars, qu’ils ne récupèrent jamais ».
      La situation humanitaire se dégrade

      L’hiver approche et les températures sont passées sous zéro degré les nuits dernières en Podlachie, la région du nord-est de la Pologne, frontalière avec la Biélorussie. Des groupes d’immigrants qui tentent de se frayer un chemin vers l’Union européenne errent dans les forêts de part et d’autre de la frontière qui est aussi celle de l’Union. « Ce [samedi] soir il fait -2 degrés en Podlachie. Des enfants dorment à même le sol, quelque part dans nos forêts. Des enfants déportés vers ces forêts sur ordre des autorités polonaises », affirme le Groupe frontalier (Grupa Granica).

      Une collecte a été lancée pour permettre à une quarantaine de médecins volontaires d’apporter des soins de première urgence aux migrants victimes d’hypothermie, de blessures, d’infections ou encore de maladies chroniques. Avec les trente mille euros levés dès la première journée (près de soixante mille euros à ce jour), trois équipes ont débuté leurs opérations de sauvetage. « Nous voulons seulement aider et empêcher les gens à la frontière de souffrir et de mourir », explique le docteur Jakub Sieczko à la radio TOK FM. Mais le ministère de l’Intérieur leur refuse l’accès à la zone où a été décrété un état d’urgence au début du mois de septembre, tenant éloignés journalistes et humanitaires de la tragédie en cours.

      Quatre personnes ont été retrouvées mortes – vraisemblablement d’hypothermie – dans l’espace frontalier, le 19 septembre, puis un adolescent irakien cinq jours plus tard. La fondation pour le Salut (Ocalenie) a accusé les gardes-frontières polonais d’avoir repoussé en Biélorussie le jeune homme en très mauvaise santé et sa famille quelques heures plus tôt.

      A ce jour, ce flux migratoire n’est en rien comparable à celui de l’année 2015 via la « Route des Balkans », mais il est dix fois supérieur aux années précédentes. Samedi, 739 tentatives de franchissement illégal de la frontière ont été empêchées par les gardes-frontières polonais, qui ont enregistré plus de 3 000 tentatives d’entrée irrégulière au mois d’août, et près de 5 000 en septembre.

    • EU’s job is not to build external border barriers, says Commission vice president

      Yes to security coordination and technology; no to ‘cement and stones,’ says Margaritis Schinas.

      The European Commission is ready to support member countries in strengthening the bloc’s external borders against the “hybrid threat” posed by international migrant flows but doesn’t want to pay for the construction of physical border barriers, Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said Thursday.

      Rather than defending borders with “cement and stones,” Schinas said in an interview at POLITICO’s Health Care Summit, the EU can usefully provide support in the form of security coordination and technology.

      Highlighting how divisive the issue is of the use of EU funds for physical barriers, which EU leaders discussed at length at a summit last Friday morning, Schinas’ line is different from the one expressed by his party in the European Parliament, the center-right EPP, and by his own country, Greece.

      He was responding to comments by Manfred Weber, chairman of the European Parliament’s EPP group, in support of a letter, first reported by POLITICO’s Playbook, by 12 member countries, including countries like Greece, Denmark and Hungary, to finance a physical barrier with EU money.

      Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after last week’s Council summit that no EU money would be spent to build “barbed wire and walls.”

      “The Commission position is very clear. We are facing a new kind of threat on our external border. This is a hybrid threat,” said Schinas. “The obvious thing for the European Union to do is to make sure that those who seek to attack Europe by weaponizing human misery know that we will defend the border … I think that, so far, we have managed to do it.”

      “At the same time we do have resources that will allow us to help member states to organize their defences — not of course by financing the cement and the stones and the physical obstacles of walls,” he added.

      “But we have the capacity to assist and finance member states for the broader ecosystem of border management at the European Union external border,” said Schinas, referring to setting up command centers and deploying equipment such as thermal cameras. “This is how we will do it. If there is one lesson that this situation has taught us [it] is that migration is a common problem. It cannot be delegated to our member states.”

      Eastern member states have accused authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko of flying thousands of people into Belarus and then sending them on hazardous journeys into EU territory. Polish lawmakers approved €350 million in spending last week to build a wall along the country’s border with Belarus.

    • Poland Begins Constructing Border Walls To Deter Asylum-Seeking Refugees

      Poland has begun the construction of a new border wall, estimated to cost $400 million and likely to be completed by June 2022. The wall will stand 5.5 meters high (six yards) and will have a final length of 186 km (115 miles).

      “Our intention is for the damage to be as small as possible,” border guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska assured Poland’s PAP news agency on January 25th. “Tree felling will be limited to the minimum required. The wall itself will be built along the border road.”

      While the Polish border forces are taking extra precautions not to disrupt the nature surrounding the border, there have been concerns about the human rights of asylum-seeking refugees. Over the past decade, there has been a rise in Middle Eastern and African refugees entering European Union countries, primarily through Eastern European territories. Standards set by the United Nations state that it is not illegal to seek refugee status in another country if an individual is in danger within their home country; however, Poland has sent numerous troops to its borders to deter asylum seekers trying to enter the nation on foot from Belarus. Poland has accused Belarus of encouraging asylum seekers to use the state as a passage into E.U. countries that may be a more favorable residency. The Belarusian government has denied these accusations, stating that Poland’s current attempts to restrict the number of refugees allowed in its country are inhumane and a human rights issue. Poland has since claimed that the “easy journey” allowed by Belarus’s government, and potentially supported by its ally Russia, is a non-militant attack against not only Poland, but the rest of the E.U.

      As the two countries continue in their conflict, the asylum seekers – individuals from around the world in need of safety and shelter – are being caught in the crossfire.

      Over the past months, Poland has increased border security, built a razor-wire fence along a large majority of the border, closed off border territories from the media and advocacy groups, and approved a new law allowing the border guard to force asylum seekers back into Belarus. Due to the recent changes, the number of refugees entering Poland has decreased, but this does not mean that the number of asylum seekers in need of aid from E.U. countries has decreased. Numerous groups still try to cross the treacherous border; the Polish border guard estimates that there are seventeen crossings just in the span of 24 hours. Al Jazeera reported on the 25th that Polish border security caught a group of fourteen asylum seekers, the majority of them fleeing Middle Eastern countries, cutting through a portion of the wire fence. These individuals, like many asylum seekers discovered along the border, have been “detained” until the Polish government decides whether to grant them refugee status or force them to return to Belarus.

      While Poland’s frustration with the uneven distribution of asylum seekers entering their country compared to others within the E.U. is understandable, its poor treatment of those in need of aid and protection is unacceptable. Rather than raising arms and security, Poland and the European Union must explore options of refugee resettlement that appease Polish desires for an equal dispersal of refugees throughout Europe without turning away people who need real government assistance. No matter its attitude towards Belarus, Poland must not turn its punishment towards those in need of refuge.

    • "The Iron Forest" - building the walls to scar the nature

      If I could bring one thing from my hometown, it would be the fresh air of the conifers from “my” forest. This is the statement my friends have heard me say many times, in particular when I feel nostalgic about my hometown.

      Augustów, where I am from, lies in the midst of Augustów Primeval Forest, in the North-East of Poland — a region referred to as the “green lungs” of Poland. It is an enormous virgin forest complex stretching across the border with Lithuania and connecting with other forests in the region.

      When I was 10, I went on a school trip to a neighbouring Bialowieza forest — a UNESCO heritage site with its largest European bison population. I still remember the tranquillity and magnificence of its landscape including stoic bison. I never would have thought that some years later, the serenity of this place will face being destroyed by the wall built on the Polish and Belarusian border, following the recent events of the refugee crisis.

      Today, I am a mental health scientist with a background in Psychology and Psychological Medicine. I am also a Pole from the North-East of Poland. Embracing both identities, in this blog, I would like to talk about “building walls” and what it means from a psychological perspective.
      Building Walls and Social Identity

      Following the humanitarian crisis which recently took place on the border between Belarus and Poland, we are now witnessing Poland building a wall which would prevent asylum seekers from Syria, Iraqi Kurdistan and Afghanistan, to cross the border.

      The concept of building a wall to separate nations isn’t new. I am sure you have heard about the Berlin wall separating East and West Germany, the Israeli West Bank Barrier between Israel and Palestine, or more recently the wall between Mexico and the US. In fact, according to Elisabeth Vallet, a professor at the University of Quebec-Montreal, since World War II the number of border walls jumped from 7 to at least 70! So, how can we explain this need to separate?

      In her article for the New Yorker on “Do walls change how we think”, Jessica Wapner talks about the three main purposes of the walls which are “establishing peace, preventing smuggling, and terrorism”. It is based on the premises of keeping “the others” away, the others that are threatening to “us”, our safety, integrity and identity. These motivations form the basis for the political agenda of nationalism.

      Using the words of the famous psychologist, Elliot Aronson, humans are social animals, and we all have the need to belong to a group. This has been well described by the Social Identity Theory which claims that positive evaluation of the group we belong to helps us to maintain positive self-image and self-esteem. Negative evaluation of the “the other,” or the outgroup, further reaffirms the positive image of your own group — the intergroup bias. As such, strong social identity helps us feel safe and secure psychologically, which is handy in difficult times such as perceived threat posed by another nation or any other crisis. However, it often creates a “psychological illusion” as in attempt to seek that comfort, we distort the reality placing ourselves and our group in a more favourable light. This, in turn, only worsens the crisis, as described by Vamik Volkan, a psychiatrist and the president of the International Society of Political Psychology, in the article by Jessica Wapner.

