https://www.hrw.org

  • Abusive Israeli Policies Constitute Crimes of Apartheid, Persecution
    April 27, 2021 | Human Rights Watch
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/04/27/abusive-israeli-policies-constitute-crimes-apartheid-persecution

    (Jerusalem) – Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The finding is based on an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.

    #Apartheid

    • Israël accusé d’« apartheid » envers les Palestiniens par l’ONG Human Rights Watch

      L’ONG de défense des droits de l’homme Human Rights Watch a qualifié d’« apartheid » la politique qu’applique Israël sur la Palestine. Le gouvernement israélien s’en défend et quailifie le rapport de l’ONG de « tract de propagande ».
      Ouest-France avec AFP. Publié le 27/04/2021
      https://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/israel/israel-accuse-d-apartheid-envers-les-palestiniens-par-l-ong-human-right

      (...) Avant même la publication du rapport de l’ONG, le ministère israélien des Affaires étrangères a réagi en le qualifiant auprès de l’AFP de « tract de propagande » sans lien « avec les faits ou la vérité sur le terrain » et rédigé par une organisation mue « de longue date par un agenda anti-israélien ».

      De son côté, l’Autorité palestinienne de Mahmoud Abbas a qualifié ce rapport de « témoignage fort et crédible des souffrances des Palestiniens ».

      Des ONG israéliennes avaient déjà employé ce terme d’apartheid

      Ces derniers mois, des ONG israéliennes comme B’Tselem avaient commencé à utiliser le terme « apartheid » pour désigner les politiques d’Israël à l’égard des Arabes israéliens — descendants des Palestiniens étant restés sur leurs terres après la création de l’État hébreu — et des Palestiniens de Cisjordanie, Gaza et de Jérusalem-Est.

      Mais c’est la première fois qu’une grande ONG internationale de défense des droits de l’Homme qualifie cette politique « d’apartheid ». (...)

  • Des politiques israéliennes abusives constituent des crimes d’apartheid et de persécution | Human Rights Watch
    https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2021/04/27/des-politiques-israeliennes-abusives-constituent-des-crimes-dapartheid-et-de

    Des politiques israéliennes abusives constituent des crimes d’apartheid et de persécution

    Ces crimes contre l’humanité devraient déclencher des actions pour mettre fin à la répression envers les Palestiniens

    https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution

  • Tchad : ce que l’on sait de la mort du président Idriss Déby et de ses conséquences pour le pouvoir
    https://www.francetvinfo.fr/monde/afrique/politique-africaine/tchad-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-la-mort-du-president-idriss-deby-et-de-ses-co

    Un des fils d’Idriss Déby, le général Mahamat Idriss Déby, a été chargé d’assurer la transition du pouvoir. Ce militaire de 37 ans est désormais à la tête d’un « Conseil militaire de transition » qui doit garantir « l’indépendance nationale, l’intégrité territoriale, l’unité nationale, le respect des traités et accords internationaux » et assurer « la transition pour une durée de 18 mois », selon le porte-parole de l’armée.

    « Cela traduit tout de même une certaine continuité, puisque c’est un dirigeant militaire qui succède à un autre militaire, qui plus est de la même famille », réagit Caroline Roussy, chercheuse à l’Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques (Iris), interrogée par franceinfo

    Bravo la chercheuse ! On peut juste espérer que la citation est sortie du contexte !

    #tchad

  • Enquête de Human Rights Watch : Les femmes qataries éternelles mineures sous tutelle.
    Le système discriminatoire de tutelle masculine au Qatar prive les femmes du droit de prendre librement leurs décisions dans des domaines clés de leur vie, a déclaré Human Rights Watch dans un rapport publié aujourd’hui.
    Ce rapport de 94 pages, intitulé « ‘Everything I Have to Do is Tied to a Man’ : Women and Qatar’s Male Guardianship Rules » (« ‘Tout ce que je fais nécessite l’accord d’un homme’ : Les femmes et les règles de la tutelle masculine au Qatar »), analyse les règles officielles de la tutelle masculine et leur mise en pratique. Human Rights Watch a constaté qu’au Qatar, les femmes doivent obtenir la permission de leur tuteur masculin pour se marier, pour faire des études à l’étranger à l’aide de bourses du gouvernement, pour travailler dans de nombreux secteurs de la fonction publique, pour voyager à l’étranger jusqu’à un certain âge et pour recevoir certains soins médicaux dans le domaine reproductif. Ce système discriminatoire empêche également les femmes d’être le principal titulaire de l’autorité parentale sur leurs enfants, même lorsqu’elles ont divorcé et qu’elles en ont la garde. Ces restrictions constituent des violations de la constitution du Qatar et du droit international.

    « Les femmes au Qatar ont réussi à renverser des barrières et obtenu des progrès significatifs dans des domaines comme l’éducation, mais elles sont toujours obligées d’observer les règles de la tutelle masculine, qui sont appliquées par l’État et limitent leur capacité de mener une vie accomplie, productive et indépendante », a déclaré Rothna Begum, chercheuse senior auprès de la division Droits des femmes à Human Rights Watch. « Le système de tutelle renforce le pouvoir de contrôle des hommes sur la vie et sur les décisions des femmes, et est susceptible d’encourager ou d’alimenter des violences, laissant aux femmes peu d’options réalistes pour échapper aux abus pouvant être commis par leurs familles et leurs maris. »
    https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2021/03/29/qatar-le-systeme-de-tutelle-masculine-limite-les-droits-des-femmes
    #droitsdesfemmes

  • Le #nouveau_camp de #Lesbos, #Grèce, #Kara_Tepe, et la présumée #contamination au #plomb du terrain où il est construit (construction : #septembre_2020)

    #déchets #toxicité #pollution #armée #zone_militaire #plomb #santé #migrations #asile #réfugiés #camps_de_réfugiés #Lesbos #Grèce #îles_grecques #Moria_2.0

    –---

    voir le fil de discussion sur Kara Tepe ici, auquel j’ai ajouté la question du plomb :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/875903

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Refugee camp on toxic land, potentially life threatening for small children!

