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  • Démission de Leggeri à la tête de Frontex

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

    https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/brussels-playbook/trouble-at-frontex-ruble-roulette-jeppes-replacement
    #Leggeri #Fabrice_Leggeri #Frontex #démission #frontières #migrations #réfugiés

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

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


      https://twitter.com/g_christides/status/1519967913066782720

      Ce 4 mai, tirant les leçons de cet épisode, le CNCD-11.11.11 encourage les membres du Parlement européen à refuser à Frontex la décharge de ses comptes pour l’exercice 2020 lors du vote en séance plénière. En effet, bloquer la décharge budgétaire est un bon levier pour exiger la réforme en profondeur de l’orientation et du fonctionnement de Frontex pour plus de transparence, de contrôle démocratique et de responsabilisation en cas de non-respect des droits humains. Les faits ayant amené à la démission du directeur doivent maintenant être analysés posément et des engagements formels pris pour garantir le respect des lois et des traités internationaux. C’est pourquoi il importe de reporter la décharge jusqu’à la démonstration de la mise en œuvre effective de mesures correctrices. Plus globalement, ce vote est l’occasion d’un signal fort pour exiger une réorientation radicale du pacte européen pour l’asile et la migration vers le respect des droits humains, la mobilité et la solidarité (pour plus de détails, lire notre récente étude « Migration et asile : analyse du pacte européen » : https://www.cncd.be/point-sud-22-migration-asile-pacte-europeen).

      https://www.cncd.be/Demission-du-Directeur-de-Frontex

    • Frontex | Faire sauter la tête ne suffira pas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      https://asile.ch/2022/04/29/frontex-faire-sauter-la-tete-ne-suffira-pas

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

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

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

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

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

      Enquête internationale

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

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

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

      https://www.rts.ch/info/monde/13056010-le-patron-de-frontex-fabrice-leggeri-demissionne-sur-fond-daccusations.

    • Commission statement on the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri

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

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

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

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

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

      https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_22_2751

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/290422/refoulement-de-migrants-aux-frontieres-fabrice-leggeri-directeur-de-fronte

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

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

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

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

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

      Du dédain à l’#impunité

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

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

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

      (1) European Commission, « Speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker at the debate in the European Parliament on the conclusions of the Special European Council on 23 April : Tackling the migration crisis », 29 avril 2015, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-15-4896_en.htm (dernier accès le 12 April 2016).

      https://www.liberation.fr/idees-et-debats/tribunes/leggeri-est-parti-mais-cest-frontex-quil-faut-renvoyer-20220503_P4AJ6XWWU

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

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

      Frontex and the accountability problem

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

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

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

      Frontex: from undisputable to untenable border agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Establishment of first accountability procedures against Frontex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      https://securitypraxis.eu/frontex-evolution-from-the-undisputable-to-the-untenable-border-agenc

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

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

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

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

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

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

      « Manque de loyauté »

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

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

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

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

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

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

      « Il ne rendait de compte à personne »

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

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

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

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

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

      Voix dissonantes ignorées

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

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

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

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

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

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2022/05/06/frontex-la-chute-d-une-affaire-francaise_6125052_3210.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      https://migreurop.org/article3102.html

    • Inside the Final Days of the Frontex Chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/fabrice-leggeri-s-resignation-the-final-days-of-the-frontex-chief-a-a238224a

  • #Putin Lives in Historic Analogies and Metaphors” [entretien avec Ivan Krastev - 17 mars 2022]
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/ivan-krastev-on-russia-s-invasion-of-ukraine-putin-lives-in-historic-analogi

    The hypocrisy of the West has become an obsession of his, and it is reflected in everything the Russian government does. Did you know that in parts of his declaration on the annexation of Crimea, he took passages almost verbatim from the Kosovo declaration of independence, which was supported by the West? Or that the attack on Kyiv began with the destruction of the television tower just as NATO attacked the television tower in Belgrade in 1999?

    DER SPIEGEL: Why does he do such things?

    Krastev: Because he wants to teach us a lesson. Because he wants to tell us: I have learned from you. Even if that means doing exactly that for which he hates us. On that evening in Sochi, he expressed outrage that the annexation of the Crimea had been compared with Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. Putin lives in historic analogies and metaphors. Those who are enemies of eternal Russia must be Nazis. And so, he was quick to portray the conflicts in the Donbas as a genocide. Putin’s overstatements became so extreme that they no longer had any connection to reality. He has become hostage to his own rhetoric.

  • #Éthiopie, inventer la #ville de demain

    Expédition en Éthiopie sur le chantier d’un nouveau type de ville, qui répond au défi démographique du pays. Conçu par l’urbaniste suisse #Franz_Oswald, l’idée est de construire des #micro-villes à la #campagne, autosuffisantes et durables. Pays à forte croissance démographique, l’Éthiopie, où plus de 80% de la population travaille dans le domaine de l’agriculture, est aussi caractérisée par un exode rural massif. Chaque année, des millions de jeunes en recherche d’emploi émigrent vers les villes, dont Addis-Abeba, la capitale, et y vivent dans la promiscuité et le dénuement des bidonvilles. Face à cette tendance préoccupante, une équipe composée d’architectes internationaux et d’agriculteurs locaux entreprend de réaliser un projet visionnaire, conçu par l’urbaniste suisse Franz Oswald. Leur idée : construire des micro-villes à la campagne, autosuffisantes et durables. Sur le chantier de la cité pilote de Buranest, ce documentaire part à la rencontre des participants, dont le paysan Tilahun Ayelew et l’architecte éthiopien reconnu Fasil Giorghis. Malgré les obstacles culturels et administratifs, une petite zone urbaine autonome en milieu rural voit progressivement le jour, avec un accès à l’eau, à l’électricité, à Internet et à l’école : une expérience source d’espoir pour désengorger les villes.

    https://www.les-docus.com/ethiopie-inventer-la-ville-de-demain
    #film #film_documentaire
    #Ethiopie #urbanisation #exode_rural #BuraNEST #Rainwater-unit #Zegeye_Cherenet #Fasil_Giorghis #architecture

    #TRUST #Master_TRUST

    • #Nestown

      Ethiopia’s present population of more than 90 million people is growing rapidly. In spite of the outstanding economic growth the multi-ethnic state on the Horn of Africa seems to be reaching its limits. It is confronted with inefficient cultivation of land and harmful migration to city centres. It lacks the experience to respond to the growth of its population with a sustainable settlement development approach. In order to develop a model town, the authorities in the Amhara region are working closely since 2007 with NESTown Group, including experts from ETH Zurich. It has been officially decided to implement this urban development proposal.

      The region aims to offer its mostly farming inhabitants a town and house type designed according to local conditions which they can build and manage themselves. The buildings are used to harvest rainwater and are built from local materials such as eucalyptus wood. The developed and tested construction is estimated to cost no more than the equivalent of 2000 - 3000 Swiss francs.

      To realize a sustainable town, other capacities have to be developed: cooperative communal living serving both the public good and the individual households, efficient water management, a productive and ecologically diverse agriculture for food security, continuous education, including appropriate technology transfer.

      By its nature, the implementation of a town is an open ended process emerging at various speeds and scales

      http://www.nestown.org

    • Ethiopia’s Plans to Bridge the Urban-Rural Divide

      Ethiopia’s population has tripled over the past few decades. Millions of farmers are leaving the fields only to end up living in the slums of huge cities. City planners believe they have found a solution — in the remote countryside.

      Stories about people embarking on their future usually start with a departure. But the story of farmer Birhan Abegaz is different. He plans to stay put right where he is in his quest for happiness — a treeless wasteland in northern Ethiopia.

      The crooked huts of his village, Bura, are surrounded by solitary thorn bushes and acacias. Birhan is cultivating rice on a patch of leased land behind his hut, at least during the rainy season. A few months have passed since the harvest. The dry season is here, and the earth is dusty. The Shine River, Bura’s lifeblood, is nothing but a trickle.

      Married with three children, Birhan is only 28 years old, but the hardness of rural life has taken its toll on him and he looks much older. He fetches the family’s water for drinking, cooking and washing from about a kilometer away. The nearest well is on the other side of the highway leading to the provincial capital of Bahir Dar, a two-hour drive away. In the past, many people from Bura and the nearby villages took this road, turning their backs on the countryside in search of a better life in the city.

      What Can Keep the Farmers in the Countryside?

      Since the 1970s, Ethiopia’s population has more than tripled, going from 30 million to over 100 million. In the countryside, overpopulation is leading to the overuse and overgrazing of fields and deforestation. More and more people are moving to the big cities, which are growing faster than the rest of the country. The provincial capital of Bahir Dar had about 60,000 inhabitants 30 years ago, but today it has 350,000. “Apartment buildings, streets, the drinking-water supply and the entire infrastructure can’t keep up with this tempo,” says Ethiopian city planner and architect Zegeye Cherenet.

      As a result, new arrivals end up living on the streets or in slums. In the early mornings in Bahir Dar, dozens of ragged young men stand at the intersections in the hope of picking up work as day laborers. In the evenings, their sisters and mothers go to the square and wait for johns.

      That’s supposed to change now, and the starting point is to be the barren wasteland next to the village of Bura. Birhan points to a construction site next to the highway. His new house is being built there, constructed out of eucalyptus wood and clay bricks. It’s supposed to be the first of many. An entire town is to be built here — with a school and a training center where the farmers from the surrounding area can learn new skills, which they can then put to use to earn money. The newly founded municipality, which is to gradually grow to around 15,000 residents, is called Buranest. The idea behind the project is that the city must come to the farmers in order to keep the rural population from flooding into the cities.

      The project is called Nestown, short for New Sustainable Town. The plan was primarily devised by Franz Oswald, a former professor at ETH in Zurich, and sociologist Dieter Läpple, the doctoral supervisor of Ethiopian city planner Cherenet at Hafencity University in Hamburg.

      Urbanization without Rural Depopulation

      An entire network of this new type of settlement is to be built as part of Ethiopia’s Nestown project — half village, half town. The inhabitants are to form cooperatives to build and run their towns themselves, as well as to make and sell agricultural and handcrafted wares. “The residents can remain farmers, which is familiar to them, but also simultaneously learn urban skills,” says Cherenet. Rural towns like Buranest are meant to keep the people in the countryside by offering them local opportunities like the ones they are moving to overpopulated cities to search for in vain.