      The disillusionment of walls

      In reality, history shows consistently that building walls have only, and many, negative consequences. The positive ones, well, are an illusion: based on the false sense of psychological protection.

      In 1973, a German psychiatrist #Dietfried_Müller-Hegemann, published a book, “#Wall_disease”, in which he talked about the surge of mental illness in people living “in the shadow” of the wall. Those who lived in the proximity of the Berlin wall showed higher rates of paranoia, psychosis, depression, alcoholism and other mental health difficulties. And the psychological consequences of the Iron Curtain lingered long after the actual wall was gone: in 2005, a group of scientists were interested in the mental representation of the distances between the cities in Germany among the German population. They demonstrated systematic overestimations of distances between German cities that were situated across the former Iron Curtain, compared with the estimated difference between cities all within the East or the West Germany. For example, people overestimated the distance between Dusseldorf and Magdeburg, but not between Dusseldorf and Hannover, or between Magdeburg and Leipzig.

      What was even more interesting is that this discrepancy was stronger in those who had a negative attitude towards the reintegration! These findings show that even when the physical separation is no longer present, the psychological distance persists.

      Building walls is a perfect strategy to prevent dialogue and cooperation and to turn the blind eye to what is happening on the other side — if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

      It embodies two different ideologies that could not find the way to compromise and resorted to “sweeping the problem under the carpet”. From a psychoanalytical point of view, it refers to denial — a defence mechanism individuals experience and apply when struggling to cope with the demands of reality. It is important and comes to the rescue when we truly struggle, but, inevitably, it needs to be addressed for recovery to be possible. Perhaps this analogy applies to societies too.

      It goes without saying that the atmosphere created by putting the walls up is that of fear of “the other” and hostility. Jessica Wapner describes it very well in her article for the New Yorker, as she talks about the dystopian atmosphere of the looming surveillance and the mental illness that goes with it.

      And lastly, I wouldn’t want to miss a very important point related to the wall of interest in this blog — the Poland-Belarus wall. In this particular case, we will not only deal with the partition between people, but also between animals and within the ecosystem of the forest, which is likely to have a devastating effect on the environment and the local society.

      Bringing this blog to conclusion, I hope that we can take a step back and reflect on what history and psychology tell us about the needs and motivations to “build walls”, both physically and metaphorically, and the disillusionment and devastating consequences it might have: for people, for society, and for nature.

    • Poland’s border wall to cut through Europe’s last old-growth forest

      Work has begun on a 116-mile long fence on the Polish-Belarusian border. Scientists call it an environmental “disaster.”

      The border between Poland and Belarus is a land of forests, rolling hills, river valleys, and wetlands. But this once peaceful countryside has become a militarized zone. Prompted by concerns about an influx of primarily Middle Eastern migrants from Belarus, the Polish government has begun construction on a massive wall across its eastern border.

      Human rights organizations and conservation groups have decried the move. The wall will be up to 18 feet tall (5.5 meters) and stretch for 116 miles (186 kilometers) along Poland’s eastern border, according to the Polish Border Guard, despite laws in place that the barrier seems to violate. It’s slated to plow through fragile ecosystems, including Białowieża Forest, the continent’s last lowland old-growth woodland.

      If completed within the next few months as planned, the wall would block migration routes for many animal species, such as wolves, lynx, red deer, recovering populations of brown bears, and the largest remaining population of European bison, says Katarzyna Nowak, a researcher at the Białowieża Geobotanical Station, part of the University of Warsaw. This could have wide-ranging impacts, since the Polish-Belarus border is one of the most important corridors for wildlife movement between Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and animal species depend on connected populations to stay genetically healthy.

      Border fences are rising around the world, the U.S.-Mexico wall being one of the most infamous. A tragic irony of such walls is that while they do reliably stop the movement of wildlife, they do not entirely prevent human migration; they generally only delay or reroute it. And they don’t address its root causes. Migrants often find ways to breach walls, by going over, under, or through them.

      Nevertheless, time after time, the specter of migrants crossing borders has caused governments to ignore laws meant to protect the environment, says John Linnell, a biologist with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

      Polish border wall construction will entail heavy traffic, noise, and light in pristine borderland forests, and the work could also include logging and road building.

      “In my opinion, this is a disaster,” says Bogdan Jaroszewicz, director of the Białowieża Geobotanical Station.
      Fomenting a crisis

      The humanitarian crisis at the border began in summer 2021, as thousands of migrants began entering Belarus, often with promises by the Belarusian government of assistance in reaching other locations within Europe. But upon arrival in Belarus, many were not granted legal entry, and thousands have tried to cross into Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. Migrants have often been intercepted by Polish authorities and forced back to Belarus. At least a dozen migrants have died of hypothermia, malnourishment, or other causes.

      Conflict between Belarus and the EU flared when Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 2020 presidential election, despite documented claims the election results were falsified. Mass protests and crackdowns followed, along with several rounds of EU sanctions. Poland and other governments have accused Belarus of fomenting the current border crisis as a sort of punishment for the sanctions.

      In response, the Polish government declared a state of emergency on the second of September, which remains in place. Many Polish border towns near the Belarusian border are only open to citizens and travel is severely restricted; tourists, aid workers, journalists, and anybody who doesn’t live or permanently work in the area cannot generally visit or even move through.

      That has made life difficult for the diverse array of people who live in this multi-ethnic, historic border region. Hotels and inns have gone out of business. Researchers trying to do work in the forest have been approached by soldiers at gunpoint demanding to know what they are doing there, says Michał Żmihorski, an ecologist who directs the Mammal Research Institute, part of the Polish Academy of Sciences, based in Białowieża.

      The Polish government has already built a razor-wire fence, about seven feet tall, along the border through the Białowieża Forest and much of the surrounding border areas. Reports suggest this fence has already entrapped and killed animals, including bison and moose. The new wall will start at the north edge of the Polish-Belarusian border, abutting Lithuania, and stretch south to the Bug River, the banks of which are already lined with a razor-wire fence.

      “I assume that it already has had a negative impact on many animals,” Żmihorski says. Further wall construction would “more or less cut the forest in half.”

      Some scientists are circulating an open letter to the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, to try to halt the wall’s construction.

      Primeval forest

      Much of the Białowieża Forest has been protected since the 1400s, and the area contains the last large expanse of virgin lowland forest, of the kind that once covered Europe from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. “It’s the crown jewel of Europe,” Nowak says.

      Oaks, ash, and linden trees, hundreds of years old, tower over a dense, unmanaged understory—where trees fall and rot undisturbed, explains Eunice Blavascunas, an anthropologist who wrote a book about the region. The forest is home to a wide diversity of fungi and invertebrates—over 16,000 species, between the two groups—in addition to 59 mammalian and 250 bird species.

      In the Polish side of the forest, around 700 European bison can be found grazing in low valleys and forest clearings, a precious population that took a century to replenish. There are also wolves, otters, red deer, and an imperiled population of about a dozen lynx. Normally these animals move back and forth across the border with Belarus. In 2021, a brown bear was reported to have crossed over from Belarus.

      Reports suggest the Polish government may enlarge a clearing through Białowieża and other borderland forests. Besides the impact on wildlife, researchers worry about noise and light pollution, and that the construction could introduce invasive plants that would wreak havoc, fast-growing weedy species such as goldenrod and golden root, Jaroszewicz adds.

      But it’s not just about this forest. Blocking the eastern border of Poland will isolate European wildlife populations from the wider expanse of Eurasia. It’s a problem of continental scale, Linnell says, “a critical issue that this [border] is going to be walled off.”

      Walls cause severe habitat fragmentation; prevent animals from finding mates, food, and water; and in the long term can lead to regional extinctions by severing gene flow, Linnell says.
      Against the law?

      The wall construction runs afoul of several national environment laws, but also important binding international agreements, legal experts say.

      For one, Białowieża Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a rare designation that draws international prestige and tourists. As part of the deal, Poland is supposed to abide by the strictures of the World Heritage Convention—which oblige the country to protect species such as bison—and to avoid harming the environment of the Belarusian part of the forest, explains Arie Trouwborst, an expert in environmental law at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

      It’s conceivable that construction of the wall could lead UNESCO to revoke the forest’s World Heritage status, which would be a huge blow to the country and the region, Trouwborst adds; A natural heritage site has only been removed from the UNESCO list once in history.

      The Polish part of the Białowieża site has also been designated a Natura 2000 protected area under the European Union Habitats Directive, as are a handful of other borderlands forests. The new wall would “seem to sit uneasily with Poland’s obligations under EU law in this regard, which require it to avoid and remedy activities and projects that may be harmful for the species for which the site was designated, [including] European bison, lynx, and wolf,” Trouwborst says.

      EU law is binding, and it can be enforced within Poland or by the EU Court of Justice, which can impose heavy fines, Trouwborst says. A reasonable interpretation of the law suggests that the Polish government, by building a razor-wire fence through Białowieża Forest, is already in breach of the Habitats Directive. The law dictates that potentially harmful projects may in principle only be authorized “where no reasonable scientific doubt remains as to the absence” of adverse impacts. And further wall construction carries obvious environmental harms.

      “One way or another, building a fence or wall along the border without making it permeable to protected wildlife would seem to be against the law,” Trouwborst says.

      The EU Court of Justice has already shown itself capable of ruling on activity in the Białowieża Forest. The Polish government logged parts of the forest from 2016 to 2018 to remove trees infected by bark beetles. But in April 2018, the Court of Justice ruled that the logging was illegal, and the government stopped cutting down trees. Nevertheless, the Polish government this year resumed logging in the outskirts of Białowieża.
      Walls going up

      Poland is not alone. The global trend toward more border walls threatens to undo decades of progress in environmental protections, especially in transboundary, cooperative approaches to conservation, Linnell says.

