monitoring the state and civil liberties in Europe

https://www.statewatch.org

  • EU : One step closer to the establishment of the ’#permission-to-travel' scheme

    The Council and Parliament have reached provisional agreement on rules governing how the forthcoming #European_Travel_Information_and_Authorisation System (#ETIAS) will ’talk’ to other migration and policing databases, with the purpose of conducting automated searches on would-be travellers to the EU.

    The ETIAS will mirror systems such as the #ESTA scheme in the USA, and will require that citizens of countries who do not need a #visa to travel to the EU instead apply for a “travel authorisation”.

    As with visas, travel companies will be required to check an individual’s travel authorisation before they board a plane, coach or train, effectively creating a new ’permission-to-travel’ scheme.

    The ETIAS also includes a controversial #profiling and ’watchlist’ system, an aspect not mentioned in the Council’s press release (full-text below).

    The rules on which the Council and Parliament have reached provisional agreement - and which will thus almost certainly be the final text of the legislation - concern how and when the ETIAS can ’talk’ to other EU databases such as #Eurodac (asylum applications), the #Visa_Information_System, or the #Schengen_Information_System.

    Applicants will also be checked against #Europol and #Interpol databases.

    As the press release notes, the ETIAS will also serve as one of the key components of the “interoperability” scheme, which will interconnect numerous EU databases and lead to the creation of a new, biometric ’#Common_Identity_Repository' on up to 300 million non-EU nationals.

    You can find out more about the ETIAS, related changes to the Visa Information System, and the interoperability plans in the Statewatch report Automated Suspicion: https://www.statewatch.org/automated-suspicion-the-eu-s-new-travel-surveillance-initiatives

    –------

    The text below is a press release published by the Council of the EU on 18 March 2020: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/03/18/european-travel-information-and-authorisation-system-etias-council-

    European travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS): Council Presidency and European Parliament provisionally agree on rules for accessing relevant databases

    The Council presidency and European Parliament representatives today reached a provisional agreement on the rules connecting the ETIAS central system to the relevant EU databases. The agreed texts will next be submitted to the relevant bodies of the Council and the Parliament for political endorsement and, following this, for their formal adoption.

    The adoption of these rules will be the final legislative step required for the setting up of ETIAS, which is expected to be operational by 2022.

    The introduction of ETIAS aims to improve internal security, prevent illegal immigration, protect public health and reduce delays at the borders by identifying persons who may pose a risk in one of these areas before they arrive at the external borders. ETIAS is also a building bloc of the interoperability between JHA databases, an important political objective of the EU in this area, which is foreseen to be operational by the end of 2023.

    The provisionally agreed rules will allow the ETIAS central system to perform checks against the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS), the Entry/Exit System (EES), Eurodac and the database on criminal records of third country nationals (ECRIS-TCN), as well as on Europol and Interpol data.

    They allow for the connection of the ETIAS central system to these databases and set out the data to be accessed for ETIAS purposes, as well as the conditions and access rights for the ETIAS central unit and the ETIAS national units. Access to the relevant data in these systems will allow authorities to assess the security or immigration risk of applicants and decide whether to issue or refuse a travel authorisation.
    Background

    ETIAS is the new EU travel information and authorisation system. It will apply to visa-exempt third country nationals, who will need to obtain a travel authorisation before their trip, via an online application.

    The information submitted in each application will be automatically processed against EU and relevant Interpol databases to determine whether there are grounds to refuse a travel authorisation. If no hits or elements requiring further analysis are identified, the travel authorisation will be issued automatically and quickly. This is expected to be the case for most applications. If there is a hit or an element requiring analysis, the application will be handled manually by the competent authorities.

    A travel authorisation will be valid for three years or until the end of validity of the travel document registered during application, whichever comes first. For each application, the applicant will be required to pay a travel authorisation fee of 7 euros.

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/march/eu-one-step-closer-to-the-establishment-of-the-permission-to-travel-sche

    #interopérabilité #base_de_données #database #données_personnelles #migrations #mobilité #autorisations #visas #compagnies_de_voyage #VIS #SIS #EU #UE #union_européenne #biométrie

    ping @etraces @isskein @karine4

    • L’UE précise son futur système de contrôle des voyageurs exemptés de visas

      Les modalités du futur système de #contrôle_préalable, auquel devront se soumettre d’ici fin 2022 les ressortissants de pays tiers pouvant se rendre dans l’Union #sans_visa, a fait l’objet d’un #accord annoncé vendredi par l’exécutif européen.

      Ce dispositif, baptisé ETIAS et inspiré du système utilisé par les Etats-Unis, concernera les ressortissants de plus de 60 pays qui sont exemptés de visas pour leurs courts séjours dans l’Union, comme les ressortissants des Etats-Unis, du Brésil, ou encore de l’Albanie et des Emirats arabes unis.

      Ce système dit « d’information et d’autorisation », qui vise à repérer avant leur entrée dans l’#espace_Schengen des personnes jugées à #risques, doit permettre un contrôle de sécurité avant leur départ via une demande d’autorisation sur internet.

      Dans le cadre de l’ETIAS, les demandes en ligne coûteront 7 euros et chaque autorisation sera valable trois ans pour des entrées multiples, a indiqué un porte-parole de la Commission.

      Selon les prévisions, « probablement plus de 95% » des demandes « donneront lieu à une #autorisation_automatique », a-t-il ajouté.

      Le Parlement européen avait adopté dès juillet 2018 une législation établissant le système ETIAS, mais dans les négociations pour finaliser ses modalités opérationnelles, les eurodéputés réclamaient des garde-fous, en le rendant interopérable avec les autres systèmes d’information de l’UE.

      Eurodéputés et représentants des Etats, de concert avec la Commission, ont approuvé jeudi des modifications qui permettront la consultation de différentes #bases_de_données, dont celles d’#Europol et d’#Interpol, pour identifier les « menaces sécuritaires potentielles, dangers de migration illégale ou risques épidémiologiques élevés ».

      Il contribuera ainsi à « la mise en oeuvre du nouveau Pacte (européen) sur la migration et l’asile », a estimé le porte-parole.

      « Nous devons savoir qui franchit nos #frontières_extérieures. (ETIAS) fournira des #informations_préalables sur les voyageurs avant qu’ils n’atteignent les frontières de l’UE afin d’identifier les risques en matière de #sécurité ou de #santé », a souligné Ylva Johansson, commissaire aux affaires intérieures, citée dans un communiqué.

      Hors restrictions dues à la pandémie, « au moins 30 millions de voyageurs se rendent chaque année dans l’UE sans visa, et on ne sait pas grand chose à leur sujet. L’ETIAS comblera cette lacune, car il exigera un "#background_check" », selon l’eurodéputé Jeroen Lenaers (PPE, droite pro-UE), rapporteur du texte.

      L’accord doit recevoir un ultime feu vert du Parlement et des Vingt-Sept pour permettre au système d’entrer en vigueur.

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/fil-dactualites/190321/l-ue-precise-son-futur-systeme-de-controle-des-voyageurs-exemptes-de-visas
      #smart_borders #frontières_intelligentes

  • Facial recognition tech stories and rights harms from around the world
    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/in-focus-facial-recognition-tech-stories-and-rights-harms-from-around-th

    A new report by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organisations looks at the use and abuse of facial recognition technology by states across the globe, providing detailed case studies from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. From Delhi to Detroit, Budapest to Bogota, Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is being rapidly deployed in public and private spaces across the world. As of 2019, 64 out of 176 countries were using facial recognition surveillance systems. In (...)

    #Clearview #Hikvision #FBI #algorithme #CCTV #biométrie #racisme #facial #reconnaissance #vidéo-surveillance #biais #discrimination #surveillance (...)

    ##StateWatch

  • Migration and asylum: updates to the EU-Africa ’#Joint_Valletta_Action_Plan' on the way

    In November 2015 European and African heads of state met at a summit in Valletta, Malta, “to discuss a coordinated answer to the crisis of migration and refugee governance in Europe.” Since then joint activities on migration and asylum have increased significantly, according to documents published here by Statewatch. The Council is now examining an update to the ’Joint Valletta Action Plan’ (JVAP) and considering how to give it “a renewed sense of purpose”.

    "The #JVAP has an important bearing within the #GAMM [#Global_Approach_on_Migration_and_Mobility] and in the EU migration policies context, since it established the first ever framework for exchanges and monitoring of migration priorities involving a significant number of both European and African partners. The JVAP plays an important role in the implementation of the proposed new Pact on Migration and Asylum, tabled by the Commission in September 2020.

    “Over the last five years, the JVAP’s operational focus has grown in size and scope, as evidenced by the JVAP database.

    Several other benefits stem from the strategic linkage between the JVAP and the two Processes. One worth mentioning is the growing operationalisation of the regional migration dialogues through, in particular, the development of resources with an operational focus and the participant profiling, increasingly adapted to the stakes of the meetings. For example, the Rabat Process has developed the labelling mechanism, the reference countries system and the laboratory of ideas to step up the implementation and monitoring of each area of the Marrakesh Action Plan.”

    “The JVAP is therefore widely seen as having contributed to shaping the political, technical, and financial architecture of EU-Africa engagement on migration and mobility. At the same time, the JVAP provides a forum of discussion that rises to the political level and so could serve as a forum for debate and discussion in the future, especially should political circumstances call for high-level multilateral engagement on migration.”

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/migration-and-asylum-updates-to-the-eu-africa-joint-valletta-action-plan

    #update #mise_à_jour #Valletta #externalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #sommet_de_La_Vallette #La_Vallette #Vallette

    –---

    ajouté à la métaliste sur l’externalisation:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/731749

  • Un rapport sur la loi grecque, et la proposition de la Commission de règlement de filtrage des personnes migrantes aux frontières extérieures, et qui fait partie du #Pacte européen de migration et d’asile.

    EU’s proposed screening rules for migrants are based on « failed and violent » Greek law

    The EU’s proposed ’#Screening_Regulation' (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM:2020:612:FIN), published as part of the Pact on Migration and Asylum, foresees “pre-entry screening that should be applicable to all third-country nationals who are present at the external border without fulfilling the entry conditions or after disembarkation, following a search and rescue operation.” Many of the provisions correspond to those introduced in Greek law in recent years, say a group of NGOs. They argue that understanding these similarities is essential for “preventing the entrenchment of failed and violent border policies in the ‘new‘ EU #Pact_on_Migration_and_Asylum” (https://eldh.eu/2020/11/05/eldh-statement-on-the-new-eu-pact-on-migration-and-asylum/#:~:text=The%20Pact%20on%20Migration%20and,procedures%2C%20unlawful%20returns%2)

    “The European Commission proposal for a Screening Regulation is largely modelled on the “reception and identification procedure” (διαδικασία υποδοχής και ταυτοποίησης), which applies to everyone irregularly arriving in Greece. The majority of its provisions correspond to provisions of Greek legislation in relation to key elements of the process such as restrictions on liberty, identification, registration, medical check, vulnerability assessment, and referral to asylum or other procedures. An in-depth understanding of the existent Greek procedure is therefore essential to identifying pitfalls and concerns with the Screening Regulation proposal at an early stage of negotiations within the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to preventing the entrenchment of failed and violent border policies in the ‘new‘ EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

    To this end, the correlation table presented in the document below provides a point-by-point comparison of the main provisions of the Screening Regulation proposal with relevant domestic legislation, namely L 4375/2016 and L 4636/2019 (IPA). It also offers a detailed analysis of the implementation of the reception and identification procedure in practice, drawing on up-to-date information complemented by observations from civil society organisations. The information provided in the correlation table has been collected through the collaborative effort of Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), HIAS Greece, Greek Council for Refugees, Danish Refugee Council, Legal Centre Lesvos, FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid, ActionAid Hellas and Mobile Info Team, and legal practitioners.”

    See: The Workings of the Screening Regulation: Juxtaposing proposed EU rules with the Greek reception and identification procedure (Legal Centre Lesvos: https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2021/01/26/the-workings-of-the-screening-regulation-juxtaposing-proposed-eu-)

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-s-proposed-screening-rules-for-migrants-are-based-on-failed-and-viole

    #pacte_européen #identification #frontières_extérieures #Grèce #EU #UE #tri #catégorisation #loi #Pacte_européen_sur_la_migration #new_pact #nouveau_pacte #pacte_sur_la_migration_et_l'asile #union_européenne

    ping @isskein @karine4 @i_s_ @_kg_ @etraces

    –—

    voir aussi ce fil de discussion sur le nouveau pacte :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/876752

    • RAPPORT sur la mise en œuvre de l’#article_43 de la directive 2013/32/UE du Parlement européen et du Conseil du 26 juin 2013 relative à des procédures communes pour l’octroi et le retrait de la protection internationale

      Le présent rapport porte sur l’application des procédures à la frontière par les États membres. L’article 43 de la directive 2013/32/UE relative à des procédures communes pour l’octroi et le retrait de la protection internationale (directive sur les procédures d’asile) établit les procédures à la frontière comme une possibilité à laquelle les États membres peuvent avoir recours dans le cadre du fonctionnement du régime d’asile européen commun. Lorsqu’une demande d’asile est présentée à la frontière ou dans une zone de transit, les États membres peuvent, sous certaines conditions, examiner la demande dans ces lieux.

      Objet du rapport

      L’objectif principal du rapport est de permettre au Parlement de prendre des décisions éclairées et fondées sur des données probantes lors des négociations à venir sur le pacte sur la migration et l’asile, dans le cadre duquel les procédures à la frontière jouent un rôle crucial. Les procédures à la frontière jouent un rôle essentiel dans la proposition relative au pacte. Or, la Commission n’a jamais fait l’effort d’évaluer leur mise en œuvre, de déterminer si leurs objectifs sont atteints et d’établir les conclusions à tirer pour une nouvelle législation.

      Les rapports de mise en œuvre constituent un élément essentiel du programme de la Commission pour une meilleure réglementation, qui vise à concevoir et à évaluer les politiques de l’Union de manière à ce qu’elles atteignent leurs objectifs de la façon la plus efficace et efficiente possible. Toutefois, la Commission n’a pas publié à ce jour de rapport sur la mise en œuvre de la directive sur les procédures d’asile, manquant ainsi aux obligations d’information qui lui incombent en vertu de l’article 50 de ladite directive. De plus, en 2016, aucune analyse d’impact n’a été réalisée lorsque la Commission a proposé une réforme de cette directive pour la transformer en règlement. Il en va de même pour la proposition de modification récemment publiée (COM(2020) 611 final).

      Le présent rapport ne vise ni à remplacer le rapport complet sur la mise en œuvre de la directive sur les procédures d’asile que la Commission aurait dû réaliser, ni à évaluer les incidences des nouvelles propositions de cette dernière. Elle vise plutôt à apporter un éclairage sur la mise en œuvre par les États membres des procédures à la frontière au titre de la directive sur les procédures d’asile ainsi que sur les problèmes et les lacunes existants. Cet état des lieux devrait permettre au Parlement de prendre des décisions éclairées et fondées sur des données probantes lors des négociations à venir sur la proposition de modification de la directive.

      Le rapport repose sur l’évaluation de la mise en œuvre publiée par l’EPRS en novembre 2020, qui donne une analyse comparative de l’application de l’article 43 de la directive sur les procédures d’asile, ainsi qu’une appréciation juridique de la transposition et de l’application de cet article par les États membres. Le projet de rapport initial s’appuie sur les conclusions préliminaires de cette évaluation. Il se peut que le rapporteur dépose des amendements au projet de rapport afin d’adapter le rapport à l’évaluation de la mise en œuvre finale.

      Les procédures à la frontière sont mal définies

      Dans son évaluation de la mise en œuvre, l’EPRS montre que le concept des procédures à la frontière est mal défini dans la législation de l’Union en matière d’asile. Cela soulève de vives inquiétudes quant à leur application, en particulier en ce qui concerne les droits fondamentaux et les garanties procédurales.

      Les procédures à la frontière constituent une exception à la règle juridiquement définie par la directive sur les procédures d’asile selon laquelle les demandeurs d’asile ont le droit de rester sur le territoire d’un État membre, y compris à la frontière ou dans une zone de transit. La directive sur les procédures d’asile limite donc strictement les procédures à la frontière à un nombre exhaustif de cas. Le législateur de l’Union a en outre souhaité une interprétation étroite puisqu’il souligne que, pour autant qu’un demandeur ait exposé des raisons reconnues valables, l’absence de documents à l’entrée ou l’utilisation de documents falsifiés ne devrait pas entraîner en soi un recours automatique à la procédure à la frontière ou à la procédure accélérée (considérant 21 de la directive). Néanmoins, dans la pratique, la directive donne une trop grande marge de manœuvre aux États membres pour un recours « à la carte » aux procédures à la frontière, souvent bien au-delà des limites fixées par la directive.

      Certains États membres examinent la recevabilité des demandes d’asile dans le cadre des procédures à la frontière, tandis que d’autres en examinent également le fond. Certains États membres examinent les cas relevant du règlement de Dublin dans le cadre des procédures à la frontière, tandis que d’autres ne le font pas. Certains États membres accordent une protection internationale dans le cadre d’une procédure à la frontière, tandis que d’autres autorisent l’entrée des demandeurs lorsqu’ils constatent qu’un demandeur d’asile est susceptible de remplir les conditions requises pour bénéficier d’une protection internationale. En outre, plusieurs États membres appliquent les procédures à la frontière d’une manière beaucoup plus large que ne le prescrit la directive sur les procédures d’asile ; certains dirigent même toutes les demandes d’asile introduites à la frontière vers les procédures à la frontière. De plus, certains États membres appliquent les procédures à la frontière sans les qualifier en tant que telles dans le droit national.

      La rétention comme règle dans les procédures à la frontière

      Les procédures à la frontière reposent souvent sur la fiction juridique de l’absence d’entrée, partant ainsi du principe que la procédure a lieu avant une décision sur le droit d’un demandeur d’entrer sur le territoire d’un État membre ou dans le cadre d’une telle décision. Cela a de graves conséquences pour les demandeurs d’asile. Dans tous les cas analysés par l’EPRS dans son évaluation de la mise en œuvre, les demandeurs d’asile soumis à des procédures à la frontière ont de facto été placés en rétention.

      La rétention et la privation de liberté ont de graves répercussions sur les droits fondamentaux d’une personne. C’est pourquoi le droit de l’Union et le droit international relatif aux droits de l’homme établissent des conditions strictes pour la rétention des demandeurs d’asile. L’article 26 de la directive sur les procédures d’asile interdit le placement en rétention de demandeurs au seul motif qu’ils sont des demandeurs. Une liste exhaustive des motifs de placement en rétention et des garanties pour les personnes placées en rétention figurent dans la directive 2013/33/UE (directive relative aux conditions d’accueil).

      Or, ces conditions et garanties ne sont généralement pas prises en compte dans les procédures à la frontière. En règle générale, les États membres placent de facto les demandeurs d’asile en rétention, souvent sans examiner le critère de nécessité ou sans fournir d’autres solutions que la rétention. Dans de nombreux cas, les demandeurs d’asile n’ont pas accès aux garanties applicables aux demandeurs d’asile qui sont placés en rétention dans le cadre de procédures menées à l’intérieur du pays. Plusieurs États membres placent de facto les demandeurs d’asile en rétention, sur la base de la fiction de l’absence d’entrée, sans reconnaître qu’il s’agit là d’une privation de liberté. En conséquence, les demandeurs d’asile placés en rétention dans le cadre d’une telle procédure à la frontière n’ont même pas accès aux garanties procédurales de base telles qu’un contrôle juridictionnel de leur rétention. Cette situation est d’autant plus préoccupante que les conditions de rétention aux frontières sont souvent inadaptées. En cas d’afflux massif, comme sur les îles grecques, les procédures à la frontière vouent les demandeurs à des conditions inhumaines.

      Si les demandeurs d’asile sont de facto placés en rétention aux frontières, la rétention devrait toujours être prescrite par la loi, et les mêmes garanties procédurales devraient être appliquées que pour les demandeurs d’asile placés en rétention dans le cadre de procédures menées à l’intérieur du pays. En tout état de cause, les demandeurs d’asile ne devraient pas être placés en rétention par défaut.

      Refus d’entrée

      Il y a lieu de donner aux intéressés la possibilité d’introduire une demande d’asile à la frontière. S’il existe des éléments donnant à penser qu’une personne aux frontières extérieures peut souhaiter présenter une demande de protection internationale, les États membres doivent l’informer de la possibilité de le faire et prendre des dispositions en matière d’interprétation afin de faciliter l’accès à la procédure d’asile.

      Toutefois, de nombreuses informations font état d’un refus d’entrée ou d’un renvoi forcé dans le cadre de procédures à la frontière, sans que les besoins de protection des intéressés ne soient évalués et sans que leurs demandes d’asile ne soient enregistrées. Cela constitue une violation grave du droit de l’Union et du droit international.

      Pour prévenir de telles pratiques illégales et veiller à ce que les États membres respectent le droit de l’Union et le droit international aux frontières extérieures, il convient de mettre en place des mécanismes de contrôle indépendants. Conformément aux orientations de l’Agence des droits fondamentaux (FRA) sur les contrôles aux frontières, les États membres devraient être tenus d’accorder aux organes de contrôle l’accès aux installations frontalières en vue de garantir la protection effective des droits fondamentaux et la notification systématique des violations. Les États membres devraient également faire en sorte que toutes les allégations donnent lieu à des enquêtes et des sanctions.

      Évaluation de la vulnérabilité

      Il est inquiétant que les États membres ne disposent pas de mécanismes adéquats permettant d’identifier les personnes ayant des besoins particuliers afin de les exempter de la procédure à la frontière. Dans son évaluation de la mise en œuvre, l’EPRS montre que des mécanismes appropriés et efficaces d’identification des vulnérabilités font défaut dans tous les pays examinés et que plusieurs États membres ne disposent d’aucun mécanisme de ce type. Les personnes présentant des vulnérabilités invisibles, telles que les victimes de torture ou d’abus sexuels, ne sont pratiquement jamais identifiées lors d’une procédure à la frontière. Les garanties procédurales spéciales et le soutien adéquat sont souvent vains dans la pratique en l’absence de mécanismes d’identification appropriés. Cette situation est particulièrement préoccupante pour les enfants et soulève des questions quant au respect de l’intérêt supérieur de l’enfant consacré à l’article 24, paragraphe 2, de la charte des droits fondamentaux de l’Union européenne. C’est pourquoi les enfants et leurs familles devraient généralement être exemptés des procédures à la frontière.

      Garanties procédurales et équité des procédures à la frontière

      Dans son évaluation de la mise en œuvre, l’EPRS fait état de problèmes importants liés aux garanties procédurales dans tous les États membres examinés. Les demandeurs doivent être informés de leurs droits et de la procédure d’asile et ils doivent avoir un accès effectif aux organisations et personnes qui fournissent des conseils. Or, dans la pratique, cela n’est souvent pas le cas. De nombreux États membres prévoient dans leur législation le droit à une assistance juridique gratuite en première instance des procédures à la frontière, alors qu’ils ne sont pas tenus de le faire. Cependant, la brièveté des délais et la rétention (de facto) empêchent souvent l’accès effectif à l’assistance juridique. Les demandeurs d’asile ne sont pas en mesure de contacter un avocat en raison d’un manque d’outils de communication, les avocats manquent de temps pour préparer le recours ou une audition avec leur client ou les avocats qualifiés font complètement défaut. Les ONG ne peuvent souvent pas combler les lacunes en raison de leur accès limité ou total aux infrastructures aux frontières. L’interprétation est souvent indisponible, de mauvaise qualité ou difficile lorsqu’elle est effectuée par téléphone. De plus, les demandeurs ne sont souvent pas informés systématiquement de la procédure d’asile et de leurs droits.

      En raison de la nature même des procédures à la frontière, il est difficile de fournir des garanties procédurales complètes dans la pratique. Leur efficacité est compromise par la combinaison d’une rétention (de facto) et de délais plus courts appliqués dans le cadre des procédures à la frontière. Les États membres fixent généralement des délais très courts de quelques jours seulement pour la procédure de recours, ce qui porte atteinte au droit à un recours effectif, compte tenu de l’accès limité à l’assistance et au monde extérieur. Cette situation est d’autant plus préoccupante que la directive sur les procédures d’asile ne garantit pas que la procédure de recours aura un effet suspensif.

      En ce qui concerne la procédure rapide à la frontière sur les îles grecques, la FRA, le Haut-Commissaire des Nations unies pour les réfugiés et le rapporteur spécial des Nations unies sur les droits de l’homme des migrants ont tous fait part de graves préoccupations concernant les garanties procédurales et les problèmes relatifs aux droits fondamentaux qui semblent presque insurmontables.

      Les procédures à la frontière se caractérisent par le dilemme inévitable de la nécessité de garantir une procédure équitable, pour laquelle le temps manque, et de celle de réduire autant que possible la durée de la rétention des demandeurs, le cas échéant. Elles ne contribuent donc pas aux objectifs de la directive sur les procédures d’asile. Par conséquent, les États membres devraient généralement s’abstenir d’appliquer des procédures à la frontière et ne devraient en aucun cas être tenus de les appliquer. Les États membres qui recourent à de telles procédures soit ne peuvent pas garantir une procédure équitable soit enfreignent les droits fondamentaux des demandeurs en les plaçant en rétention pendant de longues périodes.

      Si elles sont néanmoins appliquées, ces procédures devraient être strictement limitées aux cas moins complexes, par exemple ceux où le demandeur a obtenu une protection internationale dans un autre État (membre) ou ne soulève que des questions non pertinentes pour l’examen d’une procédure d’asile.

      https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-9-2021-0005_FR.html

  • EU: Renewed deportation agreement with #Afghanistan close to approval

    The EU is close to adopting a renewed agreement with Afghanistan to facilitate further deportations to the war-torn country. A note from the Commission to the Council, dated 13 January, says “all requests made by Member States” are included in the new Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation.

    According to a previous document published by Statewatch (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/october/eu-deportations-to-afghanistan-member-states-want-to-simplify-expulsion-), member state demands included a more restrictive definition of “vulnerable groups”. The text of the new agreement also explicitly sets out “a ceiling of 500 returnees a month,” at the request of the Afghan authorities.

    Deportations to Afghanistan have been stepped up significantly in recent years, with assistance from EU border agency Frontex. This has sparked significant opposition, and the plan to renew the EU-Afghanistan agreement (previously known as the ’Joint Way Forward’) was opposed by a number of civil society organisations. Some 40 groups called on the EU and its member states to:

    “Halt forced returns to Afghanistan due to the security situation in the country and the challenge of reintegration for returnees from Europe and the neighbouring region. In particular, vulnerable groups and Afghans who were born and grew up outside of Afghanistan should not be “returned”.”

    However, their demands have fallen on deaf ears. The Commission’s note calls on the Council “to endorse the Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation, prior to its signing by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commissioner for Home Affairs or the person designated by them on behalf of the EU.”

    See: NOTE from: Commission to: Delegations: Commission’s request for endorsement of the #Joint_Declaration_on_Migration_Cooperation between Afghanistan and EU (Council document 5223/21, LIMITE, 13 January 2021: https://www.statewatch.org/media/1693/eu-council-com-call-approval-afghanistan-deportation-agreement-5223-21.p):

    “...the #JDMC also brings significant improvements based on lessons learned from the implementation of the JWF and requests expressed by Member States, including:

    - a tighter definition of vulnerable groups, notably the family unit and seriously sick people (Part I, point 5);
    - clarification that all EU Member States may participate in joint return operations by
    - non-scheduled flights under the JDMC, even if they have concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with Afghanistan, while specifying that joint return flights should be carried out under the JDMC (Part II, point 3; Part X);
    - EU escort staff and other accompanying staff do not need to carry a valid Afghan visa unless they must enter the territory of Afghanistan (Part II, point 5);
    - all Afghan returnees to be readmitted upon arrival (Part II, point 4);
    - indefinite duration of the Declaration (Part VIII).

    At the request of the Afghan side, and in line with the ongoing practice, the JDMC sets a maximum number of 50 returnees per non-scheduled flight and a ceiling of 500 returnees per month. Both figures can be increased after prior consultations (Part II, point 4).”

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-renewed-deportation-agreement-with-afghanistan-close-to-approval
    #accord #renvois #expulsions #EU #UE #union_européenne #asile #migrations #réfugiés #déboutés #vulnérabilité #Frontex #Joint_Way_Forward #réintégration

  • Is Frontex involved in illegal ’pushbacks’ in the Balkans ?

    Refugees and migrants in Greece trying to reach western Europe have accused EU border protection agency Frontex of taking part in illegal deportations known as “pushbacks.” DW reports.

    Ali al-Ebrahim fled in 2018 from Manbij, a Syrian city that was under Kurdish control, to escape being forced to fight in the conflict.

    Al-Ebrahim, now 22, first tried his luck in Turkey. When he arrived in Antakya, not far from the Syrian border, Turkish authorities took his details and sent him back home without citing any reasons, the young Syrian man says in very good English. He explains that this meant he was banned from legally entering Turkey again for five years.

    Nevertheless, al-Ebrahim decided to try again, this time with the aim of reaching Greece. He managed to make his way to Turkey’s Aegean coastline and eventually reached the Greek island of Leros in a rubber dinghy. When he applied for asylum, however, his application was rejected on the grounds that Turkey was a safe third country.

    But al-Ebrahim was not able to return to Turkey, and certainly not Syria — though this was of no interest to Greek authorities. “The new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is very strict when it comes to migrants,” he says. “So I decided to go to Albania.”
    Uniforms with the EU flag

    Al-Ebrahim says that in September 2020, he traveled by bus with five others to the northern Greek city of Ioannina, and then walked to the Albanian border without encountering any Greek police.

    But, he says, staff from the EU border protection agency Frontex stopped them in Albania and handed them over to Albanian authorities in the border town of Kakavia. When asked how he knew they were Frontex officials, al-Ebrahim replies, “I could tell from their armbands.”

    Frontex staff wear light-blue armbands with the EU flag on them.
    €5,000 to reach Austria

    Al-Ebrahim says that he and the other migrants asked the Albanian authorities for asylum but were told that the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to file any new asylum applications. They were then just sent back to Greece without the Greek authorities being notified, he says.

    Al-Ebrahim had more luck on the second attempt. He managed to travel to the Albanian capital, Tirana, and then on to Serbia via Kosovo.

    His interview with DW takes place at a refugee camp in the Serbian city of Sombor, near the Hungarian border. Al-Ebrahim says he wants to travel on through Hungary into Austria, but the traffickers charge €5,000 to get as far as the Austrian border.

    Detention instead of asylum

    Hope Barker has heard many similar stories before. She coordinates the project “Wave - Thessaloniki,” which provides migrants traveling the Balkan route with food, medical care and legal advice. Barker tells DW that the northern Greek city was a safe haven until the new conservative government took office in summer 2019.

    In January 2020, a draconian new law came into effect in Greece. According to Barker, it allows authorities to detain asylum seekers for up to 18 months without reviewing their cases — and detention can then be extended for another 18 months.

    “So you can be held in detention for three years without any action on your case if you ask for asylum,” says Baker.

    Pushbacks by Frontex?

    Baker tells DW that the illegal deportation of migrants, known as “pushbacks,” happen both at the borders and further inland. Migrants trying to reach western Europe avoid any contact with Greek authorities.

    Refugee aid organizations say there have been “lots of pushbacks” at the border with North Macedonia and Albania. Baker says that witnesses have reported hearing those involved speaking German, for example, and seeing the EU insignia on their blue armbands.

    Frontex rejects allegations

    Baker says that it is, nonetheless, difficult to prove pushbacks at the Greek border because of the confusing situation, but she adds that they know that Frontex is active in Albania and that there are pushbacks on a daily basis across the River Evros that flows through Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey and forms a large part of the border. “We know that pushbacks are happening daily. So, to think that they don’t know or are not at all involved in those practices seems beyond belief,” says Baker.

    A Frontex spokesman told DW that the agency had investigated some of the allegations and “found no credible evidence to support any of them.”

    Frontex added that its staff was bound by a code of conduct, which explicitly calls for the “prevention of refoulement and the upholding of human rights, all in line with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

    “We are fully committed to protecting fundamental rights,” it added.

    Border protection from beyond the EU

    So why does the European border protection agency protect an external border of the European Union from the Albanian side? “The main aim of the operation is to support border control, help tackle irregular migration, as well as cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism, and identify possible risks and threats related to security,” said Frontex to DW.

    Frontex also said that cooperation with countries in the western Balkans was one of its priorities. “The agency supports them in complying with EU standards and best practices in border management and security,” the spokesman said.

    Yet it is worthwhile taking a look at another part of Greece’s border. While military and police officers are omnipresent at the Greek-Turkish border and are supported by Frontex staff, you seldom encounter any uniforms in the mountains between Greece and Albania. As a result, this route is regarded as safe by refugees and migrants who want to travel onward to western Europe via Greece.

    The route west

    Many migrants travel from Thessaloniki to the picturesque town of Kastoria, about 30 kilometers outside Albania. “There, the police pick us up from the bus and take us to the Albanian border,” Zakarias tells DW at the Wave Center in Thessaloniki. He is Moroccan and arrived in Greece via Turkey.

    But at this point, these are just rumors.

    That afternoon the men get on the bus. Another Moroccan man, 46-year-old Saleh Rosa, is among them. He has been in Greece for a year and was homeless for a long time in Thessaloniki. “Greece is a good country, but I cannot live here,” Rosa tells DW. He aims to reach western Europe via Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and then Hungary.

    Ominous police checks

    Police stop the bus shortly before its arrival in Kastoria. There is a parked police car with uniformed officers. Two men in plain clothes board the bus, claiming to be police. Without showing any ID, they target the foreigners, detaining Saleh, Zakarias and their companions.

    At around 11pm that same evening, the migrants send a WhatsApp message and their Google coordinates. They say that the men in plainclothes have taken them to a place some 15 kilometers from the Albanian border, but within Greece. Later in the Albanian capital, Tirana, DW met with Rosa again, who stresses that his papers were not checked in Greece.

    Conflicting accounts

    When asked by DW, Greek police authorities confirmed the existence of the plain-clothed officers and the roadside check. But then their account diverges from that of the two men. Police said they wanted to check if the migrants were legally permitted to be in Greece and they were released once this was confirmed.

    But the migrants say that Saleh Rosa was the only one with the papers to stay in Greece legally and that the other men were unregistered. Moreover, there is a curfew in Greece because of COVID-19. You are only allowed to travel from one district to another in exceptional cases. Even if they had been carrying papers, the men should have been fined.

    The police refused to comment on that.

    https://www.dw.com/en/is-frontex-involved-in-illegal-pushbacks-in-the-balkans/a-56141370

    #Frontex #Balkans #route_des_balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Albanie #Serbie #Kosovo #Sombor #Hongrie #Macédoine_du_Nord #Evros #Grèce

    –---

    voir aussi les accusations envers Frontex de refoulement en #Mer_Egée :
    Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer
    https://seenthis.net/messages/882952

    • Frontex confronted with allegations of violence in North Macedonia

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2494/letter-to-frontex-sw-and-bvmn.pdf) sent to Frontex today by #Statewatch and #Border_Violence_Monitoring_Network (#BVMN).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      An analysis published today by Statewatch (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor) looks at the deployment of foreign border guards to North Macedonia, which since 2015 has played a key role in the EU’s efforts to prevent migrants and refugees departing from Greece to reach ‘core’ EU territory further north.

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

      Frontex, meanwhile, is not yet legally able to operate there. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia is in the works, but is being held up in a dispute over language (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu).

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

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/june/frontex-confronted-with-allegations-of-violence-in-north-macedonia
      #Macédoine_du_Nord

    • Briefing: External action: Frontex operations outside the EU

      The EU has negotiated five agreements with states in the Balkans that allow Frontex operations on their territories, and most of the agreements have now been approved by both sides. This briefing looks at the main provisions of those agreements, highlights key differences and similarities, and argues that they will likely serve as a template for future deals with states that do not border the EU, as made possible by the 2019 Regulation governing Frontex.

      For an overview of the key points of the agreements, see the table at the end of this article, or here as a PDF (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2011/eu-frontex-external-action-briefing-table.pdf).

      Frontex launched its first official joint operation on non-EU territory at Albania’s border with Greece in May 2019. Still ongoing today, this was the first operation resulting from a series of Status Agreements between the EU and a number of Western Balkan states – Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.

      These agreements make it possible for Frontex to undertake operations on those other states’ territories. Signed in accordance with the agency’s 2016 Regulation, all five agreements allow the agency to carry out joint operations and rapid border interventions on the states’ borders, where those borders are coterminous with those of an EU member state or states. Frontex can also assist those states with deportation operations from EU member states to those countries. Since the entry into force of Frontex’s 2019 mandate, the EU can now also make such agreements with states that do not border EU territory.

      The contents of the status agreements, all based on a template document produced by the Commission, are very similar, with small but important differences emerging from the negotiation procedures with each state, explored below.

      The first agreements in context

      The five Balkan states targeted for the first agreements make up what is seen by officials as a “buffer zone” between Greece and other Schengen states, and they have long been embroiled in the bloc’s border policies. Through long negotiations over accession to the Union (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire), Western Balkan states are at various stages of approximating domestic law with the EU’s legal ‘acquis’, involving substantial amendments to migration and asylum systems.

      In theory, these systems must match up to EU legal and fundamental rights standards in order to allow accession, though violence against migrants is well documented on both sides of these “coterminous borders”. The so-called Balkan Route is the site of well-documented abuses (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-the-black-book-of-pushbacks-testimonies-of-pushbacks-affecting-over-1) suffered by people on the move, recently compiled and published in a ‘Black Book of pushbacks’ which detail violence perpetrated by border agents, member state police and soldiers. Pushbacks from Croatia (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/november/european-commission-plans-to-visit-croatia-in-light-of-human-rights-viol) and Hungary are particularly notorious, with Frontex finally withdrawing its support for operations in Hungary (https://www.statewatch.org/statewatch-database/frontex-suspends-operations-in-hungary) in January this year due to the state’s violation of a European Court of Justice ruling against pushbacks into Serbia.

      The agency had long-insisted that its presence discouraged fundamental rights violations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) - a far less credible claim in the wake of allegations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) of Frontex complicity in serious incidents in the Aegean, including possible pushbacks.

      Frontex expands external operations while future agreements remain on hold

      Following deployment of officers to Montenegro’s border with Croatia in July, Frontex launched a second operation in Montenegro in October. The third executive operation outside the EU (and the second in Montenegro), the aim of this activity is “to tackle cross-border crime at the country’s sea borders, including the smuggling of drugs and weapons, smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings and terrorism”.

      The agency says it will provide aerial surveillance, deploy officers from EU member states, and provide technical and operational assistance with coast guard functions in international waters, “including search and rescue support, fisheries control and environmental protection”.

      The agreement with Serbia was approved by the European Parliament in February this year, along with the agreement with Montenegro. Three presidential entities need to sign the agreement in order for it to be ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government; the Serb entity has so far refused to do so.

      Meanwhile, the agreement with North Macedonia was due to be tabled in the European Parliament this autumn, but negotiations have been held up, in part by Bulgaria’s objection to the language in which it is written. According to the site European Western Balkans, “Bulgaria does not recognise the language of North Macedonia as ‘Macedonian’”, but “as a dialect of Bulgarian”. It will apparently take “a change in terminology regarding Macedonian language in order to allow progress in drafting a final negotiating framework”. While negotiations are stalled, the agreement cannot be considered by the European Parliament.

      Once the status agreements are in force, Frontex operations are launched in accordance with an operational plan agreed with each state. These plans include the circumstances under which Frontex staff can use executive powers and other details of the operations not available elsewhere. These plans are not systematically made public and although it is possible for the public to request their release, Frontex can refuse access to them. These non-public documents contain important provisions on fundamental rights and data protection, as well as details on the aims and objectives of the agency’s operations.

      Fundamental rights

      Under article 8 of the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina (article 9 of the other agreements) all parties are obliged to:

      “[H]ave a complaint mechanism to deal with allegations of a breach of fundamental rights committed by its staff in the exercise of their official functions in the course of a joint operation, rapid border intervention or return operation performed under this agreement”.

      Both Frontex and the host state must operate such a complaints mechanism, to handle allegations against their own team members. Frontex’s complaint mechanism is currently the subject of an Ombudsman inquiry, following years of research showing it up as inaccessible and ineffective. Details of updates bringing the mechanism into line with Frontex’s 2019 Regulation have not yet been made public, although the rules set out in that Regulation have problems of their own. It is noteworthy that the agreements do not explicitly require an independent complaints mechanism.

      On the question of parallel complaints mechanisms for Frontex officers and host country officers, a Frontex spokesperson explained:

      “The complaints team within Frontex Fundamental Rights Office has been working since 2019 on the concept of how to deal with complaints concerning Frontex activities in [Albania]. For that purpose, the FRO team met with competent national authorities in Albania in October 2019. Both parties agreed on the draft of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the purpose of which is a coordination between both complaints mechanisms. The MoU draft proposal was shared with Albanian authorities for their consideration on September 2020 and finalization of the modalities.

      The draft of this MoU will serve as basis for other third countries arrangements on the coexistence of complaints mechanisms, such as the case for Montenegro.”

      An extra article 3

      The agreements with Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia contain an article not included in the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. From article 3, on launching an action:

      “The Agency may propose launching an action to the competent authorities of [the host state].

      The competent authorities of [the host state] may also request the Agency to consider launching an action.”

      The launching of any action requires the consent of competent authorities of the host-state and of Frontex (Article 3(2) of the status agreements), while any disputes over the content of the status agreements shall be resolved between the non-EU state in question and the European Commission (Article 11).

      Privileges and immunities of the members of the team

      Members of teams deployed in each of the host states shall enjoy immunity from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the host state, for all acts carried out in the exercise of official functions, where these are committed in the course of actions contained in the operational plan (articles 6 or 7). It is at the discretion of the executive director of Frontex (currently Fabrice Leggeri) to determine whether acts were committed in the course of actions following the operational plan. This immunity may be waived by the team members’ home state – that is to say, the state of nationality of a Frontex team member, such as Spain or Germany.

      While the agreements with Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia include the provision that the executive director’s decision will be binding upon the authorities of the host state, no such article is found in the agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

      A further difficulty with this article was highlighted earlier this year in an internal Frontex report: Protocol No 7 annexed to the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU, under which the privileges and immunities Agency and its statutory staff are covered, is not applicable outside of the EU. The Commission has not yet responded to a request for comment on an investigation said to be underway into this issue.

      Acting on behalf of the host non-EU state

      Across the status agreements, members of the teams are limited to performing tasks and exercising powers in the host territory in the presence and under instructions of the host state’s border guards or other relevant authorities. The host state may authorise members of teams to act on its behalf, taking into consideration the views of the agency via its coordinating officer. The agreement with Serbia contains extra emphasis (article 5):

      “the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia may authorise members of the teams to act on its behalf as long as the overall responsibility and command and control functions remain with the border guards or other police officers of the Republic of Serbia present at all times.”

      This agreement also emphasises that “the members of the team referred to in paragraphs 1 and 3 to 6 do not include agency staff”.

      Members of teams shall be authorised to use force, including service weapons as permitted by the host state, home state, and Frontex. Each host state may authorise members of the team to use force in the absence of border guards or other relevant staff under article 4 (6) – Albania and Bosnia and Herzegoviina – or 5 (6) – Montenegro,

      Access to databases

      The agreements with Albania and Montenegro allow the host state to authorise members of the team to consult national databases if necessary for the operational aims or for return operations. Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s status agreements are more cautious, allowing certain data from national databases to be shared at the request of a member of the team, provided it is needed to fulfil operational aims as outlined in the operational plan. The agreement with Serbia contains, once more, additional provisions: “members of the team may be communicated only information concerning relevant facts which is necessary for performing their tasks and exercising their powers”, though it also includes in the subsequent paragraph:

      “For the purposes of fulfilling operational aims specified in the operation plan and the implementing actions, the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia and members of the team may exchange other information and findings”.

      Language on discrimination

      The agreement with Serbia once again follows slightly different wording to the others in terms of the prohibition of discrimination. The agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia recite:

      “While performing their tasks and exercising their powers, they shall not arbitrarily discriminate against persons on any grounds including sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

      However, the agreement with Serbia does not include (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/july/eu-frontex-in-the-balkans-serbian-government-rejects-eu-s-criminal-immun) any reference to gender identity.

      Obligation to give evidence as witnesses in criminal proceedings

      Under each of the agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia, members of the team shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses. Not only does the agreement with Montenegro omit this provision, it also outlines:

      “Members of the team who are witnesses may be obliged by the competent authorities of Montenegro, while respecting paragraphs 3 and 4, to provide evidence through a statement and in accordance with the procedural law of Montenegro.”

      Frontex and home state obligation not to jeopardise criminal proceedings

      The agreement with Serbia is the only agreement not to include an obligation on the agency and home state of a team member to “refrain from taking any measure likely to jeopardise possible subsequent criminal prosecution of the member of the team by the competent authorities” of the host non-EU state.

      Lingering uncertainty

      On top of uncertainty over when the agreements with North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina might be completed, questions remain regarding the accessibility of complaints mechanisms and the application of rules governing privileges and immunity of team members, even in Albania and Montenegro, where operations have been launched already.

      Additionally, since the entry into force of its new regulation in 2019 and the removal of provisions limiting Frontex’s extra-EU operations only to neighbouring states, the EU can now conclude status agreements with countries not bordering the EU. The implementation of these agreements, as well as their contents, will likely set a precedent for negotiations and operations further afield.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu
      #Albanie #Monténégro #Serbie #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #buffer-zone #zone-tampon

    • Albania: dealing with a new migration framework on the edge of the empire

      In 2014, Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership to the EU. The country is aiming to approximate its domestic law with the EU legal ’acquis’ within the next two years, prompting big changes in the country’s immigration and asylum system - at least on paper. Currently, those systems cannot be said to meet fundamental rights or EU legal standards, but given conditions within the EU itself - notably in Greece - it remains to be seen whether this will be a barrier to Albania joining the bloc.

      Background

      In the 1990s Albania, a small country in the middle of the Balkans, was just emerging from a harsh communist dictatorship. In 1991, a new era in Europe began for the country, as it opened diplomatic relationships with the then-European Community. But it was not until 2014 that Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership of the EU, following the endorsement of the European Council.[1]

      In that time, the European Community had evolved into the fortress of the European Union, its borders and expansion reminiscent of the spread of the Roman Empire. Speaking of the EU’s borders, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has even commented, “big empires go down if the external borders are not well-protected”.[2] Since 2014, Albania has been racing to fulfil all the requirements needed to be accepted among the fabulous 27, making major changes in the five main areas identified by the EU: public administration, rule of law, tackling corruption, organised crime and fundamental rights.

      In February 2018, the European Commission declared that further enlargement to encompass the states of the ‘Western Balkans’ (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) would be “an investment in the EU’s security, economic growth and influence and in its ability to protect its citizens”.[3] In short, the EU was presenting a so-called win-win agreement, where all sides stand to gain.

      In March 2020 – following a limping reform of the justice system, some destabilizing stop-and-go of talks between the EU and Albania, a gloomy summer election crisis in 2019, German concerns, a temporary French veto and a devastating earthquake in November 2019 – the EU finally said ‘I do’ and committed to opening accession negotiations with Albania, in a statement that underscored the need to ‘keep an eye’ on the country:

      “The Council further invites the Commission to continue to monitor the progress and compliance in all areas related to the opening of negotiations and to carry out and complete the process of analytical examination of the EU acquis with the country, starting with the fundamentals’ cluster”.[4]

      Aligning Albania with the EU’s “area of freedom, security and justice”

      The current ‘Project Plan for European integration 2020-2022’[5] lists all the legislative reforms and changes required to align Albanian and EU law. The full approximation of Albanian law with that of the European Union, and its full and effective implementation, is one of the criteria for membership. Indeed, the process of membership negotiations is in itself that process of approximation.

      The process involves the following steps: analysis of EU legislation; identification of deficiencies or contradictory acts of Albanian law; drafting or reviewing of the approximated Albanian acts; and monitoring the implementation of approximated legislation. The 24th chapter of the plan, on “justice, freedom and security”, focuses on: border control; visas; external migration; asylum; police cooperation; the fight against organised crime and terrorism; cooperation on drugs issues; customs; and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters.

      Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the area of Freedom, Security and Justice is regulated in Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, running from Article 67 to Article 89.[6] This covers secondary legislation on: border checks, asylum and immigration; police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters; judicial cooperation in civil matters; and police cooperation. Primary and secondary legislation is complemented by a large body of jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU, whose primacy is a cornerstone principle of EU law. The acquis inherited by Albania for this specific chapter consists of a volume of 392 acts, divided into a “hard acquis” (which derives from binding acts such as treaties, directives, regulations, etc.) and a “soft acquis” (which derives from standards, principles and recommendations of EU or other relevant international organizations).

      Updating the laws on immigration and borders

      The government affirms to have completed and adopted a comprehensive national cross-sectoral migration strategy, included a new strategy on the diaspora for the period 2018-2024.[7] The government also says it has updated a contingency plan for a possible massive influx of migrants and asylum seekers, expected to be approved soon. But the other side of the coin is that Albania, as the project plan admits, is largely unprepared to host and protect migrants on its territory. Albania currently has one reception centre for irregular migrants in Karreç, with a capacity of only 150 beds. The centre was visited in September 2019 by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which found it to be inadequate in many respects.[8] Even more concerning is the lack of facilities for unaccompanied minors.

      According to a footnote in a 2016 law,[9] Albania’s border control legislation has been aligned with the Schengen Borders Code.[10] However, it appears that the wider legal framework for managing Albania’s external borders is not yet fully in line with EU standards. The government reports that the implementation of the integrated border management strategy and action plan is proceeding: the reconstruction of the two border crossing points Hani i Hotit and Morina has been completed; the country has signed a protocol with Montenegro on the establishment of joint checkpoints; the trilateral centre in Plav (in Northern Macedonia) has become operational; an agreement with Kosovo on the joint border crossing point in Morina has been concluded; anti-corruption preventive measures have been implemented at border crossing points through the installation of cameras; and cooperation between agencies and neighbouring countries has improved.

      Frontex: already on the scene

      The section of the government’s report on regular and irregular immigration states that the agreement with the EU permitting the deployment of Frontex officials on Albanian territory was finalised in February 2019.[11] The deployment began on 22 May 2019, for an indefinite period.[12]

      The joint operation – Frontex’s first outside the EU – deploys 50 EU officers in Albania to “help Albanian authorities with border surveillance and border checks… They will also assist their Albanian counterparts in screening of migrants”.[13] This is not the first time that an EU presence has been active on Albanian territory – an Italian operation in 1997 sought to prevent migration, and there have also been monitoring missions. However, the Frontex presence is an executive mission, marking a more active departure from the monitoring exercises of the past.[14]

      The Albanian Minister of Internal Affairs, Sander Lleshaj, has described the operation as “really effective, very collaborative… crucial in the way to EU integration”.[15] The Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has said the operation makes Albania a contributor to the EU in countering illegal migration and organised crime.[16] The Albanian press has so far expressed an uncritical view of the Frontex mission. In a state where many are supportive of EU accession, appetite for critical investigation is possibly low.

      And asylum?

      Albania reports that its Asylum Law is partially in line with the EU acquis. The country has the necessary institutions and procedures to handle asylum applications. Complaints can be filed with the National Commission for Refugees and Asylum, which was established in 2017 and reopened in 2019. All relevant national legislation should be publicly available on the government website,[17] but the information available does not clarify if complaints related to the application process are admissible, or if the word “complaints” refers to appeals related to unsuccessful applications. Regarding the asylum procedure, applications are registered by the Border and Migration Police by filling out the pre-screening forms, then reported to the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship to proceed with the status determination procedures.

      Although the number of asylum seekers increased significantly in 2018, with 5,730 arrivals, the authorities say they have responded to the large number of asylum applications. According to UNHCR asylum applications that year increased to 4,378, a 14-fold increase compared to 2017.[18] Albania’s official Gazette outlined in March 2020 that the number of people applying for asylum was at its highest in 2018, and 40 times higher than it had been in 2015.[19] According to the Project Plan for European integration, an asylum database has been functioning since April 2019; it serves as an integral data centre between the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship, the Directorate of Border and Migration and the National Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, exchanging information in real time between these institutions and enabling the completion of procedures as well as the issuance of statistics.

      The government also says it tripled its reception capacity for asylum seekers in October 2017. Total reception capacity, including the national reception centre in Tirana and the temporary accommodation centres in Gjirokastra and Korça, reaches almost 380 places. In October 2019, a new centre with a reception capacity of 60 beds was inaugurated to cope with the expected increase of people needing temporary housing in Kapshticë/Korça,[20] which has the same parameters as the transit centre in Gërhot of Gjirokastra.

      Summary

      Both Albania and the EU have undergone a transformative thirty years, with talks of accession beginning six years ago. The EU sees Albania’s incorporation into the bloc as a way of contributing to the economic growth and strengthened security; a different understanding of “expanding the fortress”. Accession negotiations were reinvigorated in March 2020, and the current goal is for Albania to approximate its law to the EU acquis, and implement those measures, within two years. This includes legislation on immigration and borders, which have been updated on paper. Though conditions for asylum seekers and migrants in Albania are not in line with fundamental rights law or the EU acquis, nor are those in EU member states – most notably the Greek island hotspots. The deployment of the EU’s border agency in Albania, unlikely to be criticised locally, represents further step in the EU’s mission to control migration across a wider terrain.

      Sara Ianovitz, Ph.D. in International Law

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire

      #Albanie

    • Foreign agents and violence against migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border

      An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.

      Midnight in Macedonia

      Around midnight on 14 August last year, a group of some 20 people were intercepted by border police just north of the Greek-Macedonian border, near the small town of Gevgelija. What happened next, according to the testimony of one member of the group, makes for grim reading.

      “[T]he police officers approached the group and became physically violent. The officers struck various group-members with their batons. Others were pepper-sprayed, including the women and children. After this, the officers loaded the group into a van and left them there without any air conditioning, jammed, soaking in sweat for around two hours, while going about to catch more transit groups. In the end, they squashed around 40 people in a van for fit for ten persons.”[1]

      Macedonian officials were not the only ones involved in the operation. The testimony also recounts “foreign officers wearing uniforms with the European Union flags on their shoulders,” the distinctive mark of EU border agency Frontex.

      Foreign agents

      The testimony is one of five reports gathered by Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), altogether involving some 130 people, that describe violence being meted out in the presence of, or even by, border guards allegedly deployed by Frontex on North Macedonian territory. A further 10 reports gathered by the network, encompassing some 123 people, recount the use of violence by foreign border guards and police officers operating in North Macedonia, but do not mention uniforms bearing the EU flag.[2]

      Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network have written to Frontex to demand an investigation into the allegations recounted in this article. Read more here.

      The violence recounted in those testimonies is shocking. According to the report on the 14 August incident, after cramming people into the van, the police drove them to the banks of the Vardar river. There, they threw peoples’ possessions into the water, took their phones and money, and “the group was beaten brutally with metal electroshock batons and some people were thrown into the river by the police. One person was thrown in despite crying and begging not to be thrown in.” They were subsequently taken back to the border and pushed through a gate leading to the Greek side, while police beat them with electroshock batons.

      In that incident, the witness said that officials with uniforms bearing EU flags were present, but did not directly participate in the violence. But a report from the same area, concerning an incident less than a week later, refers to officials in uniforms bearing Croatian, Slovenian, Czech and EU flags, who bound a group of four men with zip ties and beat three of them with batons (one of the group, who was a minor, was spared the beating).[3] Reports of other incidents allege the presence of Italian, German and Austrian officials.

      No reports at Frontex

      While BVMN volunteers have gathered multiple testimonies that allege Frontex’s presence or involvement in violence in North Macedonia, the agency itself says it has received no reports of any such incidents. The agency also denies any presence in the country – in May, a press officer told Statewatch that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      In December 2020, Frontex responded to an access to documents request filed by Statewatch some months earlier. The request sought copies of all serious incident reports (SIRs) concerning the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian land border from 1 January 2020 onwards. SIRs are supposed to be filed by officials deployed on Frontex operations for a variety of reasons, including in case of “suspected violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations.”[4]

      In its response, the agency said that it did not hold any SIRs concerning the geographic area and time period covered by the request. This does not mean, however, that the incidents recorded by BVMN did not take place – it may simply be that nobody is reporting them.

      A working group set up by Frontex’s own Management Board, in response to allegations of involvement in pushbacks in Greece, found numerous problems with the agency’s reporting system. It noted that there was no way of monitoring the quality of reports submitted, and there were no confidential avenues for team members to report rights violations by their colleagues.

      The report also called for “a newly introduced culture,” suggesting that the existing ambience at the agency is not one in which the rights of migrants and refugees are at the forefront of officials’ minds. The working group said that the agency needed “awareness of and sensitiveness towards possible misconduct,”[5] a call it repeated in its final report.[6]

      Not even numbers

      Serious incident reports may not exist, but the request from Statewatch to Frontex also sought to establish the scale of the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian border through another means – by requesting data on the number of migrants and migrant smugglers apprehended at the Greek-Macedonian border over the same period (1 January 2020 onwards).

      This data, argued Frontex, could not be released – doing so “would jeopardize the work of law enforcement officials and pose a hazard to the course of ongoing and future operations aimed at curtailing the activities of such networks,” despite the request seeking nothing more than figures that Frontex itself has published in previous reports.

      A public evaluation of the tongue-twistingly titled ‘Joint Operation Flexible Operational Activities 2018 Land on Border Surveillance’ (JO FOA Land) says that in 2018, 16,337 migrants and 313 smugglers were apprehended in the area covered by the operation – “the ‘green borders’ of Greece with Turkey, the North Macedonia [sic] and Albania, Bulgaria with Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia.”[7] Yet for reasons known only to Frontex, providing a breakdown of these figures for the Greek-Macedonian border would apparently undermine public security.

      A significant presence

      According to Frontex’s evaluation report, 25 member states took part in operations at land borders in south-eastern Europe in 2018, along with 47 officers acting as observers from six different “third countries”, namely Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine. Over 1,800 officials were deployed by Frontex over the course of the year. The operations recorded 2,011 “incidents”.

      A substantial Frontex presence at the border between Greece and North Macedonia has been in place since then. In a response to a parliamentary question from German MEP Özlem Demirel, the European Commission said last June that at Greece’s land borders with Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Turkey, 71 officials, 24 patrols and three “thermo-vision vans” were deployed as part of the 2020 edition of JO FOA Land. Thirteen different member states were providing contributions to the operation: Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.[8]

      While Frontex denies any physical presence on North Macedonia territory, the testimonies gathered by BVMN that allege the presence or participation of Frontex officials in violent acts raise serious questions for the agency. All the testimonies concern incidents that took place in North Macedonia, where the agency has no legal basis to operate. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia that would permit Frontex deployments, similar to those currently in place with Montenegro and Albania, is facing hold-ups due to objections from the Bulgarian authorities.[9]

      Bilateral agreements

      Frontex operations are not the only deployments of foreign officials in North Macedonia. As noted above, nine of the 15 reports gathered by BVMN describing the involvement of non-Macedonian officers in pushbacks to Greece make no mention of Frontex at all. There are, however, multiple references to violence being meted out by officials in uniforms bearing the flags of Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Serbia.

      The presence of some of these officials in the country is made possible by bilateral border control agreements. North Macedonia has cooperation agreements with eight other states in the region (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia), who provide the Macedonian authorities “with assistance from foreign police officers in patrolling the south border with Greece and in performing their daily duties.”[10] The agreement with Austria, Hungary and Serbia has come in for particular criticism, as it is a memorandum of understanding rather than a formal agreement, and therefore has faced no parliamentary scrutiny in Macedonia.[11] Germany, meanwhile, does not appear to have such a formal agreement with North Macedonia at the federal level – which makes the allegations of the presence of German officers puzzling – but the EU’s largest state has provided a ready supply of equipment, including vehicles, mobile thermal imaging cameras, boots and torches.[12]

      The Croatian and Czech governments have made extensive deployments under these agreements. Between December 2015 (when Croatia and North Macedonia signed a police cooperation deal) and February 2019 “over 560 Croatian police… intercepted almost 6,000 illegal migrants in North Macedonia.”[13] The Czech deployments have been even larger – by December 2019, “1,147 police officers [had] been sent to North Macedonia” to police the border with Greece, according to the Czech government.[14]

      High-level police coordination preceded the signing of many of these agreements. In July 2016, the police chiefs of 12 states said that “the deployment of foreign police officers along borders which are strongly affected by irregular migration conveys a strong message that the countries concerned are resolute in jointly coping with the migration crisis.”[15] Under the agreements with Macedonia, foreign officials can “use technical equipment and vehicles with symbols, wear uniforms, carry weapons and other means of coercion”.[16] In some instances, it seems coercion tips over into outright violence.

      An incident dating from 16 August 2020, recorded by BVMN volunteers, refers to officers “with black ski masks over their faces” and “Croatian and Czech flags emblazoned on their uniforms.” The interviewees said that “these officers were violent with them – kicking the group, destroying their mobile phones, taking their money, insulting them, pushing their faces on the ground with tied hands behind the back. One of the respondents was also attacked by a dog, while the officers [were] laughing at him.”[17] As far back as March 2016, an activist supporting refugees at the increasingly well-guarded Greek-Macedonian border told the newspaper Lidovky that, in Macedonia, “the Czech police are known for violence and unprofessionalism.”[18]

      Buffer states in the Balkans

      Bilateral cooperation between EU states and North Macedonia extends far beyond these police cooperation agreements. In September 2020, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU described the region stretching from Turkey to Hungary (known in official jargon as the “Eastern Mediterranean/Western Balkans”) as being “of great strategic importance for the EU in terms of migration management.”[19] Significant attention is therefore being given to reinforcing the ability of states in the region to control peoples’ movements (an issue highlighted in another recent Statewatch report).

      As of May 2020, 15 EU member states were providing bilateral “support” on migration issues to states in the Western Balkans through a total of 228 activities, according to a survey carried out by the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The majority of that support was focused on control measures, “namely border management and combating the smuggling of migrants (over 50% of all MS activities),” said a summary produced by the Presidency. More than 50% of the 228 activities were taking place in Serbia and North Macedonia, both of which border EU territory.[20]

      The Croatian Presidency highlighted the “geopolitical importance” of those two countries, given that “Member States’ focus is on the prevention of irregular migratory movements to the EU.” This was “both expected and understandable, but may contribute to strengthening the Western Balkan partners’ self-perception as a transit region, which poses a challenge for the further improvement of all aspects of their migration capacities.” Rather than a transit region, the plan is to provide ‘capacity-building’ and technical assistance to develop buffer states that can keep people out of the ‘core’ of the EU after they depart from Greece.

      This is, of course, not a new plan. In February and March 2016, as the EU-Turkey deal was heading for agreement and in the wake of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people travelling by foot, road and rail to the ‘core’ of the EU, the ‘Balkan Route’ was declared closed by EU leaders. Initially done on the crude, discriminatory basis of nationality,[21] exclusion measures were extended to apply to all those crossing borders in the region. That process of closure continues today, and violence is a longstanding component of the strategy.[22] Indeed, it is a prerequisite for it to work effectively, and has been denounced repeatedly over the years by NGOs and international organisations. In March 2016, the Macedonian authorities sought supplies of pepper spray, tasers, rubber bullets, “special bomb (shock, with rubber balls)” and “acoustic device to break the mob.”[23] The concern now may be with smaller groups of people attempting to pass through the country, rather than with “the mob”, but the violence is no less brutal.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor

  • #Drones for border control: a symptom of the security mindset, says new report

    The increasing use of drones for border control purposes “is a symptom of viewing borders predominantly in terms of ‘security’ and perceiving people crossing borders as a security threat,” says a new report from Drone Wars UK. In this security paradigm, “border control operations are heavily influenced by the military and driven by ‘national security’ considerations rather than human needs,” warn the authors.

    The report highlights five “particular risks resulting from the use of drones in border areas”:

    The risk that drones will increasingly be used for surveillance of the wider population – not just those involved in criminal activities at borders – at ‘upstream’ internal border locations, and not just the geographically-defined border itself.
    The risk that the use of drones, as a primarily military technology, in border control will contribute to the dehumanisation of those attempting to cross borders and increase the potential for human rights abuses.
    The risk that states will use drones, as opposed to crewed aircraft and assets, to evade their humanitarian responsibilities to those in distress.
    The risk that information from unrelated surveillance activities (for example shipping control or traffic monitoring) is passed on to border control and other law enforcement agencies for inclusion into a broader ‘intelligence picture’.
    The risk that, if drones are deployed in a zone where there are border tensions between two nations, there will be a blurring between military and policing roles and a temptation to use drones in spying or intrusion missions which may escalate tensions.

    Full report and summary available here: Crossing a Line: How the use of drones to secure borders threatens everyone’s rights (Drone Wars UK, link: https://dronewars.net/2020/12/26/crossing-a-line-how-the-use-of-drones-to-secure-borders-threatens-everyon)

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/drones-for-border-control-a-symptom-of-the-security-mindset-says-new-rep

    #drones #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #militarisation_des_frontières #drones #déshumanisation #risques

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Crossing a Line: How the use of drones to secure borders threatens everyone’s rights

      A new report published today by Drone Wars UK investigates the increasing use of military-style drones by governments to patrol state borders. The study, which examines the use of drones at the borders of the UK, EU, US, Russia, China, Australia and elsewhere, concludes that drones are contributing to the militarisation of everyday borders as part of an integrated set of security technologies – including satellites, sensors and smart walls – which pose significant challenges to personal privacy and civil liberties.

      ‘Crossing A Line: The Use of Drones to Control Borders‘ also explores the ethical questions and risks that the use of drones for border and wider public surveillance raises. The United Kingdom is now at the beginning of a journey that would see drones used regularly across the country for surveillance of the general public, and not just above the English Channel.

      The report also argues that the highly publicised operation to use Watchkeeper military drones to watch for refugees crossing the Channel has little practical value but serves to help familiarise the public with the use of drones in the domestic context. Despite an intense media campaign by the government trumpeting ‘Operation Devran’ (the use of military aircraft to monitor irregular migration over the Channel) our study shows that the drone had little impact and played a minimal role in support to the UK Border Force. The drones flew on average only once every other day in their first month of operation, with their use dropping to a total flight time of less than twenty-four hours in the second month. Due to safety issues, they were only permitted to fly in certain areas covered by temporary airspace restrictions, and could only fly in suitable weather conditions.

      As academics Rey Koslowski and Marcus Schulzke point out, “it is often important to politicians to demonstrate to voters that they are doing something to control immigration,” and such actions to stop border crossings “are highly visible and make for wonderful ‘symbolic politics’.” This approach has long shaped border control policy, and the use of Watchkeeper over the Channel is a classic case, while at the same time providing a pretext to commence drone surveillance on the home front.

      A critical point raised by that study is how ‘border’ security has now come to mean much more than security around the actual border. Government agencies have sweeping powers to enforce ‘border’ security across the whole nation in terms of tackling border crime, identifying irregular migrants, and imposing security requirements upon travellers and goods crossing borders. Drones are enabling ‘upstream’ surveillance which allows a state to monitor and intervene in developments both inside and outside the country, far from its immediate border, for example by assessing migration patterns, observing events in neighbouring nations, or asserting control over remote seas. In the US, Predator drones operated by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Agency have been used to spy on Black Lives Matter demonstrations many miles from the border itself.

      That the ways in which governments are using drones at national borders are a challenge to human rights should come as no surprise. Illiberal right wing and nationalist politicians around the world have made border security and immigration central to their campaigns and policy agendas. According to their narrative national borders must be vigorously defended to prevent the entry of undeserving outsiders who will claim advantages to which they should not be entitled. Drones, as an intrinsically oppressive technology developed by the military to control and intimidate populations, are a perfect tool for enforcing such views.

      ‘Crossing A Line’ highlights the following as particular risks resulting from the use of drones in border areas:

      Drones will increasingly be used for surveillance of the wider population – not just those involved in criminal activities at borders – at ‘upstream’ internal border locations, and not just the geographically-defined border itself.
      The use of drones, as a primarily military technology, in border control will contribute to the dehumanisation of those attempting to cross borders and increase the potential for human rights abuses.
      States will use drones, as opposed to crewed aircraft and assets, to evade their humanitarian responsibilities to those in distress. The study shows how drones are playing a key role in the European Union’s attempts to ‘push back’ irregular migrants aiming to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
      Information from unrelated surveillance activities (for example shipping control or traffic monitoring) will be passed on to border control and other law enforcement agencies for inclusion into a broader ‘intelligence picture’ of activities in a particular area.
      If drones are deployed in a zone where there are border tensions between two nations, there will be a blurring between military and policing roles and a temptation to use drones in spying or intrusion missions which may escalate tensions.

      The report concludes that the use of drones for border control is a symptom of viewing borders predominantly in terms of ‘security’ and perceiving people crossing borders as a security threat, with negative implications for the rights of individuals. The use of drones and advanced combat-derived technology for border control operations is part of a security paradigm where border control operations are heavily influenced by the military and driven by ‘national security’ considerations rather than human needs.

      Drone technology is no longer just being used for surveillance and control overseas. Having evolved in battles and military occupations in the Middle East, the UK’s drones are now finding their way back to the home front. They are being deployed first against minorities such as refugees fleeing conflict and oppression but unless we act now, will eventually be used to spy on us all.

      https://dronewars.net/2020/12/26/crossing-a-line-how-the-use-of-drones-to-secure-borders-threatens-everyon
      #rapport #drone_wars #complexe_militaro-industriel

      Pour télécharger le rapport:
      https://dronewars.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/DW-Crossing-a-Line-WEB.pdf

  • EU: Frontex report on removal operations in the first half of 2020 and fundamental rights observations

    Statewatch is publishing Frontex’s report on its forced removal operations in the first half of 2020, along with the observations of the agency’s fundamental rights officer (FRO). The FRO report highlights a number of problems: a failure to correctly brief escorts on fundamental rights; not enough monitors available to cover all flights and not enough monitors on each flight; a failure to protect dignity and privacy during strip searches; wrongful disclosure of medical data to escorts; improper treatment of vulnerable groups; and problematic use of force and coercive measures. On this latter point, the FRO’s report notes that: “A few monitors found that unauthorized coercive measures were used (steel shoes, helmets).”

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/december/eu-frontex-report-on-removal-operations-in-the-first-half-of-2020-and-fu

    Pour télécharger le rapport:
    https://www.statewatch.org/media/1593/eu-frontex-deportations-report-first-half-2020-13638-20.pdf

    #rapport #Frontex #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #expulsions #2020 #droits_fondamentaux #dignité #données_médicales #vulnérabilité #mesures_coercitives #frontières #droits_humains

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_

  • New policy brief : Not all returns can result in sustainable reintegration


    https://cris.unu.edu/sites/cris.unu.edu/files/PB20.3%20-%20Jill%20Alpes%20and%20Izabella%20Majcher.pdf

    –—

    Commentaire de Jill Alpes via la mailing-list Migreurop :

    Returns can both exacerbate existing, as well as create new vulnerabilities. #IzabellaMajcher and #Jill_Alpes published a policy brief with UNU-CRIS, entitled “Who can be sustainably reintegrated after return? Using post-return monitoring for rights-based return policies.” (https://cris.unu.edu/sites/cris.unu.edu/files/PB20.3%20-%20Jill%20Alpes%20and%20Izabella%20Majcher.pdf) In the brief, they argue that rights-based return policies need more robust vulnerability assessments and more extensive monitoring of people’s access to rights and well-being after return.

    - For a video presentation of the police brief, please feel free to check out this recorded webinar organised by Statewatch (starting at 54 minutes: https://www.statewatch.org/publications/events/deportation-union-revamped-return-policies-and-reckless-forced-removals).
    – Thanks to a collaboration with PICUM and a series of artists, we also have an illustrated booklet of selected testimonies. “Removed Stories: Stories of hardship and resilience in facing deportation and its aftermath” (https://picum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Removed-stories.pdf) highlights the impact of EU return policies on people’s lives and dreams.
    - For a short summary in French of some of the key lessons we can learn from post-return interviews for rights-based return policies, please feel free to explore either the Summary of Workshop - “Au dela du retours” (https://www.vluchtelingenwerk.be/system/tdf/fr_au-dela_du_retour.pdf?file=1&type=document) -organized by a collective of Belgian NGOs (p. 29 - 31) - or this intervention (https://vimeo.com/389291559

    ) at an event organized by the Cimade (starting 14 minutes).

    Few selected tweets by the United Nations University - CRIS:
    UNU - CRIS Tweets:

    - “Returns can create new vulnerabilities for certain profiles of migrants in particular. For example, people might not be vulnerable in Europe but will become so upon deportation to their country of nationality if they do not have families or social networks there, have not spent a significant number of years in their country of nationality (and might thus lack the necessary language skills for basic survival), or had been internally displaced beforehand. Deporting countries should take these specific returnee profiles into consideration when both issuing removal orders and deciding whether and how these removal orders are to be implemented.”
    - “The weakness or strength of people’s social networks in countries of nationality should be part of vulnerability assessments prior to return. Deporting countries should also consider not just existing social policies in countries of nationality, but also real impediments to services and entitlements that returnees will likely face upon return. Such barriers are typically stronger for those who are returned after long periods abroad and for those who have other pre-existing vulnerabilities.”
    - “States need to implement rights-based post-return monitoring. People who suffer from exacerbated or new vulnerabilities are less likely to be able to build up new life projects necessary for their “sustainable reintegration” in countries of nationality. Financial investments into reintegration assistance would thus not be able to achieve declared policy objectives.”

    https://cris.unu.edu/sites/cris.unu.edu/files/PB20.3%20-%20Jill%20Alpes%20and%20Izabella%20Majcher.pdf

    #réintégration #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #expulsions #après-expulsion

    ping @_kg_ @rhoumour @karine4

  • Discussion #Frontex et #MSF sur twitter...

    Tout commence par un tweet de Frontex, le 13.11.2020 :

    Ruthless people smugglers put dozens of people in danger today. Thankfully a Frontex plane saw the overcrowded boat near Libyan coast and issued mayday call. We also alerted all national rescue centres. 102 people were rescued by Libyan Coast Guard. Sadly, 2 bodies were recovered

    MSF répond le 14.11.2020 :

    How many boats do you see & not report to the NGOs who could have rescued them?
    How many people have you watched die without alerting the world to what reality looks in the #Med?
    What happens to the people you facilitate the Libyan Coast Guard in trapping & forcing back to Libya?

    https://twitter.com/MSF_Sea/status/1327569141344194560

    Frontex :

    Frontex always alerts national rescue centres in the relevant area, as required by international law. Always. Don’t you?

    MSF :

    International law requires people to be brought to a place of safety.

    Frontex :

    So you do not/would not contact the closest internationally-recognised rescue centres, violating international law and putting lives in danger?

    MSF :

    So you are not/ would not be concerned that people are taken back to a place internationally recognised as unsafe, violating international law and putting lives in danger?
    Your Director was.

    –-> en ajoutant le lien vers une lettre signée par Paraskevi MICHOU (EUROPEAN COMMISSION DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR MIGRATION AND HOME AFFAIRS) et adressée à #Fabrice_Leggeri (Ref. Ares(2019)1755075 - 18/03/2019) :
    https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2019/jun/eu-letter-from-frontex-director-ares-2019)1362751%20Rev.pdf

    Frontex :

    We care deeply about the safety and security of hundreds of millions of European by helping to protect our borders. And we care deeply about the lives of those in distress at sea. This is why we helped to save more than a quarter million people in recent years.

    https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1327288578678906880

    –---

    Commentaire de #Jeff_Crisp sur twitter :

    Latest score:
    MSF: 3
    Frontex: 0
    And it is only half-time...

    https://twitter.com/JFCrisp/status/1327692414686027776

    #sauvetages_en_mer #frontières #migrations #asile #réfugiés #sauvetage #mensonges #Libye #twitter #réseaux_sociaux #Méditerranée #mer_Méditerranée

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Migration : la #France et l’#Italie déploieront des #navires et des #avions pour alerter la Tunisie sur le départ des migrants

    Le ministre français de l’Intérieur, #Gérald_Darmanin, est attendu, ce weekend, en visite en Tunisie pour de décisives discussions dans la foulée de l’attentat contre la basilique de Nice commis par un migrant illégal tunisien, qui a fait trois morts. Une visite qui intervient aussi dans un climat de plus en plus tendu en France dont le gouvernement et le président de la République, Emmanuel Macron, s’emploient à restreindre au maximum les flux migratoires à travers la Méditerranée.

    A la veille de cette visite, le ministre français de l’Intérieur, qui se trouve ce vendredi à Rome , envisage avec son homologue italienne, #Luciana_Lamorgese, de déployer des navires ou des avions pour alerter la Tunisie du départ de #bateaux clandestins transportant des migrants vers les côtes italiennes, comme le jeune Tunisien qui est le principal suspect d’une attaque à l’arme blanche dans une église française la semaine dernière, a déclaré vendredi la ministre italienne.

    A l’issue d’une entrevue entre les deux ministres, Gerald Darmanin s’est gardé de critiquer l’Italie pour sa gestion du suspect tunisien, qui a débarqué sur l’île italienne de Lampedusa en septembre, a été mis en quarantaine en vertu du protocole sanitaire relatif à la pandémie et reçu des papiers d’expulsion des autorités italiennes avant de gagner la France en octobre.

    « A aucun moment, je n’ai pensé qu’il y avait quelque chose de défectueux » dans la façon dont l’Italie a géré l’affaire, a déclaré Darmanin, en réponse à une question posée lors d’une conférence de presse avec Lamorgese après leurs entretiens. Il a plutôt remercié Lamorgese et les services de renseignement italiens pour l’échange d’informations dans les jours qui ont suivi l’#attentat de #Nice.

    Les Tunisiens qui fuient une économie dévastée par les effets du virus, constituent le plus grand contingent de migrants débarqués en Italie cette année, et ils arrivent directement de Tunisie dans des bateaux assez solides pour ne pas avoir besoin de secours, souligne le Washington Post, rappelant que, ces dernières années, la majorité des migrants qui ont atteint les côtes méridionales de l’Italie venaient d’Afrique subsaharienne et traversaient la Méditerranée dans des embarcations de fortune , donc en mauvais état pour la plupart, et opérées par des trafiquants en Libye.

    Lamorgese a déclaré qu’elle avait discuté avec Darmarin d’un #plan prévoyant le déploiement de « moyens navals ou aériens qui pourraient alerter les autorités tunisiennes d’éventuels départs » et les aider à intercepter les bateaux, « dans le respect de leurs souveraineté et autonomie que nous ne voulons pas violer ».

    Selon ce plan, il n’y aurait « qu’une #alerte que nous donnerions aux autorités tunisiennes pour faciliter le #traçage des navires qui partent de leur territoire pour rejoindre les côtes italiennes », a déclaré la ministre italienne. « Il est évident que cela suppose la #collaboration des autorités tunisiennes ».

    La France aurait-elle son « #Patriot_Act ?

    Après sa réunion du matin à Rome, Darmarin a déclaré qu’il se rend en Tunisie, en Algérie et à Malte, pour discuter des questions de migration et de #terrorisme.

    « La France et l’Italie doivent définir une position commune pour la lutte contre l’immigration clandestine au niveau européen », a-t-il déclaré.

    Il a été demandé à Darmarin si, à la suite des récents attentats terroristes en France, le gouvernement français devrait adopter une loi comme le « USA Patriot Act » promulgué après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001 pour intensifier les efforts de détection et de prévention du terrorisme.

    « Plus qu’un Patriot Act, ce qu’il faut, c’est un #acte_européen », a répondu Darmarin. « La France ne peut pas lutter seule contre la politique islamiste ».

    La Tunisie est l’un des rares pays à avoir conclu un accord de rapatriement avec l’Italie. Mais avec des milliers de Tunisiens arrivés par mer récemment et moins de 100 migrants expulsés et renvoyés dans le pays par voie aérienne chaque semaine, la priorité est donnée aux personnes considérées comme dangereuses, indique le Washington Post. Selon Lamorgese, rien n’indique que l’agresseur de Nice, Ibrahim Issaoui, 21 ans, constituait une menace.

    Les deux ministres se sont rencontrés un jour après que le président français Emmanuel Macron ait déclaré que son pays renforcera ses contrôles aux frontières après les multiples attaques de cet automne.

    L’Italie et la France lancent, sur une base expérimentale de six mois, des #brigades_mixtes de forces de sécurité italiennes et françaises à leurs frontières communes pour renforcer les contrôles, a déclaré Lamorgese aux journalistes.

    #externalisation #asile #réfugiés #migrations #frontières #surveillance_frontalière #Tunisie #militarisation_des_frontières #Darmanin #accord_de_réadmission

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Union européenne – Tunisie : l’illusion d’une coopération équilibrée

      Dans la nuit de vendredi 12 au samedi 13 février, 48 personnes de différentes nationalités africaines sont parties de Sidi Mansour, dans la province de Sfax en Tunisie, direction les côtes italiennes. La marine tunisienne est intervenue à une centaine de kilomètres au nord-ouest de Lampedusa lorsque les passagers naviguaient dans une mer agitée. Tandis que 25 personnes ont pu être secourues, une personne est décédée et 22 autres sont déclarées « disparues », comme des milliers d’autres avant elles [1]. Cet énième naufrage témoigne des traversées plus importantes au cours des derniers mois depuis la Tunisie, qui sont rendues plus dangereuses alors que l’Union européenne (UE) renforce ses politiques sécuritaires en Méditerranée en collaboration avec les États d’Afrique du Nord, dont la Tunisie.

      Au cours de 2020, plus de 13 400 personnes migrantes parties de Tunisie ont été interceptées par les garde-côtes tunisiens et plus de 13 200 autres sont parvenues à rejoindre les côtes européennes [2]. Jamais les chiffres n’ont été aussi élevés et depuis l’été 2020, jamais la Tunisie n’a été autant au centre de l’attention des dirigeant·e·s européen·ne·s. A l’occasion d’une rencontre dans ce pays le 17 août 2020, l’Italie et la Tunisie ont ainsi conclu un accord accompagné d’une enveloppe de 11 millions d’euros pour le renforcement des contrôles aux frontières tunisiennes et en particulier la surveillance maritime [3]. Le 6 novembre 2020, à l’issue d’une réunion à Rome, la ministre italienne de l’Intérieur et son homologue français ont également décidé de déployer au large des côtes tunisiennes des « moyens navals ou aériens qui pourraient alerter les autorités tunisiennes d’éventuels départs » [4].

      Cette attention a été redoublée au lendemain de l’attentat de Nice, le 29 octobre 2020. Lors d’une visite à Tunis, le ministre français, jouant de l’amalgame entre terrorisme et migration, faisait du contrôle migratoire le fer de lance de la lutte contre le terrorisme et appelait à une coopération à l’échelle européenne avec les pays d’Afrique du Nord pour verrouiller leurs frontières. Suivant l’exemple de l’Italie qui coopère déjà de manière étroite avec la Tunisie pour renvoyer de force ses ressortissant·e·s [5], la France a demandé aux autorités tunisiennes la délivrance automatique de laissez-passer pour faciliter les expulsions et augmenter leurs cadences.

      Cette coopération déséquilibrée qui met la Tunisie face à l’UE et ses États membres, inlassablement dénoncée des deux côtés de la Méditerranée par les associations de défense des droits, n’est pas nouvelle et s’accélère.

      Alors qu’a augmenté, au cours de l’année 2020, le nombre d’exilé·e·s en provenance d’Afrique subsaharienne et quittant les côtes tunisiennes en direction de l’Italie [6], les dirigeant·e·s européen·ne·s craignent que la Tunisie ne se transforme en pays de départ non seulement pour les ressortissant·e·s tunisien·ne·s mais également pour des exilé·e·s venu·e·s de tout le continent. Après être parvenue à réduire les départs depuis les côtes libyennes, mais surtout à augmenter le nombre de refoulements grâce à l’intervention des pseudo garde-côtes libyens en Méditerranée centrale (10 000 rien qu’en 2020) [7], l’UE et ses États membres se tournent de plus en plus vers la Tunisie, devenue l’une des principales cibles de leur politique d’externalisation en vue de tarir les passages sur cette route. Dès 2018, la Commission européenne avait d’ailleurs identifié la Tunisie comme candidate privilégiée pour l’installation sur son sol de « plateformes de débarquement » [8], autrement dit des camps de tri externalisés au service de l’UE, destinés aux exilé·e·s secouru·e·s ou intercepté·e·s en mer. Le plan prévoyait également le renforcement des capacités d’interception des dits garde-côtes tunisiens.

      Si à l’époque la Tunisie avait clamé son refus de devenir le hotspot africain et le garde-frontière de l’Europe [9], Tunis, sous la pression européenne, semble accepter peu à peu d’être partie prenante de cette approche [10]. Le soutien que la Tunisie reçoit de l’UE pour surveiller ses frontières maritimes ne cesse de s’intensifier. Depuis 2015, Bruxelles multiplie en effet les programmes destinés à la formation et au renforcement des capacités des garde-côtes tunisiens, notamment en matière de collecte de données personnelles. Dans le cadre du programme « Gestion des frontières au Maghreb » [11] lancé en juillet 2018, l’UE a prévu d’allouer 24,5 millions d’euros qui bénéficieront principalement à la Garde nationale maritime tunisienne [12]. Sans oublier l’agence européenne Frontex qui contrôle les eaux tunisiennes au moyen d’images satellite, de radars et de drones [13] et récolte des données qui depuis quelques mois sont partagées avec les garde-côtes tunisiens [14], comme cela se fait déjà avec les (soi-disant) garde-côtes libyens [15]. Le but est simple : détecter les embarcations au plus tôt pour alerter les autorités tunisiennes afin qu’elles se chargent elles-mêmes des interceptions maritimes. Les moyens de surveillance navals et aériens que l’Italie et la France veulent déployer pour surveiller les départs de Tunisie viennent compléter cet édifice.

      Les gouvernements européens se félicitent volontiers des résultats de leur stratégie des « #refoulements_par_procuration » [16] en Libye. Cette stratégie occulte cependant les conséquences d’un partenariat avec des « garde-côtes » liés à des milices et des réseaux de trafiquants d’êtres humains [17], à savoir le renvoi des personnes migrantes dans un pays non-sûr, qu’elles tentent désespérément de fuir, ainsi qu’une hécatombe en mer Méditerranée. A mesure que les autorités européennes se défaussent de leurs responsabilités en matière de recherche et de secours sur les garde-côtes des pays d’Afrique du Nord, les cas de non-assistance et les naufrages se multiplient [18]. Alors que la route de la Méditerranée centrale est l’une des mieux surveillées au monde, c’est aussi l’une des plus mortelles du fait de cette politique du laisser-mourir en mer. Au cours de l’année 2020, près de 1 000 décès y ont été comptabilisés [19], sans compter les nombreux naufrages invisibles [20].

      Nous refusons que cette coopération euro-libyenne, dont on connaît déjà les conséquences, soit dupliquée en Tunisie. Si ce pays en paix et doté d’institutions démocratiques peut à première vue offrir une image plus « accueillante » que la Libye, il ne saurait être considéré comme un pays « sûr », ni pour les migrant·e·s, ni pour ses propres ressortissant·e·s, de plus en plus nombreux·ses à fuir la situation socio-économique dégradée, et aggravée par la crise sanitaire [21]. Les pressions exercées par l’UE et ses États membres pour obliger la Tunisie à devenir le réceptacle de tou·te·s les migrant·e·s « indésirables » sous couvert de lutte contre le terrorisme sont inacceptables. La complaisance des autorités tunisiennes et le manque de transparence des négociations avec l’UE et ses États membres le sont tout autant. En aucun cas le combat contre le terrorisme ne saurait justifier que soient sacrifiées les valeurs de la démocratie et du respect des droits fondamentaux, tels que la liberté d’aller et venir et le droit de trouver une véritable protection.

      De part et d’autre de la Méditerranée, nos organisations affirment leur solidarité avec les personnes exilées de Tunisie et d’ailleurs. Nous condamnons ces politiques sécuritaires externalisées qui génèrent d’innombrables violations des droits et ne font que propager l’intolérance et la haine.

      –—

      Notes :

      [1] « En Tunisie, 22 migrants sont portés disparus après le naufrage d’un bateau », La Presse.ca, 13 février 2021

      [2] Rapport du mois de décembre 2020 des mouvements sociaux, suicides, violences, et migrations, n°87, Observatoire social tunisien, FTDES

      [3] Quel est le contenu du récent accord entre la Tunisie et l’Italie ? Réponses aux demandes d’accès introduit par ASGI, FTDES et ASF, Projet Sciabaca & Oruka, 7 décembre 2020

      [4] « Migration : la France et l’Italie déploieront des navires et des avions pour alerter la Tunisie sur le départ des migrants », African Manager, 6 décembre 2020

      [5] Chaque semaine, deux charters partent de Sicile pour renvoyer une centaine de migrant·e·s tunisien·ne·s. En 2019, selon les chiffres du FTDES, 1 739 ressortissant·e·s tunisien·ne·s ont été expulsé·e·s d’Italie via ces vols. En 2020, ceux-ci étaient encore affrétés malgré la crise sanitaire.

      [6] Rapport du mois d’octobre 2020 des mouvements sociaux, suicides, violences, et migrations, n°85, Observatoire social tunisien, FTDES

      [7] Le nombre de migrant·e·s ayant été intercepté·e·s par les pseudo garde-côtes libyens en 2019 est estimé à 9 000 selon Alarmphone (voir : Central Mediterranean Regional Analysis 1 October 2019-31 December 2019, 5 janvier 2020).

      [8] Migration : Regional disembarkation arrangements - Follow-up to the European Council Conlusions of 28 June 2018

      [9] « Tri, confinement, expulsion : l’approche hotspot au service de l’UE », Migreurop, 25 juin 2019

      [10] « Comment l’Europe contrôle ses frontières en Tunisie ? », Inkyfada, 20 mars 2020

      [11] Programme du Fonds fiduciaire d’urgence de l’UE pour l’Afrique, mis en œuvre par l’ICMPD et le Ministère italien de l’intérieur - Document d’action pour la mise en œuvre du programme Afrique du Nord, Commission européenne (non daté)

      [12] Réponse de la Commission européenne à une question parlementaire sur les programmes de gestion des frontières financés par le Fonds fiduciaire d’urgence, 26 octobre 2020

      [13] « EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis », Matthias Monroy, 28 juin 2020

      [14] Réponse question parlementaire donnée par la Haute représentante/Vice-présidente Borrell au nom de la Commission européenne sur le projet Seahorse Mediterraneo 2.0, 7 mai 2020

      [15] « A Struggle for Every Single Boat- Central Mediterranean Analysis, July - December 2020 », Alarm Phone, 14 janvier 2021

      [16] « MARE CLAUSUM - Italy and the EU’s undeclared operation to stem migration across the Mediterranea » ; Forensic Oceanography, Forensic Architecture agency, Goldsmiths, Université de Londres, Mai 2018

      [17] « Migrants detained in Libya for profit, leaked EU report reveals », The Guardian, 20 novembre 2019

      [18] « Carnage in the Mediterranean is the direct result of European state policies », MSF 13 novembre 2020

      [19] Selon les chiffres de l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM) en Méditerranée : https://missingmigrants.iom.int/region/mediterranean?migrant_route%5B%5D=1376

      [20] « November Shipwrecks - Hundreds of Visible and Invisible Deaths in the Central Med », Alarmphone, 26 novembre 2020

      [21] « Politiques du non-accueil en Tunisie : des acteurs humanitaires au service des politiques sécuritaires européennes », Migreurop, FTDES juin 2020

      https://www.migreurop.org/article3028.html

    • La Tunisia come frontiera esterna d’Europa: a farne le spese sono sempre i diritti umani

      Migreurop, FTDES e EuroMed Rights lanciano un appello congiunto contro la riproposizione del “modello libico” in Tunisia.

      La Tunisia è divenuta negli ultimi anni uno degli interlocutori principali per le politiche securitarie europee basate sull’esternalizzazione delle frontiere. Il governo tunisino si presta, in modo sempre più evidente, a soddisfare le richieste dell’Unione europea e dei suoi paesi membri, Italia e Francia in particolare, che mirano a bloccare nel paese i flussi migratori, ancor prima che possano raggiungere il territorio europeo.

      Ma la situazione non può essere sostenibile sul lungo termine: una grande quantità di denaro viene investita nel finanziamento e supporto alla Guardia costiera tunisina e alle forze di polizia, che controllano i confini marittimi e riportano indietro le persone intercettate in mare, in quelli che sono stati definiti “respingimenti per procura” di cui le autorità europee non vogliono farsi carico, per non dover rispondere degli obblighi internazionali in materia di protezione e asilo.

      Intanto, nel paese imperversa una crisi socio-economica molto grave, che sta smorzando l’entusiasmo nei confronti della giovane democrazia tunisina, unico esperimento politico post-2011 ad aver resistito finora alle spinte autocratiche. Al malessere della popolazione, che nelle ultime settimane ha manifestato nelle strade di diverse città, lo Stato sembra saper rispondere solo con la forza e la repressione.
      La precarietà della situazione economica e sociale non farà che alimentare le partenze dalla Tunisia, che avevano registrato numeri consistenti durante il 2020.

      La guardia costiera, seppure ben equipaggiata e addestrata, non può rappresentare un vero deterrente per chi non ha nulla da perdere: e infatti negli ultimi giorni sono sbarcate a Lampedusa complessivamente più di 230 persone provenienti dall’area di Sfax, attualmente isolati nell’hotspot dell’isola. Altri arrivano invece a Pantelleria, situata a pochi chilometri dalle coste della capitale [1].

      Ma nel Mediterraneo si continua anche a morire: l’ultimo episodio noto che ha coinvolto la Tunisia è avvenuto tra il 12 e il 13 febbraio, quando un’imbarcazione in difficoltà è stata soccorsa dalla marina tunisina al largo di Lampedusa. Secondo le informazioni disponibili, la barca era partita da Sidi Mansour, nella provincia di Sfax, e le 48 persone a bordo erano di varie nazionalità africane. Il maltempo aveva spinto la marina tunisina a interrompere le operazioni di soccorso: delle 48 persone a bordo, 25 sono state tratte in salvo e ricondotte in Tunisia, una è morta e le altre 22 sono state dichiarate “disperse” [2].

      Sono numerose, ma ancora ampiamente inascoltate, le voci che contestano l’approccio del governo tunisino in tema di emigrazione nei rapporti con i paesi a nord del Mediterraneo. Un comunicato congiunto pubblicato il 17 febbraio da Migreurop, del Forum Tunisino per i Diritti Economici e Sociali e di EuroMed Rights, dal titolo “Unione europea - Tunisia: l’illusione di una cooperazione equilibrata” [3], denuncia la complicità delle autorità tunisine nell’assecondare le politiche securitarie europee, che rende sempre più preoccupante la situazione per chi tenta di raggiungere l’Europa dalla Tunisia. Lo Stato tunisino non è in grado di difendere i diritti dei propri cittadini o di chi, in generale, parte dalle proprie coste, di fronte alle pressioni europee che perseguono imperterrite delle politiche emergenziali insostenibili sul lungo periodo.

      Il comunicato esprime la propria contrarietà alla riproposizione in Tunisia del tristemente noto modello libico, basato sulla delegazione alle forze locali dei controlli frontalieri europei, sui respingimenti collettivi e sulla criminalizzazione delle persone migranti. Il 2020 è stato un anno cruciale per l’inasprimento dei controlli alle frontiere nel paese: l’aumento delle partenze dalle coste tunisine a causa della crisi economica, e l’attacco di Nizza ad opera di un cittadino tunisino hanno comportato una maggiore attenzione dei governi europei al paese nordafricano, con conseguente aumento dei finanziamenti destinati al controllo frontaliero. A farne le spese, nel caso tunisino come in quello libico, saranno ancora una volta le persone che vedranno violati i loro diritti:

      “Con le autorità europee che si sottraggono alle loro responsabilità in materia di ricerca e di soccorso in mare, affidandole alle guardie costiere dei paesi nordafricani, i casi di mancata assistenza sono in aumento e i naufragi proliferano. Benché la rotta del Mediterraneo centrale sia una delle più controllate al mondo, è anche una delle più mortali, a causa di questa politica di lasciar morire la gente in mare. Durante il 2020, sono stati registrati quasi 1.000 morti, senza contare i casi di naufragi invisibili.