      Work on the project began five years ago. First, model houses were built to show the skeptical farmers how useful it can be to have stable foundation walls, cisterns and toilets. The region’s usual dwellings are huts made of twigs, mud and cow dung — crooked housing often described as “dancing houses.”

      Birhan proudly opens the hatch of his cistern. He dug the pit for it together with his new neighbors. His home is also almost complete, a kind of row house that shares a large corrugated iron roof with the adjacent buildings. During the rainy season, the rainwater will drain into the cisterns using constructions called Rain Water Units (RWU). “With the water I can have not just one harvest per year, but several,” he says. A garden is being planted behind the house and his five cows “will even get their own shed.” Earlier, the animals lived in the old hut, under the same roof as the family.

      The construction style is unconventional for the region: The houses are two stories high, with a family housed on each floor in order to take up as little land as possible. Fertile land is valuable. One-half of a row house costs 75,000 Ethiopian birr, or about 2,200 euros, which is being financed partly through loans and partly with donations.

      The River Flows All Year Round

      The training center has been built on the village square — a building with cheerful red and green walls. The farmers will learn how to process food here, as well as household management and the basics of accounting. Their children are to take computer courses. Like his neighbors, however, Birhan has never been to school and doesn’t know how to read or write.

      A school, health center and church are to be built in the next construction phases — all largely by the new inhabitants. Swiss aid organization Green Ethiopia has planted a large vegetable garden as well as trees on the streets and along the banks of the Shine. For the first time in decades, the river is now flowing all year round.

      The rapid population growth has also left scars on the area surrounding Birhan’s village, Bura. The source region of the Shine River, 20 kilometers away, had been deforested, the fertile soil carried away by wind and storms. Since 2012, Green Ethiopia has planted almost 3 million trees on the hills of Lobokemkem. The organization also pays the local farmers to stop grazing their animals there.

      After five years, the successes are visible: The trees reach up to 5 meters high and a thin layer of topsoil has formed, with grass growing on top of it. Tree and grass roots hold down the soil. At several spots, the groundwater trickles out even in the dry season, which hasn’t been the case in two generations. Downriver, in Bunarest, there is enough water for the new gardens despite the drought. They are one of the most important foundations for the further development of the town. “What must I do to build a city? First, I plant a forest,” says Franz Oswald, summing up the seemingly paradoxical principle.
      The tree nursery is also part of the project. People from the region work here and raise the trees that are to be planted in Buranest.

      The Biggest Obstacle: Neighbors’ Skepticism

      Birhan Abegaz is already planning his transition away from farming to a life as an urban dweller. If one day he manages to get more land, he wants to plant more vegetables “and then open a restaurant,” he says. His family could work there. He hopes that his kids “can learn and have better career options. They shouldn’t remain farmers like me.”

      But his patience is repeatedly being put to the test. As a future urban dweller, he is dependent on the developments taking place around him. He is reliant on his neighbors. His house, as well as the first general construction phase, was supposed to be finished last year. The date has been pushed back repeatedly.

      It should be ready soon, but it’s hard to make predictions in Ethiopia. The cooperative of carpenters and stone masons, which was founded and trained specifically for the construction of the residential buildings, had to be dissolved again because as soon as they had their diploma, many of the trained tradespeople disappeared to find their luck in Bahir Dar or elsewhere. As a result, the construction site remained quiet for a year. The training center with the red-green exterior wall may be finished, but it remains empty because the local authorities are unable to agree on who will pay the instructors.

      Growth is nevertheless happening in Buranest, though not along the banks of the Shine where the planners had initially intended. The actual new town center has developed to the left and right sides of the highway. A kiosk has opened there, as well as a bar. About 300 people have built their traditional “dancing houses” there out of mud and twigs. Buranest, a city under construction, has attracted them from the surrounding villages, but most are still hesitating to sign onto the project. They shun the 40-euro fee for joining the cooperative, and an urban life with electricity and toilets in little sheds in front of the houses still seems alien and unfamiliar.

      The Government Wants to Build Thousands of New Towns

      Although the new settlement isn’t growing according to the Buranest planners’ intentions, they aren’t too bothered by it. The fact that so much is being built informally, says Dieter Läpple, is a sign that the people believe in the settlement’s future. He now hopes for what the founders call the “propaganda of the good deed” — that once families have moved into their new homes with water and gardens, neighbors will also soon recognize the advantages. The decisive factor, Läpple says, will be whether “the population makes the project theirs.”

      The government in Addis Ababa is already on board. In the city of 5 million, up to 80 percent of residents live in slums, according to UN estimates. And although migration into cities and urbanization used to be considered taboo, that’s no longer the case. By 2020, the Ethiopian Ministry of Urban Development and Housing wants to turn 8,000 rural settlements into “urban centers.” The government already has a concrete role model for their plans: Buranest.

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/tomorrow/ethiopia-plans-to-build-8000-new-cities-in-countryside-a-1197153.html

  • Torture Allegations Against Greek Border Guards
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/greece-torture-allegations-against-greek-border-guards-a-f5d95ba0-ed45-4cd0-

    Parvin has clear memories of the cell Greek border guards placed her in. A urine-soaked mattress was on the floor. She and the other refugees sat at the top of bunk beds to escape the filth. Sewage had seaped into the room from a toilet. “It was very dirty, disgusting,” says Parvin.

    Parvin captured the conditions in the cell in two videos. She was the only refugee who had managed to smuggle a mobile phone into the police station. At 2:27 a.m. Turkish time, she sent the videos and shared her location with acquaintances. Her Turkish SIM card still had reception in Greece.

    Parvin’s geolocation data shows that the border guards had taken the group to a police station in the Greek village of Neo Chimonio. It is located just a few kilometers across the border – and appears to be one of the key locations in the Greek pushback system near the Evros River.

  • Très intéressant : ces jours-ci, notre efficace gouvernement se félicite que la campagne de vaccination est « en avance » sur ses prévisions. Par exemple ici (et sinon entendu à la radio nationale aujourd’hui) :
    La vaccination contre le Covid-19 atteindra en août son objectif… en avance
    https://www.courrier-picard.fr/id215168/article/2021-07-22/la-vaccination-contre-le-covid-19-atteindra-en-aout-son-objectif-en-

    Le gouvernement s’était fixé un objectif de 40 millions de premières injectons de vaccin contre le Covid-19 pour le mois d’août. L’objectif sera atteint ce mois-ci.

    C’est vraiment important ça : ça signifie que le gouvernement n’avait de toute façon jamais prévu d’atteindre un niveau de vaccination qui aurait permis, seul, de contrer la nouvelle vague cet été. C’est-à-dire que le gouvernement admet qu’il a une fois de plus merdé le déconfinement, et qu’il a une fois de plus merdé l’arrivée d’une nouvelle vague, en faisant le choix de se reposer uniquement sur la vaccination (dont on nous dit donc aujourd’hui que même « en avance », elle n’est pas capable d’arrêter cette vague). Mauvaise volonté des anti-vax ou pas.

    Et qu’en septembre, nos enfants seront une fois de plus à poil face à cette vague, sans rien de sérieux préparé dans les écoles.

    (Constat qui n’invalide pas par ailleurs le fait que je soutiens qu’on a besoin d’être extrêmement volontaristes sur la vaccination, et refuser ces histoires de « liberté individuelle » alors même que le vaccin est un des principaux outils pour nos libertés collectives et individuelles à moyen terme. Et aussi le fait que les 30% à 40% de gens aujourd’hui avec le masque sous le nez dans les supermarchés sont des sales cons.)

    • Un autre aspect d’intérêt, c’est cette histoire d’avoir « gagné du temps » en faisant traîner les restrictions molles et merdiques pour finalement faire redescendre la courbe avec plusieurs mois de retard. Ce haut fait d’Épidémiologiste 1er.

      Non seulement ça s’est payé en malades graves et en morts, mais en plus, on n’a justement pas « gagné du temps », puisqu’au lieu d’avoir pu profiter d’un peu de liberté, on a replongé illico dans la vague Delta. La courbe ici à Montpellier est épatante : les jeunes de 20 à 29 ans, le taux d’incidence n’est redescendu dans le vert que pour une durée de deux semaines !

      Tout ce qu’on a « gagné », ce sont des morts et des malades, et une période de répit plus courte d’autant qu’on a prolongé la 2e vague…

      Je te fais un dessin :

      Et pour la bonne bouche, je te mets aussi une étoile pour célébrer l’article « Reconfinement allégé et vaccination : comment Emmanuel Macron a gagné son pari » du 12 juin dans le JDD :
      https://www.lejdd.fr/Politique/reconfinement-allege-et-vaccination-comment-emmanuel-macron-a-gagne-son-pari-4

      (Suggestion : prévoir exactement le même genre de communication à propos du « temps gagné » sur le réchauffement climatique.)

    • Donc ni les mesures ni les menus du jour vaccinals semblent en mesure de contrer de nouvelles vagues et de nouveaux variants, sauf à répéter de nouvelles injections pour chaque variants.
      Donc nos enfants, effectivement se retrouverons à poil en septembre, ou blindé messenger pour le reste de leur vie.

    • Donc ni les mesures ni les menus du jour vaccinals semblent en mesure de contrer de nouvelles vagues et de nouveaux variants, sauf à répéter de nouvelles injections pour chaque variants.

      Absolument rien de scientifiquement fondé ne permet d’affirmer ça pour l’instant.

    • Ce qu’on sait, c’est que la couverture vaccinale actuellement est insuffisante pour arrêter seule la nouvelle vague. À terme, si la couverture vaccinale augmente massivement, elle devrait permettre d’arrêter les futures vagues (c’est le principe d’un vaccin : on protège suffisamment, même de manière imparfaite, pour de toute façon faire tellement chuter le taux de reproduction que toute nouvelle introduction du virus s’éteint très rapidement).

      Pour l’instant aussi, on n’a aucune indication d’échappement vaccinal avec un variant qui se diffuserait massivement : les vaccins actuels protègent efficacement contre l’actuel variant Delta. C’est une crainte que ça finisse par arriver, mais ce n’est pas le cas actuellement.