      Some of the more prominent areas where walls have recently been constructed include the U.S.-Mexico border; the Slovenian-Croatian boundary; and the entire circumference of Mongolia. Much of the European Union is now fenced off as well, Linnell adds. (Learn more: An endangered wolf went in search of a mate. The border wall blocked him.)

      The large uptick in wall-building seems to have taken many conservationists by surprise, after nearly a century of progress in building connections and cooperation between countries—something especially important in Europe, for example, where no country is big enough to achieve all its conservation goals by itself, since populations of plants and animals stretch across borders.

      This rush to build such walls represents “an unprecedented degree of habitat fragmentation,” Linnell says. It also reveals “a breakdown in international cooperation. You see this return to nationalism, countries trying to fix problems internally... without thought to the environmental cost,” he adds.

      “It shows that external forces can threaten to undo the progress we’ve made in conservation... and how fragile our gains have been.”
      #nature #faune #forêt #flore

      voir aussi ce fil de discussion sur les effets sur la faune de la construction de barrières frontalières :

  • Migrant protesters suspend hunger strike in tentative deal with Belgian government

    Hundreds have been camping out at a historic church in Brussels, seeking formal residency status after living for years in the country.

    A group of migrants and refugees on Wednesday said they had suspended their hunger strike after an 11th hour deal with Belgium’s coalition government, which had been at risk of falling apart over the protest.

    Hundreds of protesters have been on a hunger strike for nearly two months, seeking formal residency status after living in Belgium for years, and camping out at the historic St. John the Baptist Church at the Béguinage in the center of Brussels. On Monday, green and left-leaning parties threatened to pull out of the ruling coalition if one of the strikers died.

    One of the group’s representatives on Wednesday said the migrants had reached an agreement with the government and had decided to end their thirst strike as well as “suspend, for now, the hunger strike” as they wait to see if the government honors its promises.

    Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi confirmed he had reached an agreement with the protesters. Neither Mahdi nor the protesters explained what exactly the agreement entailed and whether the government had promised the protesters residency rights.

    But Belgian media reported on a face-saving deal under which the government would speed up regularization procedures for the migrants who have participated in the protests, but insisting this would be done on a case-by-case basis, rather than an automatic residency permit for the entire group as demanded by the protestors.

    In a press release, Mahdi said the government had succeeded in convincing the migrants that “the existing [regularization] procedures are humane” and had also promised to “continue to work on the structural improvement of existing legal migration channels.”

    De Standaard reported that the government would expedite requests “for individual regularizations, on humanitarian grounds and — for the most vulnerable people — on medical grounds.”

    #Belgique #régularisation #sans-papiers #grève_de_la_faim #suspension

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • How AstraZeneca threw away its shot – POLITICO

    “The thing that terrifies me more than anything else is that the one vaccine that’s not-for-profit is the one that has been dumped on over and over and over again,”

    L’article liste une quantité invraisemblable d’erreurs scientifiques (sur l’organisation des essais, pas sur la biologie), politiques (Macron, Brexit…) et commerciales. Seul truc qui me paraît bizarre, Bill Gates n’est pas mentionné alors qu’il a une grosse part de responsabilité dans cet échec.

    via @maliciarogue

  • Authorities in Lithuania are considering building a wall with Belarus

    Authorities in Lithuania are now considering building a wall with Belarus. Ingrida Simonyte, the Lithuanian prime minister, has accused the Belarusian government of orchestrating what her country views as a migrant crisis.

    #Lituanie #murs #frontières #Biélorussie #migrations #réfugiés #asile #barrières #barrières_frontalières


    voir :
    A la frontière entre la #Lituanie et le #Bélarus, Loukachenko se fait maître passeur

    • Lithuania Reports 116 More Border Arrests Of Migrants Crossing From Belarus

      Lithuanian authorities reported 116 more arrests of migrants crossing the border from Belarus, a surge in crossings that Lithuania says Minsk is purposely organizing in retaliation for European Union sanctions.

      The Lithuanian State Border Security Service said on July 3 that border guards also fired tear gas and warning shots as one group of migrants were being detained.

      The latest figures bring the number of migrants detained over the past two days to 179, the service said; in all 938 people have been arrested crossing from Belarus this year, 12 times as many in all of last year.

      Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said late on July 2 that the government had declared a state of emergency, and he accused Lukashenka seeking “to weaponize migration to weaken our resolve for sanctions.”

      Vilnius contends that the migrants, most of whom are Iraqi, are moved to the border with Lithuania, where Belarusian border guards turn a blind eye as they cross into the European Union member state.

      Lithuania has been one of the loudest critics of Belarus’s strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka since last August’s dispute presidential election. The 66-year-old Lukashenka claimed victory, setting off months of unprecedented protests.

      The opposition says that election was rigged, and the West has refused to recognize the results of the vote.

      The Baltic state has offered refuge to Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who supporters say was the real winner of the election.

      Vilnius has also become a center for Belarusians in exile, and the two countries have expelled a number of diplomats as ties have worsened in recent weeks.

      The EU’s border guard service, Frontex, has sent teams to Lithuania to help deal with the influx of migrants.

    • La Lituanie se dit débordée face à l’afflux de migrants venus de Biélorussie

      La Lituanie s’est déclarée, vendredi, en #état_d'urgence, face à la hausse des arrivées de migrants depuis la Biélorussie voisine. Plus de 150 personnes ont traversé la frontière ces dernières 24 heures. L’agence de garde-frontières européenne, #Frontex, a dépêché une équipe pour venir en aide au pays balte.

      Une équipe de six gardes-frontières de l’agence européenne Frontex a commencé à travailler vendredi 2 juillet en Lituanie pour aider le pays balte à faire face à l’arrivée de migrants. Depuis plusieurs semaines, des dizaines de personnes en provenance de la Biélorussie voisine, passent la frontière ouest du pays pour entrer en Lituanie.

      Le nombre de gardes-frontières de Frontex devant être déployés à la frontière biélorusse devrait passer à 30 dans le courant du mois.

      Les garde-frontières lituaniens ont indiqué avoir arrêté quelque 150 migrants ces dernières 24 heures - près du double du nombre d’arrestations sur l’ensemble de 2020. Face à cet afflux, le gouvernement a déclaré l’état d’urgence vendredi.

      Cela porte le nombre total de traversées illégales de frontières par des migrants cette année à plus de 800, la plupart venant du Moyen-Orient. Sur l’ensemble de 2020, 81 traversées illégales de la frontière avaient été enregistrées – et 37 en 2019.

      La plupart des migrants sont originaires d’Irak, mais il y en a aussi de plus en plus de Syrie, de Gambie, de Guinée et d’Inde, selon le site EUobserver (

      « La situation commence à se détériorer »

      « La situation est tendue et a tendance à se détériorer », a déclaré le ministre lituanien des Affaires étrangères Gabrielius Landsbergis à l’AFP.

      Il y a deux semaines, l’armée lituanienne a mis en place un #camp_d’urgence de plusieurs tentes à #Pabradé, à une quarantaine de kilomètres de la capitale Vilnius, pour pouvoir gérer l’afflux. « Le but du ministère est clair : les migrants économiques qui traversent la frontière de l’UE illégalement doivent être renvoyés à l’endroit d’où ils viennent », a-t-il ajouté.

      « Un tiers sont des hommes, un autre tiers sont des femmes, on accueille aussi des enfants, quelques mineurs non accompagnés et des personnes avec des problèmes de santé. Nous sommes inquiets quant à nos capacités d’accueil pour assurer l’hébergement à ces personnes qui demandent l’asile », a expliqué à RFI Egle Samuchovaite (, directrice des programmes de la Croix-Rouge lituanienne, au mois de juin.

      Le gouvernement lituanien, qui s’oppose au président biélorusse Alexandre Loukachenko, a indiqué qu’il soupçonnait les autorités du pays de laisser les migrants passer la frontière.

      Ces tensions entre Minsk et Vilnius interviennent alors que les relations entre l’Union européenne et la Biélorussie sont elles-mêmes très compliquées. En cause : le détournement au mois de mai d’un vol commercial de Ryanair ordonné par le président Loukachenko pour arrêter un dissident politique.

    • L’agence des frontières de l’UE augmente ” considérablement ” l’aide à la Lituanie

      L’agence des frontières de l’Union européenne s’engage à renforcer “de manière significative” son soutien à la Lituanie dans les prochains jours “en raison de la pression migratoire croissante à la frontière lituanienne avec la Biélorussie” que la nation balte tente de contenir .

      La décision de Frontex, l’agence chargée de coordonner le contrôle des frontières entre les États membres de l’UE et les pays tiers, a été annoncée samedi dernier à la suite d’un appel vidéo entre le directeur exécutif de Frontex Fabrice Leggeri et le président lituanien Gitanas Nauseda.

      “La frontière lituanienne est notre frontière extérieure commune et Frontex est prête à aider si nécessaire”, a déclaré Leggeri dans un communiqué. “Nous sommes prêts à renforcer notre niveau de soutien et à déployer plus d’officiers et d’équipements du corps permanent européen” en Lituanie, membre de l’UE et de l’OTAN de 2,8 millions.

      L’opération de Frontex, qui a commencé au début du mois avec le déploiement d’une douzaine d’officiers et de voitures de patrouille, va doubler la semaine prochaine, a indiqué l’agence.

      Le bureau de Nauseda a déclaré séparément que Frontex avait promis que des renforts devraient arriver en Lituanie avant le 15 juillet et que des patrouilles frontalières armées et d’autres traducteurs sont arrivés au cours du week-end.