      Ci rifiutiamo di lasciare che il modello di cooperazione euro-libica venga riproposto in Tunisia, con le conseguenze che già conosciamo. Se questo paese, in pace e con istituzioni democratiche, può a prima vista offrire un’immagine più «accogliente» della Libia, non può però essere considerato un paese «sicuro», né per le persone migranti né per i suoi stessi cittadini, che fuggono dal deterioramento della situazione socio-economica, aggravata dalla crisi sanitaria.

      La pressione esercitata dall’Ue e dai suoi Stati membri per costringere la Tunisia a diventare un rifugio per tutti/e i/le migranti «indesiderabili» con il pretesto della lotta al terrorismo è inaccettabile. La connivenza delle autorità tunisine e la mancanza di trasparenza nei negoziati con l’Ue e i suoi Stati membri sono altrettanto inaccettabili. In nessun caso la lotta contro il terrorismo può giustificare il sacrificio dei valori della democrazia e del rispetto dei diritti fondamentali, come la libertà di movimento e il diritto a una vera protezione.”

      https://www.meltingpot.org/La-Tunisia-come-frontiera-esterna-d-Europa-a-farne-le-spese.html?var_mod

      #Tunisie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #modèle_libyen #externalisation

    • Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

      The agencies #EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

      According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for #EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

      The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes.

      Military research on drone technologies should also benefit border police applications. This was already laid down in the conclusions of the “ First European High Level Conference on Unmanned Aerial Systems“, to which the Commission and the EDA invited military and aviation security authorities, the defence industry and other „representatives of the European aviation community“ to Brussels in 2010. According to this, once „the existing barriers to growth are removed, the civil market could be potentially much larger than the military market“.

      Merging „maritime surveillance“ initiatives

      Because unmanned flights over land have to be set up with cumbersome authorisation procedures, Europe’s unregulated seas have become a popular testing ground for both civilian and military drone projects. It is therefore not surprising that in 2014, in the action plan of its „Maritime Security Strategy“, the Commission also called for a „cross-sectoral approach“ by civilian and military authorities to bring together the various „maritime surveillance initiatives“ and support them with unmanned systems.

      In addition to the military EDA, this primarily meant those EU agencies that take on tasks to monitor seas and coastlines: The Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in Lisbon, founded in 2002, the Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in Warsaw since 2004, and the Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) in Vigo, Spain, which followed a year later.

      Since 2009, the three agencies have been cooperating within the framework of bi- and trilateral agreements in certain areas, this mainly concerned satellite surveillance. With „CleanSeaNet“, EMSA has had a monitoring system for detecting oil spills in European waters since 2007. From 2013, the data collected there was continuously transmitted to the Frontex Situation Centre. There, they flow into the EUROSUR border surveillance system, which is also based on satellites. Finally, EFCA also operates „Integrated Maritime Services“ (IMS) for vessel detection and tracking using satellites to monitor, control and enforce the common EU fisheries policy.

      After the so-called „migration crisis“ in 2015, the Commission proposed the modification of the mandates of the three agencies in a „set of measures to manage the EU’s external borders and protect our Schengen area without internal borders“. They should cooperate more closely in the five areas of information exchange, surveillance and communication services, risk analysis, capacity building and exchange. To this end, the communication calls for the „jointly operating Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) in the Mediterranean Sea“.

      Starting in 2016, Frontex, EMSA and EFCA set out the closer cooperation in several cooperation agreements and initially carried out a research project on the use of satellites, drones and manned surveillance aircraft. EMSA covered the costs of €310,000, and the fixed-wing aircraft „AR 5 Evo“ from the Portuguese company Tekever and a „Scan Eagle“ from the Boeing offshoot Insitu were flown.

      EMSA took the lead

      Since then, EMSA has taken the lead regarding unmanned maritime surveillance services. The development of such a drone fleet was included in the proposal for a new EMSA regulation presented by the Commission at the end of 2015. Drones were to become a „complementary tool in the overall surveillance chain“. The Commission expected this to provide „early detection of migrant departures“, another purpose was to „support of law enforcement activities“.

      EMSA initially received €67 million for the new leased drone services, with further money earmarked for the necessary expansion of satellite communications. In a call for tenders, medium-sized fixed-wing aircraft with a long range as well as vertical take-off aircraft were sought; as basic equipment, they were to carry optical and infrared cameras, an optical scanner and an AIS receiver. For pollution tracking or emission monitoring, manufacturers should fit additional sensors.

      From 2018, EMSA awarded further contracts totalling €38 million for systems launching either on land or from ships. Also in 2018, the agency paid €2.86 million for quadrocopters that can be launched from ships. In the same year, EMSA signed a framework contract worth €59 million for flights with the long-range drone „Hermes 900“ from Israeli company Elbit Systems. In 2020, for €20 million, the agency was again looking for unmanned vertical take-off aircraft that can be launched either on land or from ships and can stay in the air for up to four hours.

      In addition to the „Hermes 900“, the EMSA drone fleet includes three fixed-wing aircraft, the „AR5 Evo“ from Tekever (Portugal), the „Ouranos“ from ALTUS (Greece) and the „Ogassa“ from UAVision (Portugal). The larger helicopter drones are the „Skeldar V-200“ from UMS (Sweden) and the „Camcopter S-100“ from Schiebel GmbH (Austria), as well as the „Indago“ quadrocopter from Lockheed Martin (USA).

      EMSA handles flights with different destinations for numerous EU member states, as well as for Iceland as the only Schengen state. Due to increasing demand, capacities are now being expanded. In a tender worth €20 million, „RPAS Services for Maritime Surveillance with Extended Coastal Range“ with vertically launched, larger drones are being sought. Another large contract for „RPAS Services for Multipurpose Maritime Surveillance“ is expected to cost €50 million. Finally, EMSA is looking for several dozen small drones under 25 kilograms for €7 million.

      Airbus flies for Frontex

      As early as 2009, the EU border agency hosted relevant workshops and seminars on the use of drones and invited manufacturers to give demonstrations. The events were intended to present marketable systems „for land and sea border surveillance“ to border police from member states. In its 2012 Work Programme, Frontex announced its intention to pursue „developments regarding identification and removing of the existing gaps in border surveillance with special focus on Unmanned Aircraft Systems“.

      After a failed award in 2015, Frontex initially tendered a „Trial of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) for long endurance Maritime Aerial Surveillance“ in Crete and Sicily in 2018. The contract was awarded to Airbus (€4.75 million) for flights with a „Heron 1“ from Israel Aeronautics Industries (IAI) and Leonardo (€1.7 million) with its „Falco Evo“. The focus was not only on testing surveillance technology, but also on the use of drones within civilian airspace.

      After the pilot projects, Frontex then started to procure its own drones of the high-flying MALE class. The tender was for a company that would carry out missions in all weather conditions and at day and night time off Malta, Italy or Greece for €50 million. The contract was again awarded to the defence company Airbus for flights with a „Heron 1“. The aircraft are to operate in a radius of up to 250 nautical miles, which means they could also reconnoitre off the coasts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. They carry electro-optical cameras, thermal imaging cameras and so-called „daylight spotters“ to track moving targets. Other equipment includes mobile and satellite phone tracking systems.

      It is not yet clear when the Frontex drones will begin operations, nor does the agency say where they will be stationed in the central Mediterranean. However, it has announced that it will launch two tenders per year for a total of up to 3.000 contracted hours to operate large drones.

      Drone offensive for „pull backs“

      So since 2016, EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services. On top of that, the Commission has spent at least €38 million funding migration-related drone research such as UPAC S-100, SARA, ROBORDER, CAMELOT, COMPASS2020, FOLDOUT, BorderUAS. This does not include the numerous research projects in the Horizon2020 framework programme, which, like unmanned passenger transport, are not related to border surveillance. Similar research was also carried out during the same period on behalf of the Defence Agency, which spent well over €100 million on it.

      The new unmanned capabilities significantly expand maritime surveillance in particular and enable a new concept of joint command and control structures between Frontex, EMSA and EFCA. Long-range drones, such as those used by EMSA with the „Hermes 900“ and Frontex with the „Heron 1“ in the Mediterranean, can stay in the air for a whole day, covering large sea areas.

      It is expected that the missions will generate significantly more situational information about boats of refugees. The drone offensive will then ensure even more „pull backs“ in violation of international law, after the surveillance information is passed on to the coast guards in countries such as Libya as before, in order to intercept refugees as quickly as possible after they set sail from the coasts there.

      https://digit.site36.net/2021/04/30/unmanned-surveillance-for-fortress-europe
      #drones

  • Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer

    Des investigations menées par plusieurs médias dénoncent les pratiques illégales des #gardes-frontières_grecs impliquant parfois l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières.

    Une enquête de plusieurs médias, dont le magazine allemand Spiegel, affirme que Frontex, l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières, est impliquée dans plusieurs incidents de refoulement en mer de bateaux de demandeurs d’asile traversant la mer Egée entre la Turquie et la Grèce.

    Les investigations menées « montrent pour la première fois que les responsables de Frontex sont conscients des pratiques illégales des gardes-frontières grecs – et sont en partie impliqués dans les refoulements eux-mêmes », écrit le Spiegel dans un article disponible en ligne samedi 24 octobre.
    Les journalistes assurent avoir documenté six cas survenus depuis avril en mer Egée dans lesquels des équipes de Frontex ont au minimum assisté sans réagir à des refoulements vers la Turquie de bateaux de réfugiés se trouvant dans les eaux grecques, une pratique illégale. Dans un cas, en juin, une vidéo montre un navire de Frontex bloquant un bateau de réfugiés, puis, dans une autre scène enregistrée, passant devant le bateau de réfugiés à grande vitesse avant de quitter les lieux.

    Des dizaines de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits comparés

    Outre le Spiegel, les recherches ont été menées par un magazine de la chaîne allemande ARD, le collectif de journalistes Lighthouse Reports, la plate-forme d’investigations Bellingcat et la chaîne de télévision japonaise TV Asahi. Les auteurs expliquent avoir comparé des « dizaines » de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits de témoins oculaires, dont des réfugiés et des employés de Frontex. L’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières a engagé plus de 600 agents en Grèce, une des portes d’entrée de l’Union européenne, ainsi que des bateaux, des drones et des avions, selon l’article.

    Frontex n’a pas commenté les cas précis soulevés par la recherche, explique le Spiegel, mais a déclaré que ses agents étaient liés par un code de conduite en matière de droits de l’homme et respectaient l’interdiction des refoulements. Sans mentionner l’article, Frontex a annoncé vendredi soir sur son compte Twitter avoir été « en contact avec les autorités grecques à propos d’incidents en mer ces derniers mois » et qu’Athènes avait ouvert une « enquête interne ». Frontex agit « dans le respect des droits fondamentaux et de la loi internationale », souligne l’agence sur Twitter.
    Le gouvernement conservateur grec a toujours rejeté les allégations de refoulements illégaux à ses frontières dont font régulièrement état plusieurs organisations non gouvernementales.

    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/10/24/migrations-l-agence-europeenne-frontex-mise-en-cause-pour-des-refoulements-e
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Mer_Egée #Grèce #Turquie

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Frontex at Fault : European Border Force Complicit in ‘Illegal’ Pushbacks

      Vessels from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, have been complicit in maritime “pushback” operations to drive away refugees and migrants attempting to enter the European Union via Greek waters, a joint investigation by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi has found.

      Open source data suggests Frontex assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea, were present at another and have been in the vicinity of four more since March.

      Although Frontex assets were not at the immediate scene of those latter four incidents, the signature of a pushback is distinctive, and would likely have been visible on radar, with visual tools common on such vessels or to the naked eye.

      The Greek Coast Guard (HCG) has long been accused of illegal pushbacks.

      These are described by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a legal and educational non-profit, as incidents where refugees and migrants are forced back over a border without consideration of individual circumstances and without any possibility to apply for asylum or to put forward arguments against the measures taken.

      In the Aegean Sea, pushbacks generally occur in two ways. The first type is the most common: Dinghies travelling from Turkey to Greece are blocked from landing on Greek soil by the HCG. This could mean either physically blocking the dinghy until it runs out of fuel, or disabling the engine. After the engine no longer works the dinghy can then either be pushed back into Turkish territorial water with waves, or towed if the wind is not favourable.

      The second type of pushback is employed when people have managed to land on Greek soil. In this case they are detained, placed in a liferaft with no means of propulsion, towed into the middle of the Aegean Sea and then abandoned.

      Pushbacks will often result in standoffs between the HCG and Turkish Coast Guard (TCG), both of which will standby, refusing to aid dinghies in distress and carrying out unsafe manoeuvres around them.

      The role of Frontex assets in such incidents, however, has never been recorded before.

      Dana Schmalz, an international law expert at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg said the incidents highlighted in this investigation were likely “illegal” and “violate the prohibition of refoulement and maritime law.” The prohibition of refoulement refers to rules banning the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers and is described by the UN Refugee Agency as a “rule of customary international law.”

      Schmalz added that if Frontex personnel stopped an overcrowded dinghy of the type seen in footage documented during this investigation, they would be obliged to rescue its occupants immediately. “If they don’t do that, even make waves [or] instead drive away and then let the Greeks do the dirty work – then they are involved in the illegal pushback.”

      Despite being presented with numerous examples of the practice, a spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry Greek denied claims of pushbacks, describing allegations of illegal actions relating to the incidents documented in this article as “tendentious.” They added that HCG officers act in compliance with the country’s international obligations.

      Frontex said that the host states it works with have the final say in how operations on its territory or search and rescue zone are carried out. However, it added that Frontex had notified HCG which confirmed an internal inquiry had been launched into each of the reported incidents. Yet Frontex did not say when it notified HCG or when the inquiry had begun.

      On July 24, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, told the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) at the European Parliament that the agency had observed and recorded just a single incident which may have been a pushback in the Aegean.

      Our investigation — which looked at the presence of Frontex assets in the Aegean Sea and observed their movements over many months — appears to contradict that assertion.

      This was despite the difficulty in tracking many Frontex assets because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Frontex, an agency of the European Union, is tasked with border control of the Schengen Area. Its activities in the Aegean are called Operation Poseidon.
      How we Recorded Pushbacks: Identification of Assets

      There were two main steps to establishing that Frontex had participated in pushback operations. The first was to identify what assets had been deployed in Operation Poseidon. The second was to establish whether these assets had participated in pushback operations.

      The first step was carried out using open sources. These included social media posts, vessel tracking sites and information published by Frontex itself. We were also able to establish the number of personnel and assets present in the operational area thanks to questions asked in the European Parliament.

      According to this response, Operation Poseidon has 185 personnel, one offshore patrol vessel (OPV), eight coastal patrol boats (CPB), one coastal patrol vessel (CPV), four thermal vision vehicles (TVV) and three patrol cars.

      There is also a “Rapid Border Intervention”, which contains additional assets on top of those dedicated to Operation Poseidon. This includes 74 personnel, two CPBs, two CPVs, one helicopter and three TVVs.

      In total we used open sources to identify 22 assets, including vessels, helicopters and planes, which operated in the Aegean during 2020. Although this is more than the total given in the answer to parliamentary questions above, some of these assets were rotating in or out of theater.
      Tracking Assets

      Some assets featured regularly on the open source record. For example, Romanian and Bulgarian vessels regularly transit through the Bosphorus strait, where there is an active ship-spotting community. As such it was possible to identify their operational rotations, including vessels heading to and returning from deployments roughly every three months. However, other assets were more difficult to track, and their presence on the open source record consisted of a single image or video.


      https://twitter.com/YorukIsik/status/1262417193083510784

      In order to track these assets and identify if they had participated in pushbacks, we required far more data than was available on social media. As such, we turned to AIS and transponder data, publicly available information about the location of particular ships or aircraft, available through sites such as Marine Traffic or Flight Radar 24.

      Many of the assets we identified either did not have their information publicly listed, or appeared to only turn on their transponders under certain circumstances, such as when in port. This made them extremely difficult to track. However, some assets did have their transponders on. We began to collect this data, buying additional, more granular data from ship and flight tracking companies on dates when pushbacks had been reported.

      We combined this tracking data with our own database of reported pushbacks, which we obtained through both public reports and information collected by NGOs such as Consolidated Rescue Group (CRG), Monitoring Rescue Cell (MRC) and Alarm Phone, who track these events. These included the coordinates of reported pushback events, frequently sent by the occupants of the dinghies. By overlaying these datasets we identified multiple pushback incidents in which Frontex assets were in the vicinity. Once we had identified these priority incidents we could then examine the specifics of what had happened.
      Incidents

      Using this data we identified six pushback incidents since March in which Frontex assets were either in the vicinity or participated directly. We have separated these into four “proximity incidents,” where Frontex assets were within five kilometers of the incident, and two “confirmed incidents,” where we can be certain that Frontex were present at the site of pushbacks themselves.
      Proximity Incidents

      April 28-29: In an incident we have previously reported, a group of refugees and migrants made landfall on Samos. They claim they were then detained, placed in a life-raft without any means of propulsion and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait. A surveillance plane overflew the area twice while this pushback took place.

      June 4: Two dinghies were reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada appears to have been present around 15 kilometers from the first incident and just over one kilometer away from the second.

      June 5: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada was approximately two to three kilometers away.

      August 19: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Molivos was five kilometers away and appears to have changed course and headed towards the pushback before its transponder either lost signal or was turned off.

      In these cases, Frontex assets were recorded as being within a certain range, rather than participating directly. Their exact knowledge of what was happening at these distances is difficult to confirm. Operation Poseidon’s mission includes a significant number of tasks requiring surveillance, and its assets are able to use both radar and visual tools, such as low-light or infrared cameras, to observe the environment around them.

      For example, we know that the Molivos is equipped with an FLIR camera similar to this one seen on another Portuguese Frontex vessel. This model is capable of x36 magnification, with low light and infrared cameras.

      The boats that migrants use to make this crossing are very basic, inflatable rubber dinghies several meters long with a single outboard motor. Due to their construction, it is unlikely that these boats would be visible on radar. However, pushbacks don’t just involve a single dinghy. By their definition they must involve at least one other vessel. From images and videos of pushbacks we have reviewed, it is clear that they often involve multiple ships from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards.

      As stated above, ships from both Greece and Turkey will frequently attempt to push the dinghies across the sea border using waves. These vessels manoeuvre in a circular pattern at a relatively high speed close to the dinghy. This manoeuvre is not only dangerous because of the risk of collision, the waves it generates also represent a threat to the overcrowded and often fragile dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8BdEHtBWp4&feature=emb_logo

      As such, although a dinghy itself may not show up on radar, the signature of a pushback would. Multiple large and small vessels from both TCG and HCG, some of which are carrying out unusual manoeuvres in order to create waves, would be very difficult to miss. Indeed you can even see this kind of event from space.

      There’s also the matter of visual range. The same factors that make a pushback visible on radar will also make it visible to the eye or other visual systems such as surveillance cameras. Even at a range of a few kilometers in calm seas and good conditions, a dinghy would likely be visible, although exact details such as the nature of its passengers might not be. The other aspects of pushbacks which we have already described would also certainly be visible.

      The case of the April 28-29 pushback is a good illustration of surveillance assets passing very close to the results of a pushback.
      April 28

      In an incident previously covered by Bellingcat, a group of 22 migrants who landed on Samos were detained by Greek law enforcement. They were then placed on a life raft without any means of propulsion, and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait by the Greek coast guard. In response to our request for comment at the time, the Greek government denied these people had ever reached Greek territory, despite witness statements, images, and videos showing this had in fact happened.

      As the life raft was floating in the strait, a private sureveillance plane passed over the area twice at 5,000 feet, once at 02:41 AM and once at 03:18 AM. This plane, G-WKTH, belongs to DEA Aviation, which provides aerial surveillance services to Frontex. In a promotional video from Frontex, it is claimed these feeds are live-streamed back to the Frontex HQ in Warsaw

      The plane is reportedly equipped with an MX-15 camera, which has both low-light and infrared sensors. Considering this plane is specifically employed for aerial surveillance, it would be surprising if it did not identify the life raft full of people and, according to one member of this group, the presence of Greek and later Turkish vessels.

      Indeed, the Frontex executive director’s response to the LIBE committee of the European Parliament indicates this may have been the incident Frontex reported as having seen. In this reply a “Serious Incident Report (‘SIR’) was created based on a sighting of an incident by aerial surveillance where people were transferred on a rubber boat from a vessel and later on rescued by Turkish authorities.
      Active incidents

      In two cases on June 8 and August 15, it seems certain that Frontex was aware of pushbacks as they took place. Indeed, on June 8, it appears that a Frontex vessel participated in a pushback, physically blocking a dinghy from reaching Greek territory.

      We will first address the incident on August 15, where a Frontext vessel was present at the scene of a pushback, before examining the June 8, where a Frontex asset appears to have participated in a pushback.
      August 15

      On the morning of August 15 there were reports of a confrontation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards. As well as multiple photos posted to social media by locals, this was also reported as a pushback by CRG, MRC, Alarm Phone and Aegean Boat Report.

      CRG and MRC also posted videos from people on this dinghy, with CRG’s video showing an engine without a starter cord, claiming it had been taken by the Greek Coast Guard. In the videos, the dinghy is surrounded by vessels from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards. We have previously noted that disabling the motor of dinghies is a tactic that has reportedly been used by the Greek Coast Guard.

      Most of the images of this incident are taken from a distance, making identification of the vessels difficult. However, we were also sent an image of this confrontation that is very clear. In this image we can clearly see the presence of MAI1102, a Romanian border forces vessel which had just arrived in theater.

      The metadata of this image is consistent with the date and time of this incident. Indeed, the ships can be seen arrayed in almost exactly the same manner in a video filmed by the people on the boat.

      Although it is not possible to be certain of exactly how far away MAI1102 is from this pushback, we can see that it is certainly within visual range of the confrontation and the dinghy itself.
      June 8

      On the morning of June 8 a pushback was reported to have taken place, again off the north-east coast of Lesbos. The Turkish coast guard reported it rescued 47 migrants after a pushback by the Greek Coast Guard that day. Footage published by Anadolu Agency appeared to show the Romanian Frontex vessel MAI1103 blocking a dinghy.

      We investigated this incident further, obtaining other videos from the TCG, as well as tracking data of vessels that appeared to be in the vicinity at the time, such as the NATO ship, Berlin. Using these sources we were able to reconstruct what happened.

      After initially trying to cross under the cover of darkness, the dinghy was intercepted and physically blocked from proceeding by MAI1103 early in the morning.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoNJXY3pa_U&feature=emb_logo

      We can see the exact time and a set of coordinates in one of the videos we obtained.

      We plotted the coordinates visible on the screen as they changed. It became clear these were not the location of the vessel with the camera, but rather the location of the dinghy and MAI1103.

      We can visually confirm the general location by comparing a panoramic view that is visible in one of the videos against the appearance of the landscape from the coordinates which appear on the camera feed.

      We can now start to build a picture of what happened that morning.

      We can see that the dinghy was extremely close to MAI1103, and is being physically blocked by the ship. Indeed the two vessels are close enough that it appears that personnel on MAI1103 are communicating with people in the dinghy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qD_I--2LPA&feature=emb_logo

      At one point MAI1103 makes a pass close to the dinghy at enough speed to generate waves, a maneuver that previously only HCG and TCG have been seen making. It is especially dangerous due to the overloaded and unseaworthy nature of the dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUm1_e2R6A&feature=emb_logo

      Eventually HCG vessels arrive and MAI1103 leaves, resulting in a standoff between the TCG and HCG. This lasted several hours and gradually moved to the north-west, observed by the NATO ship Berlin.

      During this period the dinghy was approached at least twice by a rigid-hulled inflatable boat 060 (RHIB) from the HCG.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WODSvxnmoc&feature=emb_logo

      In what appears to be the final segment of video taken at about 09:30 AM we see the TCG radar screen, which can be exactly matched with the Turkish coast. This radar screen matches perfectly with the location and heading of the Berlin at this time, as we can see by overlaying a plot of the Berlin’s course with the radar screen.

      As well as matching the movement of vessels to AIS data, we can further verify that these videos are from the same incident by examining the passengers in the dinghy. We can see that in the earliest videos, showing the MAI1103 with the dinghy, there is clearly a person wearing a white hood, alongside someone who appears to be wearing a reddish top. The presence of these passengers helps to verify that all these videos are indeed from the same incident on June 8.

      In the final stage of the pushback at 10:30 AM it is possible to see the Portuguese Frontex vessel Nortada within 5 km with both AIS data and on the TCG radar screen. The Nortada had been in that vicinity since at least 09:11 AM that morning. Although it may not have been able to pick up this dinghy on its radar, it would have certainly been within visual range of the larger ships surrounding it. After the pushback, the Nortada continued its patrol off North Lesbos.

      Conclusion

      Over the course of this investigation we collected a huge amount of information on Frontex activities in the Aegean Sea. Most of Frontex’s assets were impossible to track because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Despite this limited view, we still managed to identify multiple instances in which Frontex was either present at pushbacks, or close enough to be able to understand what was taking place. In at least one incident it appears that a Frontex vessel actively participated in a pushback. It is possible that there are other incidents we have not been able to capture.

      In a statement provided in response to this investigation, Frontex stated that it applies “the highest standards of border control to its operations” and that its officers are bound by a code of conduct that looks to prevent refoulement and to uphold human rights.

      The statement continued that Frontex’s executive director had notified the HGC regarding all reported incidents and that Greek authorities confirmed that an internal inquiry had been launched.

      A spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry said the actions of HCG officers were “carried out in full compliance with the country’s international obligations, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.”

      The spokesperson added that thousands of migrants had been rescued throughout the refugee crisis of recent years by the HCG, that allegations of illegality were “tendentious” and that the “operation practices of the Greek authorities have never included such [illegal] actions.”

      https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2020/10/23/frontex-at-fault-european-border-force-complicit-in-illegal-pushbacks

      #forensic_architecture #architecture_forensique

    • EU Border Agency Frontex Complicit in Greek Refugee Pushback Campaign

      Greek border guards have been forcing large numbers of refugees back to sea in pushback operations that violate international law. #DER_SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have learned that the European Union is also complicit in the highly controversial practice.

      Jouma al-Badi thought he was safe when he first set foot on European soil on April 28. Together with 21 other refugees, he had been taken in a rubber dinghy from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. The young Syrian planned to apply for political asylum. He documented his arrival in videos. Local residents also remember the refugees.

      Greek security forces captured the migrants. Under international law, it is their duty to give the new arrivals a hearing and field their applications for asylum. Instead, according to al-Badi, the officers dragged them back out to sea and released them on an inflatable rubber raft. Videos obtained by DER SPIEGEL also show him on the raft.

      For an entire night and a morning, Greek border guards kept pushing the men and women away as their raft floated around in circles. The Turkish coast guard filmed the maneuver.

      An aircraft used by the European border protection agency Frontex also passed over the refugees. The crew of the surveillance plane, with the registration identifier "G-WKTH,” were part of a European Union operation in Greece. The plane twice flew over the Strait of Mykali, where al-Badi and the other migrants were located. According to flight data that has been viewed by DER SPIEGEL, the first flight happened at 2:41 a.m. and the second at 3:18 a.m.

      The plane’s crew has a standard MX-15 camera on board with an infrared sensor and a sensor for poor lighting conditions. Even at night, the sensors are capable of detecting small objects on the water. According to a Frontex promotional video, the camera images are streamed live to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. But Frontex didn’t send any help.

      The waves struck the Syrian in the face. He eventually ran out of strength and thought he was going to die.

      The Greek government denies it conducted pushbacks of refugees to Turkey, even though DER SPIEGEL and other media have fully documented several of these operations, known as pushbacks. Greek border guards are growing increasingly ruthless. As in the case of al-Badi, they are now pushing even refugees who have reached the Greek isles back to sea in operations that are illegal under international law.

      Frontex officials have publicly claimed that they know nothing about pushbacks by Greek border guards. The agency has 600 employees deployed in Greece as well as ships, drones and aircraft.

      Together with Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, "Report Mainz” — a program on ARD, the German public broadcaster — and Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi, DER SPIEGEL spent several months reporting in the Aegean Sea region. The reporters tracked the positions of Frontex units and compared them with position data from pushbacks recorded by NGOs and migrants. They interviewed witnesses, refugees and Frontex staff. They viewed internal documents and dozens of videos and satellite photos.

      Their research proves for the first time that Frontex officials know about the Greek border guards’ illegal practices – and that the agency itself is at times involved in the pushbacks. Breaking the law has become an everyday occurrence at Europe’s borders, and the EU is allowing it to happen.

      Samira Mohammad could already see Lesbos when the men with the masks arrived. The Syrian woman, who does not want to provide her real name, is 45 years old. That morning of August 15, she was sitting in a rubber dinghy with dozens of other people. She recalls how Greek border guards tried in vain to stop the arrivals and how they steered toward the boat repeatedly and pushed it back toward Turkey multiple times. She says the Turkish coast guard held them off. Locals even have a name for the cynical game: "Greek water polo.”

      Mohammad claims the Greek officials took their gasoline and destroyed the engine. And that masked Greek border guards then boarded the dinghy. Several refugees claim that they forced the migrants to tie the shaky rubber dinghy to a speedboat at gunpoint. The border guards then towed the boat toward Turkey. Videos corroborate the statements made by the refugees, and the destroyed engine is clearly visible.

      Mohammad said she was scared to death during those moments. Her entire family had been onboard, including her pregnant daughter-in-law, who was later hospitalized with severe bleeding.

      The maneuver off the coast of Lesbos lasted hours, and the Turkish Navy didn’t rescue the refugees until noon.

      A Romanian Frontex boat was also on site that morning. The MAI 1102 was located only a few hundred meters away from the refugee boat. The boat can be clearly identified in a photo. A German navy ship on a NATO mission that observed the incident reported it to the German government. It also stated that Frontex people had been present. This is documented in an internal paper that has been obtained by DER SPIEGEL. Nevertheless, this pushback has never been revealed publicly before now.

      On June 8, Frontex officials went one step further, with the MAI 1103, a ship also flying the Romanian flag. It directly blocked a refugee boat. The incident can be seen in several videos recorded by the Turkish coast guard and verified by DER SPIEGEL. It shows officials standing on the deck, where they are obviously communicating with the refugees floating in the water in front of them.

      Later, the MAI 1103 passes the refugees traveling at high speed, with waves beating against the boat. The Romanian officials then withdrew and the Greek coast guard took over the operation.

      "These pushbacks violate the ban on collective expulsions and international maritime law,” says Dana Schmalz, an expert on international law at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. She notes that if Frontex officials stopped a completely overcrowded inflatable boat, they would be required to rescue the people immediately. "If they don’t do that and even make waves instead, only to drive away and let the Greeks do the dirty work, then they are still involved in the illegal pushback,” she says.

      Reporting by DER SPIEGEL and its partners found that a Frontex surveillance plane or Portuguese or Romanian Frontex ships were near at least six pushbacks in the area since April. The number of undetected cases could actually be much higher.

      The vast majority of Frontex vessels patrol the Aegean Sea with their AIS transponders switched off or untraceable in order to prevent giving away their positions. Their presence can only be verified with difficulty through videos and photos.

      When contacted for comment by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex did not deny the individual incidents, instead stating that the officials protected the fundamental rights of migrants and respected their right to non-refoulement. It further stated that the incidents that had been reported were forwarded to the Greek coast guard, which opened an investigation into the matter. The Greek government gave a blanket denial to the allegations, saying that it complies with the law and does not carry out illegal deportations.

      Under Frontex’s statutes, police officers are required to file so-called Serious Incident Reports to document violations of the law. But people familiar with the situation say that fewer and fewer of these reports are getting filed. The sources said the Frontex border guards, who are sent to Greece from all over Europe, frown upon such reports because they cause trouble for the host country.

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-border-agency-frontex-complicit-in-greek-refugee-pushback-campaign-a-4b6c

      –---

      en allemand :
      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/fluechtlinge-frontex-in-griechenland-in-illegale-pushbacks-verwickelt-a-0000

    • Bruxelles veut des explications de Frontex, accusée de procéder à des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      La #Commission_européenne a sollicité une réunion extraordinaire urgente du conseil d’administration de Frontex, l’agence européenne pour la protection des frontières, mise en cause pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée. Un article d’Euroefe.

      « Après s’être coordonnés avec la présidente de la Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, mes services ont demandé, au nom de la Commission, la convocation d’une réunion extraordinaire du conseil d’administration de Frontex le 10 novembre pour discuter des incidents présumés de refoulement en Grèce et de la protection des droits fondamentaux », a écrit Ylva Johansson, la commissaire chargée des migrations, dans un tweet.

      D’après des enquêtes menées par différents médias, Frontex aurait procédé à des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée, à la frontière entre la Turquie et la Grèce. Et ce à au moins six reprises.

      L’hebdomadaire allemand Der Spiegel a révélé le 23 octobre qu’il avait enquêté sur ces incidents en collaboration avec les médias numériques néerlandais Lighthouse Reports et britannique Bellingcat, ainsi qu’avec deux chaînes de télévision, l’Allemande ARD et la Japonaise Asahi.

      Ces médias disposent de films montrant comment, depuis le mois d’avril, des agents de Frontex ont procédé à ce que l’on appelle des « pushbacks » (refoulements) de migrants pour les empêcher d’atteindre le sol européen, une pratique illégale.

      Une vidéo montre comment un bateau de l’agence européenne bloque le passage d’une embarcation occupée par des migrants, avant de les dépasser à grande vitesse, provoquant ainsi de grosses vagues. Par la suite, les garde-côtes grecs obligent la barque à faire demi-tour vers la Turquie.

      De son côté, Frontex a nié les accusations et assuré au Spiegel que ses agents protégeaient les droits fondamentaux des migrants et respectaient le droit au non-refoulement.

      Le gouvernement grec a également nié catégoriquement ces accusations.

      https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/bruxelles-veut-des-explications-de-frontex-accusee-de-proceder-a-des-refoulements-illegaux-de-migrants/?_ga=2.223583131.1633915392.1603989521-379746837.1590938192

    • Greek coast guard performed huge pushback involving 197 people and 7 life rafts!

      A boat carrying 197 people tried to cross from Turkey to Italy on Tuesday, but got in to bad weather and sat course towards Crete. Close to the south shore of Crete they had engine problems and the Greek Coast Guard was alerted 09.00.
      The coast guard divided the people on two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel and 76 people, families on the other. Reports from the refugees clearly states that some of them where abuse while onboard the HCG vessel, footage and video testimony has been provided. Most of their phones was confiscated by the Greek coast guard, but a few managed to hide their phones, and was able to send out distress messages.
      The first group containing the 121 males was forced in to 3 life rafts before first light on Wednesday the 21th just north of Rhodes, and found and picked up by Turkish coast guard 08.50 south of Marmaris.
      The second group with the families, 76 people, was put in 4 life rafts around noon north west of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guard before 17.30 south west of Datça.
      This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone to reach Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution.
      This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even do they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/951612422028529

    • Έστειλαν πίσω 200 πρόσφυγες γιατί ήταν… τζιχαντιστές

      Τεκμηριωμένη καταγγελία για τη μεγαλύτερη ώς τώρα καταγεγραμμένη επαναπροώθηση προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό προς την Τουρκία με μεγάλη και κρυφή επιχείρηση του Λιμενικού εν μέσω σφοδρής κακοκαιρίας νότια της Κρήτης ● Έντεχνη προσπάθεια οι 200 άνθρωποι, μεταξύ αυτών και γυναικόπαιδα, να εμφανιστούν ως… ισλαμιστές τρομοκράτες.

      Ακόμα μια καταγγελία για βίαιες επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό έρχεται στο φως τις τελευταίες ημέρες, την ίδια στιγμή που η κυβέρνηση πανηγυρίζει για τη μείωση των προσφυγικών ροών προς τα νησιά, χωρίς όμως να εξηγεί πώς έχει επιτευχθεί η μείωση αυτή.

      Η υπόθεση αφορά πλοιάριο με περίπου 200 ανθρώπους που έφτασαν στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης, προερχόμενοι από Τουρκία και με τελικό προορισμό την Ιταλία. Στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση υπάρχει μια περίεργη αλληλουχία γεγονότων και « ειδήσεων » τόσο στα κρητικά όσο και τα κεντρικά ΜΜΕ. Το πρωί της Τρίτης 20 Οκτωβρίου σε όλα τα ηλεκτρονικά ΜΜΕ της Κρήτης μεταδίδεται η είδηση για « κινητοποίηση του Λιμενικού » για σκάφος με 200 μετανάστες στη θαλάσσια περιοχή νότια της νήσου Χρυσής (Γαϊδουρονήσι), στην Ιεράπετρα. Το προηγούμενο βράδυ η Κρήτη είχε χτυπηθεί σφοδρά από την κακοκαιρία και το πρωί τα βλέμματα όλων ήταν στις εκτεταμένες καταστροφές που προκάλεσε το χαλάζι σε καλλιέργειες και υποδομές, κυρίως στην ανατολική πλευρά του νησιού. Την ίδια κακοκαιρία προφανώς αντιμετώπισαν και οι 200 επιβαίνοντες στο σκάφος, μεταξύ των οποίων υπήρχαν γυναίκες και παιδιά.

      Στις πρώτες αναφορές και σε ερωτήσεις δημοσιογράφων προς το Λιμεναρχείο Ιεράπετρας γινόταν λόγος για « αδυναμία του Λιμενικού να εντοπίσει το πλοιάριο », ωστόσο δινόταν η πληροφορία πως τα σκάφη θα έμεναν στα ανοιχτά λόγω της κακοκαιρίας και για την περίπτωση που χρειαστεί, να παράσχουν βοήθεια αν εντοπίσουν τους πρόσφυγες. Λίγες ώρες αργότερα η είδηση εξαφανίστηκε από τα ΜΜΕ και δημιουργήθηκε η εντύπωση πως τα σκάφη του Λιμενικού δεν βρήκαν ποτέ το πλοιάριο με τους πρόσφυγες.
      Τους βρήκαν ;

      Ωστόσο τα πράγματα φαίνεται πως έγιναν διαφορετικά. Τέσσερις μέρες μετά, η οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report, η οποία και στο παρελθόν έχει αποκαλύψει παράνομες επιχειρήσεις επαναπροώθησης λέμβων με μετανάστες προς την Τουρκία από τις ελληνικές αρχές και τη Frontex, καταγγέλλει πως το Λιμενικό όχι μόνο βρήκε τους πρόσφυγες στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης αλλά προχώρησε και με συνοπτικές διαδικασίες στην επαναπροώθησή τους στην Τουρκία. Η οργάνωση καταγγέλλει πως η ελληνική Ακτοφυλακή εντόπισε τους πρόσφυγες στις 9 το πρωί της Τρίτης (όπως δηλαδή μετέδιδαν αρχικά και τα κρητικά ΜΜΕ). Στη συνέχεια, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, οι άνδρες του Λιμενικού επιβίβασαν τους 197 πρόσφυγες σε δύο επιχειρησιακά σκάφη χωρίζοντάς τους σε δύο ομάδες. Στην πρώτη ομάδα μπήκαν 121 άνδρες και αγόρια, ενώ στη δεύτερη μπήκαν οικογένειες με γυναίκες και παιδιά, συνολικά 76 άτομα. Και οι δύο ομάδες, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, μεταφέρθηκαν στη θαλάσσια περιοχή βόρεια της Ρόδου, όπου και εξαναγκάστηκαν με τη βία να επιβιβαστούν σε συνολικά επτά θαλάσσιες σωστικές σχεδίες αφού προηγουμένως τους είχαν αφαιρεθεί όλα τα κινητά τηλέφωνα. Και οι επτά σχεδίες « σπρώχτηκαν » προς τις ακτές της Τουρκίας, εν μέσω κακοκαιρίας και κατά παράβαση των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και του δίκαιου της θάλασσας.

      Στιγμιότυπα από την επαναπροώθηση των προσφύγων (Φωτογραφίες από την οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report).


      Οι τρεις πρώτες σχεδίες, με 121 άτομα, εξωθήθηκαν τα ξημερώματα της Τετάρτης 21/10 προς την περιοχή της Μαρμαρίδας, όπου και εντοπίστηκαν από το τουρκικό Λιμενικό που τους περισυνέλεξε. Το δεύτερο γκρουπ, όπου βρίσκονταν οι γυναίκες και τα παιδιά, εξαναγκάστηκε να επιβιβαστεί σε τέσσερις σωστικές σχεδίες και επαναπροωθήθηκε προς την Τουρκία από τη θαλάσσια περιοχή δυτικά της Σύμης, το μεσημέρι της Τετάρτης. Τους περισυνέλεξε το τουρκικό Λιμενικό το απόγευμα της ίδιας μέρας στην περιοχή νοτιοδυτικά της πόλης Ντάκτα. Οπως αναφέρουν μάλιστα κάποιοι από τους επιβαίνοντες, χτυπήθηκαν από τους Ελληνες λιμενικούς, ενώ υπάρχει και σχετικό φωτογραφικό υλικό που τραβήχτηκε μετά την περισυλλογή τους από τις τουρκικές αρχές. Σε μία από τις φωτογραφίες φαίνεται ένας άνθρωπος με μώλωπες στην κοιλιά και με γύψο σε σημεία και των δύο χεριών του.


      Πρωτοσέλιδο

      Την ίδια μέρα, πάντως, που έγινε η καταγγελία από την Aegean Boat Report (το Σάββατο) η εφημερίδα « ΤΑ ΝΕΑ » κυκλοφορούσε με τίτλο « Προετοιμαστείτε για Τζιχαντιστές », αναφερόμενη στο μήνυμα που, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες της εφημερίδας, έστειλε σε Ελλάδα και Κύπρο ο Αιγύπτιος πρόεδρος Αλ Σίσι κατά την τριμερή συνάντηση που πραγματοποιήθηκε στη Λευκωσία. Το μήνυμα υποτίθεται πως αφορούσε τις πληροφορίες που έχει η Αίγυπτος για τις κινήσεις του Ερντογάν και το πώς χρησιμοποιεί τον ισλαμιστικό παράγοντα. Σε κάποια κρητικά ΜΜΕ οι δύο υποθέσεις δεν άργησαν να συνδεθούν με αναφορές για το… περίεργο σκάφος στο οποίο, σύμφωνα με τα δημοσιεύματα, επέβαιναν « άτομα εμφανιζόμενα ως μετανάστες » και το οποίο, σύμφωνα με τις διοχετευμένες πληροφορίες, έχει κινητοποιήσει όχι μόνο το Λιμενικό αλλά και τον Στρατό, την ΕΥΠ ακόμα και ξένες μυστικές υπηρεσίες !

      Όπως αποκαλύπτεται, πάντως, οι επικίνδυνοι « τζιχαντιστές », τόσο οι άνδρες όσο και τα γυναικόπαιδα, είχαν ήδη από την Τετάρτη επαναπροωθηθεί παράνομα στην Τουρκία. Η Οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report αναφέρει πως αυτή είναι η μεγαλύτερη περίπτωση « pushback » που καταφέρνει να καταγράψει και τονίζει πως η Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση δεν έχει επιβάλει ακόμα καμία κύρωση στην Ελλάδα για τις παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις, παρά τα ακλόνητα στοιχεία που έχουν τεθεί στη διάθεση των ευρωπαϊκών αρχών.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/efkriti/koinonia/265835_esteilan-piso-200-prosfyges-giati-itan-tzihantistes

    • Greece’s coast guard accused of mass migrant pushbacks

      An NGO, the #Aegean_Boat_Report (ABR), has accused the Greek coast guard of pushing back 197 migrants at sea last week.

      Greek coast guards have been accused by the NGO Aegean Boat Report (ABR) of performing illegal pushbacks involving 197 people and seven life rafts off the coast of the island of Crete in the Southern Aegean.

      A boat carrying 197 people was on its way trying to cross from Turkey to Italy on October 20 but ran into bad weather and changed course towards Crete, the NGO said.

      Close to the south shore of Crete, the vessel reported engine problems and, according to the Norwegian organization, the Greek coast guard was alerted at 9 am.

      ’’The Greek coast guard divided the people into two groups onto two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel, and 76 people, mostly families, on the other.

      Abuse on board

      Reports from the refugees clearly state that some of them were abused while onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel, with footage and video testimony being provided,’’ said ABR via a media statement.

      According to ABR, the first group with the 121 men and boys were forced into three life rafts in the early hours of Wednesday, October 21 just north of Rhodes, before being found and picked up by the Turkish coast guard at 8:50 am south of Marmaris.

      The second group of 76 people, made up of families, were put into four life rafts at around noon north-west of the islands of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guards before 5:30 pm south-west of Data.

      ’Largest pushback’ ABR has documented

      ’’This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone from reaching Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution’’, added ABR.

      ’’This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even if they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.’’

      29 NGOs and humanitarian groups sent an open letter to Parliament Last week’s incidents were reported after an appeal was launched by several prominent NGOs and humanitarian groups earlier this month on the topic of illegal pushbacks.

      A total of 29 organizations sent an open letter to Parliament urging it to investigate reports of illegal pushbacks at the country’s land and sea borders with neighboring Turkey.

      The letter called on the Greek Parliament to ’’immediately conduct an effective, transparent and impartial investigation into allegations that personnel from the Coast Guard, the Greek Police and the Greek Army, sometimes in close cooperation with masked men in uniform, have engaged in such actions, which are not only illegal but also endanger the lives and safety of displaced people."

      Tensions on migration in Greece

      Tensions on the migrant issue in Greece continue to run high following September’s fires which destroyed the controversial Moria open camp on Lesbos, and widespread lockdowns at refugee camps across the country following outbreaks of coronavirus cases.

      The reports of pushbacks taking place have prompted action from humanitarian rights groups, with the joint-appeal calling for disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as deemed appropriate, “on anyone in uniform who are found to have participated in such illegal activities, but also for their superiors who are responsible for the administration of these bodies.”

      “The investigation should establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement, and take steps to hold them to account.”

      State pushes ahead with migrant camps

      Meanwhile, in related developments, the government is pressing ahead with plans to create more secure and strictly controlled ’’closed’’ migrant reception centers on the Aegean islands.

      With the COVID-19 pandemic creating further challenges and complications for the operation of existing camps, most of which are under lockdown due to positive cases of the virus, the state is aiming to build new ’’permanent’’ structures, starting with one on Lesbos.

      The situation on Lesbos is the primary concern right now, as the current temporary facility which was hastily set up in the Kara Tepe area on the coast after Moria was burned down, has already flooded twice with the first rainfalls of the season.

      Lesbos Mayor Stratis Kytelis met with government officials in Athens last week to discuss the location of a new permanent facility on the island, although the plans are being met with resistance from local community groups.Greece’s health authorities, meanwhile, are also conducting regular COVID-19 tests at migrant camps on the Aegean islands to ensure that any outbreak is quickly contained.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/28139/greece-s-coast-guard-accused-of-mass-migrant-pushbacks

    • Frontex sous pression après des accusations de refoulement de migrants aux portes de la Grèce

      C’est une première : mardi 10 novembre, le conseil d’administration de l’Agence européenne des garde-frontières et de garde-côtes Frontex devra examiner des accusations de refoulements illégaux (ou « pushbacks ») de migrants en mer Egée. Elles ont été portées contre Frontex par un groupe de médias. En octobre, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine Der Spiegel notamment, avaient rapporté, images et témoignages à l’appui, six épisodes au cours desquels des embarcations avaient été bloquées, contrairement aux règles internationales sur le non-refoulement.

      Celles-ci stipulent que des personnes ne peuvent être renvoyées vers un pays, avant un examen de leur situation, si leur existence est en danger en raison de leur race, leur religion, leur nationalité ou leur appartenance à un groupe social ou politique.

      Il aura apparemment fallu une intervention ferme de la Commission européenne pour que la direction de Frontex, devenue le premier corps en uniforme et la plus importante agence de l’Union avec un budget de quelque 500 millions d’euros, accepte de convoquer un conseil extraordinaire. Dans un premier temps, elle s’était contentée d’affirmer, le 24 octobre, qu’elle respectait la loi internationale et était en contact avec la Grèce, qui devait ouvrir « une enquête interne ».
      Enquête interne

      « Si l’agence est impliquée dans de telles actions, c’est totalement inacceptable », déclarait pour sa part la commissaire à la migration, Ylva Johansson, le 26 octobre. Le lendemain, Frontex promettait une enquête interne et, même si elle n’exerce pas une tutelle directe sur l’agence, la Commission obtenait la convocation d’une réunion. A charge pour Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur français, de fournir des explications détaillées.