      The new “temporary” camp in Kara Tepe, Lesvos, is as we all know built partially on an old military firing range. For the government this already restricted area was perfect, it was already fenced in. As all military areas there is a lot of restrictions, the most important ones are the restrictions of movement and the restrictions on taking pictures.
      The camp area has been criticized by many, because it’s just not suited to house people, in flimsy tents when the winter is approaching. It’s at the sea, without any protection from heavy winds that usually pounds this area. The area also floods frequently, the tents are built straight on the ground, there is no drainage system. When it’s really starts to rain, and it will, there will be mud everywhere, outside and inside the tents. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s a high possibility, that the very land the camp is built on is toxic.
      As previously mentioned, it’s an old military firing range, that has been used by the military for decades. We can assume that the military has used a variety of weapons, that over the years, have packed the ground with hazardous materials. The main concern is the possibility of lead contamination. The presence of lead and lead dust is well documented on such sites as are the extreme danger to health if lead is absorbed by children. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
      As we all know, UNHCR are assisting the Greek authorities in resettling displaced families, many of them children, on this new site. They have a special responsibility, due to their involvement, to assure that the area used is suitable and safe to live on. UNHCR have rehoused displaced families on highly toxic land in the past, and should have learned by their previous mistakes.
      Following the war in Kosovo in 1999, UNHCR rehoused displaced families on highly toxic land. This is also well documented, particularly so on a website that followed the situation over a number of years. www.toxicwastekills.com
      It resulted in childrens’ blood lead levels higher than instruments could measure. There is no level of lead so low that children’s health will not be damaged. Very young children often absorb it through licking lead paint etc as they find it pleasant. This is also well documented. Pregnant women can transfer absorbed lead to foetuses through the placenta. It attacks all organs of the body but also causes irreversible brain damage. Now UNHCR is helping to place men, women and children on an old military firing range near Kara Tepe on Lesvos. This could be yet another deadly mistake in the making.
      Due to the fact that it took only 5 days to put up this camp, after the fire in Moria, it’s highly unlikely that any proper survey has been taken. This new site requires urgent toxicity checking by independent experts to reveal whether lead is present on the new site, which could indicate an evacuation might be necessary to protect the lives of vulnerable children. The concern has already been addressed by email to Astrid Castelein, head of the UNHCR sub office on Lesvos, and the main UNHCR office in Greece, so far without any reply.
      Some areas in the camp has been leveled out by bulldozers, in other areas soil from the leveled areas has been reused as landfill. By doing so, things that has been buried in the ground for decades has resurfaced, possibly making the situation even worse. Residents in the camp have found remains of ammunition casings and grenades around the tents, and military personnel have been observed using metal detectors in the outskirts of the camp. To see small children who have fled war, play with used ammunition in a European refugee camp, should raise some questions.
      If this isn’t enough, a proposal to create a new “reception and identification centre” structure with a capacity of 2,500 people, and a planned 500 employees overall, in the area of the former shooting range of Kamenos Dasos (Camlik) in central Lesvos seems to have been passed, as the majority of Mytilene municipal authority confirmed. These areas would never have been approved to build houses, schools or kindergartens, but seems to be more than good enough for these children..
      https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lead-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354717

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport

    • Greece : Migrant Camp Lead Contamination

      Inadequate Government Response; Lack of Transparency Put Health at Risk

      The Greek government should release test results and other vital information about lead contamination in a migrant camp on Lesbos island to protect the health of residents and workers, Human Rights Watch said today.

      After testing soil samples in November, the government confirmed publicly on January 23, 2021 the presence of dangerous levels of lead in the soil in the administrative area of the Lesbos camp. It says that samples from residential areas showed lead levels below relevant standards but did not release the locations where samples were collected or the actual test results. The government has yet to indicate that it will take the necessary steps to adequately assess and mitigate the risk, including comprehensive testing and measures to remove people from areas that could be contaminated.

      “The Greek government knowingly built a migrant camp on a firing range and then turned a blind eye to the potential health risks for residents and workers there,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “After weeks of prodding, it took soil samples to test for lead contamination while denying that a risk of lead exposure existed. It did not make the results public for over seven weeks, and has yet to allow independent experts to analyze them or vow to take the necessary steps to protect residents and workers and inform them about the potential health risks.”

      Human Rights Watch published a report in December documenting that thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, and United Nations, Greek, and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning in the Lesbos camp. Greek authorities built the new camp, Mavrovouni (also known as new Kara Tepe), on a repurposed military firing range. It now houses 6,500 people. According to a government announcement on January 23, one out of 12 soil samples taken in November came back on December 8 with lead levels that “exceeded the acceptable limit.” The announcement also mentions some steps to mitigate the risk.

      Human Rights Watch has requested the Greek government and the European Commission, which financially supports the camp and with which the government shared the results, to release the testing plan and the test results, which should include such information as the levels of lead for each sample, the sample depths and exact locations, a complete history of the site with location specifity, the expertise of those conducting the testing, the sampling methodology, and information on chain of custody. To date, neither the Greek government nor the European Commission has made this information available.

      This lack of transparency means that it is impossible to assess the adequacy of the testing, evaluate what the results represent, or recommend specific strategies to address the identified risks. As a result, it is impossible to determine whether the measures laid out in the January 23 statement, such as adding new soil, gravel, and a cement base in some areas, are adequate to protect people who live and work in the camp.

      In early September, large fires broke out inside the Moria camp, the Reception and Identification Center on Lesbos, which was housing 12,767 migrants, mostly women and children. Within days, the authorities constructed Mavrovouni and said they would construct a new permanent camp. Young children and women of reproductive age are most at risk for negative effects from lead exposure.