      En outre, un hélicoptère de patrouille sera envoyé en Lituanie depuis la Pologne voisine et des discussions sont en cours pour envoyer un autre hélicoptère depuis l’Allemagne, a indiqué le bureau de Nauseda.

      Dans un tweet, Nauseda a remercié Frontex pour son soutien “Gérer les flux de migrants illégaux à travers la frontière orientale” avec la Biélorussie, autre ancienne république soviétique qui ne fait pas partie de l’UE.

      La Lituanie, qui a donné refuge à des membres de l’opposition biélorusse, accuse son voisin d’organiser des passages frontaliers principalement par des personnes originaires d’Irak, du Moyen-Orient et d’Afrique.

      En juin, le nombre de passages illégaux des frontières entre la Biélorussie et la Lituanie a sextuplé, augmentant la pression sur les autorités nationales de contrôle des frontières, a déclaré Frontex. Le phénomène s’est accéléré en juillet et plus de 1 500 personnes sont entrées en Lituanie depuis la Biélorussie au cours des deux derniers mois, 20 fois plus qu’en 2020.

      Plus tôt cette semaine, le président autoritaire biélorusse Alexandre Loukachenko a déclaré que son pays ne fermerait pas ses frontières “et ne deviendrait pas un camp pour les personnes fuyant l’Afghanistan, l’Iran, l’Irak, la Syrie, la Libye et la Tunisie”.

      Les tensions entre l’UE et la Biélorussie se sont encore intensifiées après que la Biélorussie a détourné un avion de ligne le 23 mai pour arrêter un journaliste de l’opposition.

      Loukachenko a déclaré que son pays cesserait de coopérer avec le bloc des 27 pays pour endiguer la migration en représailles aux lourdes sanctions économiques que l’UE a imposées à la Biélorussie pour le détournement d’avions de passagers.

      Vendredi, la Lituanie a commencé à construire une double clôture en fil de fer barbelé à la frontière avec la Biélorussie. Il parcourra 550 kilomètres (342 miles), couvrant la majeure partie de la frontière de près de 680 kilomètres (423 miles) et coûtera 41 millions d’euros (48 millions de dollars), selon les autorités lituaniennes.

      En outre, la Lituanie a mis en place des camps de tentes pour accueillir le nombre croissant de migrants.

    • EU deploys border force in Lithuania as Belarus opens pathway for migrants

      Officials cite effort by Minsk to ‘weaponize’ irregular migration flows.

      The EU’s border protection agency on Monday said it was mobilizing a rapid intervention force to Lithuania, where the government has accused neighboring Belarus of allowing hundreds of migrants to cross illegally into the country.

      The allegations that Belarus is “weaponizing” migrants in retaliation for EU sanctions and support for political opponents of the country’s long-time leader, Alexander Lukashenko, were discussed Monday in the European Parliament and in the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

      “It seems like the Belarusian authorities now facilitate irregular migration possibly in retaliation to EU restrictive measures and as a response to the Lithuanian support for the civil society in Belarus,” the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, testified during a joint hearing of the Parliament’s home affairs and foreign affairs committees.

      Johansson said that the method of arrivals was still under investigation, but that it appeared several flights per day were landing in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, carrying migrants from Istanbul and Baghdad. Officials said at least 60 EU border guards were expected to arrive in Lithuania in the coming days.

      While many of the migrants that have crossed into Lithuania seem to be of Iraqi or Syrian origin, there have also been migrants from African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

      Arriving for Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said his country was struggling to return migrants to their home countries. He added that the Baltic nation is now confronting challenges more commonly seen in frontline EU countries like Greece and Spain that face a constant influx of migrants across the Mediterranean, and have faced similar pressure of arrivals from Turkey and Morocco.

      “The European Union should have a common strategy how to deal with these sort of political or hybrid threats,” Landsbergis said. “We need a strategy of readmission because a country — be it Lithuania, be it Greece or Spain — alone faces a rather challenging path when trying to return the people who illegally entered the country. Secondly, we need to be very strict with the regimes who are using these sorts of weapons.”

      Landsbergis called for additional sanctions against Belarus and said other countries using such tactics should face similar punishment.

      To help manage the crisis, the Lithuanian parliament will convene in a special session on Tuesday to adopt amendments to national asylum laws with an aim of reducing the time needed to evaluate applications for protected status.

      Asked if the situation in Lithuania was adding new urgency to the EU’s years-long struggle to develop a new migration pact, the bloc’s high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, said it was up to the border protection agency, Frontex, to help manage the situation.

      “That’s why we created Frontex, to help member states to face migration crises,” Borrell said at a news conference following the meeting.
      ‘High pressure’ situation

      Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of Frontex, said his agency had anticipated Belarus seeking to use flows of irregular migrants as a political weapon, and has been monitoring the country’s borders since last fall. Testifying in the parliamentary hearing, Leggeri said there had been more than 1,600 irregular border crossings to Lithuania from Belarus since January 1 of this year, but roughly half of those, some 800, occurred in the first week of July.

      “This was clearly the sign that something was happening with more intensity,” Leggeri testified, adding: “We see that there is a high pressure that could even worsen in the next days.”

      Leggeri told Parliament that while the initial arrivals had mostly come from Iraq, Syria and Iran, this month there was a shift toward African nationals, including migrants from Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Mali and Senegal. He said Lukashenko’s government was encouraging the influx by inviting citizens to travel to Belarus without visas under the guise of obtaining coronavirus vaccines.

      “Belarus announced that 73 countries are encouraged to enter Belarus without a visa and to stay up to five days to get COVID vaccine shots,” he said.

      Lukashenko has simultaneously denied using migrants for political pressure while also warning that Belarus has no intention of halting the flows. He has effectively mocked the EU, saying last week: “We will not hold anyone back. We are not their final destination after all. They are headed to enlightened, warm, cozy Europe.”

      According to statistics from the Lithuanian Border Guard Service, a total of 1,714 irregular migrants crossed the Lithuanian border in 2021, compared to just 74 in 2020. Of these, 1,676 arrived from Belarus. According to the statistics, roughly 1,000 irregular migrants were detained between July 1 and July 11, including 377 from Iraq; 194 from the Democratic Republic of Congo; 118 from Cameroon; 67 from Guinea; 23 from Afghanistan; 22 from Togo; and 20 from Nigeria.

      The bizarre situation of Middle Eastern and African migrants arriving in the Baltics was part of a busy Foreign Affairs Council meeting that included a discussion over lunch with the new Israeli foreign affairs minister, Yair Lapid.

      Ministers also discussed the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which Borrell conceded was a direct consequence of the withdrawal of Western troops that was ordered by U.S. President Joe Biden. Borrell said a new international task force may be needed to try to stabilize the country and, especially, to protect the rights of women and girls, but he gave no indication of how such a task force would operate without military support.

      Ministers also discussed the continuing risk of famine in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Borrell said the EU was trying to mobilize assistance but that it was impossible for the EU alone to address a shortage of food for an estimated 850,000 people.

    • Lithuania introduces pushbacks against migrants crossing from Belarus

      As Lithuania struggles to stem the flow of migrants trying to enter the country from neighboring Belarus, border guards have said that they have begun to push back migrants trying to enter the country using irregular methods of crossing.

      Rustamas Liubajevas, the head of Lithuania’s border guard service, announced on Tuesday that “anyone who tries to enter Lithuanian territory illegally will be refused entry and directed to the nearest operational international border control point.” He added that some 180 migrants had already been sent back to Belarus on Tuesday.

      “Deterrent actions may be taken against those who do not comply,” Liubajevas said further. He did not to disclose the exact measures taken, but said the guards did not use violence to push back the migrants.

      The Baltic News Agency confirmed the reports.

      Criticism against move

      The decision to introduce push backs has been taken by Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite, effectively allowing authorities to use force to send migrants to official border crossing points or to diplomatic missions, where they can apply for asylum legally.

      Lithuanian NGOs meanwhile have responded to the pushback of migrants, saying that it violates international human rights: “This restricts the fundamental human right to seek asylum in a safe state,” Akvile Krisciunaite, a researcher at the Diversity Development Group, told the AFP news agency.

      “Belarus is not a safe country, and human rights are known to be grossly violated there.”

      So far this year, Lithuanian border officials have detained more than 4,000 migrants — mostly Iraqi nationals. That number compares to 81 intercepted migrants for all of 2020.

      ’Cold War’ between Belarus and Lithuania

      Tensions between the two countries are on an all-time high since much of the Belarusian opposition have sought refuge in Lithuania from violent oppression following the disputed presidential reelection of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020. His main challenger and the likely winner of the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has been living in exile in Lithuania ever since.

      Many Western governments, including Lithuania, have denounced the alleged re-election saying results were rigged. The EU then imposed a series of sanctions. Lithuanian officials now said they suspect that the influx of migrants is being staged by the Belarusian government under Lukashenko’s leadership.

    • Lithuanian parliament votes to allow mass detention of asylum seekers

      Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday (13 July) approved the mass detention of migrants and curbed their right of appeal, a move meant to deter high numbers crossing the border with Belarus but which stirred an outcry among humanitarian groups.

      Eighty-four lawmakers supported the bill, with one objection and 5 abstentions, brushing aside protests from Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations saying it violates Lithuania’s international obligations and migrant rights.

      Lithuanian and EU officials have accused Belarus of using illegal migrants as a political weapon to exert pressure on the European Union because of the bloc’s sanctions on Minsk. More than 1,700 people have entered Lithuania from its non-EU neighbour this year, including 1,100 in July alone.

      Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said the detention policy would prevent migrants from illegally travelling onwards to the more affluent west of the EU – the favoured destination of the vast majority of migrants reaching EU territory in recent years.