      Quand aux « mesures », pour l’instant c’est le néant et c’est l’objet de ce thread : le pari gouvernemental de laisser faire la fête du slip (« la vie comme avant ») en se reposant uniquement sur l’avancement de la vaccination est ce qui nous plante en ce moment (et non la mauvaise volonté – même si elle est réelle – d’une grosse partie de la population à se faire vacciner). Puisqu’on annonce être en avance d’un mois sur le calendrier vaccinal du gouvernement, cocorico, et qu’on se mange tout de même des progressions encore jamais vues des contaminations.

      La « grosse » mesure qui est le passe vaccinal, grosso modo ce sera début août pour les lieux qui comptent. Peut-être qu’il aura une efficacité, même très imparfaite, pour faire suffisamment baisser le taux de reproduction, associé à la couverture vaccinale partielle, ou peut-être qu’il est tellement troué, avec une volonté politique de ne pas nuire au consumérisme des fêtards dans les régions touristiques, qu’il n’aura qu’un effet marginal (mineurs exclus du passe, contrôles bidon comme, tout le monde le pense très fort, dans les boîtes de nuit actuellement, multiplication des QR codes de complaisance…). Pour l’instant on ne sait pas.

    • Ah, important : et c’est pas comme si c’était pas annoncé par les scientifiques. C’est très très exactement ce qu’avait dit craindre Christian Drosten en… janvier dernier :
      https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/interview-with-virologist-christian-drosten-i-am-quite-apprehensive-about-wh

      Drosten: Once the elderly and maybe part of the risk groups have been vaccinated, there will be immense economic, social, political and perhaps also legal pressure to end the corona measures. And then, huge numbers of people will become infected within just a short amount of time, more than we can even imagine at the moment. We won’t have 20,000 or 30,000 new cases a day, but up to 100,000 in a worst-case scenario. It will, of course, be primarily younger people who are less likely than older people to have severe symptoms, but when a huge number of younger people get infected, then the intensive care units will fill up anyway and a lot of people will die. Just that it will be younger people.

    • Depuis le début, nous surfons sur une vague dénommée « worst case scenario » en ce qui concerne les réactions des populations (gvt en premier lieu).

      Alors même que d’une certaine façon, dans la mesure où ce virus n’est pas massivement mortel, nous pourrions aussi dire que nous ne sommes pas dans un « worst case scenario » du point de vue de la nature du virus.

    • En l’absence de mesures barrières et de modifications de comportements, Laurent Thines évalue l’impact probable du sarscov2 en France à 300 000 décès. De plus :

      « Le Covid-long menace. Nous avons appris à connaître maintenant un peu mieux les séquelles sur la santé de la contraction du virus (60% des patients ont encore au moins un symptôme à six mois) : épisodes de fièvre, fatigue profonde, toux et difficultés respiratoires persistantes (fibrose pulmonaire), fatigabilité et malaise à l’effort physique, douleurs thoraciques et palpitations, maux de tête et douleurs musculo-articulaires, perte d’odorat et de goût, troubles de mémoire et de concentration, rétraction pénienne… Ce florilège d’effets tardifs balaie à lui seul l’argument de ceux qui défendent la notion d’une maladie bénigne qui ne tue que ceux dont la santé était très dégradée et qui “allaient de toute façon mourir dans l’année”.

      https://seenthis.net/messages/924110

  • How Frontex Helps Haul Migrants Back To Libyan Torture Camps

    Refugees are being detained, tortured and killed at camps in Libya. Investigative reporting by DER SPIEGEL and its partners has uncovered how close the European Union’s border agency Frontex works together with the Libyan coast guard.

    At sunrise, Alek Musa was still in good spirits. On the morning of June 25, 2020, he crowded onto an inflatable boat with 69 other people seeking asylum. Most of the refugees were Sudanese like him. They had left the Libyan coastal city of Garabulli the night before. Their destination: the island of Lampedusa in Italy. Musa wanted to escape the horrors of Libya, where migrants like him are captured, tortured and killed by militias.

    The route across the central Mediterranean is one of the world’s most dangerous for migrants. Just last week, another 100 people died as they tried to reach Europe from Libya. Musa was confident, nonetheless. The sea was calm and there was plenty of fuel in the boat’s tank.

    But then, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., Musa saw a small white plane in the sky. He shared his story by phone. There is much to suggest that the aircraft was a patrol of the European border protection agency Frontex. Flight data shows that a Frontex pilot had been circling in the immediate vicinity of the boat at the time.

    However, it appears that Frontex officials didn’t instruct any of the nearby cargo ships to help the refugees – and neither did the sea rescue coordination centers. Instead, hours later, Musa spotted the Ras Al Jadar on the horizon, a Libyan coast guard vessel.

    With none of them wanting to be hauled back to Libya, the migrants panicked. "We tried to leave as quickly as possible,” says Musa, who won’t give his real name out of fear of retaliation.

    Musa claims the Libyans rammed the dinghy with their ship. And that four men had gone overboard. Images from an aircraft belonging to the private rescue organization Sea-Watch show people fighting for their lives in the water. At least two refugees are believed to have died in the operation. All the others were taken back to Libya.
    Frontex Has Turned the Libyans into Europe’s Interceptors

    The June 25 incident is emblematic of the Europeans’ policy in the Mediterranean: The EU member states ceased sea rescue operations entirely in 2019. Instead, they are harnessing the Libyan coast guard to keep people seeking protection out of Europe.

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled back in 2012 that refugees may not be brought back to Libya because they are threatened with torture and death there. But that’s exactly what Libyan border guards are doing. With the help of the Europeans, they are intercepting refugees and hauling them back to Libya. According to an internal EU document, 11,891 were intercepted and taken back ashore last year.

    The EU provides financing for the Libyan coast guard and has trained its members. To this day, though, it claims not to control their operations. “Frontex has never directly cooperated with the Libyan coast guard,” Fabrice Leggeri, the head of the border agency, told the European Parliament in March. He claimed that the Libyans alone were responsible for the controversial interceptions. Is that really the truth, though?

    Together with the media organization “Lighthouse Reports”, German public broadcaster ARD’s investigative magazine “Monitor” and the French daily “Libération”, DER SPIEGEL has investigated incidents in the central Mediterranean Sea over a period of months. The reporters collected position data from Frontex aircraft and cross-checked it with ship data and information from migrants and civilian rescue organizations. They examined confidential documents and spoke to survivors as well as nearly a dozen Libyan officers and Frontex staff.

    This research has exposed for the first time the extent of the cooperation between Frontex and the Libyan coast guard. Europe’s border protection agency is playing an active role in the interceptions conducted by the Libyans. The reporting showed that Frontex flew over migrant boats on at least 20 occasions since January 2020 before the Libyan coast guard hauled them back. At times, the Libyans drove deep in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone, an area over which the Europeans have jurisdiction.

    Some 91 refugees died in the interceptions or are considered missing – in part because the system the Europeans have established causes significant delays in the interceptions. In most cases, merchant ships or even those of aid organizations were in the vicinity. They would have reached the migrant boats more quickly, but they apparently weren’t alerted. Civilian sea rescue organizations have complained for years that they are hardly ever provided with alerts from Frontex.

    The revelations present a problem for Frontex head Leggeri. He is already having to answer for his agency’s involvement in the illegal repatriation of migrants in the Aegean Sea that are referred to as pushbacks. Now it appears that Frontex is also bending the law in operations in the central Mediterranean.

    An operation in March cast light on how the Libyans operate on the high seas. The captain of the Libyan vessel Fezzan, a coast guard officer, agreed to allow a reporter with DER SPIEGEL to conduct a ride-along on the ship. During the trip, he held a crumpled piece of paper with the coordinates of the boats he was to intercept. He didn’t have any internet access on the ship – indeed, the private sea rescuers are better equipped.

    The morning of the trip, the crew of the Fezzan had already pulled around 200 migrants from the water. The Libyans decided to leave an unpowered wooden boat with another 200 people at sea because the Fezzan was already too full. The rescued people huddled on deck, their clothes soaked and their eyes filled with fear. "Stay seated!” the Libyan officers yelled.

    Sheik Omar, a 16-year-old boy from Gambia squatted at the bow. He explained how, after the death of his father, he struggled as a worker in Libya. Then he just wanted to get away from there. He had already attempted to reach Europe five times. "I’m afraid,” he said. "I don’t know where they’re taking me. It probably won’t be a good place.”

    The conditions in the Libyan detention camps are catastrophic. Some are officially under the control of the authorities, but various militias are actually calling the shots. Migrants are a good business for the groups, and refugees from sub-Saharan countries, especially, are imprisoned and extorted by the thousands.

    Mohammad Salim was aware of what awaited him in jail. He’s originally from Somalia and didn’t want to give his real name. Last June, he and around 90 other migrants tried to flee Libya by boat, but a Frontex airplane did a flyover above them early in the morning. Several merchant ships that could have taken them to Europe passed by. But then the Libyan coast guard arrived several hours later.

    Once back on land, the Somali was sent to the Abu Issa detention center, which is controlled by a notorious militia. “There was hardly anything to eat,” Salim reported by phone. On good days, he ate 18 pieces of maccaroni pasta. On other days, he sucked on toothpaste. The women had been forced by the guards to strip naked. Salim was only able to buy his freedom a month later, when his family had paid $1,200.

    The EU is well aware of the conditions in the Libyan refugee prisons. German diplomats reported "concentration camp-like conditions” in 2017. A February report from the EU’s External Action described widespread "sexual violence, abduction for ransom, forced labor and unlawful killings.” The report states that the perpetrators include "government officials, members of armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and members of criminal gangs.”

    Supplies for the business are provided by the Libyan coast guard, which is itself partly made up of militiamen.

    In response to a request for comment from DER SPIEGEL, Frontex asserted that it is the agency’s duty to inform all internationally recognized sea rescue coordination centers in the region about refugee boats, including the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC). The sea rescue coordination center reports to the Libyan Defense Ministry and is financed by the EU.