      In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on January 20, Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi said that he hoped that the residents of Mavrovouni would not spend another winter there, but did not specify when the new camp would be ready. Construction has yet to begin.

      Mavrovouni functioned as a military firing range from 1926 to mid-2020. Firing ranges are well recognized as sites with lead contamination because of bullets, shot, and casings that contain lead and end up in the ground. Lead in the soil from bullet residue can readily become airborne, especially under dry and windy conditions, which are often present on Lesbos. Lead is highly toxic when ingested or inhaled, particularly to children and anyone who is pregnant or lactating. The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that there is no known safe level of blood lead concentration. Lead degrades very slowly, so sites can remain dangerous for decades.

      After multiple representations by Human Rights Watch to various Greek authorities, the European Commission, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the WHO, the Greek government and the EU Commission commissioned the Hellenic Authority of Geology and Mineral Exploration to take 12 soil samples on November 24. According to the government, 11 soil samples showed lead levels “below the acceptable limits for lead in soil,” based on Dutch standards.

      The 12th sample, taken from what authorities described as an “administrative area” on the Mavrovouni hill, “at the end of the firing range,” showed elevated levels of lead above acceptable limits, but authorities did not reveal the concentration of lead in the soil. Mitarachi told Human Rights Watch that the area that showed lead levels above acceptable limits was fenced off, but residents and two aid workers said there were no fences inside the camp in that area or signs warning of a contaminated area. At least five aid organizations have offices in that area. An aid worker said residents, sometimes as many as 200 and including children, line up there for support and information. Younger children risk ingesting lead as they play or sit on contaminated ground.

      Human Rights Watch was unable to determine whether the government shared any information with humanitarian agencies about the testing results, but calls with agencies including UNHCR and the WHO indicated that they were not aware of them prior to the January 23 release. A staff member from one aid organization there said that at least one aid worker in the camp is currently pregnant, and 118 camp residents are pregnant, based on November government data.

      An environmental expert whom Human Rights Watch consulted said that, given the potential size of the affected area and the likelihood that elevated levels are the result of historic activity, the fact that one out of 12 samples in an area came back positive should trigger further testing.

      International law obligates countries to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment’s Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, which interpret the right to a healthy environment, emphasize the need for “public access to environmental information by collecting and disseminating information and by providing affordable, effective and timely access to information to any person upon request.” The Aarhus Convention, to which Greece is a party, provides a right to receive environmental information held by public authorities.

      Greek authorities should immediately release the results and testing plan to the public, and take measures to mitigate the risk to the health of camp residents and workers, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities should ensure that residents and workers are informed about the results and measures to protect their health in languages they can understand. The authorities should also urgently undertake further testing and allow independent experts to comment on investigative work plans, audit the soil testing process, and collect split samples (a sample that is separated into at least two parts so that testing can be carried out at two or more seperate laboraties in order to confirm results) or carry out independent testing.

      The European Commission, which financially supports Greece to manage the camp and has staff stationed there, EU agencies, Frontex, and the European Asylum Support office, as well as United Nations agencies, UNHCR, UNICEF, the IOM and the WHO, should urge Greek authorities to make the detailed results and testing plan public, and push authorities to find alternative and safe housing solutions for those affected, including the option of moving them to the mainland. The European Commission, which was given the results and testing plan by the Greek government, should also make public the detailed information it received on the results and the methodology of the testing, to allow independent experts to comment on the risk to residents and workers in the camps.

      “Greece and its EU partners have a duty to make sure that people who live and work in the Mavrovouni camp are safe,” Wille said. “That requires transparency about the risks as well as urgent steps to mitigate them.”

      Additional Information

      In its January 23 statement and in its meeting with Human Rights Watch on January 20, the Greek government made several inaccurate claims regarding remediation and protection of residents. In its statement, the government claimed that after soil samples were taken on November 24, “while awaiting the results” it removed the tents directly on the firing range strip. But satellite imagery and residents’ and workers’ statements indicate that no tents were removed until between December 11 and 16, after the test results were received.

      Satellite imagery and aid organization mapping of the camp shows that by January 10, 79 tents remained on the firing range, with 58 more at the base of the hill. The residents in those tents may be at increased risk of coming into contact with contaminated soil, particularly when it rains. In addition, after some tents were removed, three migrants and two aid workers told Human Rights Watch that residents have been using the area for football and other recreation. Authorities have not fenced off the area or notified residents of the health risks.

      Since the site was tested, major construction work and heavy rains in the area mean that potentially contaminated soil from the hill and firing range area may have moved to other parts of the camp, which warrants further testing.

      Human Rights Watch received information from multiple sources that on January 18, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which runs two assistance programs in the camp, suspended its operations at its tent on the hill. In response to a Human Rights Watch query, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Greece confirmed that, “Following the announcements regarding lead detection outside the accommodation areas and while waiting for more information from the authorities, IOM staff has been advised to remain inside the residential area.”

      In an aid briefing on January 19, the sources said it was revealed that the decision was made because of elevated levels of lead found in the “blue zone” of the camp, an area that includes the firing range and the base of the hill where the IOM Helios tent is located, as well as other aid tents including that of Médecins du Monde (MdM), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). IOM staff have yet to return to the camp, but aid workers still in the camp said there is still no fencing or signage around that area. According to the camp residents and two aid workers, and 24 photos and videos taken from inside Mavrovouni by the DunyaCollective, a media collective, since December, authorities have been moving large quantities of soil, including removing some from the hill behind the IOM Helios tent.

      On January 23, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders or MSF) issued a statement raising its concerns at the lack of appropriate government and EU action in the face of the testing results. On January 26, a group of 20 nongovernmental groups issued a joint statement calling on the Greek authorities to immediately evacuate camp residents and transfer them to appropriate structures on the mainland and elsewhere, such as hotel units.