      « La Grèce ne participe pas à des refoulements, a affirmé de son côté le ministre grec des migrations, Notis Mitarachi. Nous gardons nos frontières en respectant le droit international et nous continuons à sauver des centaines de migrants tous les jours en Méditerranée », a-t-il précisé.

      Athènes fait face depuis des mois à de nombreuses accusations de refoulement en mer Egée et à la frontière terrestre avec la Turquie, dans l’Evros. Le 14 août déjà, le New York Times avait affirmé que les gardes-côtes grecs avaient abandonné en « pleine mer » des canots remplis de migrants. Interviewé par CNN, le premier ministre conservateur Kyriakos Mitsotakis avait démenti : « Cela n’est jamais arrivé. Nous sommes les victimes d’une vaste campagne de désinformation », suggérant que les journalistes avaient interrogé principalement des sources turques voulant décrédibiliser les autorités grecques.

      Depuis l’envoi par la Turquie de milliers de réfugiés à la frontière terrestre de l’Evros, en mars, Athènes a toujours assuré vouloir « protéger ses frontières » qui sont aussi celles de l’Europe et faire face à « une menace ». Le gouvernement a renforcé le contrôle des frontières en embauchant notamment du personnel supplémentaire. Entre avril et juillet, les arrivées à Lesbos ont diminué de 85 % par rapport à l’année dernière, selon le ministère des migrations.
      Des « abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés »

      Pour de nombreuses ONG présentes sur le terrain, cette diminution spectaculaire est le résultat de « pushbacks ». Selon Human Rights Watch, « les preuves et les rapports décrivant les abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés ». L’organisation dit avoir interrogé des victimes et des témoins qui décrivent comment les garde-côtes grecs, la police, et des hommes masqués et vêtus d’habits sombres ont effectué depuis les îles de Rhodes, de Samos et Simi, des refoulements illégaux de personnes sur de petits canots gonflables.

      A la fin août, le Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) de l’ONU se disait « inquiet de l’augmentation des publications depuis mars 2020 attestant de refoulements illégaux ». « Le HCR a reçu des rapports et des témoignages de personnes abandonnées en pleine mer pendant un long moment, souvent sur des rafiots surpeuplés », précisait le communiqué.

      L’Observatoire grec des accords d’Helsinki a déjà déposé une plainte auprès de la Cour suprême grecque pour le refoulement de plus de 1 300 personnes en s’appuyant sur les témoignages recueillis par plusieurs ONG. En septembre, 29 organisations de défense des droits de l’homme ont par ailleurs adressé une lettre au premier ministre et au parlement grecs pour réclamer une enquête. Leur courrier est encore sans réponse alors que 35 membres d’ONG font, eux, l’objet d’une investigation : ils sont suspectés d’avoir renseigné des migrants sur les positions des gardes-côtes ainsi que des passeurs sur des lieux d’accostage. Ces humanitaires travaillent pour des organisations qui ont dénoncé avec le plus de véhémence les refoulements vers la Turquie par les gardes-côtes grecs.

      Frontex, qui a engagé en Grèce quelque six cents agents dotés de divers moyens de surveillance, a déjà fait l’objet d’autres accusations mais affirme à chaque fois respecter un code de conduite qui prohibe strictement les refoulements. La communication très cadenassée de l’agence ne détaille toutefois pas comment les contrôles sont vraiment exercés. L’action du service interne chargé de contrôler le respect des droits fondamentaux reste également nébuleuse. Une situation déplorée par le HCR, membre du forum consultatif chargé de conseiller l’agence européenne dans son action.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/11/05/frontex-sous-pression-apres-des-accusations-de-refoulement-de-migrants-aux-p

    • EU: Probe Frontex Complicity in Border Abuses. Ensure Independent and Effective Investigation

      The top governing body of the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) should urgently establish an independent inquiry into allegations of its involvement in unlawful operations to stop migrants from reaching the European Union (EU), Human Rights Watch said today.

      The agency’s board will hold an extraordinary meeting on November 10, 2020. Frontex should also address serious and persistent violations by border and law enforcement officers of the countries where it operates.

      “The fact that Frontex may have become complicit in abuses at Greece’s borders is extremely serious,” said Eva Cossé, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Management Board of Frontex should quickly open an inquiry into Frontex involvement in – or actions to disregard or cover up – abuses against people seeking protection from conflicts and persecution.”

      On October 23, a group of media outlets published a detailed investigative report alleging Frontex involvement in pushback operations at the Greek-Turkish maritime border, in the Aegean Sea. The reports said that asylum seekers and migrants were prevented from reaching EU soil or were forced out of EU waters. Such pushbacks violate international law, Human Rights Watch said.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on October 28 that she had asked, in coordination with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “to convene an urgent extraordinary Frontex Management Board meeting on 10 November, to discuss alleged push-back incidents in Greece and fundamental rights protection.”

      Frontex’s mandate obliges officers and the officers of member states deployed to respect fundamental rights, but the agency has been under heavy criticism for the shortcomings of its internal monitoring and accountability mechanisms. On October 27, Frontex announced an internal inquiry into the incidents reported by the media.

      In recent years, nongovernmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey, by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials.

      Since Frontex deployed officers along the full length of the Turkey-Greece land border in March, Human Rights Watch has documented that Greek law enforcement officers routinely summarily returned asylum seekers and migrants through the land border with Turkey. Human Rights Watch found that officers in some cases used violence and often confiscated and destroyed migrants’ belongings.

      Greek authorities have said that police officers wearing dark blue uniforms work at police stations. Border patrol police officers wear military camouflage uniforms. Frontex guards wear their national uniforms, with a blue armband with the EU flag.

      In July, Human Rights Watch documented collective expulsions, through the Evros river land border, of asylum seekers rounded up from deep inside Greece.

      In a June 19 response to questions posed by Human Rights Watch, Frontex wrote that no abuses against migrants by Greek border guards or by police or border guards of other EU member states deployed under Frontex had been reported to Frontex. It said that Frontex does not have the authority to investigate allegations of abuse by EU member states’ police or border guards deployed in Greece. It said that such investigations are conducted by the competent national authorities.

      In June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was deeply concerned about persistent reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, in some cases violent, at Greece’s border with Turkey. In August, the UN Refugee Agency flagged concerns over the increasing number of credible reports of pushbacks at Greece’s land and sea borders.

      In May 2019, Frontex told Human Rights Watch that it had not detected any human rights violations or pushbacks during its operational presence at Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite consistent evidence of brutal pushbacks, reports from international and regional organizations, and the confirmation by Croatian officials that such abuses were taking place.

      Under the Frontex mandate, its executive director has the authority to, and should, withdraw financing, and suspend or terminate its activities if there are serious violations of fundamental rights related to its activities. The executive director is also expected to take into account information provided by relevant international organizations.

      On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, Johansson said that pushbacks by Greek border guards should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the European Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders.

      Members of the Frontex Management Board should set up an independent, prompt, effective, transparent, and impartial investigation into allegations that officers deployed by Frontex were involved in unlawful operations of pushbacks of asylum seekers. Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers and officials who have command responsibility over such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable.

      The investigation should also identify whether Frontex failed to report or otherwise address allegations of serious fundamental rights violations committed by law enforcement or border officers of the member state hosting operations.

      “An EU agency with a clear mandate to act in compliance with fundamental rights has the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent such severe violations,” Cossé said. “If Frontex not only turned a blind eye to abuses committed under its sight, or worse, directly took part in them, it becomes every EU member state’s responsibility.”

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/09/eu-probe-frontex-complicity-border-abuses

    • Frontex calls for committee to consider questions related to sea surveillance

      Today, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has called for the creation of an evaluation committee to consider legal questions related to the Agency’s surveillance of external sea borders and accommodating the concerns raised by Member States about “hybrid threats” affecting their national security at external borders where the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will deploy its standing corps.

      Under the Frontex proposal, the committee would be coordinated by the European Commission with the participation of Member States on a volunteer basis. It would address various questions, in particular those related to Regulation 2014/656 in the light of the current operational situation.

      Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri also expressed the Agency’s continued commitment to highest standards of protection of fundamental rights.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or infringement of international treaties or fundamental rights in the framework of joint operations coordinated by Frontex is treated with grave concern and carefully investigated,” said Fabrice Leggeri.

      “I am committed to reinforce the office of the Fundamental Rights Officer and to gradually increase its budget,” he added.

      Leggeri also proposed that the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer to play a bigger role in raising awareness of the operational officers on the legal requirements that they need to apply on everyday basis in the field.

      “This could apply not only to the Frontex-deployed staff, but also to the staff of the International Coordination Centres, who often play an essential part in deciding to react to complicated events,” Leggeri said.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-calls-for-committee-to-consider-questions-related-to-sea-surv

    • #Ombudsman opens inquiry to assess European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) ‘#Complaints_Mechanism’

      European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has opened an inquiry to look into how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) deals with alleged breaches of fundamental rights. In particular, the investigation will assess the effectiveness and transparency of Frontex’s Complaints Mechanism for those who believe their rights have been violated in the context of Frontex border operations, as well as the role and independence of Frontex’s ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’.

      In 2013, as part of a previous inquiry, the Ombudsman recommended that Frontex set up an individual complaints mechanism, and that its Fundamental Rights Officer be in charge of the mechanism. Since then, such a mechanism was put in place and further developed, with a view to providing safeguards for fundamental rights in the context of Frontex’s expanding mandate, as well as ensuring increased accountability and redress for those impacted by its actions.

      This inquiry focuses on whether the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer are truly empowered to deal with the issues faced by migrants and asylum seekers who feel their rights have been violated under Frontex operations.

      In opening the inquiry, the Ombudsman has sent a set of detailed questions to Frontex on the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer. She has also informed members of the European Network of Ombudsmen (ENO), with a view to their possible participation in the inquiry, as part of the ENO’s parallel work. This is important, given the role of national authorities in Frontex operations, and the fact that some national ombudsmen are responsible for following up on complaints related to this.

      Among other things, the questions set out by the Ombudsman look at: how and when Frontex will be updating the mechanism to reflect its expanded mandate; what happens to complainants who are faced with forced return while their complaint is still being processed; what appeal possibilities are open to complainants; how Frontex monitors complaints against national authorities; how those who have been affected by Frontex operations but are in non-EU countries can complain about alleged breaches of fundamental rights, including the issue of language; and the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer in this process.

      https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/news-document/en/134739

    • Frontex: Cover-Up and Diversion. Outcomes of and Responses to the Frontex Management Board meeting on 10th November

      An extraordinary meeting took place on Tuesday 10th November, between the EU Commission and Frontex, regarding alleged Frontex involvement in illegal pushbacks in Greece.

      Why did the meeting take place?

      This meeting was called due to an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting the involvement or complicity of Frontex in pushbacks. Reports by Spiegel, Report Mainz, Bellingcat and other international media, including Josoor and other members of the BVMN, had led to this meeting taking place. These investigations show Frontex involvement in at least six pushbacks through, for example, blocking boats and making waves to deter boats from getting any closer to the shore. According to Frontex insiders, mission reports were routinely altered into something more positive, excluding explicit mentions of pushbacks, before being sent to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.

      We, at the Border Violence Monitoring Network, took advantage of the opportunity presented by the meeting on 10th November by sending a letter of concern to the Executive Director of Frontex and the FRO. This letter included evidence from testimonies, collected by BVMN partners, including Josoor, from people-on-the-move who claim that Frontex personnel were involved or complicit in pushbacks operations at the borders between Greek and Turkey, and Albania and Greece. The letter questioned Frontex’s knowledge and understanding of these allegations, and demanded an investigation into these claims. The letter was also addressed to the EU commissioner of Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and her officer and we hoped this was presented as evidence at the management board meeting on 10th November

      What were the outcomes?

      Johansson remarked on twitter after the meeting:

      “Today’s @Frontex extraordinary management board was a good start to what I want to be a transparent process. The @EU_Commission has asked the Frontex Executive Director to reply to Qs ahead of the next scheduled board meeting (end November).”

      Leggeri, the Executive Director of Frontex, has been ordered by the EU Commission to answer questions concerning these accusations by the end of November. Frontex is yet to comment in detail on the allegations and reported incidents have been forwarded to the Greek coastguard, where also the Greek authorities have refused to comment and denied involvement. Both Frontex and the Greek authorities have launched internal investigations in response to these allegations. Unsurprisingly, after just 48 hours of their investigations, Frontex announced that they were innocent.

      The meeting also included a discussion on whether Frontex should withdraw from missions, such as the one in the Aegean Sea in the event of serious and persistent human rights violations. Such a directive can be found already in Frontex’s regulations. Officials of a few member states vetoed the application of this rule, and Greek representatives in particular were concerned that this could expose the Greek government.

      In the end, a compromise was met. A Frontex statement outlined that a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ will now be made to deal with legal questions concerning operations at sea borders. This will be coordinated by the EU Commission.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or violation of international agreements or fundamental rights within joint operations coordinated by Frontex will be treated with grave concern and investigated closely,” Leggeri said.

      Also, Frontex seeks to strengthen the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer, but experts agree that the internal mechanisms at Frontex are insufficient and therefore see this move as insufficient. As of yesterday, Frontex is advertising for the vacancy of the FRO.

      Members of EU Parliament reactions:

      Tineke Strik (from Netherlands, Green) commented, according to Spiegel, “The announcement did not mention the human rights violations at the border. A committee does not replace a truly independent and transparent investigation. Strik stated “Citizens need to know what has happened and how human rights violations are to be prevented in the future”

      Dietmar Köster (from Germany, SPD) stated, quoted from Tagesschau, "It is a unique cover-up attempt to divert attention from one’s own responsibility and failure to observe human rights”. Köster further stated that Leggeri’s statements showed the arrogance and ignorance of Frontex. “Basic and human rights apply to all. The European Border Management Agency is not exempt from their observance, it is not above the law.”

      An successful outcome: an independent inquiry:

      On the morning of Thursday 12th November, the European Ombudsman tweeted that they would open an inquiry into Frontex, assessing the effectiveness and transparency of their ‘Complaints Mechanism’ and the role and independence of the ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’ (FRO). The latter is especially important as the current ad interim FRO, Annegret Kohler, appointed in 2018, and re-appointed in September 2020, was selected from the Executive Director’s former cabinet, where she was an advisor to the Executive Director. This raises questions about independence and objectivity of the FRO and the FRO’s team to carry out their duties and avoid potential conflicts of interest. Josoor welcomes this investigation.

      https://www.josoor.net/post/frontex-cover-up-and-diversion

    • EU erhöht Druck auf Frontex-Chef

      Die EU-Grenzschutzagentur gerät durch Recherchen des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz und weiterer Medien in Bedrängnis. Heute musste die Frontex-Führung der EU-Kommission zum Thema illegale Pushbacks Rede und Antwort stehen.

      Die Europäische Kommission erwartet Antworten vom Frontex-Chef. Bis Ende November muss sich Fabrice Leggeri zur Verwicklung seiner Grenzschutzagentur in illegale Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen äußern. Das ist das Ergebnis einer Dringlichkeitssitzung des Frontex Management Boards. Das Treffen sei ein guter Anfang gewesen, sie wolle den Prozess transparent gestalten, twitterte die zuständige EU-Kommissarin Ylva Johansson. Leggeri solle bis zur nächsten Zusammenkunft des Management Boards auf die Fragen der Kommission antworten.
      Recherchen bringen Frontex in Bedrängnis

      Johansson hatte das Treffen einberufen, um über eine gemeinsame Recherche des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz, des „Spiegel“ und der Medienorganisationen Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports und tv Asahi zu diskutieren. Die Medien hatten aufgedeckt, dass Frontex-Einheiten in der Ägäis in illegale Zurückweisungen von Flüchtlingen verwickelt sind.

      Seit April waren Frontex-Beamte nachweislich bei mindestens sechs sogenannten Pushbacks in der Nähe. Auf einem Video ist zu sehen, wie ein Frontex-Schiff ein überladenes Flüchtlingsboot zunächst blockiert, die Insassen aber nicht rettet. Stattdessen fahren die Frontex-Beamten mit hohem Tempo an dem Flüchtlingsboot vorbei und verlassen dann den Ort des Geschehens. Vertrauliche Gespräche mit Frontex-Beamten legten zudem nahe, dass diese ihre Berichte schönen, bevor sie an die Zentrale in Warschau geschickt werden.

      Keine Äußerung von Frontex und Griechenland

      Frontex ist auf die Vorwürfe bis heute nicht im Detail eingegangen. Alle gemeldeten Vorfälle seien an die griechische Küstenwache weitergeleitet worden, diese habe eine interne Untersuchung eingeleitet, teilte die Genzschutzagentur in einem Statement mit. Nach der Antwort der griechischen Behörden seien seine Zweifel ausgeräumt, sagte Leggeri zudem in einem Interview.

      Auch die griechischen Behörden hatten sich zu den Pushbacks nicht im Detail äußern wollen. Sie bestreiten die Vorwürfe pauschal, obwohl die ARD, der „Spiegel“ und andere Medien die Pushbacks mehrfach dokumentiert haben. Nach Angaben von Teilnehmern im „Spiegel“ sahen sich vor allem die griechischen Mitglieder des Management Boards bei dem Treffen Fragen ausgesetzt. Diskutiert wurde unter anderem ein Statement, welches betonen sollte, dass Frontex sich bei schwerwiegenden und anhaltenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen von Missionen wie der in der Ägäis zurückziehen muss.

      Griechen haben Angst vor Bloßstellung

      Ein solche Vorschrift findet sich schon jetzt in den Frontex-Regularien. Beamte einiger weniger Mitgliedsstaaten legten ihr Veto dagegen ein, dass die Anwendung dieser Regel nun in den Raum gestellt werden soll. Besonders die griechischen Teilnehmer fürchteten, dass das Statement die griechische Regierung bloßstellen könnte.

      Am Ende einigte man sich auf einen Kompromiss. Es soll ein Komitee geschaffen werden, das sich mit rechtlichen Fragen zu Einsätzen an der Seegrenzen beschäftigt, heißt es in einem Frontex-Statement. Die Kommission solle dem Vorschlag zufolge die Arbeit des Komitees koordinieren, Mitgliedsstaaten könnten sich auf freiwilliger Basis beteiligen. Im Komitee sollen auch die Sorgen einige Mitgliedsstaaten vor „hybriden Bedrohungen“ eine Rolle spielen. Vor allem Griechenland hatte immer wieder davor gewarnt, dass türkische Geheimdienste sich unter die Migranten auf den Inseln mischen könnten.

      Außerdem will Frontex nach eigener Aussage den sogenannten Fundamental Rights Officer stärken. Der Beamte ist bei Frontex dafür zuständig, dass die Grenzschützer die Grundrechte von Schutzsuchenden achten. Allerdings halten Beobachter alle bestehenden internen Überwachungsmechanismen bei Frontex für unzureichend.
      Kritik aus Europaparlament

      Nach den Enthüllungen der ARD und ihrer Recherchepartner hatten mehrere Europaparlamentarier von Leggeri eine vollständige Untersuchung der Vorwürfe gefordert. Die Grünen-EU-Abgeordnete Tineke Strik kritisierte das Frontex-Statement. Die Ankündigung erwähne die Menschenrechtsverletzungen an der Grenze nicht, sagte sie. Ein Komitee ersetze keine wirklich unabhängige und transparente Untersuchung. „Die Bürger müssen erfahren, was geschehen ist und wie Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Zukunft verhindert werden sollen“, so Strik.

      „Das Ganze ist eine große Nebelkerze“, sagte Europaparlamentarier Dietmar Köster von der SPD. „Es ist ein einzigartiger Vertuschungsversuch, von der eigenen Verantwortung und dem Versagen bei der Einhaltung von Menschenrechten abzulenken“,

      https://www.tagesschau.de/investigativ/report-mainz/frontex-pushbacks-103.html

    • EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex: Keine Untersuchung zu Verstößen gegen Menschenrechte

      Im März war die EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen Menschenrechte verwickelt. Wie von uns veröffentlichte Akten zeigen, untersuchte Frontex den Vorfall aber nicht, sondern kehrte ihn unter den Teppich.

      Als ARD, Spiegel und Bellingcat vor drei Wochen aufdeckten, dass die Europäische Grenzpolizei Frontex an illegalen Pushbacks an EU-Grenzen beteiligt ist, versprach der Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri schnell Aufklärung. Die EU-Agentur werde die Vorwürfe untersuchen, nach denen Frontex Geflüchtete völkerrechtswidrig aus der EU abgeschoben hatte.

      „Jeder Vorwurf des Fehlverhaltens oder der Verletzung internationaler Verträge oder Grundrechte im Rahmen gemeinsamer Operationen, die von Frontex koordiniert werden, wird mit großer Besorgnis behandelt und sorgfältig untersucht.“

      Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri (Übersetzung von FragDenStaat)

      Ein interner E-Mail-Verlauf von Frontex, den wir per Informationsfreiheitsanfrage erhalten haben, zeigt jetzt jedoch, dass die EU-Agentur in vergleichbaren Fällen offenbar kein Interesse daran hat, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu untersuchen. EU Observer hatte zunächst darüber berichtet.
      Dänemark widersetzt sich Frontex-Befehlen

      Bereits am 2. März diesen Jahres hatte Frontex in der Nähe der griechischen Insel Kos versucht, ein Boot mit 33 geflüchteten Menschen, die griechische Gewässer erreicht hatten, in die Türkei abzuschieben. Das griechische Frontex-Kommando befahl einem Schiff der Dänischen Marine mit dem Namen „Stela Polaris“, die Geflüchteten nicht an Land zu bringen, sondern wieder in ein Gummiboot zu setzen und aufs offene Meer Richtung Türkei zu schleppen. Der dänische Befehlshaber des Schiffes widersetzte sich dem rechtswidrigen Befehl jedoch und erreichte durch seine dänischen Vorgesetzten, dass er aufgehoben wurde.

      Frontex hatte den Vorgang bisher nie öffentlich zugegeben. Der dazugehörige E-Mail-Verkehr aus der Frontex-Zentrale in Warschau, den wir veröffentlichen, zeigt, dass Pushbacks die Entscheidungsträger um Direktor Fabrice Leggeri kaum interessierten. Erst aus der Presse erfuhr das Hauptquartier überhaupt davon, dass Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen die Menschenrechte verwickelt war.

      Einen Bericht – intern Serious Incident Report genannt – gab es trotz der Schwere des Vorfalls nicht. Die Frontex-Pressesprecherin forderte deswegen in Erwartung von Presseanfragen am Morgen des 6. März, vier Tage nach dem Vorfall, bei ihren Kolleg:innen einen Bericht zu den Vorfällen an. Am Nachmittag wurde sie informiert, dass es in der Tat einen versuchten Pushback gegeben hatte.

      Menschenrechte geprüft in vier Stunden

      Bemerkenswert ist, wie die Frontex-Zentrale anschließend mit den Informationen umging: Es schloss die Akten. Bereits vier Stunden nach der Meldung über Vorfall kamen die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen zu der Einschätzung, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Einzelfall“. Er wurde noch nicht einmal beim täglichen Treffen der Befehlshabenden in der Frontex-Mission besprochen.

      Weitere Informationen zu dem Vorfall finden sich in den Akten laut Frontex nicht. Die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen überprüften nicht die Kommando-Strukturen und prüften nicht, warum es keinen internen Bericht zu dem rechtswidrigen Befehl gab. Sie unternahmen auch sonst keine Versuche, um sicherzustellen, dass Pushbacks durch das Frontex-Kommando nicht mehr vorkommen würden. Im Sommer schließlich gab Frontex-Direktor gegenüber dem Europäischen Parlament zu Protokoll, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Missverständnis“ gewesen.

      Einige Monate später fanden Journalist:innen Beweise dafür, dass es sich offenbar nicht um einen Einzelfall handelt und Frontex mindestens im Juni an weiteren Pushbacks beteiligt war. Die EU-Agentur hatte offenbar kein Interesse daran, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu unterbinden.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/blog/2020/11/18/frontex-pushbacks-denmark

    • Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention system and stop pushbacks

      In a report published today on a rapid reaction ad hoc visit to Greece in March 2020, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) once again urges the Greek authorities to change their approach towards immigration detention and to ensure that migrants deprived of their liberty are treated both with dignity and humanity.

      The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its ad hoc visit to Greece, which took place from 13 to 17 March 2020, together with the response of the Greek authorities.

      In the report, the CPT acknowledges the significant challenges faced by the Greek authorities in dealing with large numbers of migrants entering the country and that it requires a coordinated European approach. However, this cannot absolve the the Hellenic Republic from their human rights obligations and the duty of care owed to all migrants that the Greek authorities detain.

      The CPT found that the conditions of detention in which migrants were held in certain facilities in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. The report again underlines the structural deficiencies in Greece’s immigration detention policy. Migrants continue to be held in detention centres composed of large barred cells crammed with beds, with poor lighting and ventilation, dilapidated and broken toilets and washrooms, insufficient personal hygiene products and cleaning materials, inadequate food and no access to outdoor daily exercise. Extreme overcrowding in several of the facilities further aggravated the situation. In addition, migrants were not provided with clear information about their situation.

      The CPT once again found that families with children, unaccompanied and separated children and other vulnerable persons (with a physical or mental health illness, or pregnant women) were being detained in such appalling conditions with no appropriate support. The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to end the detention of unaccompanied children and of children with their parents in police establishments. Instead, they should be transferred to suitable reception facilities catering to their specific needs.

      The report also highlights that the CPT again received consistent and credible allegations of migrants being pushed back across the Evros River border to Turkey. The Greek authorities should act to prevent such pushbacks. The CPT furthermore raises concerns over acts by the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants from reaching any Greek island and it questions the role and engagement of FRONTEX in such operations.

      The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to take vigorous steps to stamp out ill-treatment of detained migrants by the police. The report refers to a number of allegations by migrants that they had been ill treated by members of the Hellenic Police and/or Coast Guard either upon apprehension or after being brought to a place of detention. The ill treatment alleged consisted primarily of slaps to the head and kicks and truncheon blows to the body.

      In their response, the Hellenic Police provide information on the steps being taken to improve the conditions of detention for detained migrants. They also state that the alleged practice of pushbacks to the border is unsubstantiated and completely wrong. As regards unaccompanied minors, reference is made to a new strategy to end their detention and to their transfer from reception centres on the islands to safe accommodation facilities on the mainland.

      https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a06bcf

    • Annex to the reply of Fabrice Leggeri to the LIBE Committee

      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Answers%20to%20the%20questions%20from%20the%20LIBE%20Commitee.pdf

      –---

      Thread sur twitter:

      It looks like Frontex are NOT denying that they may be involved in #pushbacks after all. FL partly evades (’...always committed...’) and partly seems to blame the ’uniqueness’ of operational areas & ’complex geography’ of the Greek and Turkish border for FX being involved in pushbacks.

      –---

      The earlier letter sent to the EP President might offer some clues. I’m not a legal expert, but FL seems to suggest that Art. 6 of Reg. 656/2014 (on interception at sea) needs to be clarified so as to define what constitutes a #pushback. Interesting.
      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Letter%20to%20EP_Frontex%20maritime%20operations%20at%20EU%20external%20

      –—

      Yet not all pushbacks happen at sea. While the request for interpretation above might mean that FX is looking for a way out re: #pushbacks at the Aegean, what about those at the
      Greek-Turkish land border? I think there’s less concern with #pushbacks at #Evros, though. No videos...

      –---

      Back to the Annex: We know SIRs weren’t submitted as they should. The real question is why. It might be down to officers on the ground lacking in training (they shouldn’t, but...) or not wanting to get their colleagues in trouble (the spirit of camaraderie...).

      –---

      BUT: Today’s Spiegel article refers to a ’Frontex official in charge’ advising a Swedish officer not to submit a SIR. FX management were aware few SIRs being submitted for years. Is it a practice dictated from the top? To avoid having evidence of violations?

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/pushbacks-in-der-aegaeis-wie-frontex-menschenrechtsverletzungen-vertuscht-a-

      –—

      Suspension/non-launch of operations has never happened. The ED didn’t take into account reports by NGOs or human rights bodies when considering the 2016 recommendation to suspend operations in Hungary. He relied on the very low number of SIRs to reject it.
      https://respondmigration.com/wp-blog/fundamental-rights-accountability-transparency-european-governance

      –—

      Same with the 2019 & 2020 recommendations of the FRO to consider suspension of operations in #Evros. As for taking into account media reports ... well, I’d say the reply to the LIBE committee reads like the media accounts are being dismissed.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1331662031095787521

    • E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

      Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

      Mounting evidence indicates that the European Union’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with officials.

      In at least one case, Frontex, as the E.U. border agency is known, is accused of having helped cover up the violations, when a crew said it was discouraged by agency officials from reporting that they had seen the Greek authorities setting a boatload of migrants adrift in Turkish waters.

      The case is currently being investigated by Frontex. But it has fueled suspicions that the agency, newly boosted in its role as upholder of the rule of law at E.U. borders, is not just sporadically aware of such abuses, but that it plays a role in concealing them.

      “We are seeing an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful,” said Gerald Knaus, a migration expert. “This is deeply worrying because it is eroding the refugee convention on the continent on which it was created.”

      Throughout this year, The New York Times and others have reported on growing operations by the Greek Coast Guard to repel migrants from Greek waters back to Turkey, reports the Greek authorities deny amount to breaches of international laws.

      But revelations that Frontex has witnessed pushbacks have thrown the agency into a governance crisis that threatens to further blight the European Union’s liberal values, once again calling into question the bloc’s commitment to upholding its own laws on refugees.

      The cases have also highlighted a conundrum at the core of E.U. ambitions to tighten external borders by pooling resources and involving the bloc in the sensitive, zealously shielded work of sovereign border guards.

      Frontex is the European Union’s best-funded agency, with a budget of over $500 million, and will soon deploy the first uniformed officers in the bloc’s history. It has been built up specifically to help in migrant-rescue operations as the burden of policing Europe’s borders has fallen most heavily on its peripheral states, like Greece.

      It was also intended as a deterrent to the kind of mass arrival of refugees that sowed political crises across Europe after 2015, and fanned nationalist and populist movements.

      Yet Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.

      Refugee arrivals to the European Union peaked five years ago and have dropped drastically since, but thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, still attempt the crossing. Unlike in the past, Greeks and their government have turned hostile to the new arrivals, exhausted by years in which asylum seekers have been bottled up in overrun camps on Greek islands.

      There is also a growing belief in the Greek and several other European governments that aggression at the borders and poor conditions at migrant camps will make the attempt to reach Europe less attractive for asylum seekers.

      Earlier this year, an analysis by The Times showed that the Greek government had secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, often by sailing them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and abandoning them in flimsy inflatable life rafts in violation of international laws.

      The Greek Coast Guard has rescued thousands of asylum seekers over the years but has become much more aggressive this year, especially as Turkey used migrants to provoke Greece by encouraging them to cross the border.

      The Greek government has denied it is doing anything illegal in repelling migrant boats from its national waters, characterizing the operations as robust border guarding. But Mr. Knaus said “the denials are not serious,” and the practices are effectively happening in the open — under the eyes of E.U. border patrols.

      The documents obtained by The Times describe, in Coast Guard vernacular littered with acronyms, codes, time-stamps and coordinates, a seemingly incessant Ping-Pong of migrant dinghies between Greek and Turkish waters, with Frontex crews on vessels or aircraft in observer status.

      Four officials with direct knowledge of Frontex operations said that agency officials have been discouraging crews from filing reports on pushback incidents, and, in some cases, have stopped initial alerts of violations from being filed as “serious incident reports,” at times after consulting with the Greek authorities.

      They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were concerned about losing their jobs, or were not authorized to brief the press.

      The Frontex spokesman, Chris Borowski, said the agency took the reporting of violations very seriously. “Pushbacks are illegal under international law,” Mr. Borowski said.

      In the latest case to come to light, a Swedish Coast Guard crew on deployment under Frontex witnessed a pushback to Turkish waters of a boat full of migrants by the Greek authorities on Oct. 30 off the Greek island of Chios.

      The Swedish crew was later advised by a Frontex officer to not report it, documents reviewed by The Times show. The Swedish representative to the management board of Frontex described the incident, and the suppression of the attempt to report it, at a meeting on Nov. 10 — the first known case of an E.U. member state reporting active interference by Frontex officials.

      The Swedish government did not comment. A spokesman for Frontex said the agency wouldn’t comment because of an “ongoing procedure.”

      Frontex has been working in Greece for more than a decade, providing sea, land and aerial surveillance and rescue capabilities and deploying crews from other member states under its command.

      The details now emerging push the agency deeper into a governance crisis which began in October when a consortium of news organizations, including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, reported a number of occasions when Frontex crews witnessed pushbacks in Greece.

      The European Commission, which is part of the Frontex oversight system but does not control the agency, pushed for a special inquiry into these allegations and, at an emergency agency board meeting on Nov. 10, asked its leadership to answer detailed questions in writing.

      The answers arrived with a four-day delay, just 15 hours before the start of another meeting to discuss the problems on Wednesday. Yet another emergency meeting has been called in December, mounting pressure on the agency.

      Frontex has promised internal investigations but also quickly dismissed allegations, saying for example, in a letter seen by The Times, that it would look into the Swedish case, but that it had so far found no evidence that it happened.

      How these investigations shake out will matter a great deal for the future of Frontex, which was once little more than a back-office operation in Warsaw but now finds itself on the front lines of the nettlesome issue of migration that has the potency to make or break governments.

      Apart from helping member states with asylum-seeker arrivals, Frontex’s role as an E.U. agency by law is to respect fundamental rights, and bring up human-rights standards across national E.U. border agencies, which often don’t have a strong culture of upholding them.

      But claims that Frontex does not take fundamental rights seriously enough are growing. This year, only one million euros in its budget of 460 million euros — about $548 million — was allocated to rights monitoring.

      The agency was supposed to hire 40 fundamental-rights officers by Dec. 5 but the jobs have not yet been advertised. The agency is currently hiring for their boss, after years of staffing issues around that position. A Frontex spokesman said the delays stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

      Documents seen by The Times laid out how in one episode the Greek authorities were consulted before a report was made, and were able to suppress it. On Aug. 10, a German crew deployed by Frontex reported that a Greek Coast Guard vessel “took up border control measures prohibiting the landing to Samos.”

      The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. The event was not recorded as a “serious incident,” because, the document said, the Greek Coast Guard argued the activities “do not provide any ground” to initiate such a report.

      Another incident, which a Frontex aerial crew observed and reported in detail to its headquarters, took place on the evening of April 18 to 19 off the coast of Lesbos, and lasted more than five hours.

      A dinghy was detected by the Greek authorities and approximately 20 migrants were rescued and put on board a Greek Coast Guard vessel shortly after midnight, their empty dinghy towed by the Coast Guard toward the island.

      But instead of being taken to shore, at 2:45 a.m., the migrants were put back on their dinghy and tugged to Turkish waters by the Greek Coast Guard, the Frontex aerial crew reported.

      As events unfolded, the Greek command center twice asked the Frontex aircraft to change its flight path, directing it away from the incident.

      “At 03:21 Frontex Surveillance Aircraft communicates that the rubber boat has no engine and it is adrift. Greek assets are departing the area leaving the rubber boat adrift,” the document said.

      The internal Frontex report detailing this incident and categorizing it as a fundamental-rights violation was “dismissed,” the document shows.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html

    • La Grèce fortement soupçonnée de refouler les migrants

      L’agence européenne Frontex, potentiellement impliquée dans les refoulements, mène une enquête interne et doit fournir des explications à la Commission européenne fin novembre. Une plainte a été déposée le 17 novembre auprès du comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU.

      L’étau se resserre autour de la Grèce, de plus en plus fréquemment accusée de refouler les migrants vers la Turquie, aussi bien en mer qu’à terre. Le soupçon n’est pas nouveau, comme l’atteste le terrible récit de Fadi Faj. Ce jeune Syrien de 25 ans est arrivé en 2015 avec l’immense vague de demandeurs d’asile en Allemagne. Berlin lui octroie alors le statut de réfugié et un permis de séjour avec lequel il se rend en Grèce en novembre 2016, à la recherche de son jeune frère de 11 ans dont il a perdu la trace lors de sa traversée de la frontière greco-turque à Evros.

      Fadi Faj est alors arrêté par la police grecque qui lui confisque ses papiers et l’expulse vers la Turquie avec une cinquantaine d’autres demandeurs d’asile. Devenu un sans-papier, il sera à treize reprises repoussé de part et d’autre de la frontière par les forces grecques ou turques. Ayant enfin mis un pied à terre en Grèce en décembre 2017, il y vivra encore deux ans dans le dénuement avant d’obtenir un visa pour regagner l’Allemagne qui lui délivrera un nouveau permis de séjour en mai 2020.

      Une plainte auprès du Comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU

      Ce récit glaçant fait l’objet d’une plainte à l’encontre de la Grèce déposée le 17 novembre auprès du Comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU, par le Global Legal Action Network (Réseau mondial d’action juridique) basé en Irlande et l’ONG grecque HumanRights 360.

      Entre-temps, les cas du même type se sont multipliés. Surtout depuis le printemps dernier, après que le président turc Erdogan a menacé d’ouvrir les frontières et incité les migrants à se diriger vers la Grèce. « J’ai vu de mes yeux vu deux refoulements en mer depuis ma maison sur la côte nord de Lesbos », dénonce ainsi Christina Chatzidaki, une habitante de l’île qui jouxte les côtes turques, et y dirige l’association Siniparxi (Coexistence).

      Alarm phone qui reçoit les appels de détresse des embarcations en mer se déclarait en mai dernier « très préoccupé par la récente augmentation des rapports d’attaques sur les bateaux de migrants ». L’ONG avait alors engrangé les témoignages de survivants de 18 bateaux. « Ils ont fait état d’actions dangereuses, telles que le fait de tourner autour de leurs bateaux et de provoquer des vagues, des menaces avec des armes à feu, le vol de leur essence, la destruction de moteurs et, également, le remorquage de bateaux vers les eaux turques où ils ont été laissés à la dérive », précise l’ONG.
      Intimer la Commission d’agir

      Les dénonciations de pratiques qui violent les droits humains, et contreviennent au droit de la mer et au droit européen n’ont pas cessé par la suite. Le porte-parole du Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) déclarait le 12 juin dernier : « le HCR a continuellement fait état de ses préoccupations auprès du gouvernement grec et a demandé des enquêtes urgentes sur une série d’incidents présumés ». Il soulignait alors la corrélation entre la forte baisse du nombre d’arrivées de migrants en Grèce et l’augmentation du nombre de refoulements signalés. En 2019, 60 000 personnes avaient débarqué en Grèce par la mer et 15 000 par la terre. En 2020, jusqu’au 22 novembre, ils ne sont plus, respectivement, que 9 400 et 5 400.

      Jusqu’à présent la Grèce a nié ces allégations. « Nous protégeons nos frontières en accord avec les lois internationales et européennes » a encore affirmé le ministre grec de l’immigration Notis Mitarakis le 13 novembre dernier au site Infomigrants. Deux mois auparavant, le 22 septembre, les ONG Oxfam et WeMove adressaient une plainte auprès de la Commission européenne pour l’intimer de mener « une enquête sur les violations systématiques du droit européen concernant le traitement des demandeurs d’asile en Grèce ».
      La possible implication de Frontex

      Enfin, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine allemand Der Spiegel apportèrent en octobre un coup de grâce supplémentaire, en dénonçant, images à l’appui, le laisser-faire, voire l’implication, de l’agence européenne de surveillance aux frontières Frontex - qui a déployé plus de 600 agents en Grèce - dans six cas documentés de pratique illégale de refoulement.

      Un soupçon repris par le comité contre la torture du Conseil de l’Europe. Dans son rapport publié le 19 novembre, le comité a indiqué « avoir de nouveau reçu des allégations cohérentes et crédibles de migrants repoussés vers la Turquie ».

      Il s’est déclaré « inquiet des actes commis par les garde-côtes grecs pour empêcher les bateaux transportant des migrants d’atteindre les îles grecques » et « s’interroge sur le rôle et l’implication de Frontex dans de telles opérations ».

      Face à une telle avalanche, l’Union européenne pouvait difficilement continuer à se voiler la face. La suédoise Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures a réclamé des explications pour fin novembre à l’agence Frontex, laquelle a indiqué avoir ouvert une enquête interne.

      https://www.la-croix.com/Monde/Grece-fortement-soupconnee-refouler-migrants-2020-11-24-1201126401

    • Refoulements de demandeurs d’asile : le directeur de Frontex interrogé par les députés

      La supposée implication d’agents de Frontex dans les refoulements de demandeurs d’asile à la frontière grecque sera au cœur du débat en commission des libertés civiles mardi.

      Les députés seront en attente de réponses de la part du directeur exécutif de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Fabrice Leggeri, concernant les incidents révélés récemment par les médias au cours desquels des garde-côtes grecs (avec la connaissance présumée et même l’implication d’agents de Frontex) ont arrêté des migrants qui tentaient d’atteindre les côtes de l’UE et les ont renvoyés dans les eaux turques. Les députés devraient s’enquérir des résultats de l’enquête interne menée par l’Agence européenne de gestion des frontières et de la réunion du conseil d’administration convoquée à la demande de la Commission européenne.

      En octobre dernier, avant les révélations des médias, le forum consultatif de Frontex (qui réunit notamment des représentants du Bureau européen d’appui en matière d’asile (EASO), de l’Agence des droits fondamentaux de l’UE (FRA), du HCR, du Conseil de l’Europe et de l’OIM) avait exprimé son inquiétude dans son rapport annuel. Le forum pointait du doigt l’absence de véritable système de contrôle permettant de prévenir et de traiter les violations potentielles des droits fondamentaux dans les activités de l’Agence.

      Le 6 juillet, au cours d’une précédente réunion de la commission des libertés civiles, Fabrice Leggeri avait assuré aux eurodéputés que Frontex n’était pas impliquée dans les refoulements et avait qualifié l’incident avec l’équipe danoise à bord de l’un des navires de l’Agence de ‘‘malentendu’’.

      DATE : mardi 1er décembre de 13h50 à 14h45

      LIEU : Parlement européen à Bruxelles, bâtiment Antall, salle 4Q2 et à distance

      https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/fr/press-room/20201126IPR92509

    • EU border chief urged to quit over migrant pushback claims

      European Union lawmakers lashed out Tuesday at the head of Frontex over allegations that the border and coast guard agency helped illegally stop migrants or refugees entering Europe, calling for his resignation and demanding an independent inquiry.

      The lawmakers grilled Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri over an investigation in October by media outlets Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said that video and other publicly available data suggest Frontex “assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea.”

      The report said personnel from the agency, which monitors and polices migrant movements around Europe’s borders, were present at another incident and “have been in the vicinity of four more since March.” Frontex launched an internal probe after the news broke.

      “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign,” senior Socialist lawmaker Kati Piri said in a statement after the parliamentary civil liberties committee hearing. “There are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.”

      Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which say people shouldn’t be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or being members of a social or political group.

      Frontex’s board met to discuss the allegations late last month. The board said afterwards that the European Commission had ordered it to “hold a further extraordinary meeting within the next two weeks in order to consider in more detail the replies provided by the agency.” That meeting is scheduled to take place on Dec. 9.

      “Migrants and refugees are very vulnerable to pushbacks by border guards,” Greens lawmaker Tineke Strik said. “We must be able to rely on an EU agency which prevents human rights violations from happening and not inflict them. But Frontex seems to be a partner in crime of those who deliberately violate those human rights.”

      Strik raised doubts about whether the internal Frontex probe would produce results and urged the assembly’s political groups to consider launching their own inquiry.

      Leggeri said that no evidence of any Frontex involvement in pushbacks had been found so far. He said EU member countries have control over operations in their waters, not Frontex, and he called for the rules governing surveillance of Europe’s external borders to be clarified.

      “We have not found evidence that there were active, direct or indirect participation of Frontex staff or officers deployed by Frontex in pushbacks,” he told the lawmakers. When it comes to operations, Leggeri said, “only the host member state authorities can decide what has to be done.”

      Leggeri also said that Frontex staff were under extreme pressure around the time of the alleged incidents in March and April. He said that Turkish F-16 fighter jets had “surrounded” a Danish plane working for Frontex, while vessels were harassed by the Turkish coast guard and shots fired at personnel at land borders.

      He called for EU “guidance” on how to handle such situations.

      The allegations are extremely embarrassing for the European Commission. In September it unveiled sweeping new reforms to the EU’s asylum system, which proved dismally inadequate when over 1 million migrants arrived in 2015, many of them Syrian refugees entering the Greek islands via Turkey.

      Part of the EU’s migration reforms includes a system of independent monitoring involving rights experts to ensure that there are no pushbacks at Europe’s borders. Migrant entries have dropped to a relative trickle in recent years, although many migrants still languish on some Greek islands waiting for their asylum claims to be processed or to be sent back.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she still has confidence in Frontex’s managing board but remains deeply concerned about the allegations.

      During a visit to Morocco, Johansson said that the report “concerns me a lot. If it’s true, it’s totally unacceptable. A European agency has to comply to EU law and fundamental rights with no excuse.”

      Johansson said she has “full confidence in the process that (has) gone on in the management board and the sub-group they are setting up” to continue the investigation, but, she noted that “there were a lot of questions put to the director. And he has not answered these questions.”

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/259789/article/ekathimerini/news/eu-border-chief-urged-to-quit-over-migrant-pushback-claims

    • Frontex is taking us to court

      The EU border police Frontex is under fire for its involvement in human rights violations at the EU’s borders. Now, they want to silence those exposing their wrongdoing.

      For many years, we have been fighting to make Frontex, the EU’s border police, more transparent and accountable. We have made public over a thousand of their documents, including those that show the agency has been complicit in human rights violations and violence against migrants at the EU’s borders.

      Frontex is currently under fire for its involvement in illegal pushbacks in the Aegean and for having concealed evidence about these illegal acts. Confronted with such serious accusations, the EU border agency has now chosen to go after those who investigate them: they are taking us to court.

      Frontex has filed a case against us before the General Court of the European Union in order to force us to pay them a large amount of money. Last year, we lost our lawsuit for information about Frontex and now, the agency is demanding from us excessive legal fees. The message is clear: they want to make sure that we never take them to court again.
      Details must remain secret

      For the time being, we will not be able to disclose further details related to the case due to the court’s rules on keeping all information secret while proceedings are ongoing. Back in January, the agency justified their excessive legal fees on their decision to hire expensive private lawyers.

      Frontex, which has a billion-euro budget, making it the best resourced EU agency, employs a well-staffed internal legal department. Both the decision to hire private lawyers and to then claim these costs from civil society are highly unusual in court cases against the EU authorities.
      What happens if Frontex wins?

      If Frontex succeeds, in the future only corporations and the rich will be able to afford legal action against EU authorities. Activists, journalists, NGOs and individuals will not be able to defend human rights before the EU court. Frontex bringing a case like this directly against civil society, let alone winning, discourages others from holding them accountable in the future. It’s this chilling effect that we believe they’re hoping for.

      In the spring, more than 87,000 people petitioned Frontex to withdraw their legal bill. 44 civil society organizations also called on Frontex to retract its demand. Frontex has nonetheless chosen to ignore their voices.

      In recent years, Frontex has experienced an enormous increase of power and resources. Not only is it about to receive € 11 billion under the next EU budget, but it can also now hire its own border guards and buy its own equipment, including aircrafts, ships, drones and weapons.

      Investigating Frontex and holding it accountable is now more important than ever. As recent publications have revealed, the EU border force has been involved in numerous human rights violations at the EU borders.
      What you can do

      Our freedom of information work is financed by individual donations. We will fight in court for a judgement that gives Frontex as little money as possible. If you want to support us in this, we would be very happy to receive a donation. We will use every extra euro for new investigations and legal action against Frontex.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/en/blog/2020/12/02/frontex-costs-court-transparency

    • S&Ds call for Frontex Director to resign

      The S&D Group in the European Parliament today called for the Executive Director of Frontex to resign following months of allegations on the agency’s involvement in illegal practices and violations of fundamental rights.

      In today’s hearing of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE), Director Fabrice Leggeri failed to answer questions relating to the agency’s involvement in pushbacks at the EU’s external borders aimed at preventing asylum-seekers from entering the EU.