    According to official documents, the JRCC is located at the Tripoli airport. But members of the Libyan coast guard claim that the control center is only a small room at the Abu Sitta military base in Tripoli, with just two computers. They claim that it is actually officers with the Libyan coast guard who are on duty there. That the men there have no ability to monitor their stretch of coastline, meaning they would virtually be flying blind without the EU’s aerial surveillance. In the event of a shipping accident, they almost only notify their own colleagues, even though they currently only have two ships at their disposal. Even when their ships are closer, there are no efforts to inform NGOs or private shipping companies. Massoud Abdalsamad, the head of the JRCC and the commander of the coast guard even admits that, "The JRCC and the coast guard are one and the same, there is no difference.”

    WhatsApp Messages to the Coast Guard

    As such, experts are convinced that even the mere transfer of coordinates by Frontex to the JRCC is in violation of European law. "Frontex officials know that the Libyan coast guard is hauling refugees back to Libya and that people there face torture and inhumane treatment,” says Nora Markard, professor for international public law and international human rights at the University of Münster.

    In fact, it appears that Frontex employees are going one step further and sending the coordinates of the refugee boats directly to Libyan officers via WhatsApp. That claim has been made independently by three different members of the Libyan coast guard. DER SPIEGEL is in possession of screenshots indicating that the coast guard is regularly informed – and directly. One captain was sent a photo of a refugee boat taken by a Frontex plane. “This form of direct contact is a clear violation of European law,” says legal expert Markard.

    When confronted, Frontex no longer explicitly denied direct contact with the Libyan coast guard. The agency says it contacts everyone involved in emergency operations in order to save lives. And that form of emergency communication cannot be considered formal contact, a spokesman said.

    But officials at Frontex in Warsaw are conscious of the fact that their main objective is to help keep refugees from reaching Europe’s shores. They often watch on their screens in the situation center how boats capsize in the Mediterranean. It has already proven to be too much for some – they suffer from sleep disorders and psychological problems.

    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/libya-how-frontex-helps-haul-migrants-back-to-libyan-torture-camps-a-d62c396

    #Libye #push-backs #refoulements #Frontex #complicité #milices #gardes-côtes_libyens #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #Ras_Al_Jadar #interception #Fezzan #Joint_Rescue_Coordination_Center (#JRCC) #WhatsApp #coordonnées_géographiques

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @i_s_

    • Frontex : l’agence européenne de garde-frontières au centre d’une nouvelle polémique

      Un consortium de médias européens, dont le magazine Der Spiegel et le journal Libération, a livré une nouvelle enquête accablante sur l’agence européenne des gardes-frontières. Frontex est accusée de refouler des bateaux de migrants en mer Méditerranée.

      Frontex, c’est quoi ?

      L’agence européenne des gardes-frontières et gardes-côtes a été créée en 2004 pour répondre à la demande d’aides des pays membres pour protéger les frontières extérieures de l’espace Schengen. Frontex a trois objectifs : réduire la vulnérabilité des frontières extérieures, garantir le bon fonctionnement et la sécurité aux frontières et maintenir les capacités du corps européen, recrutant chaque année près de 700 gardes-frontières et garde-côtes. Depuis la crise migratoire de 2015, le budget de l’agence, subventionné par l’Union Européen a explosé passant 142 à 460 millions d’euros en 2020.

      Nouvelles accusations

      Frontex est de nouveau au centre d’une polémique au sein de l’UE. En novembre 2020, et en janvier 2021 déjà, Der Spiegel avait fait part de plusieurs refoulements en mer de bateaux de demandeurs d’asile naviguant entre la Turquie et la Grèce et en Hongrie. Dans cette enquête le magazine allemand avait averti que les responsables de Frontex étaient"conscients des pratiques illégales des gardes-frontières grecs et impliqués dans les refoulements eux-mêmes" (https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-border-agency-frontex-complicit-in-greek-refugee-pushback-campaign-a-4b6c).

      A la fin de ce mois d’avril, de nouveaux éléments incriminants Frontex révélés par un consortium de médias vont dans le même sens : des agents de Frontex auraient donné aux gardes-côtes libyens les coordonnées de bateaux de réfugiés naviguant en mer Méditerranée pour qu’ils soient interceptés avant leurs arrivées sur le sol européen. C’est ce que l’on appelle un « pushback » : refouler illégalement des migrants après les avoir interceptés, violant le droit international et humanitaire. L’enquête des médias européens cite un responsable d’Amnesty International, Mateo de Bellis qui précise que « sans les informations de Frontex, les gardes-côtes libyens ne pourraient jamais intercepter autant de migrants ».

      Cet arrangement entre les autorités européennes et libyennes « constitue une violation manifeste du droit européen », a déclaré Nora Markard, experte en droit international de l’université de Münster, citée par Der Spiegel.

      Une politique migratoire trop stricte de l’UE ?

      En toile de fond, les détracteurs de Frontex visent également la ligne politique de l’UE en matière d’immigration, jugée trop stricte. Est-ce cela qui aurait généré le refoulement de ces bateaux ? La Commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, s’en défendait en janvier dernier, alors que Frontex était déjà accusé d’avoir violé le droit international et le droit humanitaire en refoulant six migrants en mer Egée. « Ce que nous protégeons, lorsque nous protégeons nos frontières, c’est l’Union européenne basée sur des valeurs et nous devons respecter nos engagements à ces valeurs tout en protégeant nos frontières (...) Et c’est une des raisons pour lesquelles nous avons besoin de Frontex », expliquait la Commissaire à euronews.

      Pour Martin Martiniello, spécialiste migration à l’université de Liège, « l’idée de départ de l’Agence Frontex était de contrôler les frontières européennes avec l’espoir que cela soit accompagné d’une politique plus positive, plus proactive de l’immigration. Cet aspect-là ne s’est pas développé au cours des dernières années, mais on a construit cette notion de crise migratoire. Et cela renvoie une image d’une Europe assiégée, qui doit se débarrasser des migrants non souhaités. Ce genre de politique ne permet pas de rencontrer les défis globaux des déplacements de population à long terme ».

      Seulement trois jours avant la parution de l’enquête des médias européens incriminant Frontex, L’Union européenne avait avancé sa volonté d’accroître et de mieux encadrer les retours volontaires des personnes migrantes, tout en reconnaissant que cet axe politique migratoire était, depuis 2019, un échec. L’institution avait alors proposé à Frontex un nouveau mandat pour prendre en charge ces retours. Selon Martin Martiniello, « des montants de plus en plus élevés ont été proposés, pour financer Frontex. Même si le Parlement européen a refusé de voter ce budget, celui-ci comporte de la militarisation encore plus importante de l’espace méditerranéen, avec des drones et tout ce qui s’en suit. Et cela fait partie d’une politique européenne ».

      Les accusations de novembre et janvier derniers ont généré l’ouverture d’une enquête interne chez Frontex, mais aussi à l’Office européen de lutte antifraude (OLAF). Pour Catherine Woolard, directrice du Conseil européen des Réfugiés et Exilés (ECRE), « On voit tout le problème des structures de gouvernance de Frontex : ce sont les États membres qui font partie du conseil d’administration et de gestion de Frontex, et ces États membres ont fait une enquête préliminaire. Mais cette enquête ne peut pas être profonde et transparente, puisque ces États membres sont parties prenantes dans ce cas de figure ».

      Pour la directrice de l’ECRE, une enquête indépendante serait une solution pour comprendre et réparer les torts causés, et suggère une réforme du conseil d’administration de Frontex. « La décision du Parlement concernant le budget est importante. En plus des enquêtes internes, le Parlement a créé un groupe de travail pour reformer le scrutin au sein du conseil administratif de l’agence, ce qui est essentiel. Nous attendons le rapport de ce groupe de travail, qui permettra de rendre compte de la situation chez Frontex ».

      Certains députés européens ont demandé la démission du directeur exécutif de Frontex. « C’est un sujet sensible » souligne Catherine Woolard. « Dans le contexte de l’augmentation des ressources de Frontex, le recrutement d’agents de droits fondamentaux, ainsi que les mesures et mécanismes mentionnés, sont essentiels. Le Parlement européen insiste sur la création de ces postes et n’a toujours pas eu de réponse de la part du directeur de Frontex. Entretemps, l’agence a toujours l’obligation de faire un rapport sur les incidents où il y a une suspicion de violation du droit international et humanitaire ».

      https://www.levif.be/actualite/europe/frontex-l-agence-europeenne-de-garde-frontieres-au-centre-d-une-nouvelle-polemique/article-normal-1422403.html?cookie_check=1620307471

  • La contamination au Covid-19 a lieu lors des repas selon l’Institut Pasteur | Le HuffPost
    https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/entry/cette-etude-de-linstitut-pasteur-confirme-ce-quon-sait-des-lieux-de-c

    COVID-19 - Repas de famille et retrouvailles entre amis augmentent les risques de contaminations au Covid-19. Ce sont les résultats de la 3ème étude ComCor pour l’Institut Pasteur sur les lieux de contamination au Covid-19, dont les résultats ont été détaillés par l’épidémiologiste membre du Conseil scientifique Arnaud Fontanet dans le Journal du Dimanche ce dimanche 7 février.

    “La transmission se fait beaucoup en famille ou entre amis”, a donc rappelé Arnaud Fontanet dans l’entretien au JDD, confirmant ce qui se dessine depuis déjà quelques moins.

    • Pff, j’ai eu peur, heureusement que mes collègues de bureau ne sont pas mes amis, on se postillonne dessus toute la journée, et lorsque je prends le métro, je fais bien attention à ne reconnaitre personne de ma famille.

      #libéralisme
      #solitude

      psst, tu as vu la photo pour une fois … ben non, encore raté, le racisme se glisse partout décidément.

    • "L’étude soulignait en effet que les repas “jouent un rôle central”, ainsi que les bureaux partagés, et tous types de réunions physiques. La prédominance des infectants “proches” est logique, car c’est en leur compagnie que la garde des gestes barrières est souvent levée.

      Plus généralement, les résultats confirment ce qu’on l’on sait de la transmission du virus, qui se fait essentiellement par des gouttelettes expulsées par la bouche et le nez lorsqu’on parle, tousse ou éternue, mais aussi par les microgouttelettes émises en permanence par la respiration. Quand on enlève le masque, souvent pendant les repas, on s’expose logiquement à un risque accru de contamination."