      Aerial footage from January 14 shows tents still present in the part of the camp built on the former firing range at that date starting at around 02:00.

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/01/27/greece-migrant-camp-lead-contamination

    • Greece: Lead Poisoning Concerns in New Migrant Camp

      Thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, United Nations, and Greek and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning in a new migrant camp that Greek authorities have built on a repurposed military firing range on the island of Lesbos, Human Rights Watch said today.

      Firing ranges are commonly contaminated with lead from munitions, nevertheless the authorities did not conduct comprehensive lead testing or soil remediation before moving migrants to the site in September 2020. Evidence collected by migrants moved to the site also indicated that authorities have also failed to clear all unexploded mortar projectiles and live small arms ammunition, which could injure or kill if disturbed or handled.

      “Putting thousands of migrant adults and children, along with aid workers, on top of a former firing range without taking the necessary steps to guarantee they would not be exposed to toxic lead is unconscionable,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Greek authorities should promptly conduct a comprehensive site assessment of soil lead levels and release the results.”

      In November and early December, Human Rights Watch interviewed four people living in the camp, two aid workers, one Greek migration ministry employee working in the camp, and four medical and environmental experts, and reviewed academic research on the risk of soil lead contamination at shooting ranges and medical research on the health risks of lead poisoning. Human Rights Watch did not have access to conduct on-site research, but analyzed photos and videos of the site and satellite imagery to confirm the firing range location.

      The Asylum and Migration Ministry began major construction work at the end of November at the site, called Mavrovouni camp, that could disturb any lead contaminated soil, further exposing residents and workers. The work to improve access to electricity and water and reduce the risk of flooding began despite warnings from Human Rights Watch of the potential of increased risk of lead poisoning.

      In early September, large fires broke out inside the Moria camp, the Reception and Identification Center on Lesbos that was housing 12,767 migrants, mostly women and child migrants. Within days, authorities constructed Mavrovouni (also known as new Kara Tepe) as a temporary camp and told people that they would begin construction of a new permanent camp for use by June 2021. According to the media, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi, has recently indicated the new camp will only be ready by Autumn 2021. Currently 7,517 people, mostly from Afghanistan and Syria, are staying at Mavrovouni, which started functioning as a military firing range in 1926 and was in use until the camp was constructed in September 2020, Mitarachi said.

      In response to letters from Human Rights Watch, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi stated in a November 19 letter that the camp had “no lead contamination,” but provided no evidence for the basis of that assertion. He said the government has agreed to conduct soil testing with the European Commission within one month, but has not revealed the nature of the testing, the areas to be tested, or the methodology. A Hellenic army representative called Human Rights Watch on December 1, stating his intention to respond to a letter received on November 4 from Human Rights Watch, raising urgent concerns. But no response has been received. On December 6, General Secretary for Asylum Seekers’ Reception Manos Logothetis, called Human Rights Watch to dispute the risk of lead contamination at the camp. He confirmed that no soil testing for lead had taken place prior to moving people to the camp, but said that authorities are awaiting the results of soil testing conducted recently in collaboration with the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME).

      “No one just shows up without a plan,” Dr. Gordon Binkhorst, vice president of global programs at Pure Earth, told Human Rights Watch. “Sharing of a well-founded work plan beforehand is key to transparency and ensuring confidence in the findings.” Greek authorities should allow independent experts to comment on investigative work plans, audit the soil testing process and collect split samples for independent testing.

      “The authorities should share documentation of work completed and a comprehensive site investigation work plan based on a review of the site history, contaminants of concern, a conceptual site model of how such contaminants are released to and migrated in the environment, and a comprehensive testing plan that evaluates the degree and extent of contamination in the environment, and potential exposure routes,” Dr. Binkhorst said.

      Firing ranges are well-recognized as sites with lead contamination because of bullets, shot, and casings that contain lead and end up in the ground. Lead in the soil from bullet residue can readily become airborne, especially under dry and windy conditions, which often exist on Lesbos. Lead is a heavy metal that is highly toxic to humans when ingested or inhaled, particularly by children and during pregnancy. It degrades very slowly, so sites can remain dangerous for decades.

      The World Health Organization maintains that there is no known safe level of lead exposure. Elevated levels can impair the body’s neurological, biological, and cognitive functions, leading to learning barriers or disabilities; behavioral problems; impaired growth; anemia; brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage; coma and convulsions; and even death. Lead also increases the risk of miscarriage and can be transmitted through both the placenta and breast milk.

      Small children and women of reproductive age are at particular risk. According to Greek authorities, on November 19, 2,552 out of 7,517 people in the camp were children, 997 of them under age 5, and 1,668 were women – 118 of whom have said they are five or more months pregnant.Camp residents shared 17 photographs of items they said they had found in the ground around their tents, including an intact 60mm mortar projectile and a tail fin assembly for another 60mm mortar projectile, cartridge casings for rifle bullets, fired 12-gauge shotgun cartridges, and live pistol, rifle, machine gun, and shotgun ammunition. Intact munitions, such as 60mm mortar projectiles and small arms ammunition, pose an immediate explosive hazard and should be removed urgently from the area.

      “We try to stop our children from going to play up the hill because we know there might be bullets and other things the army didn’t clear that could be dangerous,” one camp resident said. Munitions containing lead can be extremely dangerous when swallowed by children or contaminate the soil, a medical expert told Human Rights Watch.

      The authorities should conduct a thorough and transparent assessment of lead levels in the soil and dust, as well as other possible pathways to exposure, and make the results publicly available. Any work that might increase exposure should be paused until after the soil has been tested or until people have been removed from the camp and housed in adequate facilities, Human Rights Watch said. If lead is present in the soil, authorities should provide free blood testing and treatment for camp residents, aid workers, police, and others who might have been exposed, prioritizing young children and women of reproductive age, and immediately move exposed residents to a safe location and remediate the contaminated areas.