      Following the hearing, S&D MEPs concluded Mr Leggeri’s position at the head of Frontex is not sustainable, especially in light of the important role for Frontex in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

      Kati Piri, S&D vice-president for migration and LIBE member taking part in the hearing, said

      “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign. After months of the S&D Group calling for explanations, Director Leggeri had the chance to set the record straight. But there are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.

      “Pushbacks are a violation of international law and every single incident must be fully investigated. Do we have the confidence in Frontex to ensure alleged incidents are properly investigated? After today, the answer is no.

      “As long as allegations hang over Frontex, its reputation remains severely damaged and in desperate need of repair. In our view, Director Leggeri is not the right person to fix the damage.”

      Birgit Sippel, S&D LIBE coordinator, added:

      “We have to ask ourselves how we got to the point where we have to rely on journalists and whistle-blowers in Frontex to inform us of instances of fundamental and human rights violations at our borders. This is unacceptable and deeply disturbing, in particular when considering the potentially increased role of Frontex as part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

      “The series of alleged pushbacks and cover-ups from Frontex show that we need a strong and independent border monitoring mechanism to investigate any and all alleged violations of fundamental and human rights and international laws at European borders.

      “Under the 2019 Frontex mandate, the Agency was obliged to have recruited at least 40 Fundamental Rights Monitors by 5 December 2020. It is now clear that Frontex will not even have come close to fulfilling this task, and therefore will not comply with the new mandate. Blaming bureaucratic hurdles for the delay of such an important task is insufficient, while the Commission’s role in this delay requires further examination as well. Mr Leggeri has failed in many of his responsibilities and must bear the consequences of his actions.”

      https://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-call-frontex-director-resign

    • E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

      Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

      Mounting evidence indicates that the European Union’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with officials.

      In at least one case, Frontex, as the E.U. border agency is known, is accused of having helped cover up the violations, when a crew said it was discouraged by agency officials from reporting that they had seen the Greek authorities setting a boatload of migrants adrift in Turkish waters.

      The case is currently being investigated by Frontex. But it has fueled suspicions that the agency, newly boosted in its role as upholder of the rule of law at E.U. borders, is not just sporadically aware of such abuses, but that it plays a role in concealing them.

      “We are seeing an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful,” said Gerald Knaus, a migration expert. “This is deeply worrying because it is eroding the refugee convention on the continent on which it was created.”

      Throughout this year, The New York Times and others have reported on growing operations by the Greek Coast Guard to repel migrants from Greek waters back to Turkey, reports the Greek authorities deny amount to breaches of international laws.

      But revelations that Frontex has witnessed pushbacks have thrown the agency into a governance crisis that threatens to further blight the European Union’s liberal values, once again calling into question the bloc’s commitment to upholding its own laws on refugees.

      The cases have also highlighted a conundrum at the core of E.U. ambitions to tighten external borders by pooling resources and involving the bloc in the sensitive, zealously shielded work of sovereign border guards.

      Frontex is the European Union’s best-funded agency, with a budget of over $500 million, and will soon deploy the first uniformed officers in the bloc’s history. It has been built up specifically to help in migrant-rescue operations as the burden of policing Europe’s borders has fallen most heavily on its peripheral states, like Greece.

      It was also intended as a deterrent to the kind of mass arrival of refugees that sowed political crises across Europe after 2015, and fanned nationalist and populist movements.

      Yet Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.

      Refugee arrivals to the European Union peaked five years ago and have dropped drastically since, but thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, still attempt the crossing. Unlike in the past, Greeks and their government have turned hostile to the new arrivals, exhausted by years in which asylum seekers have been bottled up in overrun camps on Greek islands.

      There is also a growing belief in the Greek and several other European governments that aggression at the borders and poor conditions at migrant camps will make the attempt to reach Europe less attractive for asylum seekers.

      Earlier this year, an analysis by The Times showed that the Greek government had secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, often by sailing them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and abandoning them in flimsy inflatable life rafts in violation of international laws.

      The Greek Coast Guard has rescued thousands of asylum seekers over the years but has become much more aggressive this year, especially as Turkey used migrants to provoke Greece by encouraging them to cross the border.

      The Greek government has denied it is doing anything illegal in repelling migrant boats from its national waters, characterizing the operations as robust border guarding. But Mr. Knaus said “the denials are not serious,” and the practices are effectively happening in the open — under the eyes of E.U. border patrols.

      The documents obtained by The Times describe, in Coast Guard vernacular littered with acronyms, codes, time-stamps and coordinates, a seemingly incessant Ping-Pong of migrant dinghies between Greek and Turkish waters, with Frontex crews on vessels or aircraft in observer status.

      Four officials with direct knowledge of Frontex operations said that agency officials have been discouraging crews from filing reports on pushback incidents, and, in some cases, have stopped initial alerts of violations from being filed as “serious incident reports,” at times after consulting with the Greek authorities.

      They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were concerned about losing their jobs, or were not authorized to brief the press.

      The Frontex spokesman, Chris Borowski, said the agency took the reporting of violations very seriously. “Pushbacks are illegal under international law,” Mr. Borowski said.

      In the latest case to come to light, a Swedish Coast Guard crew on deployment under Frontex witnessed a pushback to Turkish waters of a boat full of migrants by the Greek authorities on Oct. 30 off the Greek island of Chios.

      The Swedish crew was later advised by a Frontex officer to not report it, documents reviewed by The Times show. The Swedish representative to the management board of Frontex described the incident, and the suppression of the attempt to report it, at a meeting on Nov. 10 — the first known case of an E.U. member state reporting active interference by Frontex officials.

      The Swedish government did not comment. A spokesman for Frontex said the agency wouldn’t comment because of an “ongoing procedure.”

      Frontex has been working in Greece for more than a decade, providing sea, land and aerial surveillance and rescue capabilities and deploying crews from other member states under its command.

      The details now emerging push the agency deeper into a governance crisis which began in October when a consortium of news organizations, including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, reported a number of occasions when Frontex crews witnessed pushbacks in Greece.

      The European Commission, which is part of the Frontex oversight system but does not control the agency, pushed for a special inquiry into these allegations and, at an emergency agency board meeting on Nov. 10, asked its leadership to answer detailed questions in writing.

      The answers arrived with a four-day delay, just 15 hours before the start of another meeting to discuss the problems on Wednesday. Yet another emergency meeting has been called in December, mounting pressure on the agency.

      Frontex has promised internal investigations but also quickly dismissed allegations, saying for example, in a letter seen by The Times, that it would look into the Swedish case, but that it had so far found no evidence that it happened.

      How these investigations shake out will matter a great deal for the future of Frontex, which was once little more than a back-office operation in Warsaw but now finds itself on the front lines of the nettlesome issue of migration that has the potency to make or break governments.

      Apart from helping member states with asylum-seeker arrivals, Frontex’s role as an E.U. agency by law is to respect fundamental rights, and bring up human-rights standards across national E.U. border agencies, which often don’t have a strong culture of upholding them.

      But claims that Frontex does not take fundamental rights seriously enough are growing. This year, only one million euros in its budget of 460 million euros — about $548 million — was allocated to rights monitoring.

      The agency was supposed to hire 40 fundamental-rights officers by Dec. 5 but the jobs have not yet been advertised. The agency is currently hiring for their boss, after years of staffing issues around that position. A Frontex spokesman said the delays stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

      Documents seen by The Times laid out how in one episode the Greek authorities were consulted before a report was made, and were able to suppress it. On Aug. 10, a German crew deployed by Frontex reported that a Greek Coast Guard vessel “took up border control measures prohibiting the landing to Samos.”

      The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. The event was not recorded as a “serious incident,” because, the document said, the Greek Coast Guard argued the activities “do not provide any ground” to initiate such a report.

      Another incident, which a Frontex aerial crew observed and reported in detail to its headquarters, took place on the evening of April 18 to 19 off the coast of Lesbos, and lasted more than five hours.

      A dinghy was detected by the Greek authorities and approximately 20 migrants were rescued and put on board a Greek Coast Guard vessel shortly after midnight, their empty dinghy towed by the Coast Guard toward the island.

      But instead of being taken to shore, at 2:45 a.m., the migrants were put back on their dinghy and tugged to Turkish waters by the Greek Coast Guard, the Frontex aerial crew reported.

      As events unfolded, the Greek command center twice asked the Frontex aircraft to change its flight path, directing it away from the incident.

      “At 03:21 Frontex Surveillance Aircraft communicates that the rubber boat has no engine and it is adrift. Greek assets are departing the area leaving the rubber boat adrift,” the document said.

      The internal Frontex report detailing this incident and categorizing it as a fundamental-rights violation was “dismissed,” the document shows.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html?smid=tw-share

    • #Seehofer deckte offenbar griechische Verbrechen

      Griechische Grenzschützer setzen Flüchtlinge systematisch auf dem Meer aus. Ein internes Dokument legt nun nahe, dass Innenminister #Horst_Seehofer einen Rechtsbruch kaschierte. SPD-Vize Kühnert stellt ihm ein Ultimatum.

      Die Sprecherin von Bundesinnenminister Horst Seehofer war sichtlich nervös, als sie sich Ende November den Fragen der Journalisten stellen musste. Zwei Tage zuvor hatten der SPIEGEL und das ARD-Magazin »Report Mainz« berichtet, dass die Bundespolizei in der Ägäis in eine illegale Zurückweisung von Flüchtlingen verwickelt war. Wiederholt fragten die Journalisten nach. »Ich weiß nicht, wie Sie zu der Einschätzung kommen, dass es sich hierbei um einen illegalen Pushback gehandelt hat«, sagte die Sprecherin schließlich.

      Dabei lagen dem Bundesinnenministerium zu diesem Zeitpunkt längst Informationen vor, die genau darauf hindeuten.

      Im Auftrag der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex patrouillierten die deutschen Einsatzkräfte am 10. August in der Ägäis, nur wenige Hundert Meter von der griechischen Insel Samos entfernt. Dabei entdeckten sie ein Schlauchboot mit 40 Flüchtlingen an Bord. Auftragsgemäß hielten sie es an, allerdings nahmen sie die Menschen auf dem völlig überfüllten Boot nicht an Bord. Stattdessen warteten sie mehr als eine halbe Stunde, bis die griechische Küstenwache das Schlauchboot übernahm.

      Wenig später fanden sich die Flüchtlinge plötzlich in türkischen Gewässern wieder. So beschreiben es interne Dokumente der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex, die dem SPIEGEL vorliegen. Die türkische Küstenwache musste die 40 Migranten später retten. Fotos zeigen Männer, Frauen und kleine Kinder auf dem überfüllten Schlauchboot. Offensichtlich wurden die Menschen von den griechischen Grenzschützern illegal zurückgedrängt.

      Als die griechischen Beamten in den Hafen zurückkehrten, wunderten sich die deutschen Polizisten. Die Küstenwache hatte keine Migranten an Bord und auch kein Schlauchboot im Schlepptau. Die Deutschen meldeten im Anschluss zwar die Details des Einsatzes – aber keine mögliche Menschenrechtsverletzung.
      Was genau haben die Deutschen von diesem illegalen Pushback mitbekommen?

      Bis heute haben die Bundespolizei und das Innenministerium nicht auf die Fragen des SPIEGEL geantwortet. Dabei finden sich die Antworten auf diese Fragen seit Wochen im Intranet der Bundespolizei, also in einem nur für Mitarbeiter zugänglichen Netzwerk. Anhand der elf SPIEGEL-Fragen legte die Bundespolizei-Führung ihre Sicht der Dinge ausführlich dar – noch am Tag der Veröffentlichung des Berichts. Die Fragen waren also längst beantwortet, nur abgeschickt wurden sie nie. Das Innenministerium erklärt das inzwischen auf Anfrage mit einem »Büroversehen«.

      Die Ausführungen im Intranet der Bundespolizei sind politisch heikel. Auf den ersten Blick entlasten sie die deutschen Einsatzkräfte. Wörtlich heißt es, die Bundespolizisten hätten beobachtet, »dass durch die (…) griechischen Einsatzkräfte Migranten physisch an Bord genommen wurden.« Die deutschen Frontex-Beamten konnten also davon ausgehen, dass die Flüchtlinge zunächst in Sicherheit waren. Schließlich wurden sie vor ihren Augen auf ein Schiff der griechischen Küstenwache geholt und trieben nicht mehr in ihrem überfüllten Schlauchboot.

      Warum hat das Innenministerium dieses Detail trotzdem bis heute verschwiegen? Will man im Ministerium die Griechen nicht als Lügner entlarven? Das Flüchtlingsboot, so hatten die griechischen Behörden erklärt, sei beim Anblick der Küstenwache umgekehrt und zurück in türkische Gewässer gefahren.
      Beobachtungen der Deutschen entlarven die Ausrede der Griechen

      Die Beobachtungen der Bundespolizisten widersprechen dieser Darstellung, die Bundespolizei stellt das in ihrem Bericht selbst fest. Wenn die Geflüchteten bereits an Bord des Schiffes der griechischen Küstenwache waren, können sie unmöglich freiwillig auf ihrem Schlauchboot umgekehrt sein. Sollten die Aussagen der Deutschen zutreffen, und davon ist auszugehen, bleibt keine andere vernünftige Erklärung als ein illegaler Pushback der griechischen Küstenwache.

      Horst Seehofer muss sich deshalb die Frage gefallen lassen, warum sein Haus die Verbrechen der griechischen Behörden deckt. Statt aufzuklären, führt er die Öffentlichkeit offenbar in die Irre. So fügt Seehofer sich in das System des Schweigens.

      Seit Juni hat SPIEGEL in gemeinsamen Recherchen mit der Medienorganisation Lighthouse Reports und »Report Mainz« genau dokumentiert, wie die griechischen Pushbacks ablaufen: Die Küstenwache fängt die Migrantinnen und Migranten meist noch auf dem Wasser ab. Manchmal zerstört sie den Außenbordmotor der Schlauchboote, um diese manövrierunfähig zu machen. Dann werden die Schutzsuchenden mit gefährlichen Manövern Richtung Türkei zurückgedrängt. Die Menschen werden auf den Booten oder auf aufblasbaren Rettungsflößen mit Seilen aufs offene Meer gezogen, vom SPIEGEL ausgewertete Videos belegen das.

      Griechische Grenzschützer bedrohen die Geflüchteten mit Waffen, nicht selten fallen Schüsse. Bisweilen schleppen die Beamten sogar Menschen aufs Meer, die es schon auf die griechischen Inseln geschafft haben.

      Auch Frontex-Einheiten stoppen immer wieder Flüchtlingsboote und übergeben sie anschließend an die griechische Küstenwache. Seit Anfang März wird das so gehandhabt. Die Frontex-Einheiten, darunter deutsche Bundespolizisten, unterstehen in der Ägäis der griechischen Küstenwache. Sie werden so zu Gehilfen der Griechen, die bei ihren illegalen Praktiken nicht mal besonders verdeckt vorgehen.

      »Das Innenministerium scheint sich zum Komplizen der Griechen zu machen«, sagt der menschenrechtspolitische Sprecher der Sozialdemokraten, Frank Schwabe. »Dazu müssen sowohl Frontex als auch Innenminister Seehofer dem Bundestag Rede und Antwort stehen.«

      Das Innenministerium teilte auf Anfrage mit, dass eine abschließende Bewertung des Sachverhaltes aufgrund der vorliegenden Informationen nicht möglich sei. Die Bundespolizei habe sich jedenfalls nicht an illegalen Pushbacks beteiligt. Eine vollständige Aufklärung bleibe abzuwarten und Berichte von griechischen Behörden würden nicht kommentiert.

      Die griechischen Behörden bleiben bei ihrer Version der Ereignisse. Das für die Küstenwache zuständige Ministerium teilte mit, der Fahrer der Schlauchbootes sei in Richtung Türkei zurückgefahren, nachdem er die griechische Küstenwache erblickt habe.
      »Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass Seehofer die Regelverstöße der griechischen Küstenwache deckt, weil sie ihm politisch in den Kram passen«

      SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert

      Doch in der Opposition und auch beim eigenen Koalitionspartner ist der Unmut groß. Selbst SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert schaltet sich nun in die Debatte ein. Durch die schriftlich festgehaltenen Erkenntnisse der eigenen Beamten festige sich der Eindruck, dass es in der Ägäis in der Tat zu Pushbacks komme, sagt er. Deshalb müsse Seehofer nun politisch reagieren. »Frontex muss die mutmaßliche griechische Pushback-Praxis endlich effektiv verhindern und die Zugänge zum Asylverfahren sicherstellen«, so Kühnert. »Sollte dies durch die Bundesregierung kurzfristig nicht durchsetzbar sein, muss das deutsche Kontingent unverzüglich aus der Mission abgezogen werden.«

      Kühnert möchte nun von Seehofer »noch in diesem Jahr dargelegt bekommen, wie und bis wann er auf Frontex einwirken wolle, um die Zusammenarbeit mit der griechischen Küstenwache wieder auf eine rechtskonforme Grundlage zu stellen.« Mit seiner Salamitaktik bei der Preisgabe von Informationen werde der Innenminister auch der Fürsorgepflicht gegenüber seinen eigenen Beamten nicht gerecht, mahnt Kühnert. »Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass Seehofer die Regelverstöße der griechischen Küstenwache deckt, weil sie ihm politisch in den Kram passen. Alles daran wäre inakzeptabel.«

      Neben Seehofer gerät auch Frontex-Chef Fabrice Leggeri durch die Beobachtungen der deutschen Polizisten in Erklärungsnot. Bis heute beteuert Leggeri, dass sich seine Grenzschützer nicht an Pushbacks beteiligen oder von ihnen wissen. Daran zweifelt aber inzwischen selbst die EU-Kommission.

      Auf deren Drängen schilderte Leggeri schriftlich die Details des Vorfalls vom 10. August. In seinen Antworten verschwieg aber auch Leggeri, dass die griechische Küstenwache laut den Deutschen die Flüchtlinge bereits an Bord geholt hatten – obwohl er wohl davon hätte wissen müssen. Die Bundespolizei jedenfalls hat auch dieses Detail des Einsatzes nach eigener Aussage an Frontex gemeldet.

      Frontex teilte auf Anfrage mit, wegen der laufenden Untersuchung keine Angaben zum Vorfall machen zu können.

      Für Leggeri ist die Angelegenheit besonders misslich, weil sich in seinen Aussagen ein Muster erkennen lässt: Der Frontex-Direktor täuscht die Öffentlichkeit, um die Pushbacks zu vertuschen. Vor den EU-Parlamentariern verteidigte er sich unlängst mit einer Falschaussage, indem er behauptete, dass der SPIEGEL und seine Recherchepartner sich bei ihren Recherchen zu einem Pushback im April geirrt hätten. Am fraglichen Tag habe es gar keinen Frontex-Aufklärungsflug gegeben, sagte Leggeri. Keine zwei Tage später musste er einräumen, dass das nicht stimmte. Weitere Vorfälle, die Experten als klare Pushbacks werten, erwähnte Leggeri entweder gar nicht oder nur auf Nachfrage in internen Schreiben.
      EU-Kommission rechnet mit Leggeri ab

      Inzwischen wirft auch die EU-Kommission Leggeri »irreführende« Aussagen vor. Das geht aus einem Brief der Kommission an ihn hervor. In dem Streit geht es um die Einstellung von Grundrechtsbeobachtern. Eigentlich hätte Frontex bis zum 5. Dezember 40 Mitarbeiter einstellen müssen, die darauf achten soll, dass die Rechte von Migranten an Europas Grenzen gewahrt werden. Bis heute hat Leggeri allerdings nicht einen solchen Mitarbeiter eingestellt.

      Der Frontex-Direktor macht die Kommission für die Verzögerung verantwortlich, die wiederum gibt Leggeri die Schuld. Leggeris Äußerungen zu dem Thema würden die Kommission »bestürzen« und »beunruhigen« heißt es in dem Brief. Das Schreiben liegt dem SPIEGEL vor, es liest sich wie eine Kampfansage.

      Die Verzögerungen bei den Grundrechtsbeobachtern seien skandalös, sagt die Grünenbundestagsabgeordnete Luise Amtsberg. Die Sache zeige, dass die Grenzschutzagentur den Menschenrechtsschutz schlicht nicht ernst genug nehme. »Die Bundesregierung muss endlich klare Konsequenzen aus den völkerrechtswidrigen Handlungen im Rahmen von Frontex-Missionen ziehen.«

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/frontex-skandal-horst-seehofer-deckte-offenbar-griechische-verbrechen-a-bd06

    • Push backs and violations of human rights at sea: a #timeline

      The following timeline provides a non-exhaustive compilation of main reports of push backs and other violations of human rights at the Greek-Turkish sea borders since March 2020, following Greece’s decision to impose a one-month suspension of its asylum procedure in response to declarations by Turkey that it would not prevent refugees from crossing its western borders. On 2 March, the Hellenic Armed Forces began live-fire military exercises along the Aegean, from Samothrace to Kastellorizo.

      Timeline dates refer to the date of publication of reports, separately indicating the date of alleged incidents, where available.

      This timeline solely purports to reproduce material made publicly available by media and civil society organisations and does not amount to an assessment by RSA or PRO ASYL of the allegations contained therein.

      https://rsaegean.org/en/push-backs-and-violations-of-human-rights-at-sea-a-timeline
      #chronologie

    • EU: Frontex director accused of misleading parliament over fundamental rights obligations

      Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri has been accused by a senior European Commission official of making statements “in a misleading manner” at a parliamentary hearing in December, when MEPs questioned him over the agency’s alleged role in pushbacks and the new fundamental rights monitoring framework included in 2019 legislation.

      Bang to rights

      In a letter obtained by Statewatch, Monique Pariat (the Director-General of the Commission’s migration and home affairs department), expresses “dismay” at Leggeri’s appearance before the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) on 1 December and rebukes, in no uncertain terms, the account he provided of the agency’s attempts to implement its new fundamental rights obligations.

      Those obligations include a fully functioning and independent fundamental rights office, an accessible complaints mechanism, and a credible serious incident reporting mechanism – the aim of which is to prevent, or at least ensure the reporting and investigation of, human rights abuses witnessed or committed by officials deployed on Frontex operations.

      A key role is foreseen in all this for the fundamental rights officer (FRO), who is supposed to head a team of at least 40 fundamental rights monitors – all of whom the agency was legally obliged to have recruited by 5 December 2020. However, it failed to do so.

      Blame game

      Leggeri told MEPs that although he personally prioritised the swift recruitment of fundamental rights staff, vacancy notices published by the agency in November 2019 were withdrawn on the request of the Commission, and subsequent delays in agreeing the seniority of the posts meant that vacancy notices were only published again in November 2020.

      Pariat does not dispute these points, but underlines that the Commission was obliged to request the withdrawal of the notices, because the Management Board had not approved them, as required by the 2019 Frontex Regulation. Without that approval, the letter says that “the publication of these vacancies was plain and simply unlawful” (emphasis in original).

      She adds that the Frontex Regulation requires the involvement of the FRO in the appointment of their deputy, but there was no such involvement prior to the 2019 vacancy notice publication. The Commission had to intervene to request removal of the vacancy notices, says Pariat, “to prevent serious irregularities which could jeopardise the well-functioning and the reputation of the Agency.”

      Bad reputation

      The agency’s reputation has nevertheless taken a battering in recent months. Frontex has faced numerous accusations that it either knew of or has been involved in pushbacks at Greece’s sea border with Turkey, leading the Socialists & Democrats – the second-largest group in the European Parliament – to call for Leggeri’s resignation. There are numerous other reports of similar violent incidents in the Balkans involving officials deployed on Frontex missions.

      The EU anti-fraud agency, OLAF, has also launched an investigation into the border agency, although the exact reasons for this remain unclear. OLAF’s remit allows it to carry out “administrative investigations for the purpose of fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the Union.”

      Leggeri has said that the agency will be undertaking a thorough investigation into the allegations of pushbacks, although the working group set up to investigate the affair is made up representatives from the agency’s Management Board and does not include the Fundamental Rights Officer or the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights.

      “Active resistance”

      A document cited by Greek newspaper Kathimerini suggests that fundamental rights are not one of Leggeri’s main interests. The document, provided to the paper by someone described as having “knowledge of the inner workings of Frontex,” says Leggeri told agency staff that “reporting pushbacks involving Frontex personnel is not a route to popularity or promotion,” and that the serous incident reporting (SIR) mechanism is “intentionally centralized to be slow, cumbersome and very discreet”.

      According to the paper, the document also says that Leggeri “actively resisted” hiring the 40 fundamental rights officers required by the Frontex Regulation, and told staff at the agency in early 2020 that “it is not a priority.”

      Pariat’s letter suggests that Leggeri himself delayed the procedure for recruiting new fundamental rights staff by five months, because of his “insistence on an arrangement which would not have been compatible with the EBCG [Frontex] Regulation”.

      There was a “surprising reluctance” from the agency to follow the Commission’s advice on implementing the new fundamental rights framework, says Pariat. She argues that “if the Agency had followed the Commission’s timely guidance and suggestions, the main milestones… could have been completed on time.”

      Even though the recruitment procedure is now going ahead, concerns remain. At the LIBE hearing in December, several MEPs questioned whether the staff grade applicable to the 40 posts will confer adequate authority and independence to the fundamental rights officers.

      At the time of publication, Frontex had not responded to a request for comment.

      Documentation

      - European Commission letter to Mr Leggeri, 18 December: Subject: Your letter of 4 December 2020 (ref: CAB/KARO/10563/2020) (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1708/eu-com-letter-to-frontex-18-12-20.pdf
      – Fabrice Leggeri, Answers to written questions following the LIBE Committee meeting 1 December (pdf) - annex to this letter (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1709/eu-frontex-written-questions-answers-libe-hearing-1-12-20.pdf

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-frontex-director-accused-of-misleading-parliament-over-fundamental-ri

    • Refoulements et gestion contestée : la pression s’intensifie sur le patron de Frontex

      Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de l’agence européenne de protection des frontières, est sous la pression de la Commission et du Parlement.

      Ce n’est pas un appel à la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de Frontex, mais cela y ressemble fort. Rencontrant, lundi 18 janvier, plusieurs médias européens, dont Le Monde, Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, a été interrogée sur un éventuel départ du patron français de ce qui est désormais l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes. « Je ne fais pas de commentaire là-dessus. Des procédures ont été lancées, elles ne sont pas terminées. Mais je pense qu’elles doivent l’être », indiquait la commissaire socialiste suédoise.

      Des propos prudents mais qui cachent mal le fait qu’entre la Commission et Frontex le torchon brûle. Pour preuve, une lettre envoyée au siège de l’agence en décembre 2020 par #Monique_Pariat, chef de la direction générale de la migration et des affaires intérieures à Bruxelles. Un long réquisitoire reprochant à M. Leggeri des retards, des carences dans la gestion et des « hésitations incompréhensibles » à suivre les instructions. Voire un #mensonge au sujet du recrutement des personnels qui devaient être chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux au sein de l’Agence.

      Les « procédures » visant M. Leggeri et évoquées par Mme Johansson sont multiples. Et elles visent essentiellement la possible implication de Frontex dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Union, avant qu’ils aient pu introduire d’éventuelles demandes d’asile. En octobre 2020, plusieurs médias évoquaient, témoignages et images à l’appui, six cas de refoulements en mer Egée. Avec, notamment, les manœuvres dangereuses d’un navire de Frontex, qui aurait pu entraîner le #naufrage d’une embarcation. La direction de l’Agence démentait à l’époque toute infraction.

      Constitution d’un groupe de travail

      L’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union a lancé une enquête et, le 7 décembre 2020, les bureaux de M. Leggeri et de son directeur de cabinet ont été perquisitionnés. L’investigation porterait, aussi, sur des faits de #harcèlement et des erreurs de gestion.

      Plusieurs groupes politiques du Parlement européen ont, eux, transmis une longue liste de questions au directeur exécutif après qu’il a été entendu, le 1er décembre 2020, par l’Assemblée. M. Leggeri avait indiqué qu’une #enquête_interne n’avait pas prouvé l’implication de membres de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux. Peu convaincus, les eurodéputés du groupe socialiste ont exigé sa #démission, d’autres groupes ont réclamé des explications complémentaires.

      Au sein de Frontex même, un #groupe_de_travail avait été constitué en novembre, sur insistance de la Commission. Son rapport devrait être examiné lors d’une réunion du conseil d’administration, mercredi 20 et jeudi 21 janvier. Ce conseil est composé de représentants des pays membres de l’Union et de deux membres de la Commission.

      L’un des principaux reproches adressés à M. Leggeri est qu’il aurait tergiversé pour embaucher la quarantaine de personnes qui, en théorie, auraient dû être à pied d’œuvre dès décembre 2020 pour veiller au respect des droits des migrants et demandeurs d’asile. Dans la lettre de Mme Pariat qu’il a reçue en décembre, le directeur se voit reprocher d’avoir agi « de manière trompeuse » en ne livrant pas les explications correctes aux parlementaires quant à l’absence de ces employés. Mme Johansson pense également que certains des propos qu’il avait tenus n’étaient « pas vrais ».

      Action « illégale »

      La commissaire suédoise n’a, jusqu’ici, pas officiellement retiré sa confiance au directeur. Elle endosse cependant les critiques qui lui sont adressées par sa direction générale, qui évoque encore une action « illégale » de M. Leggeri en 2019, avec la publication de deux vacances de postes dirigeants qui n’avaient pas été approuvées par le conseil d’administration.

      Au Parlement, où la plénière débattait, mardi, du pacte migratoire proposé récemment par la Commission, la tension monte également. Mme Johansson a insisté sur la nécessité pour les pays de l’Union, les candidats à l’adhésion et « les agences européennes aussi » d’adhérer pleinement au respect des #droits_fondamentaux. Et plusieurs députés ont à nouveau mis en cause Frontex, l’élue socialiste bulgare #Elena_Yoncheva jugeant qu’en matière de « pushbacks » l’agence fait désormais « partie du problème, pas de la solution ».

      Une situation embarrassante pour toute l’Union : dotée maintenant d’uniformes, d’armes et d’un budget passé au total à 5,6 milliards d’euros pour la période 2021-2027, l’agence des garde-frontières peut difficilement voir la #légitimité de son principal dirigeant remise en question au plus haut niveau. A ce stade, celui-ci n’a pas réagi officiellement aux accusations qui le visent. Il pourrait le faire prochainement, selon un membre de son entourage.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/20/refoulements-et-gestion-contestee-la-pression-s-intensifie-sur-le-patron-de-

    • Le garde-frontière Frontex en pleine tourmente

      Les refoulements aux frontières européennes fragilisent la position du directeur de Frontex, l’agence européenne de garde-frontières. La Commission reproche à Fabrice Leggeri d’avoir ralenti l’embauche d’officiers de contrôle des droits fondamentaux. Son agence est soumise à plusieurs #enquêtes, dont une de l’#office_européen_anti-fraude. Des députés demandent sa #démission.

      Bruxelles (Belgique).– Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur de Frontex, est cerné de toutes parts. Sa position, à la tête de l’agence européenne de garde-côtes et de garde-frontières, est fragilisée suite à de récents scandales concernant des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile vers la Turquie, auxquels aurait participé Frontex. Des députés appellent à sa démission. La médiatrice européenne, #Emily_O’Reilly, a ouvert une #enquête le 11 novembre dernier pour évaluer le fonctionnement du mécanisme de #plainte_interne à Frontex. Même l’office européen de lutte anti-fraude investigue et scrute la gestion de l’agence.

      Le dernier coup de boutoir vient de la #Commission_européenne. Dans une lettre du 18 décembre, la directrice générale chargée des migrations et des affaires intérieures, Monique Pariat, adressait des mots durs à Fabrice Leggeri au sujet d’irrégularités et de retards dans les procédures de recrutement d’un officier des droits fondamentaux, de son adjoint et de 40 contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux, qui devaient faire partie de l’agence le 5 décembre 2020 au plus tard et qui ne sont toujours pas embauchés : « C’est la responsabilité de la Commission […] d’intervenir pour empêcher que des irrégularités sérieuses viennent compromettre le bon fonctionnement et la réputation de l’agence. »

      La réputation de Frontex a pourtant déjà été écornée à de multiples reprises dans le passé, sans que l’exécutif bruxellois s’en émeuve. « Pendant longtemps la Commission a protégé Fabrice Leggeri, commente #Birgit_Sippel, eurodéputée allemande du groupe des socialistes et démocrates. Il semble que le vent tourne, notamment sous la pression du #Parlement_européen. »

      C’est le 23 octobre 2020 que le vent a tourné. Une série de médias européens, dont Der Spiegel et Bellingcat, publiaient alors une enquête fouillée suggérant que l’agence européenne avait, entre mars et août 2020, soit assisté à des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile en mer Égée par des garde-côtes grecs, sans les avoir rapportés, soit participé activement au renvoi de canots vers les côtes turques, alors que les refoulements sont strictement prohibés par le droit international. Le 8 juin, un navire de l’opération « #Poséidon » de Frontex, battant pavillon roumain, aurait même bloqué un canot de migrants avant de contribuer à le repousser.

      Fabrice Leggeri est venu s’expliquer devant le Parlement européen le 1er décembre. Selon lui, l’enquête interne menée par ses services concluait à « l’absence de preuves » de refoulement dans les cas mentionnés par la presse. Il insistait sur le fait que les activités de contrôle aux frontières avaient toujours lieu « à la demande et sous le commandement des autorités nationales », Frontex intervenant en coordination des opérations maritimes, en mobilisant des avions, des navires et des garde-frontières originaires des 27 États membres.

      Ces déclarations élusives ont hérissé de nombreux députés européens. « La façon dont il a répondu à nos questions montre que Fabrice Leggeri ne prend pas vraiment au sérieux ces allégations. Frontex a besoin de changements structurels, et je pense qu’il n’est pas la bonne personne pour les mener », avance Tineke Strik, eurodéputée néerlandaise des Verts.

      De la #gauche_unitaire_européenne (#GUE) au groupe centriste de #Renew, les critiques pleuvent à l’encontre de Fabrice Leggeri, mais l’attitude à adopter crée des divisions. La centriste néerlandaise, #Sophie_In’t_Veld, du groupe Renew, milite pour qu’une commission d’enquête parlementaire soit mise sur pied, « car on parle d’actes criminels ». Avant de réclamer la démission du directeur – qui ne peut être décidée que par le conseil d’administration de Frontex composé des États membres et de la Commission – la députée pense « qu’il faut d’abord faire toute la lumière sur les faits ».

      Au sein du groupe des socialistes et démocrates, des députés veulent aller plus vite. « Pourquoi perdre un an avec une #commission_d’enquête ?, s’interroge #Birgit_Sippel. Les rapports décrivant les violations des droits humains aux frontières sont là. Pour l’instant, Fabrice Leggeri se cache et échappe à ses responsabilités. » Des députés de la GUE comme des #Verts réclament à la fois une commission d’enquête et la #démission du directeur. Quant à la droite, le Parti populaire européen n’a pas encore de position sur ces thèmes, mais voit d’un mauvais œil cette idée de commission d’enquête.

      Le mastodonte sans contrôle

      Pour Yves Pascouau, directeur du programme Europe à l’association Res-Publica, par ailleurs spécialiste des questions migratoires européenne (et élu de la majorité nantaise), « l’augmentation des moyens et des pouvoirs de Frontex ne peut pas se faire sans une augmentation de ses responsabilités ».

      Frontex, au fil des ans, est devenu un mastodonte. En 2012, son budget était de 89,5 millions d’euros. Il est en 2020 de 460 millions. 5,6 milliards d’euros ont été dégagés pour la période 2021-2027. Il s’agit de la plus grosse agence de l’UE qui sera dotée, d’ici 2027, de 10 000 garde-côtes véritablement européens, avec leurs propres uniformes. « Cela permettra d’augmenter la transparence et la responsabilité de Frontex », veut croire une source européenne.

      Aujourd’hui, Frontex se déploie sous commandement des autorités nationales. Mais les agents qui agissent en son nom ne sont pas exempts de responsabilités. Ils ont l’obligation d’envoyer un rapport aux dirigeants de Frontex à chaque incident sérieux auquel ils assistent, y compris lorsque des violations des droits humains sont observées.

      Le Forum consultatif de Frontex, qui réunit des institutions européennes, des organisations internationales et ONG, s’interroge inlassablement sur « l’effectivité » de ce système. En 2018, seuls 3 incidents sérieux relatifs à des violations de droits humains furent comptabilisés par l’agence, et 9 en 2019, sans que l’on sache quel a été le suivi de ces dossiers.

      Quant à l’embauche des milliers de garde-frontières, elle doit être contrebalancée par davantage de contrôles des activités de Frontex. L’officier des droits fondamentaux, son adjoint et sa petite équipe d’au minimum 40 contrôleurs sont considérés comme la clef de voûte de ce système de surveillance du respect des #droits_humains.

      Dans la lettre adressée à Fabrice Leggeri, Monique Pariat regrette qu’au 18 décembre, aucun de ces recrutements n’ait été effectué. Elle pointe la « réticence surprenante de Frontex » à suivre les lignes directrices de la Commission, « ce qui a encore davantage entravé et retardé cet important processus ». La directrice générale dénonce encore la démarche « illégale » du directeur général qui avait publié, en 2019, une première annonce pour le poste d’officier des droits fondamentaux, sans l’accord du conseil d’administration de Frontex qui sera pourtant le supérieur hiérarchique direct de ce futur employé.

      Elle l’accuse encore d’avoir présenté les faits aux eurodéputés « de manière trompeuse ». L’attaque est frontale. Au-delà de l’enjeu institutionnel, Giorgos Kosmopoulos, du bureau européen d’Amnesty International, estime que « l’embauche de contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux n’est pas une mauvaise chose à condition qu’ils aient véritablement les moyens de mener des enquêtes, d’aller sur le terrain ». Et sur le terrain, justement, les refoulements aux frontières de l’Europe sont documentés et très nombreux. En #Grèce, en #Croatie, en #Hongrie.

      En mars 2020, le comité européen pour la prévention de la torture rapportait des allégations « crédibles et consistantes » de refoulements et détentions arbitraires, souvent accompagnées de violences, à la frontière gréco-turque. « On ne parle pas de cas isolés, ajoute Giorgos Kosmopoulos. La pratique est si répandue et généralisée qu’il est impossible que Frontex ne soit pas au courant, vu son implication sur le terrain. »

      Le directeur de Frontex, s’il estime qu’il existe « des violations graves […] des droits fondamentaux » doit mettre un terme à l’activité litigieuse à laquelle participe son agence. « Le directeur doit vérifier la situation sur le terrain et le cas échéant il doit retirer ses équipes pour qu’elles ne soient pas liées à des violations de droits humains, mais ce n’est jamais arrivé », conclut Giorgos Kosmopoulos.

      Dans ce contexte, Tineke Strik pense qu’une démission de Fabrice Leggeri, certes bienvenue, « ne résoudra pas tout. Les problèmes sont structurels. Il faudra lancer une enquête approfondie sur le fonctionnement de Frontex ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/210121/le-garde-frontiere-frontex-en-pleine-tourmente?onglet=full

    • Validating Border Violence on the Aegean: Frontex’s Internal Records

      The Aegean Sea, separating Turkey from Greece’s ‘hotspot’ islands, is a site of longstanding and increasingly visible border violence: the systematic use of inflatable life rafts by the Hellenic Coast Guard to push people back to Turkey has been widely documented since March last year. This maritime borderzone also stages the operational theatre of Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon, under which patrol boats, helicopters and surveillance planes have been deployed to patrol the extensive breadth of water.

      Frontex repeatedly denied any involvement in these pushbacks (see here and here), stressing its commitment to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of fundamental rights. This ‘modus operandi’ in which fundamental rights become a rhetorical defence could no longer hold after investigative reporters showed visual evidence of Frontex’s complicit role in pushbacks, prompting further media scrutiny and pressure by the European Parliament and Commission.

      In November, Efsyn, a Greek media outlet, published an eighteen-page long Frontex internal document addressed to the agency’s Management Board. The document aimed at answering questions by Member States and the Commission about the on-going pushbacks in the Aegean. The document, which fuelled Frontex’s recent internal inquiry, lists a series of so-called ‘incidents’ and, at times, offers detailed accounts of the previously denied pushbacks. However, these were not recorded as such.

      A closer look at the document reveals numerous ‘#JORA_incidents’ classified as ‘prevention of departure’, as this transcript from August 19, 2020, illustrates:

      frontex

      The #Joint_Operations_Reporting_Application (#JORA) is the main information system that collects and stores all ‘border related incidents’ from Frontex joint operations. Such incidents range from Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, interceptions, Serious Incident Reports to, as the one above, so-called preventions of departure. The leaked document contains twenty of the latter, all following a similar pattern: Firstly, the location of the rubber boat is recorded in Turkish territorial waters; second, Frontex assets are “excused from the scene” after detection; and, finally, a rehearsed ending: the boat “altered course on her own initiative/will and headed towards the Turkish coasts” or, alternately, the Turkish Coast Guard “took over responsibility”.

      Importantly, these JORA incidents coexist with the regular documenting of border violence. Descriptions of boats of asylum-seekers returning to Turkey of their own volition jar with regular testimonies describing the coercive methods employed to push them back. Alarm Phone, Aegean Boat Report and Border Violence Monitoring Network document human rights violations occurring at the same border, on the same dates and, often, at the same time as the JORA incidents.

      On the same day as the JORA incident above:

      Logging the border

      JORA incidents, together with information collected via Eurosur, form the backbone of Europe’s external borders and migration situational picture, Frontex’s narrative of the border. Yet, what is and is not accounted for in JORA and how, has not received much attention. Contrary to the few Serious Incident Reports related to violations of fundamental rights, which are dealt with by the Fundamental Rights Officer and presented to the Management Board, other incidents recorded in JORA don’t reach the public domain. Once inserted and validated, they become a dot on a map at the Frontex Situation Centre in Warsaw. They are devised to feed into risk analyses, maps and weekly analytical overviews.

      This ‘business-as-usual’ mode of reporting is mostly done by a few officers from the host Member State— in Greece, by the Hellenic Coast Guard and Police—who insert incidents into a standardised template through a set of rigid, mandatory fields. Reporting is not done by the officers on the patrol boats but mostly those who sit at coordination centres. Once inserted in the system, incidents are sent to the International Coordination Centre and the Frontex Situation Centre where they are cross-checked with reports from both Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex deployed officers for validation. This validation process does not statically move in one direction; incidents can go back and forth in the validation chain. The final validation is done by a “specialized team of experts” at Frontex headquarters as the leaked document explains. Yet, incidents can be re-initiated and modified even after finalisation (see work by Pollozek).

      The design of the system allows for the rehearsed recording of formulaic bordering practices that, if closely examined, resemble its coexistent violent forms. Shading into the routine, the JORA records circulate regularly from the islands to Piraeus and Warsaw. While the full JORA archive is inaccessible to the public, the reviewed incidents give us insight into how a particular doctrine of border enforcement is being sustained by the agency and to what effects.

      Normalising violence, eroding rights

      The effects of these records arguably extend beyond the tactical level of border policing. Through their production, a narrative arc is formed by the recorded incidents, generating a specific mode of understanding. Data must be made intelligible to the JORA system and officials along the chain before it can be validated. As a result, even acts of violence such as pushbacks can get translated into mundane logs and thus, brought within the remit of everyday border enforcement and legality.

      The leaked document asserts that the “the notion of ‘prevention of departure”, according to which these ‘incidents’ are classified, should be interpreted “in conjunction with the provisions of Regulation 656/2014, in particular Articles 6 and 7”. While the precise legal meaning of this category in this context remains unclear, its ramifications for the right to leave a country are concerning.

      Regulation 656/2014 indeed provides legal basis (in certain factual circumstances) for the interception of boats carrying asylum-seekers. Yet, it clearly stipulates that the actions that official entities may lawfully take to enforce the border must be compliant with their obligations under EU and international law, including, inter alia, international human rights and refugee law. Moreover, it states: “This Regulation should not affect the responsibilities of search and rescue authorities, including for ensuring that coordination and cooperation is conducted in such a way that the persons rescued can be delivered to a place of safety.”

      The records, however, present an account of border enforcement that exists in isolation from human rights and humanitarian commitments. The dangerous conditions in which border enforcement takes place and the vulnerability of asylum seekers to these conditions are rendered irrelevant and thereby, banalised. Rubber boats carrying illegalized migrants are generally considered seaworthy, not recognised as in distress, regardless of how many people they carry or the fluctuating weather conditions in the Aegean. In none of the incidents contained in the leaked document was a SAR triggered by the Hellenic Coast Guard or Frontex. In this sense, JORA acts as a mediator that transforms, translates, distorts and modifies the meaning of these ‘incidents’. Through the designation of bureaucratic categories (e.g. prevention of departure), JORA codifies and transforms situations that should trigger humanitarian and human rights obligations into legitimate practices of border control. In the process, the duty to render assistance at sea is distorted, and the obligation to facilitate access to asylum is obscured.

      In the context of on-going internal discussions about the legality of interceptions at sea, Frontex’s internal records reveal the practices deemed acceptable by the agency and their interpretation of international legal obligations. The records provide insight into a vision of border enforcement, crystallised at the boundaries of the global north, that perpetuates the violent securitisation of borders to the detriment of human mobility, dignity and safety. They carve out a space where border control activities are shielded from scrutiny, erasing human rights from the operational script.

      Any comments about this post? Get in touch with us! Send us an email, or post a comment here or on Facebook. You can also tweet us.

      https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2021/01/validating-border

    • Five migrant pushback claims under scrutiny

      The board of directors of the European border agency Frontex, which met on Wednesday and Thursday, has decided to further investigate five of 13 reported cases of illegal migrants pushbacks last year, with the alleged help of Frontex guards, from Greece into Turkish territorial waters in the eastern Aegean.

      The board deemed that Frontex did not provide the necessary information and clarifications for the five cases under investigation.

      In view of this, the team investigating the claims has been given additional time to complete its work and present its final conclusions to a new extraordinary board meeting scheduled for February 26.

      With regard to the other eight cases, the board said that there is no evidence to confirm any violations. It also accepted that some of these incidents unfolded in Turkish territorial waters, and in others the migrant boats turned back on their own accord.