      The legislation is intended “to send a message to Iraqis and others that this is not a convenient route, conditions will not be good here”, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said in introducing the bill.

      She said such migrants are “not real asylum seekers” but rather Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s “tool to use against Lithuania”, after he vowed retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over his violent suppression of street protests.

      The new law bans any release of migrants from detention for six months after their arrival, curbs the right of appeal for rejected asylum-seekers and stipulates that migrants can be deported while their appeals are considered.

      “The law is a potential human rights violation, and it does not correspond to EU directives,” Lithuanian Red Cross programme director Egle Samuchovaite told Reuters.

      “It enshrines the current bad situation in Lithuania’s detention centres in law and leaves vulnerable people in an even more vulnerable situation.”

      Lithuania also began building a 550-km razor wire barrier on its frontier with Belarus on Friday.

      The small Baltic republic of 2.8 million people, on the poorer eastern end of the EU, is used to receiving less than 100 illegal migrants per year and has struggled to cope with the recent influx.

      Fewer rights for migrants

      Several migrants at a temporary detention centre in a disused school in rural Lithuania told Reuters on Monday they had been given no information about their rights or future, nine days after arriving from Belarus.

      They said they had not been given a chance to apply for asylum nor to speak with the help of a translator.

      The new law removes most rights accorded to migrants such as the right to a translator or to obtain information about their status and the asylum process.

      Lithuanian authorities are now obliged only to provide upkeep in detention, medical care and legal aid, but Simonyte said the government will try to do more.

      “The government intends to provide all support that is needed for those people,” she told reporters. “But if there is a very sudden influx in a short time frame, we might be able to ensure only what is absolutely needed. For that we should have a legal framework.”

      Dainius Zalimas, a lawyer who until June was the chairman of Lithuania’s Constitutional Court, said mass detention and restricted appeal process likely violate both Lithuania’s constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.

      “The proposals, which are unconstitutional, are based on premise that all foreigners who crossed the border are second-class human beings, not entitled to constitutional rights,” he told Reuters before the vote.

      #détention #détention_massive

    • EU presses Iraq to halt migrant flights to Belarus

      A number of new flights have been announced between Iraq and Belarus.

      The EU is ramping up pressure on Iraq to stop its airlines from flying to Belarus, which helps Minsk send asylum seekers into the EU in retaliation against sanctions imposed by the bloc.

      On Thursday, there were signs that the pressure was beginning to work. An Iraqi Airways flight from Basra to Minsk was canceled. However, an aircraft belonging to another carrier, Fly Baghdad, did land in the Belarusian capital Thursday, although a flight scheduled for Friday was canceled. Iraqi Airways recently expanded its schedule of flights to Belarus, while Fly Baghdad first started trips to Minsk in May.

      “We welcome the reports on the decision about the cancellation of these flights,” a European Commission spokesperson said Thursday, although they did not confirm reports that Iraqi Airways will cancel flights until August 15.

      The EU has accused Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of trying to “weaponize” the Iraqi migrants who arrive in Minsk. They are taken to the border with Lithuania and then cross into the EU; so far, 4,000 asylum seekers have entered, almost 2,800 of them from Iraq. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis estimates that up to 10,000 migrants could come into his country by the end of the summer. Last year, Lithuania received only about 80 migrants.

      This migration crisis is very different from previous ones where people crossed into the EU by sea. The main access to Belarus is by air, and despite EU efforts to throttle traffic, Minsk is working hard to expand the number of flights reaching the country.

      The immediate pressure is on Iraq, but there is also an increase in flights to Minsk from Turkey, also reportedly carrying asylum seekers.

      The EU is ramping up pressure on Iraq to fall into line.

      Charles Michel, president of the European Council, got involved, speaking to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.

      Talks with the Iraqis are “done in a very constructive spirit [with] the Iraqi side conveying the willingness to cooperate and jointly address the situation," said the Commission spokesperson.

      Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and others joined Lithuania in putting pressure on Baghdad, diplomats said. An Iraqi delegation was in Lithuania last week and visited the camps where Iraqis are staying.

      Some EU diplomats say that the diplomatic effort is hampered by a lack of strong leverage over Baghdad. The Iraqis “are well aware that we cannot abandon them, we need them for our security and we cannot risk having another Afghanistan next door,” said an EU diplomat.

      The bloc did threaten last month to restrict visas for Iraqis to improve cooperation in taking back people rejected for asylum. The Commission said that “Iraqi authorities cooperate only on voluntary returns and in very exceptional cases (Iraqi nationals convicted for a criminal offence) on forced returns” and that “Iraq’s cooperation with the EU on readmission matters is not sufficient and that action is needed.”
      More flights

      While flights from Iraq are the most pressing issue, there is also worry about the increase in routes from Turkey.

      In recent weeks, Belavia — which is currently banned from European airspace after Minsk illegally diverted a Ryanair plane in May to kidnap an opposition blogger — has beefed up its schedule from Turkey. Two routes between Minsk and Istanbul that had been serviced three times a week are now flying daily. Regular flights from Izmir have been reinstated, as have several regular flights from Antalya — although those are also popular holiday destinations for Belarusians.

      There is also an effort to crack down on EU-based leasing companies supplying aircraft to Belavia.

      Brussels “must make sure that no European company can provide assets that facilitate the trafficking route,” Landsbergis told POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook on Wednesday.

      According to an EU official, several of the jets operated by Belavia come from Ireland. A company based in Denmark, Nordic Aviation Capital, has also provided aircraft to Belavia in the past. A spokesperson for the firm said it would not comment, but the company announced last September that it had delivered the last plane of a five-jet agreement to the carrier.

      Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told POLITICO his government does not yet “have sufficient information to verify such claims” but said the case is being reviewed by Danish authorities.

      “But let me be clear: If Danish companies are involved in Lukashenko’s deliberate, malicious and cynical efforts to use migrants as a political weapon to try and put pressure on Lithuania and the EU, then that would of course be totally unacceptable and should be stopped immediately,” he said. “If European companies aid and abet the Lukashenko regime in this way, then I firmly believe we need to revisit our current sanctions in the EU.”

      SMBC Aviation Capital, a Dublin-based company that has previously leased aircraft to Belavia, said in an email on Wednesday that it had not been contacted by Irish or European authorities. The Irish government did not respond to a request for comment.

      #Irak #vol #vols

    • La Lituanie commence la construction d’une clôture à la frontière avec le Bélarus

      La Lituanie a entrepris la construction d’une clôture le long de sa frontière avec le Bélarus, accusé par Vilnius et Varsovie d’acheminer des migrants vers l’UE.

      C’est un mur de plus qui va être érigé en Europe, de plusieurs centaines de kilomètres de long.

      Tetas, une entreprise de construction qui fait partie du groupe énergétique public lituanien Epso-G a commencé à acheminer le matériel nécessaire à la construction d’une clôture de 111 kilomètres de long, a rapporté le radiodiffuseur public LRT.

      L’entreprise a aussi marqué les sections des points de contrôle frontaliers de Druskininkai, Barauskas et Adutiskis dans le sud-est de la Lituanie.

      Dans l’urgence, des barbelés accordéon vont être posés dans les sections clés ce mois d’octobre, puis la pose d’une clôture de 4 mètres de hauteur sera effectuée à partir de novembre/décembre, avec pour objectif de l’achever d’ici le mois d’avril 2022.
      500 km au total

      Mais ce tronçon de 111 kilomètres ne représente qu’une première étape. L’entreprise Epso-G prévoit de lancer un second appel d’offres dès cette semaine, pour la construction d’une section de 400 kilomètres qui doit être terminée d’ici septembre 2022.

      Le gouvernement lituanien, qui accuse Alexandre Loukachenko de mener une « guerre hybride » contre la Lituanie, a alloué 152 millions d’euros pour la construction d’une barrière de 508 kilomètres.

      La Lituanie a accueilli sur son sol des opposants au régime de Loukachenko et son parlement a reconnu Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa comme la présidente légitime du Bélarus.

      A Varsovie aussi on s’inquiète des mouvements du voisin de l’est. La Biélorussie augmente la pression de l’émigration illégale vers les frontières de l’UE en acheminant « des dizaines de milliers d’immigrants dans son pays afin de les livrer à la frontière avec la Pologne », a assuré le premier ministre Mateusz Morawiecki.

      Tout le monde en Lituanie ne voit pas ce nouveau mur d’un bon œil.

      Dans une interview au « Courrier d’Europe centrale », l’eurodéputé et ancien ministre de la Défense lituanien Juozas Olekas estime que « Loukachenko est un leader illégitime qui […] utilise les migrants comme un mécanisme de pression sur l’Union européenne ».

      Pour autant, Juozas Olekas déclare : « Je ne suis pas favorable à l’érection de murs sur l’ensemble de la frontière et je pense qu’un travail diplomatique intensif, y compris avec les pays d’origine des migrants, ou de meilleures patrouilles, qui fonctionnent déjà, seraient des mesures plus efficaces. Je pense qu’il est inutile de paniquer, car ça ne sert jamais à rien, et que nous devrions nous concentrer sur des solutions à long terme ».

  • Auch Brüssel ist eine Hochburg des #Lobbyismus. Die Zeitung Brussel...

    Auch Brüssel ist eine Hochburg des #Lobbyismus. Die Zeitung Brussels Times plädierte in einigen Artikeln jüngst dafür, dass Politiker und Politikerinnen durchaus enge Verbindungen zu Konzernen unterhalten sollten. Das Magazin Politico hat herausgefunden, dass der angebliche Autor gar nicht existiert. (correctiv; engl.)