      “The Greek government could be putting at risk families with young children, aid workers, and its own employees because it’s determined to hold asylum seekers on the island,” Wille said. “If this is where the government is trying to force asylum seekers to live on Lesbos, then all the more reason to transfer people to the mainland.”

      Tents on a Firing Range

      The Mavrovouni site sits on a large plot of military-owned land, some of which was used as a military firing range since 1926. The Asylum and Migration Ministry said that it covered the site with “new levels of soil” before the camp was opened.

      Human Rights Watch reviewed satellite imagery from before and after construction began on the camp on September 11, 2020. Imagery from before shows a firing range on part of the site next to Mavrovouni Hill. By September 28, more than 200 tents had been set up directly on the former firing range itself, with more tents on adjacent areas.

      Satellite imagery from June, before Moria camp was destroyed by fire, shows some basic clearance of vegetation cover within a rectangular strip that included the firing range, as well as a small section at the base of Mavrovouni Hill. From the imagery, it is impossible to determine the depth of the soil removal and whether the remediation of lead impacted soil was completed in accordance with prevailing standards and guidelines, or if it was just a superficial scraping of topsoil.

      Human Rights Watch was unable to determine what soil removal activities took place between June and September, when the camp opened, or of other activities to decontaminate the ground or where soil removed was disposed of. Given the speed of camp construction, it is very unlikely that authorities could have carried out remediation of lead-impacted soil before setting up the tents. Greek authorities have indicated that new soil was placed prior to construction of the camp, with no location indicated.

      Satellite imagery analysis, combined with a review of photos and videos of the firing range that were posted online in the spring, shows that the military was shooting from the southwest toward targets in the northeast, at the foot of Mavrovouni Hill. This suggests that soil on the hillside might also be contaminated by lead.

      Imagery recorded between September 14 and 16, shows at least 300 tents just south of the hill without any prior signs of soil clearance, with another at least 170 added in the following days. Imagery from late November shows further ground preparation southeast of the hill, and the construction of four large structures.

      Medical and environmental experts interviewed said it was risky to conduct further work in the camp without first conducting soil samples. “Disturbing this area will mobilize the lead in the soil and make it more vulnerable to dispersion from periodic rainfall, flooding, and wind erosion,” said Jack Caravanos, professor of global environmental health at New York University. Dr. Caravanos has visited and assessed dozens of lead-contaminated sites throughout the world and expressed dismay over how this site was chosen without proper environmental investigation.

      A European Commission official who is involved in migration policy with Greece said that the Greek Defense Ministry claimed that “no pieces of lead were observed on the ground” during construction or other work. Because lead dust is usually not visible, this claim raises concerns about the seriousness of the Greek government’s assessment.

      A source close to the police said that the government had considered turning the firing range into a camp site as early as 2015. At the time, authorities rejected the proposal for several reasons, the source said, including because it had been a firing range. It is unclear why the government ignored these concerns in 2020. A migration ministry employee working on the camp who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that in September, before Mavrovouni was selected, the government met with a few larger nongovernmental organizations, and discussed at least two or three alternative locations.

      Lead Contamination

      In his letter to Human Rights Watch, Minister Mitarachi said that the range had only been used for “small arms (straight trajectory), commonly only bullets, and not for other types of ammunition.” This ammunition, he said, “according to the Greek Army, contains no lead.” He added that the army had searched the camp for munitions prior to opening, and again 20 days later, and “reported no findings.”In contrast to these claims, bullets used for rifles, pistols, and machine guns as well as shot used by shotguns usually contain lead, which is used in bullets for its density and penetrating ability. Research at firing ranges has found that the discharge of lead dust from shooting results in soil contamination. Research has shown that elevated blood lead levels are commonly found in users of these sites, even among those who use them for limited amounts of time for recreational purposes.

      The large amount of fired small arms casings and cartridges found at the camp indicates an equally large number of bullets and shot might be buried beneath the ground where they landed. Other areas near the firing range may have been affected, including from relocation of soil associated with the construction of the camp or historic clearing of soils and munitions from the firing range. Thus, it is likely that any soil contamination extends beyond the firing range. Greek authorities provided no documentation for their claim that all the munitions used at the firing range were lead-free. This claim is highly questionable, given that lead-free bullets are expensive and very rare, particularly prior to the 1980s. Some bullets have an external metal-alloy coating that may make them appear to be lead-free, but the coating disintegrates relatively quickly when the bullet enters the soil, and the lead core becomes exposed. In addition, the photographic evidence from camp residents does not appear to support this contention.

      Camp residents shared with Human Rights Watch five photographs, one dated September 20, and two videos of the Hellenic Army’s Land Mine Clearance Squad carrying out clearance activities without any protective equipment and disregarding distancing between them and camp residents needed for safe ammunition clearance activities.

      The migration ministry employee working in the camp who spoke on the condition of anonymity said she remembered clearance operations taking place around that date: “There were soldiers who had this machine to detect metal walking amongst us. They were so close that we had to pick up our feet from the ground so they could check right under us.” A government employee’s union made a formal complaint about general working conditions at the camp, including their concerns around these clearance activities.

      In addition to camp residents, anyone working inside the camp could also face potential lead exposure from spending time in the camp if the soil is contaminated. Residents, aid workers, and the migration ministry employee said that these include staff from the Hellenic police, Hellenic army, municipality, First Reception Service, Asylum Service, National Public Health Organization (EODY), European Commission, European Asylum Support Office (EASO), European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), Europol, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, World Health Organization, Red Cross, and at least eight other medical and aid groups.