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/261560/article/ekathimerini/news/five-migrant-pushback-claims-under-scrutiny

    • L’agence européenne Frontex fragilisée par les accusations d’expulsions illégales

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, qui a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie, est accusée d’avoir participé au « pushback », qui consiste à repousser les migrants sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile.
      Accusations d’implication dans des « pushbacks » – des refoulements illégaux de migrants et demandeurs d’asile aux frontières –, enquêtes de l’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union européenne (UE) et de la Commission de Bruxelles, mise en cause de son directeur, Fabrice Leggeri : l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Frontex, chargée de surveiller les frontières extérieures de l’UE, traverse de grosses turbulences. Mercredi 27 janvier, elle a même été contrainte d’annoncer qu’elle allait arrêter ses opérations en Hongrie, une première dans l’histoire de cette institution, fondée en 2004.
      « Nos efforts communs pour protéger les frontières extérieures ne peuvent réussir que si nous veillons à ce que notre coopération et nos activités soient pleinement conformes aux lois de l’UE », a expliqué un porte-parole, en critiquant implicitement les pratiques illégales de la police hongroise, auxquelles l’agence européenne participait pourtant depuis la crise des réfugiés de 2015.
      En cause, la pratique du « pushback », systématisée par le premier ministre ultranationaliste, Viktor Orban, et développée ailleurs dans l’Union. Le fait de repousser les migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile n’a pas été partout aussi clairement assumé qu’en Hongrie, mais la Grèce, la Croatie, l’Italie ou la Slovénie, notamment, ont été mises an cause pour s’être livrées, elles aussi, à cette pratique illégale. Un « Livre noir », épais de 1 500 pages et présenté récemment par un réseau d’ONG, a recensé pas moins de 900 cas de ce type, concernant près de 13 000 personnes.
      Expulsions inhumaines
      Depuis une loi adoptée en 2016, la Hongrie considère, elle, que tous les migrants arrivant sur son sol peuvent être immédiatement renvoyés vers la Serbie voisine. Lorsqu’ils sont arrêtés, après avoir réussi à franchir la clôture que M. Orban a fait construire tout le long de la frontière, ou même à Budapest, les migrants se voient systématiquement refuser de déposer une demande d’asile et sont expulsés sans autre forme de procès, dans des conditions parfois inhumaines.
      Présents à la frontière hongroise depuis 2015, les agents de Frontex ont participé à cette politique, malgré les critiques des organisations non gouvernementales. « La Hongrie est le seul pays à avoir légalisé les “pushbacks” et à les pratiquer aussi ouvertement. La police hongroise publie même des chiffres tous les jours sur le nombre de personnes renvoyées en Serbie », dénonce Andras Lederer, du Comité Helsinki hongrois, une ONG spécialisée dans l’aide aux migrants. Il estime que la Hongrie a pratiqué 50 000 refoulements depuis 2016. A l’issue d’une longue bataille juridique, la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne a estimé, le 17 décembre 2020, que les pratiques hongroises enfreignent les directives régissant le droit d’asile.
      Malgré cet arrêt, le gouvernement de Budapest a refusé de modifier sa législation et a continué ces pratiques. « La Hongrie ne va pas céder devant la pression des forces pro-immigration », affirmait encore le porte-parole du gouvernement, Zoltan Kovacs, jeudi 28 janvier. « Bruxelles veut nous prendre le peu d’aide qu’on avait », a-t-il ajouté en réaction au retrait de Frontex, devenu inéluctable après l’arrêt de la Cour de Luxembourg. Pour M. Lederer, ce retrait est en revanche « bienvenu » : « La Hongrie ne pourra plus se cacher derrière la présence de Frontex pour continuer cette pratique. »
      Violences aux frontières de l’Union
      Avec un contingent censé atteindre 10 000 hommes, un budget pluriannuel passé à 5,6 milliards d’euros et son rôle de gardienne stricte des frontières, en association avec les forces nationales, l’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est l’une des pièces essentielles de la politique migratoire de l’UE et du « pacte » proposé en 2020 pour la Commission. Sa mise en cause, alors même qu’elle est loin de tourner à plein régime, est de mauvais augure.
      Jeudi 28 janvier, alors que les vingt-sept ministres de l’intérieur, réunis en visioconférence, évoquaient – en présence du directeur de Frontex – le dossier de la migration, l’Agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés évoquait un droit d’asile « menacé » en Europe et disait recevoir « de nombreux rapports » sur les violences exercées aux frontières de l’Union.
      D’où l’attention toute particulière que porte la commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, au dossier des « pushbacks ». La responsable suédoise se satisfait-elle des explications de la direction de Frontex, dont le conseil d’administration affirmait, le 21 janvier, qu’il n’avait pas trouvé de preuves de violation des droits de l’homme dans les cas qu’il a examinés ? « Sur la base des informations fournies », il n’aurait « pu établir de preuves ». Il a toutefois précisé que ses conclusions ne concernaient que certains incidents en Grèce et que des clarifications étaient nécessaires. Cinq cas problématiques de possibles refoulements impliquant Frontex sont encore examinés.
      Jeudi, devant les ministres, Mme Johansson a réclamé « toutes les analyses nécessaires » pour, dit-elle, rétablir la confiance dans l’agence. Elle a aussi évoqué un projet de réforme, incluant la nomination de trois sous-directeurs et la mise en place – enfin – d’un système de surveillance des droits humains.
      Le débat « recule »
      Au-delà du sort de Frontex, la question est de savoir si une définition d’une véritable politique migratoire européenne, avec une refonte des règles de l’asile et une solidarité accrue entre les pays, a une chance de se réaliser. Confirmant que le débat sur le « pacte » élaboré par la Commission « n’a pas beaucoup avancé », le secrétaire d’Etat belge à la migration, Sammy Mahdi, déclarait, jeudi, au quotidien La Libre Belgique qu’il fallait le rendre « rationnel ». Pour sortir les discussions de l’ornière, pour vérifier que la proposition de la Commission est opérationnelle et, enfin, pour que chacun annonce vraiment ses intentions, M. Mahdi propose « une simulation » : sur la base des chiffres de l’année 2019, chaque pays préciserait ce qu’il pourrait accomplir concernant l’accueil, la solidarité, le financement des infrastructures d’accueil aux frontières, etc.
      Un communiqué du secrétaire d’Etat évoquait une possible évolution de la Hongrie et de ses partenaires du groupe de Visegrad, à condition que soit satisfaite leur revendication (très floue) d’une solidarité « flexible ». Un participant à la réunion de jeudi faisait preuve de moins de conviction : « Faire avancer le débat ? Mais il recule ! » Vétéran des conseils européens sur la migration, le ministre luxembourgeois Jean Asselborn n’est pas loin de confirmer : « Nous sommes sans doute tous d’accord sur les contrôles aux frontières extérieures ou sur les retours. Mais pas sur la manière de respecter les droits humains des demandeurs d’asile, sur les relocalisations obligatoires ou sur l’impératif de solidarité » entre les pays européens. Les Etats prêts à respecter ces principes se compteraient, en effet, désormais sur les doigts d’une main.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/29/l-agence-europeenne-frontex-fragilisee-par-les-accusations-d-expulsions-ille

    • Refoulement de migrants : « Frontex se retranche toujours derrière ses États hôtes » (Migreurop)

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie après une décision de la Cour de justice européenne critiquant le système d’asile de ce pays. L’Office européen de lutte antifraude enquête de son côté sur la gouvernance de l’agence par son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri dont plusieurs eurodéputés demandent la démission. Frontex a-t-elle participé à des opérations de « pushback », initiées par la Hongrie, qui consistent à repousser des migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile ? Le décryptage de Brijitte Espuche, co-coordinatrice du réseau Migreurop.

      https://www.rfi.fr/fr/podcasts/invit%C3%A9-international/20210129-refoulement-de-migrants-frontex-se-retranche-toujours-derri%C3%A8re-ses

    • Frontex: Management Board pushes back against secrecy proposals in preliminary report

      Statewatch is publishing the preliminary report of the working group set up by the agency’s Management Board following allegations of involvement in pushbacks from Turkey to Greece. Amongst other things, the report indicates that Frontex has proposed labelling Serious Incident Reports as EU Classified Information, which would reduce transparency and, in turn, accountability.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim

    • Scandals Plunge Europe’s Border Agency into Turmoil

      Accusations of workplace harassment, mismanagement and financial irregularities have led to chaos at Europe’s border agency. The allegations weigh heavily on Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri.

      The men and women who are part of Europe’s new elite border force meet every morning at 9 a.m. for a video conference that is viewed on screens in countries like Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania. The Frontex officials usually discuss migration movements and human trafficking, But since the beginning of January, the internal meetings have focused primarily on low morale within the team.

      "Do something at last, or soon no one will work here anymore,” one border guard warned in one of the calls. The policemen and women who regularly complain about their woes are the European Union’s first dedicated border guards. They’re part of Frontex’s standing corps.

      For months now, Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency, and its head Fabrice Leggeri, have been embroiled in a series of scandals. Frontex has been accused of being involved in illegal repatriations of refugees at Europe’s external borders, workplace harassment and a possible case of fraud linked to the agency. Now the crisis has also reached the standing corps, the border management agency’s prestige project.

      Frontex plans to deploy up to 10,000 border guards to the EU’s external borders in the coming years. The civil servants were promised brand new equipment and EU jobs with lavish salaries and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally pushed for the creation of the standing corps. The stars of the EU flag sparkle on the sleeves of the new dark blue uniforms worn by the reserves.

      The job may sound glamorous on paper, but it is anything but in the countries where the reserve guards have been deployed, like Greece, Croatia and Albania. Several officers have told DER SPIEGEL of a shortage of agency vehicles, such that expensive SUVs must be rented instead — with officers allegedly even having to pay for gas themselves in some cases. They claim that expenses weren’t reimbursed for bureaucratic reasons, and that parts of the new uniforms were missing and had to be bought by the border guards themselves.

      The officers should be out hunting down criminals and catching smugglers, but Category 1 officers, who are directly employed by Frontex, so far haven’t been allowed to carry weapons because the agency failed to provide the legal basis for doing so in time. The result is that the border guards, supposedly members of an elite European force, have to be escorted on every one of their patrols by national security forces.

      When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex also said that the pandemic has created additional challenges for deploying the force, but things are back on track again. Yet the agency’s own officers don’t see it that way. It’s a "Potemkin reserve,” scoffs one. "It’s not worth it,” says another officer, who is thinking about quitting.

      The establishment of the standing corps is one of the EU’s most important migration policy projects. The purpose is to control irregular immigration. But now the European Commission and the member states must stand by and watch as it becomes the focus of ridicule.

      The fiasco over the standing corps has become emblematic of an agency that has been falling short of public expectations for years, and of an agency head who is accumulating more and more power but doesn’t seem to know how to use it correctly.

      Under Leggeri, Frontex has stumbled from one scandal to the next. Last autumn, DER SPIEGEL, together with international media partners, first reported that Frontex forces in the Aegean Sea were involved in illegal repatriations of refugees, which are called pushbacks. The Frontex Management Board is investigating the allegations and the EU Ombudsman has opened an inquiry. Leggeri himself is apparently obstructing the investigations.

      In January, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced it had launched an investigation into Frontex. Leggeri claims that the investigators are looking into the pushback reports and that he cannot provide any further comment. But DER SPIEGEL has found in its reporting that the accusations go much further. The investigation involves a possible case of fraud involving a service provider, allegations of workplace harassment and whether information was withheld from the agency’s fundamental rights officer, whose job is to monitor Frontex’s adherence to basic human rights laid out in EU charters, conventions and international law. Internal documents suggest that Leggeri’s entire leadership style is under scrutiny.

      What happened? How could the authority charged with protecting the EU’s external borders descend into such chaos? And what does it all mean for the EU’s migration policy?

      DER SPIEGEL, the media organization Lighthouse Reports and the French newspaper Libération interviewed nearly a dozen current and former Frontex officials in the reporting of this story. Most insisted that their names not be mentioned in the story for fear that they could lose their jobs. Leggeri, for his part, rejected an interview request.

      When combined with internal documents that DER SPIEGEL and its partners were able to view, the insiders’ reports paint a picture of an agency in turmoil.

      France Télécom: How Leggeri seized power at Frontex

      The headquarters of Frontex are located in an office complex in Warsaw’s Wola district, not far from the city center. For years, only a few officials worked here compiling reports on migration routes. Actual border guards were borrowed from national police forces.

      But the agency has grown from a budget of just over 6 million euros in 2005 to 460 million euros in 2020. By 2027, Europe’s taxpayers will have provided 5.6 billion euros in funding to the agency.

      Frontex now has its own border guards, called the standing corps, in addition to aircraft and drones that will soon be complemented by unmanned airships that will provide surveillance as they circle over the Aegean Sea. Frontex’s rise has had a lot to do with Leggeri, the man who has done more than anyone else to shape the agency.

      Leggeri, 52, was born in Mulhouse, in France’s Alsace region, and speaks fluent German. He studied at the École Nationale d’Administration in Strasbourg, a university that has long produced the French elite. Starting in 2013, he worked at the Interior Ministry in Paris in the department for irregular immigration. At the time, the government advocated for Frontex’s expansion, and two years later, Leggeri was named head of the agency.

      Colleagues describe Leggeri as a technocrat. At a Christmas party once, the team gathered around and he began talking with great pathos about the achievements of the "Frontex family.” But Leggeri was reading from his notepad. "It seemed like the whole things was out of his league,” recalled one audience member.

      During the course of Frontex’s expansion, Leggeri tailored the agency to precisely fit his needs. He expanded his cabinet, filling many important posts with fellow French compatriots.

      Frontex workers say Leggeri is on rarely seen in the hallways, and that all important decisions are made by a small inner circle. They describe him as being a control freak, with some former staffers even going so far as to call him a "dictator.” Leggeri "runs the agency like it’s a sub-prefecture,” says someone who has worked with him for a long time. "You may be able to run a French ministry that way, but not an international organization.”

      Frontex staffers have taken to calling Leggeri’s cabinet "France Télécom” when the bosses aren’t around. It’s a reference to the scandal at the French telecommunications authority, which involved systematic bullying and harassment so bad that it drove a number of employees to commit suicide.

      The resentment felt by many Frontex staffers is largely directed at one of Leggeri’s closest confidants: Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin. The Frenchman comes from an aristocratic family from southern France. He once worked for Bernard Carayon, a member of the French parliament, who used to be part of a far-right student union. De La Haye Jousselin is a reserve officer in the French army and has a thing for the military and uniforms. “De La Haye Jousselin is clearly on the right politically,” says someone who has known him for years. Now, he serves Leggeri as the head of his cabinet.

      Insiders say that de La Haye Jousselin leads with an iron fist, and that he is quick to lose his temper. Employees claim he insults people and engages in disrespectful behavior. The agency stated that Frontex has not received any official complaints about de La Haye Jousselin and also claimed that no cabinet member has been hired solely on the basis of their nationality. De La Haye Jousselin dismissed the accusations as "false and baseless.”

      But the behavior of Leggeri and his cabinet chief has consequences. Dissent seems to be frowned upon. And this is likely one of the reasons internal control mechanisms at the agency are becoming less effective.

      Inmaculada Arnáez has more than 20 years of experience in human rights issues. The Spanish lawyer has worked for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and she has been with Frontex since 2012. As the fundamental rights officer, she is supposed to operate independently of the executive director in her job as the agency’s internal watchdog. But when Leggeri took the helm in 2015, she quickly became aware of how little concern the new leader apparently had for human rights.

      Former Frontex employees report that Arnáez was left out in the cold. "We felt like Leggeri just bypassed her.” They claim that human rights had never been his priority.

      The final break between Leggeri and Arnáez came when the European Parliament granted the fundamental rights commissioner more powers in 2019. Arnáez was to be assisted by 40 human rights observers, which would have enabled her office to conduct its own investigations at Europe’s external borders. Apparently that was unthinkable for Leggeri.

      On Nov. 19, 2019, just as Arnáez was returning from an extended illness, the Frontex chief publicly advertised her position. In doing so, Leggeri had also bypassed the Frontex Management Board, since such a job posting requires the board’s approval. He had informed Arnáez only a short time before. In a written assessment obtained by DER SPIEGEL, the European Commission states that Leggeri’s move had been "plain and simply unlawful” and "could be considered as an attempt to discredit or weaken” Arnáez.

      The Commission forced Leggeri to withdraw the job posting. But the Frontex chief didn’t give up. He claimed Arnáez had to be replaced because she doesn’t have enough management experience to lead 40 employees.

      It seems likely, though, that the Frontex chief was mainly bothered by Arnáez because of her advocacy for human rights. Arnáez has repeatedly warned Leggeri against breaking the law. Colleagues say that she believed in the power of her reports. She regularly informed Leggeri about human rights violations in the Aegean Sea and recommended that he abandon the mission in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán legalized pushbacks in 2016.

      Leggeri ignored the fundamental rights officer’s reports and continued the operation in the Aegean Sea. He only withdrew his officers from Hungary a few weeks ago after a ruling by the European Court of Justice forced him to do so. When contacted for comment, Leggeri stated that he had always valued working together with Arnáez. He added that management experience is needed in the post because of the sharp increase in the budget.

      Leggeri still hasn’t hired the 40 human rights monitors to this day. When grilled by the European Parliament, Leggeri blamed the European Commission for the delays. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for the portfolio that includes Frontex, then accused him of having misled parliament.

      Arnáez has been on medical leave again since last March. The Frontex Management Board replaced her on an interim basis with Annegret Kohler, a German national who had previously worked in Leggeri’s cabinet. "It’s a clear conflict of interest,” says a Frontex official.
      The Pushback Affair: How Frontex Covered Up Human Rights Violations

      The walls of the Frontex Situation Centre are covered in monitors, with surveillance planes and satellites transmitting real-time images from border regions. From their desks, Frontex officers can closely monitor events taking place on the edges of Europe. “You can see how many people are sitting in a refugee boat,” says someone who knows the room well.

      A collection of images that appeared on screens here on the night of April 18-19, 2020, continue to occupy members of European Parliament until today. They come from a Frontex surveillance plane flying over the Aegean, according to several internal Frontex reports that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      Shortly before midnight, Greek border patrol officers intercepted a rubber dinghy just north of the island of Lesbos and transferred the 20 to 30 refugees onboard their ship. According to prevailing law, they should have then brought the asylum-seekers to Lesbos, where they could apply for asylum. Instead, though, they put the refugees back into the dinghy and then towed them back toward Turkey.

      Greek officials in the coordination center in Piraeus ordered the Frontex pilots to change course away from the dinghy. The Frontex team leader asked if there was a particular reason for the change in course. “Negative,” came the response from the Greeks.

      At 3:15 a.m., the Frontex plane began running low on fuel. The pilot took one last image, which showed the refugees alone at sea, a few hundred meters from the Turkish coast. No Turkish units were in the area, the pilot reported. The dinghy, he reported, had no motor and the Greek Coast Guard had sailed off. The refugees, including four children, were only rescued the next morning at 6:52 a.m. by the Turkish Navy.

      The Greek Coast Guard has been systematically conducting pushbacks for several months. They stop refugee boats in Greek territorial waters and sometimes destroy their motors before then towing them back toward Turkey. “Aggressive surveillance,” is the official term the government in Athens has come up with to describe the practice. In fact, it is illegal.

      Frontex regulations require Leggeri to suspend missions when he learns of rights violations of a serious nature or that are likely to persist. His forces, after all, are supposed to protect human rights. But Leggeri insists that he has no reliable information about pushbacks in his possession – despite the fact that DER SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have exhaustively documented how Frontex units were nearby during at least seven illegal pushback operations.

      During their operations, Frontex personnel are under the command of Greek border officials. Already last March, a Greek liaison officer ordered a Danish Frontex unit to abandon a group of intercepted refugees at sea, according to internal emails that DER SPIEGEL has reviewed. Nevertheless, Frontex decided nothing was wrong and closed the matter within a day. Later, in testimony he delivered before the European Parliament, Leggeri claimed the incident had merely been a misunderstanding.

      The pushback that took place off Lesbos in the night of April 18-19 was exhaustively documented by Frontex officers themselves. There is a strong belief “that presented facts support an allegation of possible violation of Fundamental Rights or international protection obligations such as the principle of non-refoulement,” reads an internal Frontex report that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      The case was apparently so sensitive that Leggeri took personal control over the investigation and did not, as was standard procedure, delegate it to his Fundamental Rights Officer. On May 8, he wrote to Ioannis Plakiotakis, the Greek minister of maritime affairs, a letter that DER SPIEGEL has obtained. In it, Leggeri voiced his concern and requested an internal investigation. The observance of human rights, particularly the principle of non-refoulement, is an “ultimate requirement” of the Frontex mission, he wrote.

      The answer from the Greek government is a smorgasbord of attempts to explain it away. Migration flows in the Aegean represent a “hybrid nature threat,” the response reads. Because of the corona crisis, it continues, it is more important than ever to prevent illegal border crossings and none of the migrants had requested asylum. According to an initial assessment by Greek officials, the letter claims, none of those on board were in particular need of protection.

      Legal experts see the Greek response as worthless. “The Greek Coast Guard without a doubt committed a human rights violation in the case,” says Dana Schmalz, an international law expert with the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. From her perspective, it is a clear case of an illegal pushback. It is impossible, she says, to determine if someone needs protection or if they are faced with danger back in Turkey on board a rickety dinghy. Individual proceedings conducted on land are necessary to make such a determination, she says. Furthermore, she continues, the Greek Coast Guard put the migrants’ lives in danger by abandoning them at sea in a dinghy without a motor.

      But Leggeri was satisfied with the report. The verdict: There was no pushback, there were no human rights violations. The head of Frontex silently buried the incident. “There have been several occasions when Leggeri has not provided us with adequate information,” says Tineke Strik, a member of European Parliament from the Netherlands.

      When reached for comment, Frontex said the Greek government had not ascertained any human rights violations. The agency has to rely on national authorities to investigate such incidents, Frontex insisted, since it is not authorized to undertake such investigations itself.

      Frontex officials are actually required to report incidents where they suspect that human rights violations may have occurred, so-called “Serious Incident Reports.” But such reports are hardly ever written. For years, Frontex officials have followed the example of their boss Leggeri: When in doubt, keep quiet.

      Insiders describe the rules as a kind of omertà, a code of silence. Hardly anyone is willing to risk their career or cause problems for their host country. In one case, an official even tried to prevent a Swedish colleague from submitting a Serious Incident Report, the head of Swedish border control told the Frontex Management Board.

      A German federal police officer is one of the few willing to dissent, though he has asked that we not publish his real name. On Nov. 28, 2020, his first day on a Frontex mission on the Greek island of Samos, an article from DER SPIEGEL popped up on his mobile phone. The story was about the Uckermark, the ship on which he was scheduled to serve that very evening. The article reported that the Germans had stopped a refugee boat on August 10 and handed it over to the Greek Coast Guard, which then proceeded to abandon the refugees at sea.

      The federal policeman went to his commanding officer and said he couldn’t participate in such operations and essentially said he didn’t want to be an accessory to any legal transgressions. Later, he sent an explanation around to his comrades via WhatsApp: “I have decided for me personally that I cannot tolerate the measures taken by the Greeks and certainly cannot support them.”

      His commanding officer responded a few minutes later: “The fact is that our actions are legal! Covered by the Frontex mandate.” He apparently was referring to the requirement to obey orders from the Greek Coast Guard.

      The German Federal Police does not contradict the man’s account, but when contacted, the force denied having taken part in any legal violations. The policeman himself, however, had a different view of the situation. He refused to take part in the mission, preferring instead to stay on land. He says he will never again volunteer to take part in a Frontex mission.

      Dodgy Business: How Leggeri Landed in the Sights of the European Anti-Fraud Office

      The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) always gets involved when there are suspicions that EU financial interests have been violated. And recently, OLAF opened an investigation into Frontex. On Dec. 7, OLAF officials searched Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, including the offices belonging to Leggeri and to Head of Cabinet Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin.

      Leggeri has yet to comment publicly on the investigation. According to members of the German parliament, the Bundestag, Leggeri testified before the Committee on Internal Affairs in January in Berlin and said that the inquiry had to do with the pushback accusations and that he couldn’t say any more. That, though, is at best only half true.

      DER SPIEGEL has learned that the investigation has a much broader scope than that. For weeks, OLAF officials have been summoning witnesses and interrogating Frontex staff members.

      One focus of the investigation is apparently a possible case of fraud. A Polish IT company sold the agency a business software solution that cost hundreds of thousands of euros, in part for the training of border guards. Frontex employees complained to their superiors, however, that the software didn’t work well. But the agency nevertheless paid most of the negotiated purchase price. According to documentation DER SPEIGEL has seen, employees informed management in 2018 that the inconsistencies in the case could amount to fraud.

      Leggeri, too, learned of the allegations, and an internal investigation was undertaken. “But according to EU regulations, the Frontex director is required to immediately report potential cases of fraud to OLAF,” says Valentina Azarova of the Manchester International Law Centre. Frontex declined to comment on the OLAF investigation. The Polish software company in question insisted that it has thus far correctly fulfilled all of its contractual obligations to Frontex. And the company is still getting contracts from the European border agency, some of them worth millions.

      The OLAF investigators are also apparently interested in suspicions of workplace harassment at Frontex. They hope to find out if Leggeri or his head of cabinet have yelled at or otherwise harassed agency employees. They are also investigating whether staff members were ordered to withhold information from Fundamental Rights Officer Arnáez and her successor – and if so, by whom.

      OLAF emphasizes that the presumption of innocence still applies, despite the inquiry, explaining that the existence of the investigation offers no proof that anything untoward took place. But there are apparently serious indications of personal misconduct on the part of Leggeri. The collection of questions being asked by investigators indicate significant doubts about his leadership style.

      In Brussels, some refer to Leggeri as “Fabrice Teflon,” with the Frontex boss having thus far survived despite accusations of mismanagement and allegations that his agency was involved in pushbacks. Now, though, the pressure has been cranked up.

      European Commissioner Johansson has more or less made it clear that she no longer considers Leggeri to be tenable in his position. “It has been difficult to keep track of the missteps,” says a high-ranking Commission official. “The priority must be on the long-term reputation of the agency. But it has been hard to reconcile recent actions with that aim.”

      It is not, however, up to the European Commission to decide Leggeri’s fate. That is a decision that must be made by the Frontex Management Board. The board is essentially made up of representatives from those countries that are part of the Schengen Area, with the Commission having just two deputies on the board. EU member states have always thrown their support behind Leggeri in the past. And many of them are likely pleased by the occasionally ruthless methods employed by Frontex to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing into the EU, believes Giulia Laganà, a migration expert with the Open Society European Policy Institute.

      The question is whether the Management Board will continue to back Leggeri once the accusations of workplace harassment and even potential fraud are made public. The European Parliament has already announced its intention to conduct a four-month inquiry into the agency, with the investigation’s mandate having been kept intentionally broad. Leggeri’s leadership style and the workplace atmosphere at Frontex are to be included in the inquiry.

      Even Leggeri’s own staff members in Warsaw have begun wondering how long their boss will continue to cling to his post. “OLAF is onto us, morale is down,” says one official. “I wonder why he doesn’t just leave.”

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/missteps-and-mismanagement-at-frontex-scandals-plunge-europe-s-border-agency

    • Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières, à nouveau mise en cause pour ses liens avec des lobbyistes

      Premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne, l’organisme n’aurait pas déclaré ses liens avec des lobbyistes de l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      De nouvelles accusations contre Frontex ont été lancées, vendredi 5 février, par la chaîne publique allemande ZDF, laquelle a, avec la collaboration de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), mené une enquête sur les liens entre l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      Des dizaines de documents, auxquels Le Monde a également eu accès, démontrent des infractions aux règles des institutions européennes sur le lobbying, un défaut de transparence et une absence quasi complète de préoccupation pour le respect des droits humains. Ce dernier point était déjà au cœur d’un débat récent sur le rôle du corps européen dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants, en Grèce et en Hongrie notamment.

      Dotée d’un budget en forte hausse (6 millions d’euros lors de sa création en 2005, 460 millions en 2020, 5,6 milliards prévus pour 2021-2027) et d’un effectif qui devrait atteindre 10 000 personnes à terme, Frontex, premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne (UE), effectue actuellement des missions de sauvetage et de surveillance, en appui des forces nationales. Elle lutte aussi contre divers trafics et participe aux expulsions des migrants irréguliers.

      Mais l’agence est, en réalité, en train de devenir un véritable corps de police appelé à se doter de nombreux équipements : armes, radars, drones, systèmes de vérification des documents et de reconnaissance faciale, véhicules, avions, etc.
      Profiter des opportunités

      Devient-elle, du même coup, une sorte d’acteur du secteur de la sécurité et de l’armement ? Et échappe-t-elle au contrôle démocratique, celui du Parlement européen notamment, qui, en 2019, exigeait de l’institution dirigée par le Français Fabrice Leggeri la mise au point d’un « registre transparence », conforme aux pratiques des autres institutions de l’UE ? Ce sont les questions posées par les investigateurs de la ZDF et de CEO, qui ont examiné les dernières années de fonctionnement de l’institution installée à Varsovie.

      Le registre, qui était réclamé par les eurodéputés, devait notamment recenser l’ensemble des réunions tenues avec des représentants des entreprises. Il est « en préparation », dit-on chez Frontex. Et il ne devrait pas satisfaire les attentes : en 2018 et 2019, indiquent des documents de CEO, 91 des 125 lobbyistes reçus par Frontex (soit 72 %) n’étaient pas inscrits au registre européen de la transparence, comme le veulent pourtant les règles fixées pour les institutions de l’UE.

      Idem pour 58 % des entreprises consultées. Sur une application créée pour centraliser les demandes de contacts, aucune demande ne leur est d’ailleurs formulée quant à leur inscription dans ce registre. Etonnamment, le service de presse de Frontex affirme de son côté que l’agence « ne rencontre pas de lobbyistes ».

      Il semble évident, pourtant, que le secteur de la défense entend profiter des opportunités offertes par le développement des missions et des moyens de l’agence. Le programme Horizon 2020 avait déjà affecté 118 millions d’euros au développement de la recherche en lien avec le projet de « Sécurité aux frontières extérieures » de l’UE. Un fonds avait, lui, été doté de 2,8 milliards d’euros pour la période 2018-2020. Et la nécessité d’équiper Frontex a évidemment aiguisé un peu plus les appétits des acteurs du marché mondial du « border control », qui enfle de 8 % chaque année et frôle désormais les 20 milliards d’euros.
      « Surveillance agressive »

      L’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est-elle sortie de son rôle en s’arrogeant un statut d’intermédiaire de fait entre l’industrie et des institutions européennes soucieuses de conjurer à tout prix le risque de nouveaux flux migratoires ? Serait-elle, même, devenue un acteur qui entend stimuler cette industrie, voire lui confier les rênes d’une politique à vocation essentiellement sécuritaire ?

      Avec son objectif de « faciliter la coopération entre les autorités de contrôle aux frontières, la recherche et l’industrie », Frontex a, en tout cas, multiplié les congrès, les rencontres et les « ateliers » où grands patrons, hauts fonctionnaires, mais aussi délégués des Etats membres échangent beaucoup. Sur des questions de technologie, de sécurité, de « surveillance agressive », mais rarement de droits humains.

      Déjà mise en cause pour avoir tardé à mettre en place un service interne chargé de la surveillance du respect des droits fondamentaux des migrants, l’agence n’aurait, en effet, presque jamais consulté le « Forum des droits fondamentaux » constitué à cette fin. Une organisation qui était membre du forum indique d’ailleurs n’avoir aucun souvenir d’un quelconque échange sur la question des droits et des libertés dans le cadre du lancement d’appels d’offres.

      « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », notent les responsables de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory

      Parmi les participants à des réunions, on a noté, en revanche, la présence de représentants de pays très critiqués pour leur politique à l’égard des migrants, comme la Bosnie-Herzégovine ou l’Australie. Des responsables du département américain de la Homeland Security ont été également conviés.

      « Les conclusions de tout cela sont extrêmement préoccupantes », notent les responsables de CEO. Ils déplorent une politique migratoire qui risque de reposer seulement sur une force de police armée et des techniques comme la surveillance biométrique. « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », relèvent-ils.

      « Nous vivons une métamorphose du rôle de Frontex. Il faut en prendre la mesure et s’y habituer », affirmait, vendredi, M. Leggeri, interrogé par Europe 1. On ne sait pas si Ylva Johansson, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, qui demande que la confiance en Frontex soit « entièrement rétablie », approuvera totalement ce propos.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/02/05/nouvelles-accusations-contre-frontex-l-agence-europeenne-des-gardes-frontier

    • PUSHBACK REPORT 2020

      VIOLENCE IS INCREASING – IN #2020 MARE LIBERUM COUNTED AT LEAST 9,000 PEOPLE ILLEGALLY PUSHED BACK

      #Mare_Liberum monitors the current human rights situation in the Aegean Sea using its own ships. As independent observers, we conduct research in order to document and publicise circumstances at the European border. Since March 2020, Mare Liberum has witnessed a dramatic increase in human rights violations in the Aegean, both at sea and on land. Illegal pushbacks, in which those fleeing and migrating people are pushed back across a national border, play an especially crucial role. Over the past year in particular, pushbacks have become an inhumane everyday reality for people on the move. Pushbacks happen almost daily at the Greek-Turkish border and in 2020 alone, we counted 321 pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with some 9,798 people pushed back.

      Although pushbacks have demonstrably been carried out at the EU’s external border for years, media attention has now increased notably, especially in recent months. News magazines such as Der Spiegel and the research collective Bellingcat have been able to publicly demonstrate how the Hellenic Coast Guard forcibly pushes those seeking protection back to Turkey, thereby violating international, European and national law. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, as has become all too clear, not only turns a blind eye to illegal repatriation operations, but rather actively and systematically participates.

      Within the framework of the annual report, we seek to adopt a perspective on pushbacks that looks at the long-term development of these practices at the EU’s external border. The comprehensive documentation of pushbacks forms the basis of the report and is an essential part of our monitoring work in the Aegean. Beyond the mere counting of pushbacks, our work also includes the collection of relevant information on the persons affected by pushbacks, practices by the responsible actors and related geographical data. We have gained deeper insights into these issues by conducting interviews with people who have themselves been pushed back at the Greek-Turkish border.

      https://mare-liberum.org/en/pushback-report

    • NEW REPORT ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE AEGEAN

      Since March 2020, collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea have been perpetrated with impunity.

      Legal Centre Lesvos’ new report contributes to the growing body of evidence, media coverage, civil society reports and other investigations which have documented how Greek authorities are deliberately and systematically abandoning hundreds of migrants in the middle of the Aegean sea, without means to call for rescue, on unseaworthy, motorless dinghies and liferafts. It is intended to serve as a resource for survivors of collective expulsions and solidarity actors.

      Following the Legal Centre Lesvos’ first report, the present report is based on evidence shared by over fifty survivors of collective expulsions, and underscores the widespread, systematic and violent nature of this attack against migrants. Beyond being egregious violations of international, European and national human rights law, this report argues that the constituent elements of the modus operandi of collective expulsions in the Aegean amount to crimes against humanity within the definition of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

      Despite overwhelming evidence of collective expulsions in the Aegean, the national and European response has been to turn a blind eye: failing to even attempt to hold the responsible Greek authorities to account, let alone other public and private actors directly or indirectly involved. On the contrary, the European Commission has praised the violent “border and migration management” practices implemented in Greece and underwritten its support with substantial financial and material assistance. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented Greece carrying out “official” deportations to Turkey, collective expulsions have conveniently served as an unofficial implementation of the “EU-Turkey Deal” and other bilateral “readmission” agreements with Turkey, which form part of fortress Europe’s border externalisation drive.

      There are only so many times legal and civil society actors can list and table such human rights violations and be met with deafening silence and inaction before this itself becomes evidence of Greek and European liability for collective expulsions as an egregious attack on migrants’ lives. Such inaction also reveals how migrants’ lives are increasingly treated as disposable, in a manner that has historically accompanied the commission of atrocity crimes.

      While the systematic violence of pushbacks in the Aegean is scandalous, it is also the logical endpoint of a dehumanising and punitive European border regime that has systematically obstructed access to territory and the right to asylum by prioritising and funding the ‘hotspot’ containment system, accelerated procedures, detention, deportations, border militarisation and externalisation through deals of questionable legality with third countries; as well as by prosecuting migrants and solidarity actors in a manner that successfully obscures Europe’s own violent, imperialist role in many of the reasons people migrate.

      The absence of serious investigations, let alone practical steps to redress violations are a clear sign that collective expulsions form part of a Greek and European migration policy: instrumentalising human suffering in acts of spectacular state violence for the purpose of deterring migration, at any cost.

      In this context, it is important to ask what justice might look like for survivors of crimes against humanity in the Aegean, many of whom experience ongoing psychological trauma and distress as a result of these crimes. Survivors who have been in contact with the Legal Centre Lesvos have spoken about justice in terms of being able to safely reach Europe. Justice for collective expulsions as crimes against humanity must therefore include safe and legal routes to Europe, as well as defunding, demilitarising and dismantling Europe’s violent border regime.

      https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2021/02/01/crimesagainstumanityintheaegean

      #crimes_contre_l'humanité

      pour télécharger le rapport :
      legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Collective-Expulsions-in-the-Aegean-LCL-01.02.2021-1.pdf

    • UE : Frontex accusée d’incarner l’« Europe forteresse »

      Soupçons de refoulements illégaux de migrants et de bafouement des droits fondamentaux, l’agence Frontex est dans la tourmente. Au point de diviser la Commission européenne.

      C’est potentiellement ce que les Anglo-Saxons appellent la « tempête parfaite », la « poly polémique » qui couve chez Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes.

      Entre les accusations de fermer les yeux ou de participer à des refoulements illégaux de migrants, l’enquête de l’Office anti-fraude sur des allégations de harcèlement et d’inconduite ayant poussé des responsables à quitter l’agence ou l’absence, à ce jour, de recrutement des quarante agents chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux, Frontex accumule les tuiles.

      Après l’enquête de la médiatrice européenne, qui s’est aussi penchée sur son cas, c’est le Parlement européen qui s’en mêle. Outre la mise en place d’un « groupe d’enquête permanent », les eurodéputés ont aussi refusé, fin de la semaine dernière, d’octroyer « la décharge budgétaire » à l’agence, nous explique l’élue belge Saskia Bricmont (Ecolo). « Chaque année, le Parlement a un pouvoir de contrôle budgétaire. Donner la décharge, cela signifie qu’on considère que Frontex a accompli ses missions, a respecté le cadre légal et a donc droit au budget suivant », explique-t-elle. En commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures, les eurodéputés ont donc décidé de reporter de six mois cette décharge, une décision qui doit être validée en plénière mais que « tous les groupes politiques » soutiennent, ajoute l’élue. D’ici là, il est principalement attendu de Frontex qu’elle recrute les agents chargés de défendre en interne les droits fondamentaux.
      Mandat et budget élargis

      Depuis cinq ans, le mandat de l’agence a été élargi considérablement. Ses effectifs multipliés. En 2016, Frontex se félicitait du fait qu’elle emploierait 1500 agents à l’horizon 2020. Elle devrait être à 10.000 d’ici 2027, pour un budget de plus de cinq milliards sur sept ans, contre une enveloppe annuelle de 19 millions il y a quinze ans.

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      Car pour Fabrice Leggeri, le patron de Frontex, les critiques trouvent bien leur source dans ce renforcement des pouvoirs de l’agence. « Pour la première fois, une agence cesse d’être un objet simplement administratif européen, mais a du personnel sur le terrain. C’est une responsabilité d’autant plus grande que nous avons l’usage de la force, sous l’autorité et le contrôle des Etats, et qu’il y a bien sûr des contrepoids, les droits fondamentaux. C’est tout à fait normal que cela suscite des réactions, parce que c’est inhabituel », a-t-il expliqué la semaine dernière lors d’un événement organisé par la Fondation Robert Schuman. « Il peut y avoir des retards de mise en œuvre de certaines choses, tout ne sera certainement pas parfait. Il faut utiliser cette période où il y a beaucoup de questionnements sur l’agence pour expliquer, faire de la pédagogie », a-t-il ajouté.

      A ses côtés, le vice-président de la commission en charge de la Promotion du mode de vie européen, Margaritis Schinas, a évoqué la tentative de « quelques milieux » de bâtir « un narratif qui affaiblit Frontex au moment où nous avons le plus besoin de l’agence. Ça, je ne l’accepterai jamais ». Un ton qui contraste avec celui de sa collègue aux Affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, qui a démenti fin janvier les explications données par Leggeri pour justifier le retard de l’embauche des 40 agents pour les droits fondamentaux.

      Selon le quotidien français Le Monde, François Xavier-Bellamy, chef de la délégation Les Républicains au sein du groupe du Parti populaire européen (PPE, conservateurs) du Parlement européen, a écrit à Ylva Johansson en évoquant de sa part une tentative de déstabilisation voire de procès politique envers Fabrice Leggeri.
      Pas en ligne sur le lobbying

      S’ajoutent à tout cela les accusations de relations troubles avec l’industrie de l’armement et de la biométrie (par exemple, la reconnaissance faciale), étudiées de long en large par l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) le mois dernier. Cette dernière estime que l’élargissement des compétences de Frontex et son besoin d’équipement neuf (y compris en matière de défense) ont été une aubaine pour ces industries.

      Entre 2017 et 2019, Frontex a rencontré pas moins de 108 entreprises pour discuter d’armes à feu et de munitions, d’équipements de surveillance etc. Contre dix think tanks, 15 universités et seulement une ONG. Dans les procès-verbaux de ces réunions obtenus par CEO grâce à des demandes d’accès aux documents, elle a pu constater que les droits fondamentaux figuraient rarement à l’agenda. « Sans surprise, il y a des chevauchements significatifs entre les entreprises qui font du lobbying à Frontex et celles qui bénéficient le plus des marchés publics » de l’agence, explique l’ONG.

      En outre, l’agence ne publie pas toutes ses rencontres et voit majoritairement (72 %) des représentants du privé qui ne sont pas enregistrés dans le registre de transparence de l’UE. Frontex s’en est défendu en répondant qu’elle ne faisait pas l’objet de lobbying, compte tenu du fait qu’elle n’est pas impliquée dans le processus législatif européen. Alors, acharnement ou véritable scandale ? L’enquête des eurodéputés devrait permettre d’y voir clair. C’est aussi l’avis/l’espoir de Fabrice Leggeri, qui a jusqu’ici résisté aux appels à la démission.

      https://plus.lesoir.be/358143/article/2021-03-01/ue-frontex-accusee-dincarner-leurope-forteresse

    • La droite française au secours de Fabrice Leggeri, patron de Frontex

      Le groupe #LR au Parlement européen critique la « tentative de déstabilisation » à laquelle se livrerait la commissaire Ylva Johansson à l’égard du directeur de l’agence.

      Le torchon brûle entre la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, #Ylva_Johansson, et la droite française. Dans une lettre au ton cinglant adressée vendredi 26 février à l’ancienne ministre sociale-démocrate suédoise et lue par Le Monde, #François_Xavier-Bellamy, chef de la délégation #Les_Républicains (LR) au sein du groupe du #Parti_populaire_européen (#PPE, conservateurs) interroge la commissaire. Et il parle de « tentative de déstabilisation », de « divergence de fond », voire de « procès politique » que la commissaire instruirait contre Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’agence des gardes-frontières et gardes-côtes Frontex.

      Ce responsable français est sur la sellette depuis des mois. Pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants (pushbacks) qu’aurait favorisés l’agence. Pour des retards dans le recrutement d’une quarantaine d’officiers chargés précisément de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux par les agents de Frontex. Pour d’apparentes réticences à se conformer à des règles administratives en matière budgétaire. Ou encore pour ne pas avoir souscrit à des obligations de transparence en ce qui concerne des réunions avec des lobbys et des responsables de l’industrie de la défense et de la surveillance.

      Le groupe socialiste du Parlement a demandé la démission du numéro un de Frontex

      Ce dernier point n’est pas mentionné dans la lettre de M. Bellamy et l’entourage de Mme Johansson semble, par ailleurs, considérer qu’il n’y a pas de quoi mettre en cause M. Leggeri pour ces contacts, dénoncés notamment par l’ONG #Corporate_Europe_Observatory. Sur les autres questions, en revanche, la commissaire a demandé des explications. Et le groupe socialiste du Parlement a demandé la démission du numéro un de Frontex. En décembre, la responsable de la direction générale des affaires intérieures de la Commission adressait, elle, une longue lettre à M. Leggeri, avec, à la clé, de nombreux griefs.

      Demande de preuves

      Les élus LR volent, eux, au secours du directeur et demandent très fermement des explications à la commissaire. Quelles preuves a-t-elle, interrogent-ils, quand elle accuse M. Leggeri de ne pas se conformer aux directives budgétaires, comme elle l’a fait le 22 février dans la commission de contrôle du Parlement ? Sans éléments incontestables, cela pourrait s’apparenter à une volonté de déstabiliser le patron de l’agence, estiment-ils.

      A propos des refoulements illégaux de migrants, les eurodéputés français endossent les explications livrées jusqu’ici par Frontex : sur treize épisodes douteux, huit ont été jugés conformes par un groupe de travail constitué par la Commission. Cinq autres cas sont encore à l’examen, sur lesquels Mme Johansson a exigé « toutes les explications nécessaires ».

      La Turquie est soupçonnée d’être à l’origine d’informations sur les refoulements illégaux de migrants

      M. Bellamy lui demande à son tour si elle a répondu à un courrier qui lui a été adressé en novembre par M. Leggeri, et dans lequel il réclamait des instructions claires quant à l’attitude à adopter à l’égard de la Turquie. Celle-ci, qui a orienté massivement des migrants vers la Grèce et la Bulgarie en mars 2020, est aussi soupçonnée par certaines sources d’être à l’origine d’informations sur les refoulements illégaux de migrants.
      « Reproches infondés »

      Le groupe LR, qui bénéficie du soutien tacite d’autres élus du PPE, exige, dès lors, de disposer de tous les échanges entre Frontex et la Commission. La lettre se termine par des questions sur l’éventuel désaccord entre la commissaire Johansson et Frontex au sujet des missions mêmes de l’agence.

      Relayant l’idée que la commissaire serait partisane des « frontières ouvertes » – ce qu’elle conteste – les eurodéputés lui demandent s’il y a, de sa part, « un désaccord de fond » sur la stratégie actuelle de la Commission von der Leyen, qui vise à garantir le « mode de vie européen » ? A savoir la maîtrise des frontières, la lutte contre l’immigration clandestine et la contribution à « la sécurité intérieure ».

      « En instruisant un procès politique au moyen de reproches infondés, vous prendriez le risque de violer les principes fondamentaux de l’Etat de droit, de salir des fonctionnaires intègres et loyaux, de fragiliser la cohérence de l’action européenne », conclut la lettre. Contacté dimanche, le cabinet de Mme Johansson a déclaré avoir reçu la lettre mais ne pas souhaiter réagir immédiatement.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/03/01/la-droite-francaise-au-secours-de-fabrice-leggeri-patron-de-frontex_6071549_

    • Un rapport d’enquête interne peu concluant sur le rôle de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      Le document présenté lundi s’abstient d’impliquer des membres de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et garde-côtes dans des incidents en mer Egée.

      Un long rapport, lu par Le Monde et présenté, le 1er mars, par un groupe de travail désigné par le conseil d’administration de Frontex, confirme qu’il ne sera décidément pas simple, voire pas possible, de démontrer que des membres de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et garde-côtes ont été impliqués dans des « pushbacks » en mer Egée, des refoulements illégaux de migrants.

      Ce document final, pourtant très attendu, n’apporte aucune conclusion déterminante. D’autant que, sur quatre des cinq incidents encore jugés litigieux (huit ont été classés en janvier), l’enquête se poursuit.

      Sur la base des informations qui lui ont été livrées, le groupe de travail, composé de représentants de diverses institutions européennes et d’Etats membres, formule quelques recommandations qui peuvent être lues comme des critiques implicites du fonctionnement actuel de Frontex. Il prône ainsi une amélioration des rapports et de la surveillance des missions, une utilisation systématique de la vidéo, la recension de toute possible violation des droits humains et la suspension de l’aide apportée aux pays qui ne les respecteraient pas.
      Situations douteuses

      Pour le reste, la liste des « incidents » qui se seraient déroulés entre le 18 avril et le 21 octobre 2020 ne mentionne que les soupçons, parfois lourds mais jugés insuffisants, qui pèsent plutôt, en réalité, sur les gardes-côtes grecs et la marine turque, qui agissent aux limites des eaux territoriales des deux pays. Embarcations chassées, menacées, remorquées : dans certains cas, un navire suédois ou un avion danois mis à la disposition de l’agence ont recensé des situations douteuses, mais le groupe de travail conclut qu’il semble « impossible de les élucider entièrement ». D’autant que ce sont les autorités nationales qui assurent le commandement des opérations.

      Le rapport tient à souligner cependant l’importance de la mission de Frontex, présentée comme la « principale garantie de frontières solides et protégées ». Il y est rappelé aussi que, grâce aux interventions de Frontex, 28 000 personnes ont été sauvées en 2019 et près de 3 000 en 2020, tandis que 10 433 illégaux et 84 trafiquants étaient arrêtés. A propos des incidents considérés comme des « pushbacks » par des journalistes et des ONG, le document invite à considérer qu’aucun décès, aucune disparition et aucune blessure n’y seraient liés.

      Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’agence, qui doit être entendu jeudi 4 mars par un comité spécial du Parlement européen, pourra se prévaloir de ces conclusions face aux diverses accusations dont il faitl’objet. L’Office de lutte antifraude (OLAF) et la médiatrice de l’Union européenne enquêtent aussi sur la gestion de l’agence, basée à Varsovie, tandis que la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, a réclamé toutes les explications sur l’action en mer Egée.
      Action de la Turquie

      M. Leggeri soulignera sans doute, jeudi, qu’il espère obtenir de la Commission qu’elle lui indique les lignes directrices précises qu’il doit suivre en ce qui concerne, notamment, l’action de la Turquie. Dans les considérations qu’il a formulées à destination du groupe de travail de son conseil d’administration, il rappelle d’ailleurs que les autorités d’Ankara entendent utiliser la migration comme un « levier politique » et il souligne que la Grèce se dit soumise aux « menaces hybrides » du régime turc.