    • Je vais pas souvent au local que l’on partage en co-working-location-indivis+ mais ce midi, impossible de déjeuner, il y a des rires et des hurlements des personnes dans la cuisine autour de la table. C’est sympa de rire mais autant ouvrir la fenêtre pour aérer, sauf que j’ai droit à des moqueries et une totale incompréhension « ah ben vous oubliez vite les 80.000 morts du covid dites donc » ça fait tomber l’ambiance et les regards s’assombrissent, l’un d’eux se charge de refermer la fenêtre.
      #c'est_ta_faute
      #plombe_l'ambiance
      #blame_the_victim

    • Je crains qu’on se prenne une vague post-vaccinale : les vaccinés se croiront protégés et laisseront tomber les gestes barrière avant la protection réelle. C’est d’ailleurs la raison pour laquelle beaucoup de gens se font vacciner : en finir avec les masques. No comment !
      On est quand même toujours sur un plateau à 700 décès/jour ! 3 airbus qui s’écrasent tous les jours, ce n’est pas rien ! Mais tout va bien puisque les gens vont pouvoir partir en vacances....

    • @rckloar C’est exactement le scénario que craint Drosten, dans son interview d’il y a deux semaines :
      https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/interview-with-virologist-christian-drosten-i-am-quite-apprehensive-about-wh

      Drosten: Once the elderly and maybe part of the risk groups have been vaccinated, there will be immense economic, social, political and perhaps also legal pressure to end the corona measures. And then, huge numbers of people will become infected within just a short amount of time, more than we can even imagine at the moment. We won’t have 20,000 or 30,000 new cases a day, but up to 100,000 in a worst-case scenario. It will, of course, be primarily younger people who are less likely than older people to have severe symptoms, but when a huge number of younger people get infected, then the intensive care units will fill up anyway and a lot of people will die. Just that it will be younger people.

      (Sinon, pour le détail, en France, on est plutôt à 400 morts par jour, en incluant les Ehpad.)

  • via https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=69245#h06 Talk im Hangar-7 – M...
    https://diasp.eu/p/12370002

    via https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=69245#h06

    Talk im Hangar-7 – Merkel, Kurz und Mutationen: Politik am Volk vorbei? | Kurzfassung - 20 Min.

    Jeden Donnerstag ab 22:10 Uhr bei ServusTV Österreich und Donnerstagnacht bei ServusTV in Deutschland.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuSk4PnemGg

    Seit Monaten beherrschen #Lockdowns unseren Alltag, doch noch immer sind keine Lockerungen in Sicht. Aus Angst vor neuen Virus-Mutationen und weiterhin hohen Infektionszahlen werden die Maßnahmen verschärft und verlängert: Geschäfte, Schulen und das gesamte öffentliche Leben bleiben eingefroren. Verfechter der #ZeroCovid-Initiative fordern jetzt sogar eine europaweit umfassende Arbeitspause. Dies lehnen die meisten Regierungschefs zwar ab, doch der Tenor ist klar: Lockerungen kommen erst ab einer (...)

  • Virologist Christian Drosten: “I Am Quite Apprehensive about What Might Otherwise Happen in Spring and Summer” - DER SPIEGEL
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/interview-with-virologist-christian-drosten-i-am-quite-apprehensive-about-wh

    DER SPIEGEL: The issue of school closures was the subject of hours of debate on Tuesday during the meeting between Merkel and the state governors. Why has it been so difficult for scientists to convince people on this issue?

    Drosten : To be honest, even without our study on viral loads in children, I would not have considered it likely that children would be spared by #SARS-CoV-2. From a purely biological perspective, the mucous membrane doesn’t change all that much during puberty. Which means that children can also get infected – and be contagious. That so many doubts about that fact have arisen was always, and still is, confusing to me.

    #enfants #écoles

    • À propos du taux de reproduction et du fait qu’il faut le diminuer de manière plus agressive :

      Currently, that number is at 0.9. It is great that we have finally managed to push it back down below 1, so that the number of cases can begin to drop. But 0.9 isn’t enough if we want to quickly loosen the brakes. With an R of 0.9, it takes about a month to reduce the number of infections by half. That is too long. We should try, through an intensification of the shutdown, to get the number down to 0.7. Then, the case numbers will drop by half in just a week, and we can get to a point where we can stop the spread of B.1.1.7 or at least give ourselves a head start.

    • La stratégie d’éradication (viser zéro infections) devrait être le but :

      DER SPIEGEL: Do you think that the so-called Zero-COVID strategy, the goal of sinking the number of new infections to zero, is the right way forward?

      Drosten: I do think it would be possible with a significant effort. The virus, of course, would continue to flare up, just as we have seen in China and Australia. But it would absolutely be worthwhile to at least identify zero new infections as a target. Primarily because I am quite apprehensive about what might otherwise happen in the spring and summer.

      puis de préciser : ce qu’il craint, c’est qu’une fois les personnes les plus fragiles vaccinées, il y ait une grosse pression sociale et politique pour lever les restrictions, et ainsi laisser circuler très très largement le virus si on n’a pas, d’ici là, réduit considérablement le nombre de contaminations (et ce sera alors un massacre, cette fois chez les jeunes). Question abordée ici :
      https://seenthis.net/messages/898188

  • Virologist Christian Drosten: “I Am Quite Apprehensive about What Might Otherwise Happen in Spring and Summer” - DER SPIEGEL
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/interview-with-virologist-christian-drosten-i-am-quite-apprehensive-about-wh

    Drosten : Antibodies are just one component of immune protection, another is T-cell immunity. That protects much more strongly against a serious progression of the illness. If the virus mutates, it doesn’t have an effect on T-cell immunity. As such, I don’t think that we have to fear that our vaccines will be ineffective.

    #immunité #vaccin #sars-cov2 #anticorps

    • DER SPIEGEL: When you formulate such assessments, people across Germany are listening, and it often determines public opinion. How well are you able to live with that responsibility?

      Drosten: It doesn’t rob me of sleep. From the very beginning, I hoped that this public role would be shared among several people. And luckily, that is happening.

      Donc à peu près l’inverse de ce qui se passe ici, où la parole est confisquée (et distillée de façon perverse) par un gouvernement qui prend la population pour une bande demeurés, et donc suscite la défiance.

  • Est-ce que, vu que ça fait un an que ça dure, on a une théorie un peu sérieuse sur l’effet de l’arrivée de l’été sur le virus ?

    Parce que de ce que je vois, la situation est mauvaise en ce moment au Brésil, où c’est l’été.

    Je vous dis ce que je crains ? Si on continue avec ces pseudo-confinements qui se contentent de bloquer la progression, sans réellement d’effet à la baisse, on va se maintenir à des niveaux très élevés de circulation du virus, et je ne vois pas dans ce cas comment on pourrait rouvrir quoi que ce soit de restauration, de bistrots et de culturel pour l’été.

    À moins que le pari est que d’ici là, on aura vacciné au moins la population la plus fragile, et que donc on pourra laisser s’ébattre le virus dans la population, avec un taux de mortalité bien plus faible et donc sans saturer les réas. Ce qui me semble un choix excessivement risqué.

    • L’immunité de troupeau naturelle à partir d’une vague initiale n’existe pas (#Manaus). Les seuls « vaccins » (in)disponibles ont des effets dont on ne sait pas à quel point ils sont limités. Le pari : compter sur des mutations nombreuses pour obtenir une immunité de troupeau naturelle, à moyen terme....

      Immunological characteristics govern the transition of COVID-19 to endemicity - View ORCID ProfileJennie S. Lavine1,*, View ORCID ProfileOttar N. Bjornstad2, View ORCID ProfileRustom Antia1
      https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/01/11/science.abe6522

      We are currently faced with the question of how the CoV-2 severity may change in the years ahead. Our analysis of immunological and epidemiological data on endemic human coronaviruses (HCoVs) shows that infection-blocking immunity wanes rapidly, but disease-reducing immunity is long-lived. Our model, incorporating these components of immunity, recapitulates both the current severity of CoV-2 and the benign nature of HCoVs, suggesting that once the endemic phase is reached and primary exposure is in childhood, CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold. We predict a different outcome for an emergent coronavirus that causes severe disease in children. These results reinforce the importance of behavioral containment during pandemic vaccine rollout, while prompting us to evaluate scenarios for continuing vaccination in the endemic phase.

      #gouvernerlapandémie

    • Ah, Christian Drosten aborde très exactement ces deux points (effet de l’été, laisser filer l’épidémie une fois les personnes fragiles vaccinées) dans son interview de la semaine :
      https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/interview-with-virologist-christian-drosten-i-am-quite-apprehensive-about-wh

      Drosten: Once the elderly and maybe part of the risk groups have been vaccinated, there will be immense economic, social, political and perhaps also legal pressure to end the corona measures. And then, huge numbers of people will become infected within just a short amount of time, more than we can even imagine at the moment. We won’t have 20,000 or 30,000 new cases a day, but up to 100,000 in a worst-case scenario. It will, of course, be primarily younger people who are less likely than older people to have severe symptoms, but when a huge number of younger people get infected, then the intensive care units will fill up anyway and a lot of people will die. Just that it will be younger people. We can cushion this terrible scenario somewhat by pushing the numbers way down now.

      DER SPIEGEL: Can we be confident that case numbers will begin to drop in spring as temperatures rise?

      Drosten: I don’t think so. The fact that we had such a relaxed summer in 2020 likely had to do with the fact that our case numbers remained below a critical threshold in the spring. But that’s not the case any longer. I am afraid that it will be more like in Spain, where case numbers climbed rapidly again after the lockdown was lifted, even though it was quite hot. In South Africa, too, where it is currently summer, case numbers are at a high level.