      Risks of Lead Poisoning for At-risk Groups

      Symptoms of lead poisoning are often not diagnosed as such but its adverse health effects can be irreversible. The severity of symptoms increases with prolonged exposure. Globally, lead exposure is estimated to account for up to one million deaths annually, with the highest burden in low- and middle-income countries. Poor and disadvantaged populations are more vulnerable because undernourishment increases the amount of ingested lead the body absorbs.

      Children are especially at risk because they absorb four to five times as much lead as adults, and their brains and bodies are still developing. In addition, small children often put their hands in their mouths or play on the ground, which increases their likelihood of ingesting or inhaling lead in dust and dirt. Exposure during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, and low birth weight, and can negatively affect fetal brain development. At least 118 pregnant women and 2,552 children are at the site, according to government data.

      Mohammed Hafida, a camp resident with three young children whose wife is pregnant, said that when they first moved to the camp it was particularly dusty. “When cars drove past the tents there was dust everywhere,” he said. “That only went away once the rain set in two weeks later. But the camp is on a hill, and so when it rained for several hours, many of the tents collapsed. This isn’t a camp, it’s a hell.”

      People living in the camp said that for the first few weeks, they had been sleeping on blankets and mattresses on the dusty ground, but more recently aid workers had added flooring to the tents. Even as rainfall increased, residents reported that dust would still enter the tents including in the cooking areas. Camp residents said they have to clean dust out of their tents multiple times a day because cars are driving on adjacent gravel roads. Children often play in the dusty area by the roads. A medical expert said that small children at the camp are at very serious risk for as long as they are exposed to dust that could be contaminated.

      Camp authorities did not inform residents that there could be a risk of lead exposure at the site. Medical and environmental experts said that given the known risks of lead exposure at firing ranges, comprehensive soil testing should have been carried out before even considering it as a possible location for the camp. They warned of specific risks of lead poisoning for small children who are most at risk. “Remediation can be very difficult,” said Caravanos, the NYU professor of global environmental health. “I can’t imagine that you could make it safe without removing everyone if lead was found in the soil.”

      On November 17, Human Rights Watch was notified about significant planned construction work, which the Asylum and Migration Ministry confirmed in a letter dated November 19. On November 26, Human Rights Watch sent a letter with detailed findings to the Greek Ministries of Asylum and Migration and Defense, which it also shared with EU officials and representatives from UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, and the World Health Organization, saying that these actions risk further exposing residents and construction workers to any potentially lead-contaminated dust and soil. Despite these warnings, on November 30, residents of the camp informed researchers that large construction was underway, including on top of Mavrovouni hill.

      The authorities should have been aware of the amount of dust construction causes at the site. During the construction of the camp in September, the migration ministry employee said, workers had been moving around lots of soil to make room for the camp structure and “There was a lot of dust everywhere for days. I kept finding dust and even little pebbles in my ears at that time.”

      Unsatisfactory Clearance Operation

      Three people interviewed in November said that the authorities forced them to move to the camp after the fires in Moria camp by threatening that the government would stop their asylum claims if they refused. All three have found and provided Human Rights Watch with photographs of munition remnants since moving to Mavrovouni in September. They all said that after moving to the site, they saw the Greek military conduct clearance operations without protective gear, and they shared videos of those operations with Human Rights Watch.

      In the videos and photographs, the camp tents and migrants are clearly visible, confirming that some clearance activities took place after people were already living there. A Syrian man whose wife is nine-months pregnant with their first child said that, after they had moved into the camp, he saw the military find and remove at least one cartridge casing. Another camp resident said that since arriving, he has found many bullets on the ground but the “authorities haven’t told us what to do if we find them, or other kinds of munitions.”

      Access to Health Care

      Two medical staff from a team providing health care in Mavrovouni camp said on November 10 that, since arriving at the camp in October, they had not heard anything about possible lead exposure. Both said that the camp had “decent” health care services considering that it was a temporary camp, but that the laboratory inside the camp does not have the capacity to perform blood tests for lead levels. Both said that because of the nature of the symptoms of lead poisoning, which are also symptoms of other illnesses, it would be extremely difficult to diagnose potential cases without blood tests.

      Both medical staff and a doctor who had worked previously at the camp said it was very difficult for camp residents to visit the hospital due to movement restrictions related to Covid-19.

      Parallels to Kosovo Incident

      This is not the first time that people living in a camp are put at risk of lead poisoning. For more than a decade following the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999, about 600 Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian minority members lived in camps for displaced people operated by the UN. The camps sat on land contaminated by lead from a nearby industrial mine. In 2016, a United Nations human rights advisory panel found that the UN mission in Kosovo (the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK) had violated the affected people’s rights to life and health. Human Rights Watch documented that camp residents experienced lasting health impacts and are still awaiting compensation and health and educational support for themselves and their families, seven years after the last camp was closed in 2013.

      International Legal Obligations

      International law obligates states to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors governments’ compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health, has interpreted the covenant to include:

      [T]he requirement to […] the prevention and reduction of the population’s exposure to harmful substances such as radiation and harmful chemicals or other detrimental environmental conditions that directly or indirectly impact upon human health.

      The right to health encompasses the right to healthy natural environments. The right to a healthy environment, which is also enshrined in the Greek constitution, involves the obligation to “prevent threats to health from unsafe and toxic water conditions.”

      The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment’s Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, which interpret the right to a healthy environment, emphasize the need for “public access to environmental information by collecting and disseminating information and by providing affordable, effective and timely access to information to any person upon request.” The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the treaty body that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Greece is a party, when describing the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, calls on states to take appropriate measures “to combat disease and malnutrition … taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution.”