      Soutenu entre autres par la droite française au Parlement, le directeur de Frontex transforme ainsi le débat sur le rôle humanitaire de son agence en une question géostratégique, et il incite la Commission à se positionner par rapport à l’encombrant partenaire avec lequel elle a signé, en 2016, un accord visant à réduire les flux migratoires vers l’Europe.

      Pendant ce temps, la Ligue hellénique des droits de l’homme, l’ONG Legal Centre Lesvos et l’organisation juridique Front-Lex demandent à Frontex « de suspendre immédiatement ou de cesser » ses activités en mer Egée, sous peine d’une action devant la justice européenne. Legal Centre Lesvos aurait documenté, depuis mars 2020, 17 refoulements de plus de 50 migrants entre la Grèce et la Turquie. L’ONG estime aussi que l’agence a enfreint le droit européen et violé la convention de Genève de 1951 relative aux droits des réfugiés.

      Frontex est aussi taxée de complicité dans la « détention sommaire de migrants sur les îles de la mer Egée dans des ports, des bus, des navires, des plages où l’accès aux procédures d’asile leur a été refusé ». Le 12 février, l’ONG allemande Mare Liberum faisait état, pour sa part, d’une « escalade inédite » des refoulements de migrants en mer Egée impliquant Frontex en 2020.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/03/03/un-rapport-d-enquete-interne-peu-concluant-sur-le-role-de-frontex-dans-des-r

    • Le patron de Frontex se défend devant les eurodéputés, Bruxelles maintient la pression

      Le patron de Frontex a souligné jeudi devant des eurodéputés qu’aucune « preuve » d’une implication de l’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants n’avait été établie par une enquête, mais Bruxelles a réitéré ses critiques.

      Le patron de Frontex a souligné jeudi devant des eurodéputés qu’aucune « preuve » d’une implication de l’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants n’avait été établie par une enquête, mais Bruxelles a réitéré ses critiques.

      Ce rapport interne, qui doit être examiné vendredi par le conseil d’administration de Frontex et consulté mercredi par l’AFP, n’a pas permis de « clarifier complètement » les circonstances de plusieurs incidents au cours desquels des refoulements de migrants auraient eu lieu. Il préconise d’ailleurs d’améliorer le système de signalement et de surveillance des missions de l’agence.

      « Il n’y a pas eu de faits étayés ou prouvés pour aboutir à la conclusion que Frontex aurait participé ou se serait livrée à des violations des droits fondamentaux », a déclaré son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri, devant un groupe d’eurodéputés qui a ouvert sa propre enquête sur ces incidents.

      L’agence est montrée du doigt depuis la publication en octobre 2020 d’une enquête de plusieurs médias l’accusant d’être impliquée avec les garde-côtes grecs dans des incidents de refoulement de bateaux de migrants à la frontière entre la Grèce et la Turquie.

      Ces accusations ont également entraîné une enquête du gendarme européen antifraude, l’Olaf, ainsi que de la médiatrice de l’UE.

      La Commission européenne, membre du conseil d’administration de Frontex aux côtés des 27 Etats membres, s’est montrée critique sur la gestion de l’agence, fustigeant notamment la lenteur du recrutement des officiers chargés de surveiller le respect des droits fondamentaux et des agents devant constituer le nouveau contingent permanent.

      Créée en 2004, Frontex a vu son mandat renforcé en 2019. Elle doit se doter d’agents en uniforme et armés, employés directement par l’agence, et non plus mis à disposition provisoirement par les Etats membres.

      Le directeur exécutif a notamment dit qu’un officier et 40 « moniteurs » chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux étaient en cours de recrutement et que 300 officiers du contingent permanent étaient déployés sur le terrain ou allaient l’être la semaine prochaine.

      La commissaire européenne aux Affaires intérieures Ylva Johansson a toutefois souligné que 700 officiers auraient dû être déployés en janvier.

      Elle a aussi estimé que les « clarifications » sur les accusations de refoulements n’avaient que « trop tardé », et que ce délai n’était « pas bon pour la réputation et la confiance » dans Frontex.

      « Une agence de première classe a besoin d’une gouvernance de première classe », a-t-elle poursuivi, se réjouissant toutefois d’« entendre que beaucoup de choses sont en train d’être réglées ».

      Si des eurodéputés à gauche ont demandé la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, la droite française au Parlement européen a quant à elle pris la défense du patron de Frontex.

      Dans une lettre adressée le 26 février à la responsable suédoise, le président de la délégation française du groupe PPE (droite) François-Xavier Bellamy lui a demandé des « justifications solides et vérifiées » à ses « accusations », dénonçant une « tentative de déstabilisation » du chef de Frontex et « un procès politique ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/fil-dactualites/040321/le-patron-de-frontex-se-defend-devant-les-eurodeputes-bruxelles-maintient-

    • Greece accused of ‘shocking’ illegal pushback against refugees at sea

      Lawsuit filed at European court of human rights says group were abandoned in life rafts after some were beaten.

      A lawsuit filed against the Greek state at the European court of human rights accuses Athens of a shocking level of violence in sophisticated inter-agency operations that form part of an illegal pushback strategy to stop the arrival of refugees and migrants.

      The suit, filed by the NGO Legal Centre Lesvos, centres on an incident in October last year in which a fishing boat set off from Marmaris in Turkey for Italy carrying about 200 people, including 40 children and a pregnant woman. The boat ran into difficulty in a storm off the south coast of Crete, leading the captain to radio for assistance.

      The legal case claims that in an operation of unprecedented size and sophistication, instead of helping the stranded people onboard, a Greek search and rescue vessel and two small patrol boats stalled the smuggler’s boat for five hours until speedboats carrying masked commandos arrived. Several passengers claim they were beaten in the ensuing incident.

      Those onboard were separated into two groups and taken to two large coastguard boats, where armed crews of between 10 and 15 men, most wearing balaclavas, searched them and confiscated belongings including phones, passports and money.

      The passengers were then reportedly forced on to several small life rafts, towed back to Turkish waters and abandoned at sea without food, water, life jackets or any means to call for help. By the time they were picked up by the Turkish coastguard, their ordeal had lasted more than 24 hours.

      “It was like watching a movie. The men from the speedboats jumped onboard screaming and shouting, they all had guns and knives and were wearing black and masks,” said Mahmoud, a witness from Syria whose name has been changed.

      “They began beating people with batons, looking for the captain. They punched me in the face and broke my glasses … I understand they don’t want us, but you could send us back to Turkey without the need for violence. When they cut us loose on the rafts we all thought we were going to die,” he said.

      The lawsuit claims the practice of “pushbacks” has become standard for the Greek coastguard since March 2020, when Turkey, in an effort to pressure the EU, told its 4 million registered refugees that it would no longer stop them trying to reach Europe as per a 2016 deal between Ankara and Brussels.

      Athens reacted by temporarily halting all new asylum applications and allegedly employing increasingly brutal tactics to dissuade people in Turkey from making the journey.

      Exact figures are difficult to verify, but rights groups and journalists have recorded hundreds of alleged pushback incidents over the last 12 months. In most cases, people trying to cross the Aegean have been intercepted and towed back to Turkish waters. They are then cut loose either in their own boats, after the Greek coastguard has disabled their engines, or on overcrowded life rafts.

      On several occasions people claim to have been pushed back after landing on Greek soil, and passengers have been abandoned on an uninhabited Turkish islet at least twice, according to reporting by Der Spiegel, Lighthouse Reports and the New York Times.

      In at least one case, the EU border agency, Frontex, is accused of covering up evidence of a Greek pushback operation.

      These collective expulsions, as they are known, are illegal under international law but not under Greek national law. The Guardian’s requests for comment from Greek officials went unanswered. Greece has denied illegality in the past.

      The incident in October stands out because of the reported level of violence involved and the size and scope of the operation, which would have taken hours to coordinate and involved eight Greek vessels and two dozen crew from different agencies.

      “‘Pushback’ isn’t even really the right term. It’s a decision by the authorities to deliberately abandon people at sea putting their lives at risk, with no means to call for rescue and no chance at all to claim asylum,” said Natasha Ntailiani, a Legal Centre Lesvos lawyer representing some of the survivors before the ECHR.

      “It’s a new and disturbing trend characterised by planned and systematic violence, which has increased over the last year in the Aegean region. Even search and rescue vessels and materials are now being used against migrants, which is a remarkable insight into the lengths the Greek authorities are now willing to go to.”

      Testimony from 11 complainants and dozens of pages of collaborating evidence – including geo-located pictures and video, GPS coordinates, and phone and message logs from the ship’s radio, passengers, the Alarm Phone hotline and the Greek and Turkish coastguards – painted a complete and damning picture of the new tactics, the centre said.

      The suit is the fifth LCL has filed at the ECHR in recent years to allege violations of migrant and refugee rights in Greece. Progress is slow, but the applicants hope the latest case will persuade the court that pushbacks, despite the fact they are now reportedly a systemic and regular feature of Greek border policing, are illegal.

      A decision at the court last year that Spain did not breach the rights of two men it expelled from the Melilla enclave on the basis they had tried to enter illegally “as part of a large group” sets a worrying precedent.

      In light of the judgment, Frontex has since asked the European commission if it can refuse to process individual asylum claims if people are travelling in groups, as is often the case in the Aegean.

      “I didn’t even want to go to Greece. We knew that they were harming refugees when they arrive, but it was shocking to experience the reality, which is that Europe doesn’t care at all about human rights and dignity,” said Yara from Damascus, whose name has also been changed. She said she had been traumatised by her experiences on the day the storm hit the fishing boat.

      “Despite all of that, I will still try again. I can’t build a life in Syria or Turkey,” she said.

      Mahmoud echoed Yara’s thoughts. “I got kicked out of Qatar because of the pandemic. I would rather have stayed there,” he said. “If there was a legal way to get to Europe I would take it, but there isn’t. I don’t want to make that journey again, but I will, because I have to.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/greece-accused-of-shocking-pushback-against-refugees-at-sea

    • Grèce : refoulements illégaux en Mer Egée

      En Grèce, les « pushbacks » ou refoulements illégaux de potentiels demandeurs d’asile par les garde-côtes grecs vers les eaux turques, se sont systématisés depuis un an.

      Le gouvernement grec se félicite d’avoir réussi à tenir une de ses promesses électorales : réduire le flux de migrants.

      La pratique est en infraction avec le droit maritime et l’obligation de porter assistance aux personnes en détresse en mer, mais aussi au regard du droit européen et international dont l’article 3 de la Convention des Droits de l’Homme stipule l’interdiction du refoulement des réfugiés.

      Informés, le Haut-Commissariat aux Réfugiés de l’ONU et des commissaires européens se disent “alarmés” mais semblent jusqu’à présent bien impuissants à faire respecter le droit d’asile par Athènes. Documentés et dénoncés par des avocats et des ONG internationales, ces refoulements illégaux révèlent des pratiques cruelles et cyniques. Mais rares sont les voix en Grèce à s’élever la voix contre ces renvois aux frontières de l’Europe.

      https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/102791-000-A/grece-refoulements-illegaux-en-mer-egee
      #Samos

    • Message de Claire Rodier via la mailing-list Migreurop :

      Dans une interview au Guardian, Gil Arias Fernández, ancien directeur adjoint de Frontex a déclaré qu’il était profondément inquiet de l’atteinte à la réputation de l’agence, de sa décision d’armer les agents et de son incapacité à empêcher l’extrême droite d’infiltrer ses rangs, dans un contexte de mouvements anti-migrants en Europe.

      –—

      Frontex turning ‘blind eye’ to human rights violations, says former deputy

      The former deputy head of Europe’s border and coastguard agency has said the state of the beleaguered force “pains” him and that it is vulnerable to the “alarming” rise of populism across the continent.

      In his first interview since leaving office, #Gil_Arias_Fernández, former deputy director at Frontex and once tipped for the top post, said he was deeply worried about the agency’s damaged reputation, its decision to arm officers, and its inability to stop the far-right infiltrating its ranks, amid anti-migrant movements across Europe.

      “Weapons are not needed for Frontex operations,” he said. “They are more of a problem than a help.”

      Frontex is experiencing the most acute crisis in its 16-year history. The agency is being investigated by the European parliament over allegations of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean and its head, Fabrice Leggeri, is facing calls to quit over allegations he misled the EU commission. Leggeri has strongly rejected allegations about the agency’s operations.

      Arias Fernández, 65, now retired, lost out on the top role to Leggeri in 2015. He admits he did not get on with Leggeri when they worked together for a year.

      “From the first moment I saw that he had a perhaps excessive eagerness to change things. Maybe it was to put his personal stamp on things,” said Arias Fernández.

      He said decisions made by one of the EU’s most powerful agencies had led to complicity in human rights violations.

      “Frontex pains me,” he said. “Especially for the staff, because they don’t deserve what they are going through. We saw the agency as an instrument to help the member states and the migrants. These events put a dent in all that effort.

      “I do not believe that the agency has proactively violated the rights of migrants, but there are reasons to believe that it has turned a blind eye.”
      Gil Arias Fernández. ‘Frontex pains me,’ he said. Photograph: Jose Bautista/Courtesy of Fundation for Causa

      In January 2015, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, several European politicians suggested the presence of refugees among the terrorists.

      When the media asked Frontex about any link between refugees and the Paris attack, Arias Fernández, a former police commissioner in Spain, told them there was no evidence.

      Arias Fernández believes this cost him the director’s job.

      The political pressure made the job a tough one, Arias Fernández said. “There is a lot of pressure on the part of certain states to put their people in positions of responsibility. Whether the agency is headed by a Frenchman or a Finn may determine whether there is more or less sensitivity to migration problems. The agency is independent, but ‘independent’ should be put in quotation marks because without a fluid relationship with the [European] commission, you have a hard time.

      “Operations have always been conducted unarmed and there have never been any problems. In operations where Libyan tribal clans smuggling migrants shot in the air to frighten the patrols, even there it was not considered appropriate to carry weapons. In this case, weapons are more a problem than a help. The proposal of carrying weapons came from the European Commission, which I do not know to what extent is influenced by lobbyists in Brussels.

      “There is no filter in the recruitment system. You cannot prevent people with extremist ideas from entering, unless they clearly express their position in favour of hate crimes, xenophobia and racism.”

      Arias Fernández pointed to the dearth of human rights training for Frontex officers. “But lack of information should not be used to justify certain things,” he said. “The incidents under investigation were carried out by Greek units following the instructions of their commanders.

      “When there are irregularities like this in operations, it is usually because there are instructions from the authorities responsible for coordinating the operation. The decision to turn back a boat with migrants is not taken by an officer but is an order from above.”
      A rescue boat escorts a dinghy with migrants from Afghanistan as a Frontex ship patrols off Lesbos in Greece. Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters

      He said he appreciated borders needed a certain level of security to know who was entering but added that immigration was vitally important for the survival of all European states.

      “I come to this conclusion because there are studies that show that if we do not resort to immigration and other incentives, the EU will have serious problems and the welfare state will be a chimera. We should learn these lessons. In the first half of the pandemic, migrants saved our bacon.

      “In Europe, movements that use populism are growing at an alarming rate, and the fight against immigrants is one of those arguments. States are excessively prudent in not touching this issue. The commission presented the new pact on migration and asylum, which contains no proposals for channelling migration through legal channels. They tried to satisfy all the blocs, Visegrád [Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia], southern states, northern states, and I fear that in the end it satisfies no one.”

      Arias Fernández said the lack of migrants being allowed into Europe would have a severe economic impact amid an ageing workforce: “Who will pay the pensions of the growing number of pensioners?”

      A Frontex spokesman denied the agency ignored migrants’ rights. “The executive director of Frontex has written several letters to the Greek authorities to address incidents that raised his concerns. Two inquiries, including one that was conducted by representatives of national authorities and the European Commission, have found no evidence of violations of human rights in Frontex operations in Greece.”

      The spokesman also denied that officers had always conducted operations while unarmed, saying: “Before this year, Frontex relied exclusively on officers provided by national authorities, who brought their own weapons to the agency’s operational activities. Today, Frontex has its own operational arm, the standing corps, whose core is made up of officers directly employed by the agency who require weapons for self-defence and to protect others.

      “Since Mr Arias left more than half-a-decade ago, Frontex has undergone a massive transformation that included a much bigger focus on cross-border crime, which means a greater chance that our officers may encounter life-threatening situations while patrolling the borders or performing other duties.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jun/11/frontex-turning-blind-eye-to-human-rights-violations-says-former-deputy

      #extrême_droite

    • Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads

      It is not a ‘one-off’. It did not take place six, twelve or eighteen months ago, and now things are better.

      It was just one of 491 incidents since March 2020, in which 14,720 men, women and children have been denied their fundamental human rights by a coastguard armed with assault rifles and behaving like a sea-militia ‘defending’ Greece against innocent, unarmed, and peaceful men, women and children attempting to find safe places to live.

      In the morning of 10 June, a boat carrying 31 people travelled towards Kos. Closing in on Ag. Fokas, on the south east side of the island, the boat was approached by several vessels from the Hellenic coast guard, and forced back towards Turkey.

      If anyone is wondering what a pushback at sea looks like, this is how it’s being carried out. And it is illegal.

      https://videopress.com/v/vPX3Vme3

      This shocking, immoral and illegal practice has become ‘normal’ in the Aegean Sea. Greece carries it out without let or hindrance, while the EU seems unable or unwilling to act.

      Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads.

      According to the Greek government and Frontex, this isn’t a pushback, but a ‘prevention of entry’.

      There are two major problems with this assessment. First, under international law, no country is allowed to ‘prevent the entry’ of men, women and children not suspected of any crime (as these people are not) and who intend to apply for asylum. Even if the people in this boat had not entered Greek waters, the Greek coastguard would have broken international law, by forcibly preventing people who wish to apply for asylum, from entering Greece.

      But in fact, secondly, these people had in fact already entered Greek water. It cannot be a ‘prevention of entry’ if people have already ‘entered’: it is a pushback. And it is absolutely illegal.

      In the video we can hear one of the officers on the Hellenic coast guard vessel ΛΣ150, say “everyone abide by the rules, because he’s filming”. It’s disturbing that this even needed to be said. First, because what would have happened had this person not had the presence of mind, and technology, to film? What would have happened then? How would the heavily-armed coastguard have responded to these innocent, unarmed people trying to exercise their fundamental human rights? Why did this coastguard, who noticed a person filming, need to advise his colleagues to abide by the law? What did he fear they would do?

      Secondly, the disturbing images we can see in this video are in fact not ‘abiding by the rules’. It appears the coastguard does not understand – or perhaps accept – the rules. This is a video of the Greek coastguard breaking the law, even as one member of the coastguard warns his colleagues not to do something even worse.

      Nor is this an isolated incident.

      It’s how the Hellenic coastguard – and in some cases also Frontex – have been operating for the last 15 months.

      We must demand that Notis Mitarachis, and Fabrice Leggeri, are held to account for their continued, immoral, unacceptable, and illegal activity in the Aegean Sea. We must demand that the EU – or if, as increasingly seems to be the case, the EU is unwilling – the wider international community takes legal action, now, to prevent the Greek coastguard, the Greek government, Frontex and the EU, breaking international law, and shaming the whole of Europe in the process.

      None of this is acceptable. None of it is even beneficial to either Greece or the EU.

      The time to stop this is now. The time to act is now. The EU can and must act. If it refuses, it is time for the international court to prosecute Mitarachis, Nea Dimokratia, Leggeri, Frontex, and the European Commission. Anything else is to further damage, and indeed make a laughing stock of international law, and all our human rights.

      https://aegeanboatreport.com/2021/06/28/human-rights-in-europe-are-at-a-crossroads

    • Communiqué de presse : Frontex a besoin d’une #réorganisation radicale

      Les députés du groupe de travail sur le contrôle de Frontex, sous l’égide de l’eurodéputée écologiste Tineke Strik, ont présenté aujourd’hui en commission des libertés civiles (LIBE) du Parlement européen, le rapport sur le rôle de Frontex dans le #refoulement illégal des réfugiés. Un des principaux enseignements est la nécessité d’ une réorganisation radicale de l’agence pour qu’elle respecte les droits humains.

      L’enquête menée par les eurodéputés confirme que Frontex a manqué à ses responsabilités en matière de protection des droits humains aux frontières de l’UE. L’agence avait connaissance de violations des droits fondamentaux commises dans des pays de l’UE avec lesquels elle coopère, et n’a pas réagi face à ces allégations. La direction de Frontex a sciemment ignoré les rapports des journalistes d’investigation et d’ONG, les avertissements internes du personnel et même les séquences vidéo dans lesquelles ces violations étaient visibles.

      Saskia Bricmont, députée européenne Vert/ALE, membre de la commission LIBE et responsable du rapport sur la décharge budgétaire Frontex, déclare :

      “En ne faisant pas respecter les droits fondamentaux aux frontières de l’UE, Frontex a failli à son devoir. L’agence a besoin d’une réorganisation radicale. Je salue le travail d’enquête mené par mes collègues : il est essentiel d’identifier les lacunes et les fautes afin d’y remédier au plus vite.”

      “Le rapport dévoile que Frontex était non seulement conscient des violations des droits fondamentaux, mais n’a de surcroît pas réagi de manière appropriée face à son obligation de prévenir les violations des droits humains. En dépit des différents signaux d’alerte provenant d’acteurs internes et externes, l’agence a fait preuve d’inactivité manifeste, voire de réticence à agir. Nous sommes particulièrement préoccupés par le respect des normes en matière de droits humains dans les opérations menées en Grèce et en Hongrie. Nous demandons au directeur exécutif de suspendre immédiatement les opérations en Hongrie et d’évaluer les opérations en Grèce.”

      “Il existe des signes clairs de mauvaise gestion : les rapports internes faisant état de violations des droits fondamentaux ont été ignorés, le recrutement des agents spécialisés dans les droits fondamentaux a été retardé et reste incomplet. Nous ne croyons pas en la capacité de l’actuel directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri, à résoudre les problèmes que nous avons exposés. M. Leggeri a induit le Parlement européen en erreur à plusieurs reprises et a encouragé une culture d’impunité, tout en continuant à nier l’existence des refoulements illégaux.”

      “Notre rapport exhorte le Conseil d’administration de Frontex à reconsidérer la position de M. Leggeri et de l’ensemble de la direction générale. Dans un tel contexte, la décharge budgétaire ne doit pas être octroyée à l’agence. Par ailleurs, il est temps que les États membres assument leur responsabilité commune dans la défense des valeurs européennes en matière de gestion des frontières et le respect des droits fondamentaux.”

      https://twitter.com/saskiabricmont/status/1415611092894724097

      Recommandations du #rapport :

      – Frontex ne doit effectuer des opérations conjointes qu’avec des pays qui agissent dans le plein respect des droits fondamentaux. Pour remplir cette obligation, Frontex devrait surveiller l’ensemble de la zone opérationnelle et enquêter sur tous les incidents ou autres indications de non-conformité.

      – Si un refoulement est signalé à Frontex, l’agence ne devrait pas seulement enquêter en s’appuyant sur les réponses des autorités gouvernementales, mais également vérifier les informations fournies.

      – La Commission européenne devrait conditionner le financement européen de la gestion des frontières au respect des droits fondamentaux par l’État membre concerné.

      https://saskiabricmont.eu/frontex-besoin-reorganisation-radicale
      #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés

      –—

      Réaction de Frontex :

      Frontex welcomes report by the Scrutiny Working Group

      Frontex welcomes the report by the Scrutiny Working Group and its conclusions which reaffirmed that there is no evidence of the Agency’s involvement in any violation of human rights.

      The agency has been working with the Parliament’s scrutiny group in an open and transparent manner, sharing information and receiving the MEPs during an online visit to Frontex. The agency remains committed to cooperating with the European Parliament.

      “I acknowledge the conclusion of Parliament’s fact-finding scrutiny and its recommendations. Frontex is a bigger, more complex organisation than a couple of years ago, so a system that was designed in the past needs to undergo further transformation. The report underlined the challenges of the Agency’s transformation in a more and more complex security environment,” said Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri.

      “We are determined to uphold the highest standards of border control within our operations. We will look into the recommendations and see how we can implement them to further strengthen the respect of fundamental rights in all our activities,” he added.

      Frontex has completed two stages of the inquiry into last autumn’s media allegations. Both an internal inquiry and the report by a special working group appointed by the Management Board (with Commission and Member states representatives) have found no evidence of any Frontex involvement in violation of human rights.

      The agency has already taken on board many of the recommendations issued by the working group, upgraded its reporting mechanism and reinforced its operational coordination centres to improve information exchange. It will continue working towards an effective and transparent management of EU external borders in full respect of fundamental rights.

      Recent events at the European Union’s external borders have shown that Frontex is an essential assistance for Member States and the whole EU in situations of increased migratory pressure. Our security environment is increasingly volatile and complex.

      Today, Frontex has officially launched its rapid border intervention at Lithuania’s border with Belarus and deployed standing corps officers and equipment to help secure EU’s common external border.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news/news-release/frontex-welcomes-report-by-the-scrutiny-working-group-0AQJWY
      https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1415654854412877824

    • EU border agency ‘has failed to protect asylum seekers’ rights’

      Author of European parliament report says Frontex agency’s director should resign or be sacked

      The EU border agency has failed to protect the human rights of asylum seekers, according to a damning European parliament report on the organisation.

      After a four-month investigation by MEPs the report’s author, Tineke Strik, told the Guardian, that Frontex “did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations”.

      Strik, a Dutch Green MEP, wants the agency’s director, Fabrice Leggeri, to resign or be fired, but the special cross-party group of eight MEPs, spanning rightwing nationalists to the radical left, that was convened to investigate Frontex has not made that call.

      Speaking before the report was released on Thursday, Strik continued: “We should consider in the end, can we have confidence in this executive director to really implement those recommendations [in her report] and really change it into a human rights sensitive agency? My group [Green MEPs], we don’t have confidence in him any more. We think it would be sound if the management board would draw the same conclusion and start the search for a new executive director.”

      Once an obscure EU agency, Frontex has become a central pillar of EU border management. After more than a 1.2 million people sought asylum in the EU in 2015, European leaders agreed to give the Warsaw-based organisation more staff and money, a point of consensus in the often fraught EU debate on how to manage migration. By 2027, Frontex will have 10,000 border and coastguards, while its budget has already increased more than 19-fold since its creation in 2006.

      But the agency has come under growing scrutiny over its role in alleged pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with dozens of human rights organisations calling for it to be abolished.

      Last year Frontex was accused of complicity in forcing back asylum seekers in breach of international law, after video footage emerged of one of its ships creating waves that drove back a dingy in the Aegean Sea crammed with people. That footage came through a joint investigation by Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said it had found six incidents where the agency was directly involved in a pushback in the Aegean or in close proximity to one.

      The committee said they had not found “conclusive evidence” that the agency was involved in pushbacks but concluded Frontex had failed to investigate such reports promptly. “As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduced the risk of future fundamental rights violations,” said the report.

      Strik said it was “pretty clear that [Frontex] were at least aware of what was going on” in the Aegean Sea. The agency’s investigations were “very superficial”, she said. “They asked for a response from the [Greek] government and when the government denied [pushbacks] the case was closed.”

      She said Frontex’s modus operandi was to rely on the word of the EU member state it was working with. “They end up asking the government, the host member state, and they almost always accept this response. Our conclusion is that Frontex did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations.”

      The agency had repeatedly failed to respond to reports of rights violations from inside the organisation and external organisations, the MEPs said.

      The blame is placed largely on Leggeri, a former senior official in France’s interior ministry in charge of illegal migration, who has been the agency’s executive director since 2015. He has been singled out for criticism for shoring up his own power base within the agency, while failing to recruit all 40 fundamental rights monitors as required by EU law.

      MEPs found that Leggeri had appointed 63 staff to his private office, a number that far exceeds the average. By contrast, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has 30 staff in her private office. “We contrast that in the way he acts with the monitors, only delaying and undermining, yet he provides for an amazing number of staff measures for his own cabinet,” Strik said.

      The MEPs concluded that Leggeri had delayed the recruitment of three executive directors required under EU law that might have checked his power.

      “That results in a complete lack of checks and balances within the organisation and of course we blame the executive director for that, but also the management board because the management board is overall responsible for good governance in the organisation,” Strik said.

      EU member states, she said, needed to make sure their representatives on the Frontex management board had the required expertise in fundamental rights and a direct line to ministers.

      “One of the problems,” she said, was that Frontex was conceived as a security rather than a rights organisation. EU member states found the agency reassuring: “[They] talk about threats at the border. They always call for Frontex. Maybe as reassurance for their own population, ‘we have secured your borders and we have made you safe’.”

      She said there was a perception inside and outside the agency that upholding human rights was in conflict with border control. “Some of the actors still perceive that when you start acting on fundamental rights, then you become less effective on border control … [Frontex] needs to do both and it’s possible to do both at the same time, so it’s a non-discussion actually.”

      The Guardian has contacted Frontex for a response to the European parliament’s report. The agency has always denied any involvement or knowledge of illegal pushbacks.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/eu-border-agency-has-failed-to-protect-asylum-seekers-rights

    • Frontex wusste von Menschenrechtsverletzungen – und tat nichts

      Monatelang haben EU-Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier SPIEGEL-Enthüllungen zu illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen in der Ägäis untersucht. Der Bericht ist eine Abrechnung mit Frontex-Direktor Leggeri – er soll belastendes Material vernichtet haben.

      Monatelang haben EU-Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier SPIEGEL-Enthüllungen zu illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen in der Ägäis untersucht. Der Bericht ist eine Abrechnung mit Frontex-Direktor Leggeri – er soll belastendes Material vernichtet haben.

      Der europäischen Grenzschutzagentur Frontex lagen Beweise für mutmaßlich illegale Pushbacks durch griechische Grenzschützer vor, die Agentur hat es jedoch »versäumt, die Grundrechtsverletzungen anzusprechen und zu verhindern«. Das ist das Ergebnis einer monatelangen Untersuchung des Europaparlaments.

      Eine Prüfgruppe unter Beteiligung aller Fraktionen hat untersucht, was Frontex von den illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingsbooten in der Ägäis wusste – und ob Frontex-Chef Fabrice Leggeri angemessen auf die Rechtsbrüche reagiert hat. Der Bericht der Arbeitsgruppe, den der SPIEGEL vorab einsehen konnte, liest sich wie eine Abrechnung mit Leggeri. Er zeichnet das Bild eines Direktors, der sich für die Einhaltung von Menschenrechten an den EU-Außengrenzen kaum interessiert und alles tut, um Verstöße zu vertuschen. Auf 17 Seiten listen die Abgeordneten seine Verfehlungen auf.

      Leggeri ignorierte sämtliche Hinweise

      Frontex habe öffentliche Berichte über Menschenrechtsverletzungen an den EU-Grenzen generell abgetan, heißt es im Report. Auch auf interne Informationen über mutmaßliche Rechtsbrüche habe die Agentur nicht angemessen reagiert. Leggeri ignoriere die Stellungnahmen und Anfragen seiner Grundrechtsbeauftragten und des sogenannten Konsultativforums. Diese sollen eigentlich dafür sorgen, dass die Agentur die Rechte von Asylsuchenden achtet.

      Trotz zahlreicher Berichte über mutmaßliche Rechtsbrüche in der Ägäis habe Leggeri nie umfassend erwogen, den Frontex-Einsatz zu beenden, oder überlegt, wie er die Menschenrechtsverletzungen verhindern könne. »Im Gegenteil, der Exekutivdirektor behauptet weiterhin, dass ihm keine Informationen über Grundrechtsverletzungen bekannt sind«, schreiben die Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier.

      Darüber hinaus habe Leggeri das Parlament lange Zeit nicht angemessen informiert. Bei seinen Auftritten im Ausschuss habe der Frontex-Direktor Informationen über einzelne Pushbacks verschwiegen. In mehreren Fällen seien Grenzbeamte davon abgebracht worden, Rechtsbrüche mittels eines sogenannten »Serious Incident Reports« an die Frontex-Führung zu melden. Selbst die Einstellung von 40 Grundrechtsbeobachtern, die die Grenzbeamten kontrollieren sollen, habe Leggeri erheblich verzögert. Sie seien noch immer nicht vollständig rekrutiert.

      Frontex machte sich bei Menschenrechtsverletzungen zum Komplizen

      Die Untersuchung des Europaparlaments ist eine Reaktion auf Enthüllungen des SPIEGEL. Gemeinsame Recherchen mit den Medienorganisationen Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat und dem ARD-Magazin »Report Mainz« zeigten, dass Frontex in der Ägäis in illegale Pushbacks verwickelt ist und sich bei griechischen Menschenrechtsverletzungen zum Komplizen gemacht hatte.

      Frontex-Beamte, darunter auch deutsche Bundespolizisten, stoppen in der Ägäis Flüchtlingsboote, bevor sie die griechischen Inseln erreichen, und übergeben sie an die griechische Küstenwache. Die Grenzschützer setzen die Geflüchteten anschließend systematisch auf dem Meer aus – entweder auf aufblasbaren Rettungsflößen oder auf Schlauchbooten, in denen sie den Motor entfernt haben. So stellen sie sicher, dass die Flüchtlinge nicht erneut griechische Gewässer erreichen können. Oft wenden die griechischen Beamten bei den Aktionen Gewalt an, stechen auf die Schlauchboote ein oder schießen ins Wasser. Bei mindestens sieben Fällen waren Frontex-Einheiten bei solchen Pushbacks in der Nähe oder in sie verstrickt.

      Pushbacks im Mittelmeer: Wie Frontex in Verbrechen verstrickt ist

      Griechische Grenzschützer schleppen Flüchtlinge systematisch aufs offene Meer zurück. Recherchen des SPIEGEL und seiner Partner zeigen, wie Frontex in die illegalen Operationen verwickelt ist. Sehen Sie hier den Film.

      In der Nacht vom 18. auf den 19. April zeichnete Frontex aus der Luft auf, wie die griechische Küstenwache Flüchtlinge auf ein Boot ohne Motor setzte und wegfuhr – ein klarer Rechtsverstoß, der die Menschen in Lebensgefahr brachte. Die Aufarbeitung des Pushbacks vom 18. April übernahm Leggeri persönlich. Dem Parlament verschwieg er den Pushback zunächst. Stattdessen stufte er den Vorfall nachträglich so ein, dass die Grundrechtsbeauftragte der Agentur fortan nicht mehr beteiligt war.

      Leggeri ließ offenbar belastendes Material vernichten

      Einer der brisantesten Vorwürfe im Bericht des Europaparlaments bezieht sich auf den Pushback in jener Nacht. Demnach wies Leggeri die Grundrechtsbeauftragte persönlich an, alle Informationen zu löschen, die sie zu dem Vorfall gesammelt hatte. Nach SPIEGEL-Informationen soll dies aus internen E-Mails hervorgehen, die die Abgeordneten einsehen konnten.

      https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/gefluechtete-in-griechenland-frontex-wusste-von-menschenrechtsverletzungen-u

  • Deportation Union: Rights, accountability and the EU’s push to increase forced removals

    Deportation Union provides a critical examination of recently-introduced and forthcoming EU measures designed to increase the number of deportations carried out by national authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. It focuses on three key areas: attempts to reduce or eliminate rights and protections in the law governing deportations; the expansion and interconnection of EU databases and information systems; and the increased budget, powers and personnel awarded to Frontex.

    There has long-been coordinated policy, legal and operational action on migration at EU level, and efforts to increase deportations have always been a part of this. However, since the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015 there has been a rapid increase in new initiatives, the overall aim of which is to limit legal protections afforded to ‘deportable’ individuals at the same time as expanding the ability of national and EU authorities to track, detain and remove people with increasing efficiency.

    The measures and initiatives being introduced by the EU to scale up deportations will require massive public expenditure on technology, infrastructure and personnel; the strengthening and expansion of state and supranational agencies already-lacking in transparency and democratic accountability; and are likely to further undermine claims that the EU occupies the moral high ground in its treatment of migrants. Anyone wishing to question and challenge these developments will first need to understand them. This report attempts to go some way towards assisting with that task.


    https://www.statewatch.org/deportation-union-rights-accountability-and-the-eu-s-push-to-increase-fo
    #machine_à_expulser #expulsions #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #UE #EU #rapport #union_européenne #renvois_forcés #rapport #Statewatch #Frontex #database #base_de_données #données_biométriques #Directive_Retour #return-opticon #Joint_return_operations (#JROs) #Collecting_return_operations #National_return_operations #Afghanistan #réfugiés_afghans #European_Centre_for_Returns #statistiques #chiffres #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @etraces

  • Automated Suspicion
    https://www.statewatch.org/media/1235/sw-automated-suspicion-full.pdf

    The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has raised the possibility of widespread surveillance and location tracking for the purpose of disease control, setting alarm bells ringing amongst privacy advocates and civil rights campaigners. However, EU institutions and governments have long been set on the path of more intensive personal data processing for the purpose of migration control, and these developments have in some cases passed almost entirely under the radar of the press and civil society (...)

    #algorithme #biométrie #migration #vidéo-surveillance #surveillance # #StateWatch

    ##_

    • EU: Frontex splashes out: millions of euros for new technology and equipment (19.06.2020)

      The approval of the new #Frontex_Regulation in November 2019 implied an increase of competences, budget and capabilities for the EU’s border agency, which is now equipping itself with increased means to monitor events and developments at the borders and beyond, as well as renewing its IT systems to improve the management of the reams of data to which it will have access.

      In 2020 Frontex’s #budget grew to €420.6 million, an increase of over 34% compared to 2019. The European Commission has proposed that in the next EU budget (formally known as the Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF, covering 2021-27) €11 billion will be made available to the agency, although legal negotiations are ongoing and have hit significant stumbling blocks due to Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and political disagreements.

      Nevertheless, the increase for this year has clearly provided a number of opportunities for Frontex. For instance, it has already agreed contracts worth €28 million for the acquisition of dozens of vehicles equipped with thermal and day cameras, surveillance radar and sensors.

      According to the contract for the provision of Mobile Surveillance Systems, these new tools will be used “for detection, identification and recognising of objects of interest e.g. human beings and/or groups of people, vehicles moving across the border (land and sea), as well as vessels sailing within the coastal areas, and other objects identified as objects of interest”. [1]

      Frontex has also published a call for tenders for Maritime Analysis Tools, worth a total of up to €2.6 million. With this, Frontex seeks to improve access to “big data” for maritime analysis. [2] The objective of deploying these tools is to enhance Frontex’s operational support to EU border, coast guard and law enforcement authorities in “suppressing and preventing, among others, illegal migration and cross-border crime in the maritime domain”.

      Moreover, the system should be capable of delivering analysis and identification of high-risk threats following the collection and storage of “big data”. It is not clear how much human input and monitoring there will be of the identification of risks. The call for tenders says the winning bidder should have been announced in May, but there is no public information on the chosen company so far.

      As part of a 12-month pilot project to examine how maritime analysis tools could “support multipurpose operational response,” Frontex previously engaged the services of the Tel Aviv-based company Windward Ltd, which claims to fuse “maritime data and artificial intelligence… to provide the right insights, with the right context, at the right time.” [3] Windward, whose current chairman is John Browne, the former CEO of the multinational oil company BP, received €783,000 for its work. [4]

      As the agency’s gathering and processing of data increases, it also aims to improve and develop its own internal IT systems, through a two-year project worth €34 million. This will establish a set of “framework contracts”. Through these, each time the agency seeks a new IT service or system, companies selected to participate in the framework contracts will submit bids for the work. [5]

      The agency is also seeking a ’Software Solution for EBCG [European Border and Coast Guard] Team Members to Access to Schengen Information System’, through a contract worth up to €5 million. [6] The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the EU’s largest database, enabling cooperation between authorities working in the fields of police, border control and customs of all the Schengen states (26 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and its legal bases were recently reformed to include new types of alert and categories of data. [7]

      This software will give Frontex officials direct access to certain data within the SIS. Currently, they have to request access via national border guards in the country in which they are operating. This would give complete autonomy to Frontex officials to consult the SIS whilst undertaking operations, shortening the length of the procedure. [8]

      With the legal basis for increasing Frontex’s powers in place, the process to build up its personnel, material and surveillance capacities continues, with significant financial implications.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/june/eu-frontex-splashes-out-millions-of-euros-for-new-technology-and-equipme

      #technologie #équipement #Multiannual_Financial_Framework #MFF #surveillance #Mobile_Surveillance_Systems #Maritime_Analysis_Tools #données #big_data #mer #Windward_Ltd #Israël #John_Browne #BP #complexe_militaro-industriel #Software_Solution_for_EBCG_Team_Members_to_Access_to_Schengen_Information_System #SIS #Schengen_Information_System

    • EU : Guns, guards and guidelines : reinforcement of Frontex runs into problems (26.05.2020)

      An internal report circulated by Frontex to EU government delegations highlights a series of issues in implementing the agency’s new legislation. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency is urging swift action to implement the mandate and is pressing ahead with the recruitment of its new ‘standing corps’. However, there are legal problems with the acquisition, registration, storage and transport of weapons. The agency is also calling for derogations from EU rules on staff disciplinary measures in relation to the use of force; and wants an extended set of privileges and immunities. Furthermore, it is assisting with “voluntary return” despite this activity appearing to fall outside of its legal mandate.

      State-of-play report

      At the end of April 2020, Frontex circulated a report to EU government delegations in the Council outlining the state of play of the implementation of its new Regulation (“EBCG 2.0 Regulation”, in the agency and Commission’s words), especially relating to “current challenges”.[1] Presumably, this refers to the outbreak of a pandemic, though the report also acknowledges challenges created by the legal ambiguities contained in the Regulation itself, in particular with regard to the acquisition of weapons, supervisory and disciplinary mechanisms, legal privileges and immunities and involvement in “voluntary return” operations.

      The path set out in the report is that the “operational autonomy of the agency will gradually increase towards 2027” until it is a “fully-fledged and reliable partner” to EU and Schengen states. It acknowledges the impacts of unforeseen world events on the EU’s forthcoming budget (Multi-annual Financial Framework, MFF) for 2021-27, and hints at the impact this will have on Frontex’s own budget and objectives. Nevertheless, the agency is still determined to “continue increasing the capabilities” of the agency, including its acquisition of new equipment and employment of new staff for its standing corps.

      The main issues covered by the report are: Frontex’s new standing corps of staff, executive powers and the use of force, fundamental rights and data protection, and the integration into Frontex of EUROSUR, the European Border Surveillance System.

      The new standing corps

      Recruitment

      A new standing corps of 10,000 Frontex staff by 2024 is to be, in the words of the agency, its “biggest game changer”.[2] The report notes that the establishment of the standing corps has been heavily affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. According to the report, 7,238 individuals had applied to join the standing corps before the outbreak of the pandemic. 5,482 of these – over 75% – were assessed by the agency as eligible, with a final 304 passing the entire selection process to be on the “reserve lists”.[3]

      Despite interruptions to the recruitment procedure following worldwide lockdown measures, interviews for Category 1 staff – permanent Frontex staff members to be deployed on operations – were resumed via video by the end of April. 80 candidates were shortlisted for the first week, and Frontex aims to interview 1,000 people in total. Despite this adaptation, successful candidates will have to wait for Frontex’s contractor to re-open in order to carry out medical tests, an obligatory requirement for the standing corps.[4]

      In 2020, Frontex joined the European Defence Agency’s Satellite Communications (SatCom) and Communications and Information System (CIS) services in order to ensure ICT support for the standing corps in operation as of 2021.[5] The EDA describes SatCom and CIS as “fundamental for Communication, Command and Control in military operations… [enabling] EU Commanders to connect forces in remote areas with HQs and capitals and to manage the forces missions and tasks”.[6]

      Training

      The basic training programme, endorsed by the management board in October 2019, is designed for Category 1 staff. It includes specific training in interoperability and “harmonisation with member states”. The actual syllabus, content and materials for this basic training were developed by March 2020; Statewatch has made a request for access to these documents, which is currently pending with the Frontex Transparency Office. This process has also been affected by the novel coronavirus, though the report insists that “no delay is foreseen in the availability of the specialised profile related training of the standing corps”.

      Use of force

      The state-of-play-report acknowledges a number of legal ambiguities surrounding some of the more controversial powers outlined in Frontex’s 2019 Regulation, highlighting perhaps that political ambition, rather than serious consideration and assessment, propelled the legislation, overtaking adequate procedure and oversight. The incentive to enact the legislation within a short timeframe is cited as a reason that no impact assessment was carried out on the proposed recast to the agency’s mandate. This draft was rushed through negotiations and approved in an unprecedented six-month period, and the details lost in its wake are now coming to light.

      Article 82 of the 2019 Regulation refers to the use of force and carriage of weapons by Frontex staff, while a supervisory mechanism for the use of force by statutory staff is established by Article 55. This says:

      “On the basis of a proposal from the executive director, the management board shall: (a) establish an appropriate supervisory mechanism to monitor the application of the provisions on use of force by statutory staff, including rules on reporting and specific measures, such as those of a disciplinary nature, with regard to the use of force during deployments”[7]

      The agency’s management board is expected to make a decision about this supervisory mechanism, including specific measures and reporting, by the end of June 2020.

      The state-of-play report posits that the legal terms of Article 55 are inconsistent with the standard rules on administrative enquiries and disciplinary measures concerning EU staff.[8] These outline, inter alia, that a dedicated disciplinary board will be established in each institution including at least one member from outside the institution, that this board must be independent and its proceedings secret. Frontex insists that its staff will be a special case as the “first uniformed service of the EU”, and will therefore require “special arrangements or derogations to the Staff Regulations” to comply with the “totally different nature of tasks and risks associated with their deployments”.[9]

      What is particularly astounding about Frontex demanding special treatment for oversight, particularly on use of force and weapons is that, as the report acknowledges, the agency cannot yet legally store or transport any weapons it acquires.

      Regarding service weapons and “non-lethal equipment”,[10] legal analysis by “external experts and a regulatory law firm” concluded that the 2019 Regulation does not provide a legal basis for acquiring, registering, storing or transporting weapons in Poland, where the agency’s headquarters is located. Frontex has applied to the Commission for clarity on how to proceed, says the report. Frontex declined to comment on the status of this consultation and any indications of the next steps the agency will take. A Commission spokesperson stated only that it had recently received the agency’s enquiry and “is analysing the request and the applicable legal framework in the view of replying to the EBCGA”, without expanding further.

      Until Frontex has the legal basis to do so, it cannot launch a tender for firearms and “non-lethal equipment” (which includes batons, pepper spray and handcuffs). However, the report implies the agency is ready to do so as soon as it receives the green light. Technical specifications are currently being finalised for “non-lethal equipment” and Frontex still plans to complete acquisition by the end of the year.

      Privileges and immunities

      The agency is also seeking special treatment with regard to the legal privileges and immunities it and its officials enjoy. Article 96 of the 2019 Regulation outlines the privileges and immunities of Frontex officers, stating:

      “Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union annexed to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU shall apply to the Agency and its statutory staff.” [11]

      However, Frontex notes that the Protocol does not apply to non-EU states, nor does it “offer a full protection, or take into account a need for the inviolability of assets owned by Frontex (service vehicles, vessels, aircraft)”.[12] Frontex is increasingly involved in operations taking place on non-EU territory. For instance, the Council of the EU has signed or initialled a number of Status Agreements with non-EU states, primarily in the Western Balkans, concerning Frontex activities in those countries. To launch operations under these agreements, Frontex will (or, in the case of Albania, already has) agree on operational plans with each state, under which Frontex staff can use executive powers.[13] The agency therefore seeks an “EU-level status of forces agreement… to account for the partial absence of rules”.

      Law enforcement

      To implement its enhanced functions regarding cross-border crime, Frontex will continue to participate in Europol’s four-year policy cycle addressing “serious international and organised crime”.[14] The agency is also developing a pilot project, “Investigation Support Activities- Cross Border Crime” (ISA-CBC), addressing drug trafficking and terrorism.

      Fundamental rights and data protection

      The ‘EBCG 2.0 Regulation’ requires several changes to fundamental rights measures by the agency, which, aside from some vague “legal analyses” seem to be undergoing development with only internal oversight.