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

    https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2021/01/07/vaccination-anti-covid-le-gouvernement-a-fait-appel-a-quatre-cabinets-de-con

    Ces cabinets n’ont pas la moindre compétence scientifique et leurs compétences gestionnaires sont sensiblement celles de la #haute_fonction_publique : devenue très faibles avec le développement du #management.
    https://www.politico.eu/article/french-government-defends-mckinsey-coronavirus-vaccine-rollout

    Le nom du #marché_public de 20 millions € avec McKinsey porte un nom explicite, la "transformation de l’action publique" étant le nom de l’importation des méthodes désastreuses du nouveau management dans le champ de l’Etat.
    https://www.boamp.fr/avis/detail/18-85473/1
    voir aussi :
    https://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:268753-2018:TEXT:FR:HTML

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

    #Maël_de_La_Lande (HEC, Science Po’) n’a rigoureusement aucune compétence scientifique. Il s’agit d’une figure de la droite conservatrice proche de l’#Institut_Montaigne, qui a apporté une large part des cadres macroniste — son directeur abritait "EM".
    https://www.consultor.fr/devenir-consultant/actualite-du-conseil/6307-elu-et-consultant-mckinsey-pour-le-vaccin-covid-un-stratege-ministeri

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

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

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

    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-planning-disaster-germany-and-europe-could-fall-short-on-vaccine-supplie

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


    https://twitter.com/VidalFrederique/status/1345344588588969984

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

    https://www.lemonde.fr/sciences/article/2020/09/22/l-information-scientifique-sous-tutelle-d-une-agence-de-communication_605309

    Les aller-retours entre McKinsey et l’Etat, caractéristiques de la mutation en cours de la haute fonction publique, ont été dans les deux sens. Ainsi, #Labaye, passé du comité de direction mondial du groupe à la présidence de Polytechnique.
    https://www.lesechos.fr/politique-societe/societe/un-associe-de-mckinsey-a-la-tete-de-polytechnique-136118

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

    https://twitter.com/Pr_Logos/status/1347255977297506304

    #consulting #privatisation #Maël_de_Calan #macronisme #LREM

    ping @simplicissimus

  • Corona: Germany and Europe Could Fall Short on Vaccine Supplies - DER SPIEGEL
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-planning-disaster-germany-and-europe-could-fall-short-on-vaccine-supplie

    Scientists estimate that 60 to 70 percent of Germany’s population would need to be vaccinated in order to stop the virus. That would require 100 to 120 million doses because, with one exception, all the vaccines currently available have to be administered in two doses before they deliver immunity.

    The EU has ordered a total of 1.3 billion doses from six different manufacturers. Germany is entitled to 18.6 percent of those doses in a distribution mechanism calculated according to its share of the EU population. That amounts to around 250 million doses. But the number is misleading.

    Currently, the only deliveries that are certain are those from German-American consortium BioNTech/Pfizer and the American biotech company Moderna.

    BioNTech, whose vaccine is to be approved by the EU on Dec. 21, will be able to supply around 45 million doses to Germany in the first half of the year, according to current estimates. Moderna, whose vaccine is due to be authorized for use in Europe on Jan. 6, could supply around 15 million doses. Together, that’s a total of 60 million doses, which is far too little.

  • Video Documents Illegal Refugee Pushbacks in Croatia

    For years, asylum-seekers have been claiming abuse at the hands of Croatian border police, with some reporting beatings, electric shocks and even having their toenails torn out. For the first time, videos in combination with reporting by DER SPIEGEL have confirmed some of these reports.

    Ibrahim had a hunch he knew what was coming when the Croatian police car stopped. The young Pakistani had set off from Kashmir two years earlier to reach Europe. But now, on a cold day at the end of March, the Croatian police dragged him and the other refugees out of the vehicle, Ibrahim recalls. More security forces were waiting outside. They wore black balaclavas to hide their faces.

    The men forced the refugees to take off their jackets, shoes and pants, and one by one, the hooded men lined up. One of the men in masks grabbed Ibrahim by the neck and dragged him toward the river, according to his recollection. The others beat him, aiming at Ibrahim’s back, arms and legs. "They were beating me like crazy,” he says. Out of fear, he asked that he not be identified by his last name in this article.

    Ibrahim recalls a long, thick branch that hurt especially bad when he was hit with it. Three other refugees say they were beaten with a metal rod and with a sling that had a heavy object attached to the end of it.

    The beatings lasted only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity to Ibrahim. The hooded men pushed him down to the Glina River, the natural border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the village of Poljana. The river is only a few meters wide there. "Fast, jump,” one of the masked men shouted in English, says Ibrahim. “Go back Bosnia!”

    The European Union closed the Balkan route to migrants in 2016, after it had already been used in previous months by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and other countries as they made their way to Western Europe. Thousands of refugees have been camping in the forest and in old war ruins in northwest Bosnia-Herzegovina ever since. On the other side of the border, Croatian officials with night-vision goggles and firearms patrol the border. But that doesn’t stop the refugees from setting off each night. They have a name for their dangerous attempt to get past the border guards: "The Game.”

    Asylum seekers have been reporting for years of abuse at the hands of Croatian police and of being forced back to Bosnia. Photos from aid organizations show refugees with bleeding lacerations, broken arms, knocked-out teeth and dark red marks on their backs. Asylum-seekers speak of torture with stun guns, sexual abuse and even torn-out toenails. The focus of their reports is always the same: Masked police officers.
    Beatings Instead of Hearings

    NGOs, doctors and even the United Nations Refugee Agency have collected thousands of such testimonies. Sometimes, skin color alone is enough to become a target of the security forces. In winter 2019, Croatian border guards illegally deported two Nigerian table-tennis players who were only trying to take part in a university championship.

    Pushbacks, as they are called, violate not only Croatian asylum law but also European law and the Geneva Convention on Refugees. They make a mockery of the right to apply for asylum. Instead of being given a hearing, asylum-seekers are beaten.

    The Croatian authorities deny that officers use force at the border or that they illegally drag asylum seekers back across the border. The government has simply ignored video clips showing security forces leading asylum-seekers to the border. Government officials also claim that refugees have simply invented claims of violence. Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman recently said that his country denies "all accusations of incorrect behavior at the border.”

    But Ibrahim’s case makes Croatia’s claims of innocence all the more difficult to uphold.

    DER SPIEGEL spent months investigating his case together with the media organization Lighthouse Reports. The reporters spoke with three refugees who were traveling with Ibrahim. To the extent possible, they reconstructed the route they took. The refugees’ reports can only be partly independently verified, but their geodata does corroborate their statements. There is also a video that the NGO No Name Kitchen obtained when interviewing the refugees. DER SPIEGEL and Lighthouse Reports were able to verify its authenticity.

    The reporting clearly shows that it is not only in Greece that refugees are being pushed back forcibly. On the Bosnian-Croatian border, masked men are beating up refugees. The images reveal a disturbing level of violence that is increasingly becoming the norm at the EU’s external borders.

    Ibrahim, for his part, had already failed to get past the Croatian security forces dozens of times, but in March things went better than usual. He and three other migrants described to DER SPIEGEL how they, together with around 50 other refugees, some of them underage, set off that day for the EU. The men crossed the border near Šturlić, a village in Bosnia, before walking through the wilderness of the Croatian forests. It was cold, and at night they slept in cheap sleeping bags.

    After around seven days, the group reached the Kulpa River, which borders Slovenia, and the migrants spent the night there. They ate the last of their supplies, they recall, and finally waded through the river on their way to Western Europe. The group stopped in a patch of forest above the Slovenian village Kočevje. Smugglers were supposed to meet them there to take the men to Italy, but nobody showed up. "We held out for three or four days without food or anything to drink,” says Ibrahim. But then they finally gave up.

    Slovenian police intercepted the refugees as they left their hiding place. The refugees say the officers took them to a police station, questioned each individually and took photos and fingerprints. The migrants claim that each of them asked to be allowed to file an asylum application. But the answer they received, they say, was clear: “No asylum. You’re going back to Bosnia.”
    "I Have Never Been So Scared in My Life"

    When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, the Slovenian police confirmed that they had apprehended the refugees. They deny, however, that Ibrahim asked to apply for asylum, so they handed the men over to the Croatian authorities as part of a return agreement. Both the Croatian and the Slovenian officials certified the handover with their signatures.

    Things moved quickly once the they were in the hands of the Croatian police. The men say the officers drove the group to the border river, where the men wearing the balaclavas were already waiting for them. "I have never been so scared in my life,” says Ibrahim.

    The refugees’ geodata, stored in a Google Maps account, supports their statements. It includes data geolocating the group in Croatia and Slovenia. Shaky mobile phone images provide even more evidence. One of the refugees says that the images only exist because he was able to hide his mobile phone in his underwear.

    DER SPIEGEL

    The images show Ibrahim standing on the Bosnian side of the river, in wet pants and no shoes. The young Pakistani can be see crying, his face twisted in agony. "I have such pain in my leg!” he whimpers. Another refugee whose clothes are wet and also doesn’t have any shoes, can be seen supporting him.

    Four men can be seen in the background on Croatian soil with blue and olive-green clothing reminiscent of uniforms. Three are seen putting on black masks. The men carry a long pole with them, as well as a stick with rope that has a heavy object attached to it. One of the men can be seen wielding the homemade weapon.

    The hooded men lead another group of people to the border river. They beat one of the migrants with a stick or a pole. They then chase another a few seconds later, running toward the border. "Fuck your mother” rings out across the river.

    The metadata show that the video was taken on the afternoon of March 23. The buildings in the background prove that the events unfolded near Poljana on the Bosnian-Croatian border. The masked men can’t be clearly identified in the images. However, their presence at the closely guarded border suggests that the men are part of the Croatian security forces. It’s unlikely that masked men could operate in broad daylight without the knowledge of the authorities.

    "Some of the uniforms visible in the video seem to be all mixed up,” says Ranko Ostojić, a politician with the center-left social democrats in Croatia. He says he suspects the men in question are retired police officers who are now part of the reserves. "They used to be allowed to keep their uniforms, and now they are apparently carrying out pushbacks.”

    Ostojić was once Croatia’s director of police and interior minister. He spent years chairing the Domestic Affairs Committee in the Croatian national parliament. "The pushbacks are systematic,” he says. "Based on my experience, I am convinced that they are at least tolerated by the government.”

    When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, officials at the Croatian Interior Ministry said in a statement that they have no records of any operations on the date and location in question. They said they could not comment on the events described without further details. Croatia offers asylum seekers the opportunity to apply for asylum, the statement says, and goes on to claim that NGO reports on injured migrants almost completely ignore the conflicts between migrants in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The ministry claims that the migrants are injured in accidents or that they inflict injuries on each other and then blame Croatian border police.