      Responsibilities of the Greek Parliament and European Union

      Members of the Greek parliament should pay attention to the concerns that there may be lead contamination at Mavrovouni camp and assess the Greek government’s compliance with its obligations under national, European, and international law to realize the rights to health and healthy environment. They could hold a hearing or establish an inquiry to establish which government employees were involved in approving the site, the extent to which they knew or should have known about the risk of lead contamination, why they decided to move people to the site without first conducting comprehensive soil testing, and why, despite multiple concerns about lead contamination raised after the camp was opened, the authorities greenlighted construction work without first conducting comprehensive soil testing. They should take appropriate action to ensure accountability if merited.

      The European Commission, which financially supports Greece to manage the camp and has staff stationed there, as well as EU agencies, Frontex, and EASO, should urge Greek authorities to comprehensively test for lead and make the testing plan and results public.

      Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental groups have long warned European leaders about the dire conditions in island camps, also known as hotspots. These have been exacerbated by Greek authorities’ containment policy, which has blocked transfers to the mainland. For years, residents were crammed into overcrowded, inadequate tents, with limited access to food, water, sanitation, and health care, including during the pandemic and despite the risk of Covid-19. The EU and Greece should fundamentally reconsider their hotspot approach on the Greek Islands and end policies that lead to the containment of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers in unsuitable, and in this case potentially hazardous, facilities.

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/12/08/greece-lead-poisoning-concerns-new-migrant-camp

      #pollution #contamination #plomb #Saturnisme #HRW #rapport

    • HRW calls for transparency over lead contamination at Lesvos migrant camp

      Greek authorities should release test results and other vital information about lead contamination at the Kara Tepe migrant camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos to protect the health of residents and workers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

      After testing soil samples in November, authorities earlier this month confirmed dangerous levels of lead in the soil in the administrative area of the facility, also known as Mavrovouni, which was built on a repurposed military firing range. They said that samples from residential areas showed lead levels below relevant standards but did not release the locations where samples were collected or the actual test results, the New York-based organization said.

      HRW said that officials have yet to indicate that they will take the necessary steps to adequately assess and mitigate the risk, including comprehensive testing and measures to remove people from areas that could be contaminated.

      “The Greek government knowingly built a migrant camp on a firing range and then turned a blind eye to the potential health risks for residents and workers there,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW.

      “After weeks of prodding, it took soil samples to test for lead contamination while denying that a risk of lead exposure existed. It did not make the results public for over seven weeks, and has yet to allow independent experts to analyze them or vow to take the necessary steps to protect residents and workers and inform them about the potential health risks,” she said.

      According to a report published by HRW in December, thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, and United Nations, Greek, and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning.

      The Kara Tepe facility currently houses 6,500 people.

      “Greece and its EU partners have a duty to make sure that people who live and work in the Mavrovouni camp are safe,” Wille said.

      “That requires transparency about the risks as well as urgent steps to mitigate them,” she said.

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/261695/article/ekathimerini/news/hrw-calls-for-transparency-over-lead-contamination-at-lesvos-migrant-c

  • Artificial intelligence : #Frontex improves its maritime surveillance

    Frontex wants to use a new platform to automatically detect and assess „risks“ on the seas of the European Union. Suspected irregular activities are to be displayed in a constantly updated „threat map“ with the help of self-learning software.

    The EU border agency has renewed a contract with Israeli company Windward for a „maritime analytics“ platform. It will put the application into regular operation. Frontex had initially procured a licence for around 800,000 Euros. For now 2.6 million Euros, the agency will receive access for four workstations. The contract can be extended three times for one year at a time.

    Windward specialises in the digital aggregation and assessment of vessel tracking and maritime surveillance data. Investors in the company, which was founded in 2011, include former US CIA director David Petraeus and former CEO’s of Thomson Reuters and British Petroleum. The former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gabi Ashkenazi, is considered one of the advisors.

    Signature for each observed ship

    The platform is based on artificial intelligence techniques. For analysis, it uses maritime reporting systems, including position data from the AIS transponders of larger ships and weather data. These are enriched with information about the ship owners and shipping companies as well as the history of previous ship movements. For this purpose, the software queries openly accessible information from the internet.

    In this way, a „fingerprint“ is created for each observed ship, which can be used to identify suspicious activities. If the captain switches off the transponder, for example, the analysis platform can recognise this as a suspicuous event and take over further tracking based on the recorded patterns. It is also possible to integrate satellite images.

    Windward uses the register of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as its database, which lists about 70,000 ships. Allegedly, however, it also processes data on a total of 400,000 watercraft, including smaller fishing boats. One of the clients is therefore the UN Security Council, which uses the technology to monitor sanctions.

    Against „bad guys“ at sea

    The company advertises its applications with the slogan „Catch the bad guys at sea“. At Frontex, the application is used to combat and prevent unwanted migration and cross-border crime as well as terrorism. Subsequently, „policy makers“ and law enforcement agencies are to be informed about results. For this purpose, the „risks“ found are visualised in a „threat map“.

    Windward put such a „threat map“ online two years ago. At the time, the software rated the Black Sea as significantly more risky than the Mediterranean. Commercial shipping activity off the Crimea was interpreted as „probable sanction evasions“. Ship owners from the British Guernsey Islands as well as Romania recorded the highest proportion of ships exhibiting „risky“ behaviour. 42 vessels were classified as suspicious for drug smuggling based on their patterns.

    Frontex „early warning“ units

    The information from maritime surveillance is likely to be processed first by the „Risk Analysis Unit“ (RAU) at Frontex. It is supposed to support strategic decisions taken by the headquarters in Warsaw on issues of border control, return, prevention of cross-border crime as well as threats of a „hybrid nature“. Frontex calls the applications used there „intelligence products“ and „integrated data services“. Their results flow together in the „Common Integrated Risk Analysis Model“ (CIRAM).

    For the operational monitoring of the situation at the EU’s external borders, the agency also maintains the „Frontex Situation Centre“ (FSC). The department is supposed to provide a constantly updated picture of migration movements, if possible in real time. From these reports, Frontex produces „early warnings“ and situation reports to the border authorities of the member states as well as to the Commission and the Council in Brussels.