      Firstly, to facilitate adequate independence of the Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO), special rules have to be established. The FRO was introduced under Frontex’s 2016 Regulation, but has since then been understaffed and underfunded by the agency.[15] The 2019 Regulation obliges the agency to ensure “sufficient and adequate human and financial resources” for the office, as well as 40 fundamental rights monitors.[16] These standing corps staff members will be responsible for monitoring compliance with fundamental rights standards, providing advice and assistance on the agency’s plans and activities, and will visit and evaluate operations, including acting as forced return monitors.[17]

      During negotiations over the proposed Regulation 2.0, MEPs introduced extended powers for the Fundamental Rights Officer themselves. The FRO was previously responsible for contributing to Frontex’s fundamental rights strategy and monitoring its compliance with and promotion of fundamental rights. Now, they will be able to monitor compliance by conducting investigations; offering advice where deemed necessary or upon request of the agency; providing opinions on operational plans, pilot projects and technical assistance; and carrying out on-the-spot visits. The executive director is now obliged to respond “as to how concerns regarding possible violations of fundamental rights… have been addressed,” and the management board “shall ensure that action is taken with regard to recommendations of the fundamental rights officer.” [18] The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in the Regulation.

      The state-of-play report says that “legal analyses and exchanges” are ongoing, and will inform an eventual management board decision, but no timeline for this is offered. [19] The agency will also need to adapt its much criticised individual complaints mechanism to fit the requirements of the 2019 Regulation; executive director Fabrice Leggeri’s first-draft decision on this process is currently undergoing internal consultations. Even the explicit requirement set out in the 2019 Regulation for an “independent and effective” complaints mechanism,[20] does not meet minimum standards to qualify as an effective remedy, which include institutional independence, accessibility in practice, and capacity to carry out thorough and prompt investigations.[21]

      Frontex has entered into a service level agreement (SLA) with the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) for support in establishing and training the team of fundamental rights monitors introduced by the 2019 Regulation. These monitors are to be statutory staff of the agency and will assess fundamental rights compliance of operational activities, advising, assisting and contributing to “the promotion of fundamental rights”.[22] The scope and objectives for this team were finalised at the end of March this year, and the agency will establish the team by the end of the year. Statewatch has requested clarification as to what is to be included in the team’s scope and objectives, pending with the Frontex Transparency Office.

      Regarding data protection, the agency plans a package of implementing rules (covering issues ranging from the position of data protection officer to the restriction of rights for returnees and restrictions under administrative data processing) to be implemented throughout 2020.[23] The management board will review a first draft of the implementing rules on the data protection officer in the second quarter of 2020.

      Returns

      The European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) – a network of 15 European states and the Commission facilitating cooperation over return operations “as part of the EU efforts to manage migration” – is to be handed over to Frontex. [24] A handover plan is currently under the final stage of review; it reportedly outlines the scoping of activities and details of “which groups of returnees will be eligible for Frontex assistance in the future”.[25] A request from Statewatch to Frontex for comment on what assistance will be provided by the agency to such returnees was unanswered at the time of publication.

      Since the entry into force of its new mandate, Frontex has also been providing technical assistance for so-called voluntary returns, with the first two such operations carried out on scheduled flights (as opposed to charter flights) in February 2020. A total of 28 people were returned by mid-April, despite the fact that there is no legal clarity over what the definition “voluntary return” actually refers to, as the state-of-play report also explains:

      “The terminology of voluntary return was introduced in the Regulation without providing any definition thereof. This terminology (voluntary departure vs voluntary return) is moreover not in line with the terminology used in the Return Directive (EBCG 2.0 refers to the definition of returns provided for in the Return Directive. The Return Directive, however, does not cover voluntary returns; a voluntary return is not a return within the meaning of the Return Directive). Further elaboration is needed.”[26]

      On top of requiring “further clarification”, if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it is acting outside of its legal mandate. Statewatch has launched an investigation into the agency’s activities relating to voluntary returns, to outline the number of such operations to date, their country of return and country of destination.

      Frontex is currently developing a module dedicated to voluntary returns by charter flight for its FAR (Frontex Application for Returns) platform (part of its return case management system). On top of the technical support delivered by the agency, Frontex also foresees the provision of on-the-ground support from Frontex representatives or a “return counsellor”, who will form part of the dedicated return teams planned for the standing corps from 2021.[27]

      Frontex has updated its return case management system (RECAMAS), an online platform for member state authorities and Frontex to communicate and plan return operations, to manage an increased scope. The state-of-play report implies that this includes detail on post-return activities in a new “post-return module”, indicating that Frontex is acting on commitments to expand its activity in this area. According to the agency’s roadmap on implementing the 2019 Regulation, an action plan on how the agency will provide post-return support to people (Article 48(1), 2019 Regulation) will be written by the third quarter of 2020.[28]

      In its closing paragraph, related to the budgetary impact of COVID-19 regarding return operations, the agency notes that although activities will resume once aerial transportation restrictions are eased, “the agency will not be able to provide what has been initially intended, undermining the concept of the EBCG as a whole”.[29]

      EUROSUR

      The Commission is leading progress on adopting the implementing act for the integration of EUROSUR into Frontex, which will define the implementation of new aerial surveillance,[30] expected by the end of the year.[31] Frontex is discussing new working arrangements with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL). The development by Frontex of the surveillance project’s communications network will require significant budgetary investment, as the agency plans to maintain the current system ahead of its planned replacement in 2025.[32] This investment is projected despite the agency’s recognition of the economic impact of Covid-19 on member states, and the consequent adjustments to the MFF 2021-27.

      Summary

      Drafted and published as the world responds to an unprecedented pandemic, the “current challenges” referred to in the report appear, on first read, to refer to the budgetary and staffing implications of global shut down. However, the report maintains throughout that the agency’s determination to expand, in terms of powers as well as staffing, will not be stalled despite delays and budgeting adjustments. Indeed, it is implied more than once that the “current challenges” necessitate more than ever that these powers be assumed. The true challenges, from the agency’s point of view, stem from the fact that its current mandate was rushed through negotiations in six months, leading to legal ambiguities that leave it unable to acquire or transport weapons and in a tricky relationship with the EU protocol on privileges and immunities when operating in third countries. Given the violence that so frequently accompanies border control operations in the EU, it will come as a relief to many that Frontex is having difficulties acquiring its own weaponry. However, it is far from reassuring that the introduction of new measures on fundamental rights and accountability are being carried out internally and remain unavailable for public scrutiny.

      Jane Kilpatrick

      Note: this article was updated on 26 May 2020 to include the European Commission’s response to Statewatch’s enquiries.

      It was updated on 1 July with some minor corrections:

      “the Council of the EU has signed or initialled a number of Status Agreements with non-EU states... under which” replaces “the agency has entered into working agreements with Balkan states, under which”
      “The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in any detail in the Regulation beyond monitoring the agency’s ’compliance with fundamental rights, including by conducting investigations’” replaces “The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in the Regulation”
      “if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it further exposes the haste with which legislation written to deny entry into the EU and facilitate expulsions was drafted” replaces “if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it is acting outside of its legal mandate”

      Endnotes

      [1] Frontex, ‘State of play of the implementation of the EBCG 2.0 Regulation in view of current challenges’, 27 April 2020, contained in Council document 7607/20, LIMITE, 20 April 2020, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/may/eu-council-frontex-ECBG-state-of-play-7607-20.pdf

      [2] Frontex, ‘Programming Document 2018-20’, 10 December 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf

      [3] Section 1.1, state of play report

      [4] Jane Kilpatrick, ‘Frontex launches “game-changing” recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards’, Statewatch Analysis, March 2020, http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-355-frontex-recruitment-standing-corps.pdf

      [5] Section 7.1, state of play report

      [6] EDA, ‘EU SatCom Market’, https://www.eda.europa.eu/what-we-do/activities/activities-search/eu-satcom-market

      [7] Article 55(5)(a), Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex 2019 Regulation), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [8] Pursuant to Annex IX of the EU Staff Regulations, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:01962R0031-20140501

      [9] Chapter III, state of play report

      [10] Section 2.5, state of play report

      [11] Protocol (No 7), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2016.202.01.0001.01.ENG#d1e3363-201-1

      [12] Chapter III, state of play report

      [13] ‘Border externalisation: Agreements on Frontex operations in Serbia and Montenegro heading for parliamentary approval’, Statewatch News, 11 March 2020, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/frontex-status-agreements.htm

      [14] Europol, ‘EU policy cycle – EMPACT’, https://www.europol.europa.eu/empact

      [15] ‘NGOs, EU and international agencies sound the alarm over Frontex’s respect for fundamental rights’, Statewatch News, 5 March 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/mar/fx-consultative-forum-rep.htm; ‘Frontex condemned by its own fundamental rights body for failing to live up to obligations’, Statewatch News, 21 May 2018, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/may/eu-frontex-fr-rep.htm

      [16] Article 110(6), Article 109, 2019 Regulation

      [17] Article 110, 2019 Regulation

      [18] Article 109, 2019 Regulation

      [19] Section 8, state of play report

      [20] Article 111(1), 2019 Regulation

      [21] Sergio Carrera and Marco Stefan, ‘Complaint Mechanisms in Border Management and Expulsion Operations in Europe: Effective Remedies for Victims of Human Rights Violations?’, CEPS, 2018, https://www.ceps.eu/system/files/Complaint%20Mechanisms_A4.pdf

      [22] Article 110(1), 2019 Regulation

      [23] Section 9, state of play report

      [24] ERRIN, https://returnnetwork.eu

      [25] Section 3.2, state of play report

      [26] Chapter III, state of play report

      [27] Section 3.2, state of play report

      [28] ‘’Roadmap’ for implementing new Frontex Regulation: full steam ahead’, Statewatch News, 25 November 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/nov/eu-frontex-roadmap.htm

      [29] State of play report, p. 19

      [30] Matthias Monroy, ‘Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders’, Statewatch Analysis, February 2020, http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-354-frontex-drones.pdf

      [31] Section 4, state of play report

      [32] Section 7.2, state of play report
      Next article >

      Mediterranean: As the fiction of a Libyan search and rescue zone begins to crumble, EU states use the coronavirus pandemic to declare themselves unsafe

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/eu-guns-guards-and-guidelines-reinforcement-of-frontex-runs-into-problem

      #EBCG_2.0_Regulation #European_Defence_Agency’s_Satellite_Communications (#SatCom) #Communications_and_Information_System (#CIS) #immunité #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains #Fundamental_Rights_Officer (#FRO) #European_Return_and_Reintegration_Network (#ERRIN) #renvois #expulsions #réintégration #Directive_Retour #FAR (#Frontex_Application_for_Returns) #RECAMAS #EUROSUR #European_Aviation_Safety_Agency (#EASA) #European_Organisation_for_the_Safety_of_Air_Navigation (#EUROCONTROL)

    • Frontex launches “game-changing” recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards

      On 4 January 2020 the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) adopted a decision on the profiles of the staff required for the new “standing corps”, which is ultimately supposed to be staffed by 10,000 officials. [1] The decision ushers in a new wave of recruitment for the agency. Applicants will be put through six months of training before deployment, after rigorous medical testing.

      What is the standing corps?

      The European Border and Coast Guard standing corps is the new, and according to Frontex, first ever, EU uniformed service, available “at any time…to support Member States facing challenges at their external borders”.[2] Frontex’s Programming Document for the 2018-2020 period describes the standing corps as the agency’s “biggest game changer”, requiring “an unprecedented scale of staff recruitment”.[3]

      The standing corps will be made up of four categories of Frontex operational staff:

      Frontex statutory staff deployed in operational areas and staff responsible for the functioning of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) Central Unit[4];
      Long-term staff seconded from member states;
      Staff from member states who can be immediately deployed on short-term secondment to Frontex; and

      A reserve of staff from member states for rapid border interventions.

      These border guards will be “trained by the best and equipped with the latest technology has to offer”.[5] As well as wearing EU uniforms, they will be authorised to carry weapons and will have executive powers: they will be able to verify individuals’ identity and nationality and permit or refuse entry into the EU.

      The decision made this January is limited to the definition of profiles and requirements for the operational staff that are to be recruited. The Management Board (MB) will have to adopt a new decision by March this year to set out the numbers of staff needed per profile, the requirements for individuals holding those positions, and the number of staff needed for the following year based on expected operational needs. This process will be repeated annually.[6] The MB can then further specify how many staff each member state should contribute to these profiles, and establish multi-annual plans for member state contributions and recruitment for Frontex statutory staff. Projections for these contributions are made in Annexes II – IV of the 2019 Regulation, though a September Mission Statement by new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urges the recruitment of 10,000 border guards by 2024, indicating that member states might be meeting their contribution commitments much sooner than 2027.[7]

      The standing corps of Frontex staff will have an array of executive powers and responsibilities. As well as being able to verify identity and nationality and refuse or permit entry into the EU, they will be able to consult various EU databases to fulfil operational aims, and may also be authorised by host states to consult national databases. According to the MB Decision, “all members of the Standing Corps are to be able to identify persons in need of international protection and persons in a vulnerable situation, including unaccompanied minors, and refer them to the competent authorities”. Training on international and EU law on fundamental rights and international protection, as well as guidelines on the identification and referral of persons in need of international protection, will be mandatory for all standing corps staff members.

      The size of the standing corps

      The following table, taken from the 2019 Regulation, outlines the ambitions for growth of Frontex’s standing corps. However, as noted, the political ambition is to reach the 10,000 total by 2024.

      –-> voir le tableau sur le site de statewatch!

      Category 2 staff – those on long term secondment from member states – will join Frontex from 2021, according to the 2019 Regulation.[8] It is foreseen that Germany will contribute the most staff, with 61 expected in 2021, increasing year-by-year to 225 by 2027. Other high contributors are France and Italy (170 and 125 by 2027, respectively).

      The lowest contributors will be Iceland (expected to contribute between one and two people a year from 2021 to 2027), Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Liechtenstein is not contributing personnel but will contribute “through proportional financial support”.

      For short-term secondments from member states, projections follow a very similar pattern. Germany will contribute 540 staff in 2021, increasing to 827 in 2027; Italy’s contribution will increase from 300 in 2021 to 458 in 2027; and France’s from 408 in 2021 to 624 in 2027. Most states will be making less than 100 staff available for short-term secondment in 2021.

      What are the profiles?

      The MB Decision outlines 12 profiles to be made available to Frontex, ranging from Border Guard Officer and Crew Member, to Cross Border Crime Detection Officer and Return Specialist. A full list is contained in the Decision.[9] All profiles will be fulfilled by an official of the competent authority of a member state (MS) or Schengen Associated Country (SAC), or by a member of Frontex’s own statutory staff.

      Tasks to be carried out by these officials include:

      border checks and surveillance;
      interviewing, debriefing* and screening arrivals and registering fingerprints;
      supporting the collection, assessment, analysis and distribution of information with EU member and non-member states;
      verifying travel documents;
      escorting individuals being deported on Frontex return operations;
      operating data systems and platforms; and
      offering cultural mediation

      *Debriefing consists of informal interviews with migrants to collect information for risk analyses on irregular migration and other cross-border crime and the profiling of irregular migrants to identify “modus operandi and migration trends used by irregular migrants and facilitators/criminal networks”. Guidelines written by Frontex in 2012 instructed border guards to target vulnerable individuals for “debriefing”, not in order to streamline safeguarding or protection measures, but for intelligence-gathering - “such people are often more willing to talk about their experiences,” said an internal document.[10] It is unknown whether those instructions are still in place.

      Recruitment for the profiles

      Certain profiles are expected to “apply self-safety and security practice”, and to have “the capacity to work under pressure and face emotional events with composure”. Relevant profiles (e.g. crew member) are required to be able to perform search and rescue activities in distress situations at sea borders.

      Frontex published a call for tender on 27 December for the provision of medical services for pre-recruitment examinations, in line with the plan to start recruiting operational staff in early 2020. The documents accompanying the tender reveal additional criteria for officials that will be granted executive powers (Frontex category “A2”) compared to those staff stationed primarily at the agency’s Warsaw headquarters (“A1”). Those criteria come in the form of more stringent medical testing.

      The differences in medical screening for category A1 and A2 staff lie primarily in additional toxicology screening and psychiatric and psychological consultations. [11] The additional psychiatric attention allotted for operational staff “is performed to check the predisposition for people to work in arduous, hazardous conditions, exposed to stress, conflict situations, changing rapidly environment, coping with people being in dramatic, injure or death exposed situations”.[12]

      Both A1 and A2 category provisional recruits will be asked to disclose if they have ever suffered from a sexually transmitted disease or “genital organ disease”, as well as depression, nervous or mental disorders, among a long list of other ailments. As well as disclosing any medication they take, recruits must also state if they are taking oral contraceptives (though there is no question about hormonal contraceptives that are not taken orally). Women are also asked to give the date of their last period on the pre-appointment questionnaire.

      “Never touch yourself with gloves”

      Frontex training materials on forced return operations obtained by Statewatch in 2019 acknowledge the likelihood of psychological stress among staff, among other health risks. (One recommendation contained in the documents is to “never touch yourself with gloves”). Citing “dissonance within the team, long hours with no rest, group dynamic, improvisation and different languages” among factors behind psychological stress, the training materials on medical precautionary measures for deportation escort officers also refer to post-traumatic stress disorder, the lack of an area to retreat to and body clock disruption as exacerbating risks. The document suggests a high likelihood that Frontex return escorts will witness poverty, “agony”, “chaos”, violence, boredom, and will have to deal with vulnerable persons.[13]

      For fundamental rights monitors (officials deployed to monitor fundamental rights compliance during deportations, who can be either Frontex staff or national officials), the training materials obtained by Statewatch focus on the self-control of emotions, rather than emotional care. Strategies recommended include talking to somebody, seeking professional help, and “informing yourself of any other option offered”. The documents suggest that it is an individual’s responsibility to prevent emotional responses to stressful situations having an impact on operations, and to organise their own supervision and professional help. There is no obvious focus on how traumatic responses of Frontex staff could affect those coming into contact with them at an external border or during a deportation. [14]

      The materials obtained by Statewatch also give some indication of the fundamental rights training imparted to those acting as deportation ‘escorts’ and fundamental rights monitors. The intended outcomes for a training session in Athens that took place in March 2019 included “adapt FR [fundamental rights] in a readmission operation (explain it with examples)” and “should be able to describe Non Refoulement principle” (in the document, ‘Session Fundamental rights’ is followed by ‘Session Velcro handcuffs’).[15] The content of the fundamental rights training that will be offered to Frontex’s new recruits is currently unknown.

      Fit for service?

      The agency anticipates that most staff will be recruited from March to June 2020, involving the medical examination of up to 700 applicants in this period. According to Frontex’s website, the agency has already received over 7,000 applications for the 700 new European Border Guard Officer positions.[16] Successful candidates will undergo six months of training before deployment in 2021. Apparently then, the posts are a popular career option, despite the seemingly invasive medical tests (especially for sexually active women). Why, for instance, is it important to Frontex to know about oral hormonal contraception, or about sexually transmitted infections?

      When asked by Statewatch if Frontex provides in-house psychological and emotional support, an agency press officer stated: “When it comes to psychological and emotional support, Frontex is increasing awareness and personal resilience of the officers taking part in our operations through education and training activities.” A ‘Frontex Mental Health Strategy’ from 2018 proposed the establishment of “a network of experts-psychologists” to act as an advisory body, as well as creating “online self-care tools”, a “psychological hot-line”, and a space for peer support with participation of psychologists (according to risk assessment) during operations.[17]

      One year later, Frontex, EASO and Europol jointly produced a brochure for staff deployed on operations, entitled ‘Occupational Health and Safety – Deployment Information’, which offers a series of recommendations to staff, placing the responsibility to “come to the deployment in good mental shape” and “learn how to manage stress and how to deal with anger” more firmly on the individual than the agency.[18] According to this document, officers who need additional support must disclose this by requesting it from their supervisor, while “a helpline or psychologist on-site may be available, depending on location”.

      Frontex anticipates this recruitment drive to be “game changing”. Indeed, the Commission is relying upon it to reach its ambitions for the agency’s independence and efficiency. The inclusion of mandatory training in fundamental rights in the six-month introductory education is obviously a welcome step. Whether lessons learned in a classroom will be the first thing that comes to the minds of officials deployed on border control or deportation operations remains to be seen.

      Unmanaged responses to emotional stress can include burnout, compassion-fatigue and indirect trauma, which can in turn decrease a person’s ability to cope with adverse circumstance, and increase the risk of violence.[19] Therefore, aside from the agency’s responsibility as an employer to safeguard the health of its staff, its approach to internal psychological care will affect not only the border guards themselves, but the people that they routinely come into contact with at borders and during return operations, many of whom themselves will have experienced trauma.

      Jane Kilpatrick

      Endnotes

      [1] Management Board Decision 1/2020 of 4 January 2020 on adopting the profiles to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps, https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Key_Documents/MB_Decision/2020/MB_Decision_1_2020_adopting_the_profiles_to_be_made_available_to_the_

      [2] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [3] Frontex, ‘Programming Document 2018-20’, 10 December 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf

      [4] The ETIAS Central Unit will be responsible for processing the majority of applications for ‘travel authorisations’ received when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System comes into use, in theory in late 2022. Citizens who do not require a visa to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply for authorisation to travel to the Schengen area.

      [5] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [6] Article 54(4), Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [7] ‘European Commission 2020 Work Programme: An ambitious roadmap for a Union that strives for more’, 29 January 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_124; “Mission letter” from Ursula von der Leyen to Ylva Johnsson, 10 September 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/mission-letter-ylva-johansson_en.pdf

      [8] Annex II, 2019 Regulation

      [9] Management Board Decision 1/2020 of 4 January 2020 on adopting the profiles to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps, https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Key_Documents/MB_Decision/2020/MB_Decision_1_2020_adopting_the_profiles_to_be_made_available_to_the_

      [10] ‘Press release: EU border agency targeted “isolated or mistreated” individuals for questioning’, Statewatch News, 16 February 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/feb/eu-frontex-op-hera-debriefing-pr.htm

      [11] ‘Provision of Medical Services – Pre-Recruitment Examination’, https://etendering.ted.europa.eu/cft/cft-documents.html?cftId=5841

      [12] ‘Provision of medical services – pre-recruitment examination, Terms of Reference - Annex II to invitation to tender no Frontex/OP/1491/2019/KM’, https://etendering.ted.europa.eu/cft/cft-document.html?docId=65398

      [13] Frontex training presentation, ‘Medical precautionary measures for escort officers’, undated, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/eu-frontex-presentation-medical-precautionary-measures-deportation-escor

      [14] Ibid.

      [15] Frontex, document listing course learning outcomes from deportation escorts’ training, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/eu-frontex-deportation-escorts-training-course-learning-outcomes.pdf

      [16] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [17] Frontex, ‘Frontex mental health strategy’, 20 February 2018, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/89c168fe-e14b-11e7-9749-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

      [18] EASO, Europol and Frontex, ‘Occupational health and safety’, 12 August 2019, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/17cc07e0-bd88-11e9-9d01-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-103142015

      [19] Trauma Treatment International, ‘A different approach for victims of trauma’, https://www.tt-intl.org/#our-work-section

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/frontex-launches-game-changing-recruitment-drive-for-standing-corps-of-b
      #gardes_frontières #staff #corps_des_gardes-frontières

    • Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders (27.02.2020)

      Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

      It is not easy to obtain majorities for legislation in the European Union in the area of migration - unless it is a matter of upgrading the EU’s external borders. While the reform of a common EU asylum system has been on hold for years, the European Commission, Parliament and Council agreed to reshape the border agency Frontex with unusual haste shortly before last year’s parliamentary elections. A new Regulation has been in force since December 2019,[1] under which Frontex intends to build up a “standing corps” of 10,000 uniformed officials by 2027. They can be deployed not just at the EU’s external borders, but in ‘third countries’ as well.

      In this way, Frontex will become a “European border police force” with powers that were previously reserved for the member states alone. The core of the new Regulation includes the procurement of the agency’s own equipment. The Multiannual Financial Framework, in which the EU determines the distribution of its financial resources from 2021 until 2027, has not yet been decided. According to current plans, however, at least €6 billion are reserved for Frontex in the seven-year budget. The intention is for Frontex to spend a large part of the money, over €2 billion, on aircraft, ships and vehicles.[2]

      Frontex seeks company for drone flights

      The upgrade plans include the stationing of large drones in the central and eastern Mediterranean. For this purpose, Frontex is looking for a private partner to operate flights off Malta, Italy or Greece. A corresponding tender ended in December[3] and the selection process is currently underway. The unmanned missions could then begin already in spring. Frontex estimates the total cost of these missions at €50 million. The contract has a term of two years and can be extended twice for one year at a time.

      Frontex wants drones of the so-called MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class. Their flight duration should be at least 20 hours. The requirements include the ability to fly in all weather conditions and at day and night. It is also planned to operate in airspace where civil aircraft are in service. For surveillance missions, the drones should carry electro-optical cameras, thermal imaging cameras and so-called “daylight spotter” systems that independently detect moving targets and keep them in focus. Other equipment includes systems for locating mobile and satellite telephones. The drones will also be able to receive signals from emergency call transmitters sewn into modern life jackets.

      However, the Frontex drones will not be used primarily for sea rescue operations, but to improve capacities against unwanted migration. This assumption is also confirmed by the German non-governmental organisation Sea-Watch, which has been providing assistance in the central Mediterranean with various ships since 2015. “Frontex is not concerned with saving lives,” says Ruben Neugebauer of Sea-Watch. “While air surveillance is being expanded with aircraft and drones, ships urgently needed for rescue operations have been withdrawn”. Sea-Watch demands that situation pictures of EU drones are also made available to private organisations for sea rescue.

      Aircraft from arms companies

      Frontex has very specific ideas for its own drones, which is why there are only a few suppliers worldwide that can be called into question. The Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1, which Frontex tested for several months on the Greek island of Crete[4] and which is also flown by the German Bundeswehr, is one of them. As set out by Frontex in its invitation to tender, the Heron 1, with a payload of around 250 kilograms, can carry all the surveillance equipment that the agency intends to deploy over the Mediterranean. Also amongst those likely to be interested in the Frontex contract is the US company General Atomics, which has been building drones of the Predator series for 20 years. Recently, it presented a new Predator model in Greece under the name SeaGuardian, for maritime observation.[5] It is equipped with a maritime surveillance radar and a system for receiving position data from larger ships, thus fulfilling one of Frontex’s essential requirements.

      General Atomics may have a competitive advantage, as its Predator drones have several years’ operational experience in the Mediterranean. In addition to Frontex, the European Union has been active in the central Mediterranean with EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. In March 2019, Italy’s then-interior minister Matteo Salvini pushed through the decision to operate the EU mission from the air alone. Since then, two unarmed Predator drones operated by the Italian military have been flying for EUNAVFOR MED for 60 hours per month. Officially, the drones are to observe from the air whether the training of the Libyan coast guard has been successful and whether these navy personnel use their knowledge accordingly. Presumably, however, the Predators are primarily pursuing the mission’s goal to “combat human smuggling” by spying on the Libyan coast. It is likely that the new Operation EU Active Surveillance, which will use military assets from EU member states to try to enforce the UN arms embargo placed on Libya,[6] will continue to patrol with Italian drones off the coast in North Africa.

      Three EU maritime surveillance agencies

      In addition to Frontex, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) are also investing in maritime surveillance using drones. Together, the three agencies coordinate some 300 civil and military authorities in EU member states.[7] Their tasks include border, fisheries and customs control, law enforcement and environmental protection.

      In 2017, Frontex and EMSA signed an agreement to benefit from joint reconnaissance capabilities, with EFCA also involved.[8] At the time, EMSA conducted tests with drones of various sizes, but now the drones’ flights are part of its regular services. The offer is not only open to EU Member States, as Iceland was the first to take advantage of it. Since summer 2019, a long-range Hermes 900 drone built by the Israeli company Elbit Systems has been flying from Iceland’s Egilsstaðir airport. The flights are intended to cover more than half of the island state’s exclusive economic zone and to detect “suspicious activities and potential hazards”.[9]

      The Hermes 900 was also developed for the military; the Israeli army first deployed it in the Gaza Strip in 2014. The Times of Israel puts the cost of the operating contract with EMSA at €59 million,[10] with a term of two years, which can be extended for another two years. The agency did not conclude the contract directly with the Israeli arms company, but through the Portuguese firm CeiiA. The contract covers the stationing, control and mission control of the drones.

      New interested parties for drone flights

      At the request of the German MEP Özlem Demirel (from the party Die Linke), the European Commission has published a list of countries that also want to use EMSA drones.[11] According to this list, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal and also Greece have requested unmanned flights for pollution monitoring this year, while Bulgaria and Spain want to use them for general maritime surveillance. Until Frontex has its own drones, EMSA is flying its drones for the border agency on Crete. As in Iceland, this is the long-range drone Hermes 900, but according to Greek media reports it crashed on 8 January during take-off.[12] Possible causes are a malfunction of the propulsion system or human error. The aircraft is said to have been considerably damaged.

      Authorities from France and Great Britain have also ordered unmanned maritime surveillance from EMSA. Nothing is yet known about the exact intended location, but it is presumably the English Channel. There, the British coast guard is already observing border traffic with larger drones built by the Tekever arms company from Portugal.[13] The government in London wants to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel. The drones take off from the airport in the small town of Lydd and monitor the approximately 50-kilometre-long and 30-kilometre-wide Strait of Dover. Great Britain has also delivered several quadcopters to France to try to detect potential migrants in French territorial waters. According to the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais, eight gendarmes have been trained to control the small drones[14].

      Information to non-EU countries

      The images taken by EMSA drones are evaluated by the competent national coastguards. A livestream also sends them to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw.[15] There they are fed into the EUROSUR border surveillance system. This is operated by Frontex and networks the surveillance installations of all EU member states that have an external border. The data from EUROSUR and the national border control centres form the ‘Common Pre-frontier Intelligence Picture’,[16] referring to the area of interest of Frontex, which extends far into the African continent. Surveillance data is used to detect and prevent migration movements at an early stage.

      Once the providing company has been selected, the new Frontex drones are also to fly for EUROSUR. According to the invitation to tender, they are to operate in the eastern and central Mediterranean within a radius of up to 250 nautical miles (463 kilometres). This would enable them to carry out reconnaissance in the “pre-frontier” area off Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Within the framework of EUROSUR, Frontex shares the recorded data with other European users via a ‘Remote Information Portal’, as the call for tender explains. The border agency has long been able to cooperate with third countries and the information collected can therefore also be made available to authorities in North Africa. However, in order to share general information on surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea with a non-EU state, Frontex must first conclude a working agreement with the corresponding government.[17]

      It is already possible, however, to provide countries such as Libya with the coordinates of refugee boats. For example, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the nearest Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) must be informed of actual or suspected emergencies. With EU funding, Italy has been building such a centre in Tripoli for the last two years.[18] It is operated by the military coast guard, but so far has no significant equipment of its own.

      The EU military mission “EUNAVFOR MED” was cooperating more extensively with the Libyan coast guard. For communication with European naval authorities, Libya is the first third country to be connected to European surveillance systems via the “Seahorse Mediterranean” network[19]. Information handed over to the Libyan authorities might also include information that was collected with the Italian military ‘Predator’ drones.

      Reconnaissance generated with unmanned aerial surveillance is also given to the MRCC in Turkey. This was seen in a pilot project last summer, when the border agency tested an unmanned aerostat with the Greek coast guard off the island of Samos.[20] Attached to a 1,000 metre-long cable, the airship was used in the Frontex operation ‘Poseidon’ in the eastern Mediterranean. The 35-meter-long zeppelin comes from the French manufacturer A-NSE.[21] The company specializes in civil and military aerial observation. According to the Greek Marine Ministry, the equipment included a radar, a thermal imaging camera and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the tracking of larger ships. The recorded videos were received and evaluated by a situation centre supplied by the Portuguese National Guard. If a detected refugee boat was still in Turkish territorial waters, the Greek coast guard informed the Turkish authorities. This pilot project in the Aegean Sea was the first use of an airship by Frontex. The participants deployed comparatively large numbers of personnel for the short mission. Pictures taken by the Greek coastguard show more than 40 people.

      Drones enable ‘pull-backs’

      Human rights organisations accuse EUNAVFOR MED and Frontex of passing on information to neighbouring countries leading to rejections (so-called ‘push-backs’) in violation of international law. People must not be returned to states where they are at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations. Frontex does not itself return refugees in distress who were discovered at sea via aerial surveillance, but leaves the task to the Libyan or Turkish authorities. Regarding Libya, the Agency since 2017 provided notice of at least 42 vessels in distress to Libyan authorities.[22]

      Private rescue organisations therefore speak of so-called ‘pull-backs’, but these are also prohibited, as the Israeli human rights lawyer Omer Shatz argues: “Communicating the location of civilians fleeing war to a consortium of militias and instructing them to intercept and forcibly transfer them back to the place they fled from, trigger both state responsibility of all EU members and individual criminal liability of hundreds involved.” Together with his colleague Juan Branco, Shatz is suing those responsible for the European Union and its agencies before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Soon they intend to publish individual cases and the names of the people accused.

      Matthias Monroy

      An earlier version of this article first appeared in the German edition of Le Monde Diplomatique: ‘Drohnen für Frontex Statt sich auf die Rettung von Bootsflüchtlingen im Mittelmeer zu konzentrieren, baut die EU die Luftüberwachung’.

      Note: this article was corrected on 6 March to clarify a point regarding cooperation between Frontex and non-EU states.

      Endnotes

      [1] Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard, https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/PE-33-2019-INIT/en/pdf

      [2] European Commission, ‘A strengthened and fully equipped European Border and Coast Guard’, 12 September 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/soteu2018-factsheet-coast-guard_en.pdf

      [3] ‘Poland-Warsaw: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for Medium Altitude Long Endurance Maritime Aerial Surveillance’, https://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:490010-2019:TEXT:EN:HTML&tabId=1

      [4] IAI, ‘IAI AND AIRBUS MARITIME HERON UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEM (UAS) SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED 200 FLIGHT HOURS IN CIVILIAN EUROPEAN AIRSPACE FOR FRONTEX’, 24 October 2018, https://www.iai.co.il/iai-and-airbus-maritime-heron-unmanned-aerial-system-uas-successfully-complet

      [5] ‘ European Maritime Flight Demonstrations’, General Atomics, http://www.ga-asi.com/european-maritime-demo

      [6] ‘EU agrees to deploy warships to enforce Libya arms embargo’, The Guardian, 17 February 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/17/eu-agrees-deploy-warships-enforce-libya-arms-embargo

      [7] EMSA, ‘Heads of EMSA and Frontex meet to discuss cooperation on European coast guard functions’, 3 April 2019, http://www.emsa.europa.eu/news-a-press-centre/external-news/item/3499-heads-of-emsa-and-frontex-meet-to-discuss-cooperation-on-european-c

      [8] Frontex, ‘Frontex, EMSA and EFCA strengthen cooperation on coast guard functions’, 23 March 2017, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-emsa-and-efca-strengthen-cooperation-on-coast-guard-functions

      [9] Elbit Systems, ‘Elbit Systems Commenced the Operation of the Maritime UAS Patrol Service to European Union Countries’, 18 June 2019, https://elbitsystems.com/pr-new/elbit-systems-commenced-the-operation-of-the-maritime-uas-patrol-servi

      [10] ‘Elbit wins drone contract for up to $68m to help monitor Europe coast’, The Times of Israel, 1 November 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/elbit-wins-drone-contract-for-up-to-68m-to-help-monitor-europe-coast

      [11] ‘Answer given by Ms Bulc on behalf of the European Commission’, https://netzpolitik.org/wp-upload/2019/12/E-2946_191_Finalised_reply_Annex1_EN_V1.pdf

      [12] ‘Το drone της FRONTEX έπεσε, οι μετανάστες έρχονται’, Proto Thema, 27 January 2020, https://www.protothema.gr/greece/article/968869/to-drone-tis-frontex-epese-oi-metanastes-erhodai

      [13] Morgan Meaker, ‘Here’s proof the UK is using drones to patrol the English Channel’, Wired, 10 January 2020, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/uk-drones-migrants-english-channel

      [14] ‘Littoral: Les drones pour lutter contre les traversées de migrants sont opérationnels’, La Voix du Nord, 26 March 2019, https://www.lavoixdunord.fr/557951/article/2019-03-26/les-drones-pour-lutter-contre-les-traversees-de-migrants-sont-operation

      [15] ‘Frontex report on the functioning of Eurosur – Part I’, Council document 6215/18, 15 February 2018, http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6215-2018-INIT/en/pdf

      [16] European Commission, ‘Eurosur’, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/border-crossing/eurosur_en

      [17] Legal reforms have also given Frontex the power to operate on the territory of non-EU states, subject to the conclusion of a status agreement between the EU and the country in question. The 2016 Frontex Regulation allowed such cooperation with states that share a border with the EU; the 2019 Frontex Regulation extends this to any non-EU state.

      [18] ‘Helping the Libyan Coast Guard to establish a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre’, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-000547_EN.html

      [19] Matthias Monroy, ‘EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean’, 7 July 2018, https://digit.site36.net/2018/07/03/eu-funds-the-sacking-of-rescue-ships-in-the-mediterranean

      [20] Frontex, ‘Frontex begins testing use of aerostat for border surveillance’, 31 July 2019, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-begins-testing-use-of-aerostat-for-border-surveillance-ur33N8

      [21] ‘Answer given by Ms Johansson on behalf of the European Commission’, 7 January 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2019-002529-ASW_EN.html

      [22] ‘Answer given by Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission’, 8 January 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2019-002654-ASW_EN.html

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/drones-for-frontex-unmanned-migration-control-at-europe-s-borders

      #drones

    • Monitoring “secondary movements” and “hotspots”: Frontex is now an internal surveillance agency (16.12.2019)

      The EU’s border agency, Frontex, now has powers to gather data on “secondary movements” and the “hotspots” within the EU. The intention is to ensure “situational awareness” and produce risk analyses on the migratory situation within the EU, in order to inform possible operational action by national authorities. This brings with it increased risks for the fundamental rights of both non-EU nationals and ethnic minority EU citizens.

      The establishment of a new ’standing corps’ of 10,000 border guards to be commanded by EU border agency Frontex has generated significant public and press attention in recent months. However, the new rules governing Frontex[1] include a number of other significant developments - including a mandate for the surveillance of migratory movements and migration “hotspots” within the EU.

      Previously, the agency’s surveillance role has been restricted to the external borders and the “pre-frontier area” – for example, the high seas or “selected third-country ports.”[2] New legal provisions mean it will now be able to gather data on the movement of people within the EU. While this is only supposed to deal with “trends, volumes and routes,” rather than personal data, it is intended to inform operational activity within the EU.

      This may mean an increase in operations against ‘unauthorised’ migrants, bringing with it risks for fundamental rights such as the possibility of racial profiling, detention, violence and the denial of access to asylum procedures. At the same time, in a context where internal borders have been reintroduced by numerous Schengen states over the last five years due to increased migration, it may be that he agency’s new role contributes to a further prolongation of internal border controls.

      From external to internal surveillance

      Frontex was initially established with the primary goals of assisting in the surveillance and control of the external borders of the EU. Over the years it has obtained increasing powers to conduct surveillance of those borders in order to identify potential ’threats’.

      The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) has a key role in this task, taking data from a variety of sources, including satellites, sensors, drones, ships, vehicles and other means operated both by national authorities and the agency itself. EUROSUR was formally established by legislation approved in 2013, although the system was developed and in use long before it was subject to a legal framework.[3]

      The new Frontex Regulation incorporates and updates the provisions of the 2013 EUROSUR Regulation. It maintains existing requirements for the agency to establish a “situational picture” of the EU’s external borders and the “pre-frontier area” – for example, the high seas or the ports of non-EU states – which is then distributed to the EU’s member states in order to inform operational activities.[4]

      The new rules also provide a mandate for reporting on “unauthorised secondary movements” and goings-on in the “hotspots”. The Commission’s proposal for the new Frontex Regulation was not accompanied by an impact assessment, which would have set out the reasoning and justifications for these new powers. The proposal merely pointed out that the new rules would “evolve” the scope of EUROSUR, to make it possible to “prevent secondary movements”.[5] As the European Data Protection Supervisor remarked, the lack of an impact assessment made it impossible: “to fully assess and verify its attended benefits and impact, notably on fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to privacy and to the protection of personal data.”[6]

      The term “secondary movements” is not defined in the Regulation, but is generally used to refer to journeys between EU member states undertaken without permission, in particular by undocumented migrants and applicants for internal protection. Regarding the “hotspots” – established and operated by EU and national authorities in Italy and Greece – the Regulation provides a definition,[7] but little clarity on precisely what information will be gathered.

      Legal provisions

      A quick glance at Section 3 of the new Regulation, dealing with EUROSUR, gives little indication that the system will now be used for internal surveillance. The formal scope of EUROSUR is concerned with the external borders and border crossing points:

      “EUROSUR shall be used for border checks at authorised border crossing points and for external land, sea and air border surveillance, including the monitoring, detection, identification, tracking, prevention and interception of unauthorised border crossings for the purpose of detecting, preventing and combating illegal immigration and cross-border crime and contributing to ensuring the protection and saving the lives of migrants.”

      However, the subsequent section of the Regulation (on ‘situational awareness’) makes clear the agency’s new internal role. Article 24 sets out the components of the “situational pictures” that will be visible in EUROSUR. There are three types – national situational pictures, the European situational picture and specific situational pictures. All of these should consist of an events layer, an operational layer and an analysis layer. The first of these layers should contain (emphasis added in all quotes):

      “…events and incidents related to unauthorised border crossings and cross-border crime and, where available, information on unauthorised secondary movements, for the purpose of understanding migratory trends, volume and routes.”

      Article 26, dealing with the European situational picture, states:

      “The Agency shall establish and maintain a European situational picture in order to provide the national coordination centres and the Commission with effective, accurate and timely information and analysis, covering the external borders, the pre-frontier area and unauthorised secondary movements.”

      The events layer of that picture should include “information relating to… incidents in the operational area of a joint operation or rapid intervention coordinated by the Agency, or in a hotspot.”[8] In a similar vein:

      “The operational layer of the European situational picture shall contain information on the joint operations and rapid interventions coordinated by the Agency and on hotspots, and shall include the mission statements, locations, status, duration, information on the Member States and other actors involved, daily and weekly situational reports, statistical data and information packages for the media.”[9]

      Article 28, dealing with ‘EUROSUR Fusion Services’, says that Frontex will provide national authorities with information on the external borders and pre-frontier area that may be derived from, amongst other things, the monitoring of “migratory flows towards and within the Union in terms of trends, volume and routes.”

      Sources of data

      The “situational pictures” compiled by Frontex and distributed via EUROSUR are made up of data gathered from a host of different sources. For the national situational picture, these are:

      national border surveillance systems;
      stationary and mobile sensors operated by national border agencies;
      border surveillance patrols and “other monitoring missions”;
      local, regional and other coordination centres;
      other national authorities and systems, such as immigration liaison officers, operational centres and contact points;
      border checks;
      Frontex;
      other member states’ national coordination centres;
      third countries’ authorities;
      ship reporting systems;
      other relevant European and international organisations; and
      other sources.[10]

      For the European situational picture, the sources of data are:

      national coordination centres;
      national situational pictures;
      immigration liaison officers;
      Frontex, including reports form its liaison officers;
      Union delegations and EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions;
      other relevant Union bodies, offices and agencies and international organisations; and
      third countries’ authorities.[11]

      The EUROSUR handbook – which will presumably be redrafted to take into account the new legislation – provides more detail about what each of these categories may include.[12]

      Exactly how this melange of different data will be used to report on secondary movements is currently unknown. However, in accordance with Article 24 of the new Regulation:

      “The Commission shall adopt an implementing act laying down the details of the information layers of the situational pictures and the rules for the establishment of specific situational pictures. The implementing act shall specify the type of information to be provided, the entities responsible for collecting, processing, archiving and transmitting specific information, the maximum time limits for reporting, the data security and data protection rules and related quality control mechanisms.” [13]

      This implementing act will specify precisely how EUROSUR will report on “secondary movements”.[14] According to a ‘roadmap’ setting out plans for the implementation of the new Regulation, this implementing act should have been drawn up in the last quarter of 2020 by a newly-established European Border and Coast Guard Committee sitting within the Commission. However, that Committee does not yet appear to have held any meetings.[15]

      Operational activities at the internal borders

      Boosting Frontex’s operational role is one of the major purposes of the new Regulation, although it makes clear that the internal surveillance role “should not lead to operational activities of the Agency at the internal borders of the Member States.” Rather, internal surveillance should “contribute to the monitoring by the Agency of migratory flows towards and within the Union for the purpose of risk analysis and situational awareness.” The purpose is to inform operational activity by national authorities.

      In recent years Schengen member states have reintroduced border controls for significant periods in the name of ensuring internal security and combating irregular migration. An article in Deutsche Welle recently highlighted:

      “When increasing numbers of refugees started arriving in the European Union in 2015, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Hungary quickly reintroduced controls, citing a “continuous big influx of persons seeking international protection.” This was the first time that migration had been mentioned as a reason for reintroducing border controls.

      Soon after, six Schengen members reintroduced controls for extended periods. Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway cited migration as a reason. France, as the sixth country, first introduced border checks after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, citing terrorist threats. Now, four years later, all six countries still have controls in place. On November 12, they are scheduled to extend them for another six months.”[16]

      These long-term extensions of internal border controls are illegal (the upper limit is supposed to be two years; discussions on changes to the rules governing the reintroduction of internal border controls in the Schengen area are ongoing).[17] A European Parliament resolution from May 2018 stated that “many of the prolongations are not in line with the existing rules as to their extensions, necessity or proportionality and are therefore unlawful.”[18] Yves Pascou, a researcher for the European Policy Centre, told Deutsche Welle that: “"We are in an entirely political situation now, not a legal one, and not one grounded in facts.”

      A European Parliament study published in 2016 highlighted that:

      “there has been a noticeable lack of detail and evidence given by the concerned EU Member States [those which reintroduced internal border controls]. For example, there have been no statistics on the numbers of people crossing borders and seeking asylum, or assessment of the extent to which reintroducing border checks complies with the principles of proportionality and necessity.”[19]

      One purpose of Frontex’s new internal surveillance powers is to provide such evidence (albeit in the ideologically-skewed form of ‘risk analysis’) on the situation within the EU. Whether the information provided will be of interest to national authorities is another question. Nevertheless, it would be a significant irony if the provision of that information were to contribute to the further maintenance of internal borders in the Schengen area.

      At the same time, there is a more pressing concern related to these new powers. Many discussions on the reintroduction of internal borders revolve around the fact that it is contrary to the idea, spirit (and in these cases, the law) of the Schengen area. What appears to have been totally overlooked is the effect the reintroduction of internal borders may have on non-EU nationals or ethnic minority citizens of the EU. One does not have to cross an internal Schengen frontier too many times to notice patterns in the appearance of the people who are hauled off trains and buses by border guards, but personal anecdotes are not the same thing as empirical investigation. If Frontex’s new powers are intended to inform operational activity by the member states at the internal borders of the EU, then the potential effects on fundamental rights must be taken into consideration and should be the subject of investigation by journalists, officials, politicians and researchers.

      Chris Jones

      Endnotes

      [1] The new Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the EU in mid-November: Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [2] Article 12, ‘Common application of surveillance tools’, Regulation (EU) No 1052/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 establishing the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013R1052

      [3] According to Frontex, the Eurosur Network first came into use in December 2011 and in March 2012 was first used to “exchange operational information”. The Regulation governing the system came into force in October 2013 (see footnote 2). See: Charles Heller and Chris Jones, ‘Eurosur: saving lives or reinforcing deadly borders?’, Statewatch Journal, vol. 23 no. 3/4, February 2014, http://database.statewatch.org/article.asp?aid=33156

      [4] Recital 34, 2019 Regulation: “EUROSUR should provide an exhaustive situational picture not only at the external borders but also within the Schengen area and in the pre-frontier area. It should cover land, sea and air border surveillance and border checks.”

      [5] European Commission, ‘Proposal for a Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Council Joint Action no 98/700/JHA, Regulation (EU) no 1052/2013 and Regulation (EU) no 2016/1624’, COM(2018) 631 final, 12 September 2018, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/sep/eu-com-frontex-proposal-regulation-com-18-631.pdf

      [6] EDPS, ‘Formal comments on the Proposal for a Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard’, 30 November 2018, p. p.2, https://edps.europa.eu/sites/edp/files/publication/18-11-30_comments_proposal_regulation_european_border_coast_guard_en.pdf

      [7] Article 2(23): “‘hotspot area’ means an area created at the request of the host Member State in which the host Member State, the Commission, relevant Union agencies and participat