    When Bosnian Milo Gujić hears shots or screams from the woods below his barn, he knows they are coming again. A short time later, bleeding, crying and half-naked men show up in his yard. Sometimes, he says, it happens daily.
    Fear of Retaliation

    Gujić and his wife have been experiencing the brutality of the Croatian border police up close for years now. Their property is located only a few hundred meters away from the EU’s external border. Gujić, who has a wiry build, has asked that we not use his real name for this story. He is afraid that Croatian security forces might retaliate against him.

    In March, Gujić opened up his home to Ibrahim and his companions. Gujic says he found the men standing at his door trembling and sobbing. When shown the video, he immediately recognizes them. He built a fire for them and brought dry clothes and food. "When I took the clothes off one of them, I saw his back. It looked like someone had stuck an iron bar into a fire and then hit him with it. That’s how deep red the marks from the blows were.”

    The Glina River along the border is a popular place for pushbacks. It is easily accessible from the Croatian side and only sparsely populated on the Bosnian side. Gujić says the Croatians recently paved the gravel road leading to the border, an omen, he believes, that the half-naked, injured men will keep coming. Gujić can’t understand the violence: “You don’t even hurt animals like that.”

    The EU pays Croatia millions of euros to secure the border. Croatia is also slated to join the Schengen Area soon, meaning its borders with other members of the area will no longer by controlled. Once that happens, the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina will become one of those places where decisions are made on how many asylum-seekers are actually allowed to reach Western Europe.

    In October 2019, the European Commission gave Croatia a positive evaluation in its progress toward accession into the Schengen Area, but said it would have to continue its work on "management of the external borders.” All Schengen member states must approve any country’s accession. But already, the Croatian government is effectively acting as one of Europe’s gatekeepers.

    So far, the EU has largely ignored these obvious violations of human rights. In Germany, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel have openly praised the work of the Croatian border police. EU border management agency Frontex, which monitors the border from the air, has reported hundreds of illegal border crossings, but no human rights violations.

    "The EU is turning a blind eye to pushbacks,” says former Croatian Interior Minister Ostojić. He says it appears EU officials don’t seem to care whether the border police act in accordance with international law. And their silence merely encourages the Croatian government.

    "The images are the clearest evidence yet that Croatia engages in violent pushbacks,” says Hanaa Hakiki, a lawyer with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based human rights organization that provides support to refugees facing court proceedings. She notes that the deportations did not take place at official border crossings and that some of the weapons used by the masked men were homemade. "In light of these terrible images, the EU should take immediate action,” she says.
    Schengen As a Means of Pressure?

    Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs responsible for EU borders, sent a letter to the Croatian Ministry of the Interior at the end of October and urged that the reports be investigated. “If proven true, what is shown there is of course unacceptable,” she now says after viewing the images. “People cannot be beaten up at the border. There must be consequences.”

    Meanwhile, the EU’s ombudswoman has also opened a probe. But real pressure on Croatia would probably only arise if the pushbacks were to put Croatia’s Schengen accession into question. “Violence at the border cannot continue,” Johansson says. “This will not help Croatia in its efforts to join the Schengen Area.”

    In the end, Ibrahim finally managed to win the "Game.” After another attempt, he managed to make it to Italy. He is currently living in a housing project in the north of the country and he was able to apply for asylum.

    But the months spent on the Croatian border took a massive toll on him. When he looks at the videos of himself on the Croatian border today, he bursts out in tears. He says he still suffers from headaches and the pain in his knee is also getting worse, especially now that the weather is getting colder. At night, he says, he sometimes has nightmares about the beatings by the Croatian policemen. One time, his roommates told him the next morning that he had been calling out for help. Again.

    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/croatia-video-documents-illegal-refugee-pushbacks-a-294b128d-4840-4d6b-9e96-

    #Croatie #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #violence #asile #migrations #réfugiés #push-backs #refoulements #frontières #Bosnie #Glina_river #Kulpa #Kulpa_river #Slovénie #Kolpa_river #frontière_sud-alpine #Kupa_river #rivière #Kočevje #Kocevje #Poljana #témoignage

  • 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.

      Newsletter Repensons notre quotidien

      Infos positives, bons plans, solutions... Chaque dimanche, place aux initiatives qui peuvent changer votre quotidien.

      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

  • A Look at the Refugee Crisis Five Years Later

    In 2015, as almost a million asylum seekers poured into Germany, Chancellor #Angela_Merkel said: “We can do this.” Was she right? Five years later, we take a closer look in the most average of average German towns.

    With its population of around 20,000, the town of #Hassloch is essentially the largest village in the Palatinate region of Germany. Still, it is well known in the country for being a special place - in that there is nothing special about it. Decades ago, the realization was made that from a demographic perspective, Hassloch is a microcosm of the country at large, with its age, gender and economic breakdown roughly reflecting that of Germany as a whole. Indeed, its demography is so normal that it was chosen in the 1980s by the Society for Consumer Research as the place where new products would be tested. After all, if people in Hassloch like it, you can be relatively sure that people in the rest of Germany will too. If Germany is a tree, Hassloch is its bonsai.

    What, though, can the place tell us about Germany’s handling of the huge influx of refugees five years ago? On Aug. 31, 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel held a press conference in which she discussed the challenges that the wave of migration presented for the country. Hundreds of thousands of people were making their way into Europe at the time across the Mediterranean and along the Balkan Route – and many of them had set their sights on Germany. It marked the beginning of years of political discord, pitting EU countries, political parties and individuals against one another. In that press conference, Merkel said: “Germany is a strong country. We have done so much. We can do this!” It is a sentence that would become a trademark of her tenure.

    Now, five years later, we know that almost exactly 890,000 asylum seekers came to Germany in 2015. But have we “done this”? It’s hard to say, just as it is difficult to define exactly what “this” means, or even who “we” are. It all depends on your perspective. In Hassloch, the question as to who managed to “do this,” and when and what that means, leads to a number of places — to a city administrator, to an expert on parrots, and to extremely German families with colorful collections of passports. This story, though, begins in city hall.

    On the list of the most common German last names, Meyer is in sixth place. And Tobias Meyer, the town’s deputy mayor, looks so similar to his center-left predecessor that the two are often mistaken for one another. Meyer is a cheerful sort with expressive eyebrows and average height. In his office, he says that he joined the center-right Christian Democratic Union, Merkel’s party, on his 18th birthday out of admiration for Helmut Kohl. He sees himself “as a centrist” politically. “I find it astonishing,” says Meyer, “that not even the fall of the Berlin Wall changed our status as an average town.” It almost sounds as though normality in Germany is unchanging, no matter what happens and no matter who comes into the country.

    Since 2015, Hassloch has been home to between 500 and 600 refugees. The precise total is unknown, since many either returned home or quickly moved onwards. Currently, the town is home to 152 refugees, including 72 whose asylum applications are currently being processed. Back in 2015, after that summer of migration, the total was 211, which represents 1.1 percent of Hassloch’s population.

    And what about the 890,000 who showed up in Germany with its 82 million people? “You see?” says Meyer. Exactly 1.1 percent.

    Meyer is happy to talk about refugees at length, and isn’t shy about saying that some of them came expecting a rosy future without wanting to do much in return. Or about the fact that, from his perspective, the town hasn’t changed much as a result. Perhaps more instructive, however, is a visit to the administrative expert in city hall, a certain Ms. Behret.

    First, though, a final question for Tobias Meyer. Has Hassloch “done this?” Meyer’s response: “Hmmmm.”
    Administration

    The office is little more than the physical manifestation of the rules it is there to enforce, furnished with myriad filing cabinets with fake beech veneer. There are a few signs of life pinned to them, such as vacation pictures or funny Dilbert-esque cartoons about office life from the local paper. There are rows and rows of “meeting minutes” and “official correspondence,” along with a few stoic office plants doing their best to provide atmosphere. And in the middle of it all sits Christine Behret.

    “I love my job” it says on her keychain. She is the only woman in a leadership position in Hassloch city hall and she says she has been carrying around the keychain since her first day there. “I fought for this job,” Behret says. She describes herself as “a bit tough.”

    “We at the regulatory authority have a slightly different view of certain problems,” she says. “When a Sikh man shows up in your office, sits down on the floor and says he’s not going anywhere until he is allowed to cook in the hostel” – which isn’t allowed due to fire regulations – “then friendliness doesn’t get you very far. You have to pull out your English and affably throw him out. But you can never forget that you are dealing with a human being.”

    In her accounts, the phrase “we can do this” sounds mostly like a ton of work. Back in 2015, Behret says, she and her colleagues worked seven days a week. No public office, she continues, was prepared for the onslaught: They needed beds, food and doctors, despite the shortage of family practitioners in many rural areas of Germany. The first question to answer: centralized or decentralized accommodations? Hassloch chose a mixture of the two, which included a large hostel. Most of the refugees, though, were put up in 51 apartments that had been rented for the purpose. The asylum seekers were housed together according to complicated parameters, for which Christine Behret received additional training in “intercultural competence.” She said they learned such things as “women have no power in the places they come from, but here, women tell them what to do.” It is a sentence that has been part of the German migration debate for decades.

    Behret can provide a precise description of the asylum seekers in Hassloch using just a few sentences. She says they have “the entire spectrum” in the town, from a mathematics professor from Syria to others who can’t even write their own names. “The typical cases come by once a month to pick up their checks. For some of them, it’s enough. Others start working at McDonald’s at some point, or deliver packages for Amazon.”

    There was the alcoholic from Nigeria who shoplifted every day. “He was sent to us with no warning whatsoever. And no file,” Behret says. “How can something like that happen?” In that case, Tobias Meyer drove to the central reception center in the nearby town of Kusel to see what had happened. They then came by and picked the man up, she says.

    She tells the story of the man who died, yet couldn’t be buried because he had no birth certificate. “And if you haven’t been born, you can’t die.” In this room, focused on the administration of people, where everything is perfectly arranged, it is clear that she derives a certain amount of pleasure from such moments of turmoil.