  • Denmark declares parts of Syria safe, pressuring refugees to return

    Denmark has stripped 94 Syrian refugees of their residency permits after declaring that Damascus and the surrounding area were safe. The Scandinavian nation is the first EU country to say that law-abiding refugees can be sent back to Syria.

    In Denmark, 94 Syrian refugees were stripped of their temporary residence permits, various British media reported this week. The move comes after the Danish government decided to extend the area of Syria it considers safe to include the Rif Dimashq Governorate – an area that includes the capital Damascus.

    According to the news platform Arab News, the Danish government said the 94 people will be sent to Danish deportation camps, but will not be forced to leave. Human rights groups however fear that the refugees will feel pressured to leave, even though their return is voluntary.

    The Danish immigration minister, Mattias Tesfaye, insisted last month that the Scandinavian country had been “open and honest from the start” about the situation of Syrian refugees, according to the British daily The Telegraph. “We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary. It can be withdrawn if protection is no longer needed,” the newspaper quoted Tesfaye as saying.

    The minister highlighted that Denmark would offer protection as long as needed but that “when conditions in the home country improve, a former refugee should return home and re-establish a life there.”
    ’Wreckless violation of duty’

    Last December, Germany’s deportation ban to Syria expired – but the only people now eligible for deportation are Syrian nationals who committed criminal offences or those deemed to pose a serious risk to public security. Denmark is the first European Union member to say that law-abiding refugees can be sent back to Syria.

    Human rights groups have strongly criticized the new Danish policy.

    “That the Danish government is seeking to force people back into the hands of this brutal regime is an appalling affront to refugee law and people’s right to be safe from persecution,” Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International UK, told The Independent.

    “This reckless violation of Denmark’s duty to provide asylum also risks increasing incentives for other countries to abandon their own obligations to Syrian refugees,” he said.

    The organization Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) told The Independent that they assume people sent back to the Rif Dimashq Governorate would face similar challenges to the ones that people in northern Syria are facing, “given the scale and duration of the Syrian conflict ​and the impact of the war on infrastructure and the health system.”

    A member from the rights group Refugees Welcome in Denmark told The Telegraph that the 94 Syrians who had their residency permits revoked are facing years of limbo. “The government hopes that they will go voluntarily, that they will just give up and go on their own,” Michala Bendixen said. She said Syrian refugees now face a “very, very tragic situation,” and will be forced from their homes, jobs and studies and into Danish deportation camps.
    Denmark’s anti-migrant stance

    About 900 Syrian refugees from the Damascus area had their temporary protection permits reassessed in Denmark last year, according the The Independent. The latest decision to declare the Rif Dimashq area as safe will mean that a further 350 Syrian nationals (of 1,250 Syrians in the country) will have to undergo reassessment which could lead to a revocation of their protection status and residency permits.

    The ruling center-left Social Democratic Party in Denmark has taken a strong anti-migration stance since coming into office in 2019. Recently, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she wants to aim for “zero” asylum seekers applying to live in Denmark.

    Denmark last year saw the lowest number of asylum seekers since 1998, with 1,547 people applying.

    #safe_zones #zones_sures #zone_sure #retour_au_pays #renvois #expulsions #réfugié_syriens #Danemark


    voir aussi cette métaliste sur le retour ("volontaire" ou non) des réfugiés syriens en Syrie :

    • Denmark has gone far-right on refugees

      Copenhagen claims Damascus is safe enough to send nearly 100 Syrians back.

      What has happened to Denmark? Once renowned as a liberal, tolerant, open-minded society with respect for human rights and a strong and humane welfare state, we have now become the first country in Europe to revoke residence permits for Syrian refugees.

      Last week, Danish authorities ruled that the security situation around Damascus has improved, despite evidence of dire living conditions and continued persecution by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As a result, they stripped 94 refugees of their right to stay in the country. Another recently introduced proposal would move all asylum applicants outside Denmark.

      In other words, Denmark — the first country to sign the U.N. Refugee Convention in 1951 — has now adopted an asylum policy that’s less like that of its Scandinavian neighbors than of nationalist countries like Austria or Hungary.

      Thankfully, nobody is being sent back to Syria anytime soon. Under the new system, refugees have to have lived in Denmark for at least 10 years for their attachment to the country to be considered strong enough for continued residence, no matter how hard they have worked or studied. However, it’s currently impossible to deport anyone back to Syria — Denmark won’t negotiate with Assad — and very few Syrians are willing to return voluntarily. So those who lose their residency permits will likely end up in Danish camps awaiting deportation or in other European countries.

      But the fact remains that Denmark is now passing laws with obviously discriminatory purposes, with politicians on both the left and right speaking about ethnic minorities and Muslims in terms that would be unimaginable in neighboring countries. Indeed, had this law been pushed forward by a hard-right government it might not have been surprising. But Denmark is currently governed by a left-wing coalition led by the Social Democrats. What, indeed, has happened to our country?

      The answer lies in a tug of war between the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party. Though the Danish People’s Party has never been part of a government, its representatives have spent the past two decades using their mandates for a single purpose: They only vote for bills concerning other issues if they get restrictions on foreigners in return. Step by step, the Danish People’s Party has dragged all the other parties in their direction — none more so than the Social Democrats with whom they compete for working-class voters.

      In 2001, a right-wing government made the first radical restrictions for refugees and foreigners. And while the Social Democrats first opposed it, they soon changed their strategy to fend off the challenge from the Danish People’s Party. At first, not all Social Democrats agreed to the new hard-line policy, but the party gradually came to embrace it, along with the vast majority of their voters. Today the Danish People’s Party has become almost redundant. Their policies, once denounced as racist and extreme, have now become mainstream.

      Two years ago, the government passed legislation turning the concept of refugee protection upside down: It replaced efforts at long-term integration and equal rights with temporary stays, limited rights and a focus on deportation at the earliest possibility. Paradoxically, this came at a time when Denmark received the lowest number of refugees in 30 years, and integration had been going better than ever in terms of employment, education and language skills.

      Meanwhile, the Danish Refugee Appeals Board has been stripped of its experts and cut down to only three members including an employee from the ministry of immigration, thus making it not quite as independent as the government claims, but more in line with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen who is pursuing a goal of having “zero asylum seekers.”

      Currently, Danish politicians are discussing a bill that is even more extreme than its predecessors: a loose and imprecise plan for a contract to transfer asylum seekers who arrive in Denmark to a non-European country (most likely in Africa), where their cases will be processed. If they are granted asylum, they will stay in that third country.

      The minister says it would make the asylum system more “humane and fair,” but Danish human rights organizations and the UNHCR say it will do precisely the opposite. The plan is essentially a new form of colonialism, paying others to take care of “unwanted” persons far away from Denmark, and not accepting even a small portion of the millions of refugees in the world.

      Fortunately, it seems like the right wing is so offended by the Social Democrats co-opting and expanding their policies that they will vote against it. But if it passes, the policy could have terrible consequences for collaboration within the European Union and on the international level.

      This game has gone too far. Most Danes are not racist or against human rights and solidarity. But it’s getting hard to see how we can find our way back.

    • ECRE | Danemark : élargissement des lieux considérés comme “sûrs” en Syrie

      La Commission danoise de recours des réfugiés a déclaré que la situation dans le Grand Damas était assez sûr pour pouvoir penser à un retour des personnes ayant fui le pays. 350 cas de ressortissant·es de cette région vont être réévalués.

      Nous publions l’article, originellement écrit en anglais et traduit par nos soins, paru le 5 mars 2021 sur le site du Conseil européen sur les réfugiés et les exilés (ECRE) : Sur le même sujet, retrouvez l’article “Denmark declares part of Syria safe, pressuring refugees to return” publié le 4 mars 2021 sur :


      Danemark : Les autorités élargissent les zones de Syrie considérées comme sûres pour les retours

      À travers trois décisions, la Commission danoise de recours des réfugiés (Flygtningenaevnet) a déclaré que la situation dans le gouvernorat de Rif Damas (le Grand Damas) était suffisamment sûre pour un retour, élargissant, ainsi, la zone géographique considérée comme étant en sécurité par les autorités danoises. En conséquence, la portée géographique des réévaluations des cas de ressortissants syriens a été élargie pour inclure les cas du grand Damas. Des centaines de cas doivent être réévalués par la Commission de recours en 2021.

      En décembre 2019, la Commission d’appel des réfugiés a confirmé les décisions de première instance du Service danois de l’immigration de rejeter les besoins de protection de trois femmes demandeuses d’asile originaires de Syrie. Ce rejet était fondé sur une prétendue amélioration de la situation générale en matière de sécurité dans la région de Damas depuis mai 2018, date à laquelle le régime d’Assad a repris le contrôle total de la région. Depuis lors, un certain nombre de dossiers ont été traités par le Service danois de l’immigration et la Commission de recours des réfugiés, aboutissant à la révocation ou à la non prolongation des permis de séjour. En février 2020, le gouvernement social-démocrate danois a confirmé au Parlement qu’en dépit de la prétendue amélioration de la situation sécuritaire à Damas, aucun retour forcé ne serait effectué car cela impliquerait une coopération directe avec le régime. Cependant, malgré l’absence de possibilité pratique de retour forcé, le ministre de l’immigration, Mattias Tesfaye, a demandé en juin 2020 une accélération des réévaluations des cas de centaines de ressortissants syriens de la région de Damas, soit sur le controversé statut de protection subsidiaire temporaire (section 7.3 de la loi danoise sur les étrangers), soit sur le statut de protection subsidiaire (section 7.2 de la loi danoise sur les étrangers).