    Behret’s main problem, though, is a different one: “We get the people faster than the files arrive. I don’t know if the person might have hepatitis, or tuberculosis, or scabies. We don’t have anything except their names, nationalities and dates of birth.”
    In the Bird Park

    There is a birdcage standing on a small blanket in Wilhelm Weidenbach’s living room. The bottom of the cage is lined with newspaper, with the brass-colored lattice rising above it. The door usually stands open. Weidenbach says that he taught his last parrot to sing German folk songs.

    Weidenbach, a 64-year-old retiree, has been in a wheelchair since suffering an accident and is the chairman of the Hassloch Club for the Protection and Care of Domestic and Foreign Birds. Every morning at 9 a.m., he heads over to the Hassloch Bird Park, one of the area’s places of interest.

    Last year, Hassloch was hit by a major storm that left the park in disarray. Together with a local group that helps asylum seekers, Weidenbach organized a day for volunteers to come and help out — and not long later, the municipality got in touch to ask if the asylum applicants would be willing to come by more regularly. The first of them came to the park just over two weeks ago, and they now work there three days a week for four hours at a time. On a recent Friday morning, they were busy with rakes and hoes at the duck enclosure: Ranj Suleiman, a Kurdish man from Iraq; Mohammad Ali Mozaffri from Afghanistan; and Aria Rahimzade from Iran — three of the 72 asylum applicants in Hassloch currently awaiting a ruling on their status.

    Suleiman was a computer technician, Mozaffri wanted to work in old-age care and Rahimzade had his sights set on becoming a hairdresser. All of those professions are in need, but because the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) hasn’t yet decided on whether they can stay or not, it is difficult for them to find real work. So the three of them rake detritus out of the enclosures for 80 cents an hour.

    Weidenbach says they’re doing a good job. Iran? Iraq? People are people, he says. All they have to do is follow the rules and show up on time. And it’s important for them to learn the language and speak German among themselves, he says, though they sometimes have trouble understanding the local dialect he speaks. In the courses they attend, they are learning high German.

    Mozaffri talks about how he got to Germany from Afghanistan three years ago: “Walking. Bicycle. Boat.”

    “Yes, necessity is the mother of invention,” Weidenbach jokes. The men likely would have laughed if they had understood him, but they didn’t. So Weidenbach repeats himself, slower and louder: “Ne-cess-i-ty is the MOTHER of in-ven-tion!”

    Now, the three start laughing, though they still haven’t understood him. No matter, they continue on to the emu enclosure, pushing their wheelbarrows past the parrots. Suleiman makes a face and jokes: “They speak better German than we do.”

    The municipality has bought a flat-roofed structure at the edge of town. Plastic chairs have been set up in the grass outside and there is hardly any natural light inside, with the only window being a skylight. A bit of carpeting hangs over the fence and it is quiet.

    This is where the levity from the aviary comes to an end. Suleiman, Mozaffri and Rahimzade live here, and there is a sign on every door inside covered in pictograms to illustrate all that is forbidden in the hostel: wall clocks, coffee machines, irons, hairdryers, washing machines, vacuums, cameras, telephones and computer monitors.

    The structure is home to around 30 asylum seekers. The metal bed belonging to Mozaffri can be found in the corner of Room 3, where the wall is covered with bits of paper bearing the German words he is currently learning. On the other side of a metal locker is another bed, belonging to a young Iraqi, whose asylum application has been rejected. He says that he grows afraid at night when he hears doors close and that he can’t bear living in the hostel for much longer. Indeed, it seems to be part of the concept to make it as uncomfortable as possible.

    At the end of June, decisions were pending on 43,617 asylum applications. BAMF works through the files, specialized lawyers file grievances, papers are intentionally hidden and replacement documents must be requested from Eritrea, Morocco and the many other countries from which the applicants come.

    The asylum applicants, such as the three that work in the Bird Park, are stuck in limbo. They have made it; they have arrived in Germany. But at the same time, they haven’t yet made it. They haven’t yet “done this.”
    Numbers

    In a survey conducted by BAMF, 44 percent of asylum seekers who participated reported having good or very good knowledge of the German language. Three-quarters of them felt welcome in Germany. But the phrase “we can do this” was primarily focused on the other side. Merkel was referring to the Germans.

    Andreas Rohr is a man knee-deep in statistics. There are no plants in his office and there is likewise little in the way of decoration. Rohr used to work as a treasurer in the town administration and has a business degree. He is a family man with a strong physique and a gray shirt that matches the textured walls around him. In 2015, he was the Hassloch bureaucrat responsible for the refugees, though today his portfolio includes daycare centers, leases and cultural activities. He is able to distill Hassloch’s ability to “do this” into columns of numbers.

    From an administrative point of view, Rohr says, Hassloch has indeed been successful. “In 2016, we spent around 550,000 euros ($630,000) on shelter costs and about 870,000 euros on benefits for the asylum applicants. We were reimbursed for all those costs by the administrative district. But the town was responsible for personnel costs and materials. We only had two part-time positions back then, but now we have four working in that division, and it was five at the peak. A full-time position costs 50,000 euros, so we’re talking about a quarter million per year at that time.”

    https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/has-germany-done-this-a-look-at-the-refugee-crisis-five-years-later-a-68ebba
    #5_ans_après #2020 #crise_des_réfugiés #Allemagne #réfugiés #asile #migrations #in_retrospect #Merkel #we_can_do_it #wir_schaffen_das #économie

    ping @_kg_ @karine4 @isskein

  • One in 10 people infected with the coronavirus suffers from fatigue...
    https://diasp.eu/p/11320747

    One in 10 people infected with the coronavirus suffers from fatigue, muscle aches or neurological disorders for weeks after surviving an infection. What long-term damage does the virus do to the body? Many Stay Sick After Recovering From Coronavirus - DER SPIEGEL - International #International #World #Coronavirus #Health #Medicine

  • The American Patient: How Trump Is Fueling a Corona Disaster - DER SPIEGEL
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/the-american-patient-how-trump-is-fueling-a-corona-disaster-a-024a5cc9-2c07-

    ... the pandemic is also exposing weaknesses that existed before Trump’s election: a health-care system that fails the very moment when it is most needed, and a capitalist system that is unrestrained during boom times, and unimpeded when it crashes.

    [...]

    The U.S. actually ought to be very well prepared for a pandemic. In 2018, almost 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product flowed into the health sector, a total of $3.6 trillion (3.3 trillion euros). But the American health-care system is enormously expensive and highly inefficient. The wealthy and people with good jobs often receive excellent medical care. But a lot of that money goes into the coffers of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

    That is now being exacerbated by political ineptitude.

    #système #santé #etats-unis #assurances #pharma

  • Homepage - GHS Index
    https://www.ghsindex.org

    Index de préparation en face d’un problème sanitaire de 195 pays publié en Octobre 2019 : les #états-unis venaient en tête avec un excellent score,

    Or d’après la co-directrice même du site, dans l’épidémie actuelle de #covid-19 plusieurs pays dépassent les Etats-Unis en matière de préparation,
    https://daily.jstor.org/jennifer-nuzzo-were-definitely-not-overreacting-to-covid-19

    Clearly, just given current experiences, there is no evidence that the United States is the most prepared. We are way behind other countries on a number of fronts. And even though the president held up our index at a press conference and said, “Look, you know, Johns Hopkins found that the U.S. is prepared,” that’s actually not what we found. What we found was that no country is fully prepared, and many countries have deficit in their health systems. That is very much playing out across the globe right now.

    #in_retrospect

    • merci ! ce qui est remarquable aussi c’est que les pays « most prepared » sont parmi les premiers touchés et ceux qui merdent le plus : outre les USA, on a les Pays-Bas, la Suède, le Royaume-Uni, la France.

      #indicateurs

    • According to a survey of its members by an association representing 42,000 New York nurses, around 85 percent have already come into contact with COVID patients, but almost three-quarters do not have access to sufficient protective clothing.

      Trump [...] claimed on Jan. 26 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, "We have it under control, it’s going to be just fine.”

      Nothing could have been further from the truth. At the time, the CDC decided to develop its own test for the coronavirus rather than using a functioning one from the WHO. The test quickly turned out to be faulty, and as a result, weeks went by without anyone being able to determine how widely the disease had already spread in the U.S.

      In early February, some state governors began requesting help from Washington, mainly in the form of protective clothing and ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile. The national reserve was set up in 1999, overseen by some 200 employees at several secret locations. But the reserve has never been properly replenished since the H1N1 pandemic, the swine flu of 2009.

      In one particularly disastrous move, [Trump] abolished the pandemic task force in the National Security Council that President Barack Obama set up after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

      Both have tried to sign up for the Cares unemployment program relaunched by Congress to help people make ends meet over the next few months, “but the website keeps crashing,” says Karlin, "everything is totally overloaded.” They’ve also been trying to get through on the telephone hotline, but they’ve had no luck there either. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are going through similar experiences right now. They’re sitting at home in front of their computers trying to figure out what to do with their lives now that they are unemployed.

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/the-american-patient-how-trump-is-fueling-a-corona-disaster-a-024a5cc9-2c07-

    • COVID-19 gives the lie to global health expertise - The Lancet
      https://seenthis.net/messages/834810

      Et non seulement l’épidémie est la plus forte chez eux du fait de leur incurie criminelle, mais ils maintiennent leur embargo criminel contre les pays récalcitrants les empêchant de recevoir le matériel médical qui leur permettrait de mieux faire face à l’épidémie de covid-19,

      As the #coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak began spreading in Europe and the USA, a chart started circulating online showing ratings from the 2019 Global Health Security Index, an assessment of 195 countries’ capacity to face infectious disease outbreaks, compiled by the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security. The USA was ranked first, and the UK second; South Korea was ranked ninth, and China 51st; most African countries were at the bottom of the ranking.

      Things look different now. The US and UK Governments have provided among the world’s worst responses to the pandemic, with sheer lies and incompetence from the former, and near-criminal delays and obfuscation from the latter. Neither country has widespread testing available, as strongly recommended by WHO, alongside treatment and robust contact tracing.1 In neither country do health workers have adequate access to personal protective equipment; nor are there nearly enough hospital beds to accommodate the onslaught of patients. Even worse, by refusing to ease #sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, the US has crippled the ability of other countries to respond, continuing to block medical supplies and other humanitarian aid. 2