      Les dernières décisions de la Commission d’appel de refuser l’extension de la protection dans deux cas et de rejeter l’asile dans un cas, représentent une expansion des zones considérées comme sûres pour le retour par les autorités danoises, incluant déjà Damas mais maintenant aussi le gouvernorat environnant. Il s’agit d’une zone qui est passée sous le contrôle du régime d’Assad en mars 2020. Le Conseil danois pour les réfugiés (DRC), membre de l’ECRE, qui fournit une assistance juridique aux demandeurs d’asile au Danemark et une aide humanitaire en Syrie, note que la Commission d’appel a pris une décision partagée, avec des avis divergents sur la durabilité de la prétendue amélioration de la situation sécuritaire. En outre, l’organisation note que les décisions ignorent les risques évidents liés aux retours forcés : “Les risques de persécution et d’abus sont grands pour les individus s’ils sont arrêtés par la police ou rencontrés par les autorités, d’innombrables rapports révèlent de graves violations des droits de l’homme sur la population civile. En particulier les personnes considérées comme suspectes en raison de leurs relations familiales ou de leurs affiliations politiques, mais même des choses aussi aléatoires qu’une erreur sur votre nom de famille à un point de contrôle peuvent vous conduire en prison”, déclare Eva Singer, responsable de l’asile à DRC. En même temps, le DRC souligne le fait qu’en raison du manque de coopération pratique entre les autorités syriennes et danoises concernant les retours forcés, il n’est pas possible pour les autorités danoises de renvoyer les Syriens – et donc les décisions ne peuvent être exécutées. Cela met en veilleuse la vie d’un groupe de personnes bien portantes travaillant au Danemark et de familles ayant des enfants dans des écoles danoises.

      Sur la base des décisions de la Commission d’appel, le service danois de l’immigration va maintenant réévaluer jusqu’à 350 cas concernant des ressortissants syriens de la campagne de Damas. Selon la Commission d’appel des réfugiés, 600 à 700 cas concernant l’ensemble de la région de Damas devraient être réévalués en 2021.

      Pour plus d’informations :

      – ECRE, Denmark : No Forced Returns to Syria, February 2020 :
      – ECRE : Denmark : Appeal Board Confirms Rejection of Protection for Three Syrian Nationals, December 2019 :
      – ECRE, Denmark : Appeal Board Overturns Withdrawals of Protection Status for Syrians, June 2019 :

    • ’Tragic Situation’ : Syrian Refugees in Denmark Are Losing Their Residencies in Bulk

      A new Danish policy has come into effect as the government of Denmark has declared its intent to deport at least 94 Syrian refugees back to their home country, saying that the decision stems from the government’s belief that certain areas in Syria are no longer dangerous to live in.

      Despite stirring strong criticism from human rights groups and organization, the Danish government has defended its decision to deport Syrian refugees who hail from the Syrian capital and its surrounding areas, saying that “an asylum seeker loses their legal status once it is no longer risky for them to be back.”

      The backlash against statements made by the Danish Minister for Integration, Mattias Tesfaye, attacked the policy saying that most refugees have already been starting to integrate into the Danish society for years, they have acquired education, learned the language, and took decent jobs, and that the decision to send them back to Syria to live under the same political regime that persecuted them during the first years of the civil war is only going to leave them in limbo.

      Online people have also been posting photos of refugees who have received revocation letters along with personal stories, many of which show how successful they have been starting their lives in Denmark.

      Additionally, social media users have widely shared the story of Akram Bathiesh, a refugee who has died of a heart attack shortly after receiving the notification of his residency being canceled. According to his family and friends, Bathiesh was terrified of going back to Syria where he had been in prison for his political stances.

      Denmark is the first EU nation to decide to send Syrian refugees home alleging better circumstances for them in Syria. Previously, Germany had decided to send back Syrian refugees with criminal records in Germany.

      According to official records released in 2017, more than 40k Syrians were living legally in Denmark, including ones with temporary residency permits.

      #résidence #permis_de_séjour

    • Denmark strips Syrian refugees of residency permits and says it is safe to go home

      Government denies renewal of temporary residency status from about 189 Syrians

      Denmark has become the first European nation to revoke the residency permits of Syrian refugees, insisting that some parts of the war-torn country are safe to return to.

      At least 189 Syrians have had applications for renewal of temporary residency status denied since last summer, a move the Danish authorities said was justified because of a report that found the security situation in some parts of Syria had “improved significantly”.

      About 500 people originally from Damascus and surrounding areas were being re-evaluated.

      The issue has attracted widespread attention since 19-year-old Aya Abu-Daher, from Nyborg, pleaded her family’s case on television earlier this month, moving viewers as she asked, holding back tears, what she had “done wrong”.

      Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, said that Denmark’s new rules for Syrians amount to “undignified treatment”.

      “The Danish Refugee Council disagrees with the decision to deem the Damascus area or any area in Syria safe for refugees to return to – the absence of fighting in some areas does not mean that people can safely go back. Neither the UN nor other countries deem Damascus as safe.”

      After 10 years of war, Bashar al-Assad is back in control of most of Syria, and frontline fighting is limited to the north of the country. However, one of the main reasons people rose up during the Arab spring remains: his secret police.

      Regime intelligence branches have detained, tortured and “disappeared” more than 100,000 people since the war broke out in 2011. Arbitrary detentions are widespread in formerly rebel-held areas that have signed reconciliation agreements with Damascus, according to Human Rights Watch.

      Areas under the regime are unstable. There has been next to no rebuilding, services such as water and electricity are scarce, and last year’s collapse of the Syrian pound has sent food prices rocketing by 230%.

      Hiba al-Khalil, 28, who left home on the refugee trail through Turkey and Greece before settling in Denmark in 2015, said: “I told the interviewer, just being outside Syria for as long as I have is enough to make you look suspicious to the regime. Just because your city isn’t being bombed with chemicals anymore doesn’t make it safe … Anyone can be arrested.”

      The trainee journalist added: “I was so happy to get to Denmark. I came here to work and study and make a new life. I’ve learned the language very well. Now I am confused and shocked it was not enough.”

      Khalil had been called back for a second immigration interview this week, and was not sure what would happen next or how she would afford a lawyer to appeal if her application renewal were rejected.

      According to Refugees Welcome Denmark, 30 Syrians have already lost their appeals – but since Copenhagen does not have diplomatic relations with Damascus it cannot directly deport people to Syria.

      At least some of the rejected applicants have been placed in a detention centre, which campaigners said amounted to a prison where residents could not work, study or get proper healthcare.

      Syrian men are generally exempt from the new policy because the authorities recognise they are at risk of being drafted into the Syrian military or punished for evading conscription. The majority of affected people appear to be women and older people, many of whom face being separated from their children.

      The parents of Mahmoud al-Muhammed, 19, both in their late 60s, had their appeal to stay in Denmark rejected, despite the fact Muhammed’s father retired from the Syrian military in 2006 and threats were made against him when the family left the country.

      “They want to put my parents in a detention centre for maybe 10 years, before Assad is gone,” he said. “They both have health problems. This policy is cruel. It is designed to make us so desperate we have to leave.”

      Denmark is home to 5.8 million people, of which 500,000 are immigrants and 35,000 are Syrian.

      The Scandinavian country’s reputation for tolerance and openness has suffered in recent years with the rise of the far-right Danish People’s party. The centre-left coalition in government, led by the Social Democrats, is in competition with the right for working-class votes.

      The new stance on Syrian refugees stands in stark contrast to neighbouring Germany and Sweden, where it is much easier for the larger Syrian populations to gain permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

      As well as stripping Syrians of their residency permits, the Danish government has also offered funding of about £22,000 per person for voluntary returnees. However, worried for their safety, in 2020 just 137 refugees took up the offer.

      Danish authorities have so far dismissed growing international criticism of the new policies from the UN and rights groups.

      The immigration minister, Mattias Tesfaye, told Agence France-Presse: “The government’s policy is working and I won’t back down, it won’t happen. We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary and that the permit can be revoked if the need for protection ceases to exist.”

      “It is pointless to remove people from the life they are trying to build in Denmark and put them in a waiting position without an end date,” Slente of the Danish Refugee Council said. “It is also difficult to understand why decisions are taken that cannot be implemented.”

    • ‘Zero asylum seekers’: Denmark forces refugees to return to Syria

      Under a more hostile immigration system, young volunteers fight to help fellow refugees stay – but their work is never done

      Maryam Awad is 22 and cannot remember the last time she had a good night’s sleep. It was probably before her application to renew her residency permit as a refugee in Denmark was rejected two years ago, she says.

      Before 2015, Awad’s family lived in a small town outside Damascus, but fled to Denmark after her older brother was detained by the regime. The family have been living in Aarhus, a port city in northern Denmark, for eight years.

      Awad and her younger sister are the only family members facing deportation. Their situation is far from unique. In 2019, the Danish government notified about 1,200 refugees from the Damascus region that their residency permits would not be renewed.

      Unlike the United Nations and EU, Denmark judged the region to be safe for refugees to return. However, as men could be drafted into the army and older women often have children enrolled in Danish schools, the new policy predominantly affects young women and elderly people.

      Lisa Blinkenberg, of Amnesty International Denmark, said: “In 2015, we have seen a legislative change which means that the residency permit of refugees can be withdrawn due to changes in their home country, but the change does not have to be fundamental. Then in 2019 the Danish immigration services decided that the violence in Damascus has stopped and that Syrians could be returned there.”

      Blinkenberg says Denmark’s policy towards asylum seekers and refugees has become notably more hostile in recent years. “In 2019, the Danish prime minister declared that Denmark wanted ‘zero asylum seekers’. That was a really strong signal,” she says.

      “Like in other European countries, there has been a lot of support for rightwing parties in Denmark. This has sent a strong signal for the government to say: ‘OK, Denmark will not be a welcoming country for refugees or asylum seekers.’”

      Awad smiles, briefly, for the first time when she receives a phone call from her lawyer. He tells her there is now a date set for her appeal with the refugee board. It will be her last chance to prolong her residency permit.

      She had been waiting for this phone call since February. “I am really nervous, but happy that it is happening,” she says. “I am glad that I had the support from friends who put me in touch with volunteers. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

      One of the volunteers Awad has received help from is Rahima Abdullah, 21, a fellow Syrian refugee and leader of the Danish Refugee Youth Council. Over the past two years Abdullah had almost single-handedly built a network of opposition to deportations targeting Syrians.

      “I have lost count of how many cases I worked on. Definitely over 100, maybe even 200,” Abdullah says.

      Abdullah, who grew up in a Kurdish family in Aleppo, first became politically active at 16 after her family sought refuge in Denmark. She has been regularly publishing opinion pieces in Danish newspapers and built a profile as a refugee activist.

      “The image of immigration in Danish media was very negative. I could see everyone talking about it but felt as if I didn’t have a voice. That’s why I decided to become an activist,” she says.

      In 2019, Abudullah and a classmate, Aya Daher, were propelled to the front pages of Danish media, after Daher found herself among hundreds of Syrians threatened with deportation.

      “Aya called me up, scared, crying that her application was rejected. Before we were thinking about finishing school, about exams and parties, but suddenly we were only concentrating on Aya’s future and her safety,” Abdullah recalls.

      “I posted her story on Facebook and I sent it to two journalists and went to sleep. In the morning I found that it was shared 4,000 times.”

      The story was picked up by local and international media, sparking a public outcry. Following her appeal to the Danish Refugee Board, Daher’s residency was extended for an additional two years on the grounds that her public profile would put her in danger from the Assad regime.

      “They gave me a residency permit because I was in the media. They did not believe in what I said about my situation and the dangers I would face in Syria. That really hurt,” Daher says. “I hope I don’t have to go through this process again.”

      “Aya can get on with her life now, but I am still doing the same work for other people in the same position,” Abdullah says. “Her case showed refugees that, if you get media attention and support from society, you can stay in Denmark.”

      Abdullah gets up to five messages a day from refugees hoping she can help them catch the attention of the media. “I have to choose who to help – sometimes I pass people on to other activists. There are two or three people helping me,” she says. “It gets hard to be a young person with school and a social life, with all that work.”

      But not everyone is as appealing to the media as Daher. The people whose stories pass unnoticed keep Abdullah up at night.

      “I worked with one family, a couple with young children. I managed to get them one press interview in Sweden, but it wasn’t enough,” Abudullah says. “The husband is now in Germany with two of the children trying to get asylum there. The wife stayed here with one child. She messaged me on Facebook and said: ‘You did not help us, you destroyed our life.’ I can’t be angry at her – I can’t imagine how she feels.

      “Aya’s story was the first of its kind at the time. Additionally, Danish media like to see an outspoken young woman from the Middle East, who is integrated into society, gets an education, and speaks Danish,” Abdullah says. “And this was just an ordinary Syrian family. The woman didn’t speak good Danish and the children were quite young.

      “Aya also doesn’t wear a hijab, which I think made some people more sympathetic towards her,” Abdullah adds. “There are people in Denmark who think that if you wear the hijab you’re not integrated into society. This makes me sad and angry – it shouldn’t be this way.”

      Daher, who became the face of young Syrian refugees in Denmark, says: “It was very difficult to suddenly be in the media, and be someone that many people recognise. I felt like I was responsible for a lot of people.

      “I had a lot of positive reactions from people and from my classmates, but there have also been negative comments.” she says. “One man came up to me on the street and said ‘go back to your country, you Muslim. You’re stealing our money.’

      “I respect that some people don’t want me to be here. There’s nothing more I can do about that,” Daher says. “They have not been in Syria and they have not been in the war – I can’t explain it to them.”

      Awad hopes she can return to the life she had to put on hold two years ago. “I don’t know how to prepare for the appeal. All I can do is say the truth,” she says. “If I go back to Syria they will detain me.” She hopes this will be enough to persuade the board to allow her appeal.

      “I planned to study medicine in Copenhagen before my residency application was rejected. I wanted to be a doctor ever since I came to Denmark,” she says. The uncertainty prompted her to get a qualification as a health assistant by working in a care home. “I just want my life back.”

  • Automated racism : How tech can entrench bias

    Dutch benefits scandal highlights need for EU scrutiny. In the run-up to parliamentary elections in the Netherlands this month, center-right and extreme right parties are outdoing one another in calling for a surveillance state that will come down on marginalized and minority groups in all its might. This should send alarm bells ringing in Brussels and beyond. The party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, projected to emerge as the election winner, doesn’t appear to have learned any lessons (...)

    #algorithme #racisme #fraude #biais #discrimination #pauvreté #surveillance


  • Spricht man über eingeschränkte Pressefreiheit innerhalb der EU, de...

    Spricht man über eingeschränkte Pressefreiheit innerhalb der EU, denkt man normalerweise an #Ungarn. Aber auch in #Slowenien gibt es einen Ministerpräsidenten, der gegen die #Medien kämpft: Janez Jansa, der 2020 erneut an die Macht kam. (piqd)

  • WhatsApp facing up to €50M privacy fine

    The draft penalty would be one of the largest under the European Union’s data protection rules. Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp could be fined up to €50 million over violations of the European Union’s data protection rules, according to three people with direct knowledge of the procedure who spoke with POLITICO. The preliminary penalty — the figure is now under consultation with the bloc’s other data protection agencies — would be one of the largest-ever fines under the EU’s General Data (...)

    #Facebook #Instagram #WhatsApp #domination #BigData #[fr]Règlement_Général_sur_la_Protection_des_Données_(RGPD)[en]General_Data_Protection_Regulation_(GDPR)[nl]General_Data_Protection_Regulation_(GDPR) #CNIL (...)

    ##[fr]Règlement_Général_sur_la_Protection_des_Données__RGPD_[en]General_Data_Protection_Regulation__GDPR_[nl]General_Data_Protection_Regulation__GDPR_ ##consentement

  • Pour la mise en œuvre, désastreuse, de sa politique vaccinale, l’exécutif a fait appel à quatre cabinets de #consultance : #McKinsey, #Accenture, #Citwell et #JLL ; une pratique devenue commune par indifférenciation graduelle des sphères privées et publiques.

    Ces cabinets n’ont pas la moindre compétence scientifique et leurs compétences gestionnaires sont sensiblement celles de la #haute_fonction_publique : devenue très faibles avec le développement du #management.

    Le nom du #marché_public de 20 millions € avec McKinsey porte un nom explicite, la "transformation de l’action publique" étant le nom de l’importation des méthodes désastreuses du nouveau management dans le champ de l’Etat.
    voir aussi :

    D’après le Canard, c’est @MaeldeCalan qui représentait @McKinsey_France à la réunion du 23 décembre dernier pour présenter le plan de #vaccination dont la médiocrité est apparue rapidement : 7000, hier, soit 45 fois moins qu’en Allemagne.

    #Maël_de_La_Lande (HEC, Science Po’) n’a rigoureusement aucune compétence scientifique. Il s’agit d’une figure de la droite conservatrice proche de l’#Institut_Montaigne, qui a apporté une large part des cadres macroniste — son directeur abritait "EM".

    Comment "#Baby-Juppé" (sic) a-t-il pu raté à ce point le « cadrage logistique », le « benchmarking » des « best practices » à l’étranger et la « coordination opérationnelle de la #task_force » ?

    Les étapes du #fiasco en quatre unes de la Pravda macroniste.

    Quel est le rôle de McKinsey dans le #lobbying en faveur de #Sanofi opéré dans les négociations européennes : contrat de 300 millions de doses de #vaccin en septembre, puis véto contre l’achat de 200+100 millions de doses de vaccins #Pfizer/#BioNTech ?

    Quelle est la part du #retard dans la #campagne_de_vaccination due à une politique de recherche globalement désastreuse, qui a conduit à miser envers et contre tout sur #Sanofi ? Et quelle part vient de l’incapacité de l’exécutif à mettre en œuvre et gérer ?

    McKinsey avait récemment été mandaté obtenir la création d’une agence de désinformation scientifique (un "#Science_Media_Center") au service du lobbying agro-industriel.

    Les aller-retours entre McKinsey et l’Etat, caractéristiques de la mutation en cours de la haute fonction publique, ont été dans les deux sens. Ainsi, #Labaye, passé du comité de direction mondial du groupe à la présidence de Polytechnique.

    Ainsi, dans l’autre sens, #Mathieu_Maucort (Science Po’, HEC) — les "yeux et les oreilles de Macron à Marseille" — passé de McKinsey au poste de responsable du marketing politique d’En Marche.

    #consulting #privatisation #Maël_de_Calan #macronisme #LREM

    ping @simplicissimus

  • Belgian secretary of state accidentally reveals EU vaccine prices – POLITICO

    According to the screenshot published by HLN, the EU is spending between €1.78 and $18 per coronavirus vaccine. The price per dose listed for each of the six vaccines was as follows:

    Oxford/AstraZeneca: €1.78
    Johnson & Johnson, $8.50
    Sanofi/GSK: €7.56
    BioNTech/Pfizer: €12
    CureVac: €10
    Moderna: $18
    Belgium will purchase more than 33 million vaccines for a total of €279 million.

    De Blecker said that publication of the price breakdown was “a mistake on the part of the communications team,” according to HLN.