    More surveillance capacity in Warsaw

    According to its own information, Windward’s clients include the Italian Guardia di Finanza, which is responsible for controlling Italian territorial waters. The Ministry of the Interior in Rome is also responsible for numerous EU projects aimed at improving surveillance of the central Mediterranean. For the training and equipment of the Libyan coast guard, Italy receives around 67 million euros from EU funds in three different projects. Italian coast guard authorities are also installing a surveillance system for Tunisia’s external maritime borders.

    Frontex now wants to improve its own surveillance capacities with further tenders. Together with the fisheries agency, The agency is awarding further contracts for manned maritime surveillance. It has been operating such a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS) in the central Mediterranean since 2017 and in the Adriatic Sea since 2018. Frontex also wants to station large drones in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, it is testing Aerostats in the eastern Mediterranean for a second time. These are zeppelins attached to a 1,000-metre long line.

    https://digit.site36.net/2021/01/15/artificial-intelligence-frontex-improves-its-maritime-surveillance
    #intelligence_artificielle #surveillance #surveillance_maritime #mer #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #AI #Windward #Israël #complexe_militaro-industriel #militarisation_des_frontières #David_Petraeus #Thomson_Reuters #British_Petroleum #armée_israélienne #Gabi_Ashkenazi #International_Maritime_Organisation (#IMO) #thread_map #Risk_Analysis_Unit (#RAU) #Common_Integrated_Risk_Analysis_Model (#CIRAM) #Frontex_Situation_Centre (#FSC) #Frontex_Aerial_Surveillance_Service (#FASS) #zeppelins

    ping @etraces

    • Data et nouvelles technologies, la face cachée du contrôle des mobilités

      Dans un rapport de juillet 2020, l’Agence européenne pour la gestion opérationnelle des systèmes d’information à grande échelle (#EU-Lisa) présente l’intelligence artificielle (IA) comme l’une des « technologies prioritaires » à développer. Le rapport souligne les avantages de l’IA en matière migratoire et aux frontières, grâce, entre autres, à la technologie de #reconnaissance_faciale.

      L’intelligence artificielle est de plus en plus privilégiée par les acteurs publics, les institutions de l’UE et les acteurs privés, mais aussi par le #HCR et l’#OIM. Les agences de l’UE, comme Frontex ou EU-Lisa, ont été particulièrement actives dans l’#expérimentation des nouvelles technologies, brouillant parfois la distinction entre essais et mise en oeuvre. En plus des outils traditionnels de surveillance, une panoplie de technologies est désormais déployée aux frontières de l’Europe et au-delà, qu’il s’agisse de l’ajout de nouvelles #bases_de_données, de technologies financières innovantes, ou plus simplement de la récupération par les #GAFAM des données laissées volontairement ou pas par les migrant·e·s et réfugié∙e∙s durant le parcours migratoire.

      La pandémie #Covid-19 est arrivée à point nommé pour dynamiser les orientations déjà prises, en permettant de tester ou de généraliser des technologies utilisées pour le contrôle des mobilités sans que l’ensemble des droits des exilé·e·s ne soit pris en considération. L’OIM, par exemple, a mis à disposition des Etats sa #Matrice_de_suivi_des_déplacements (#DTM) durant cette période afin de contrôler les « flux migratoires ». De nouvelles technologies au service de vieilles obsessions…

      http://www.migreurop.org/article3021.html

      Pour télécharger le rapport :
      www.migreurop.org/IMG/pdf/note_12_fr.pdf

      ping @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @i_s_

    • La #technopolice aux frontières

      Comment le #business de la #sécurité et de la #surveillance au sein de l’#Union_européenne, en plus de bafouer des #droits_fondamentaux, utilise les personnes exilées comme #laboratoire de recherche, et ce sur des #fonds_publics européens.

      On a beaucoup parlé ici ces derniers mois de surveillance des manifestations ou de surveillance de l’espace public dans nos villes, mais la technopolice est avant tout déployée aux #frontières – et notamment chez nous, aux frontières de la « forteresse Europe ». Ces #dispositifs_technopoliciers sont financés, soutenus et expérimentés par l’Union européenne pour les frontières de l’UE d’abord, et ensuite vendus. Cette surveillance des frontières représente un #marché colossal et profite grandement de l’échelle communautaire et de ses programmes de #recherche_et_développement (#R&D) comme #Horizon_2020.

      #Roborder – des essaims de #drones_autonomes aux frontières

      C’est le cas du projet Roborder – un « jeu de mots » entre robot et border, frontière en anglais. Débuté en 2017, il prévoit de surveiller les frontières par des essaims de #drones autonomes, fonctionnant et patrouillant ensemble. L’#intelligence_artificielle de ces drones leur permettrait de reconnaître les humains et de distinguer si ces derniers commettent des infractions (comme celui de passer une frontière ?) et leur dangerosité pour ensuite prévenir la #police_aux_frontières. Ces drones peuvent se mouvoir dans les airs, sous l’eau, sur l’eau et dans des engins au sol. Dotés de multiples capteurs, en plus de la détection d’activités criminelles, ces drones seraient destinés à repérer des “#radio-fréquences non fiables”, c’est-à-dire à écouter les #communications et également à mesurer la #pollution_marine.
      Pour l’instant, ces essaims de drones autonomes ne seraient pas pourvus d’armes. Roborder est actuellement expérimenté en #Grèce, au #Portugal et en #Hongrie.

      Un #financement européen pour des usages « civils »

      Ce projet est financé à hauteur de 8 millions d’euros par le programme Horizon 2020 (subventionné lui-même par la #Cordis, organe de R&D de la Commission européenne). Horizon 2020 représente 50% du financement public total pour la recherche en sécurité de l’UE. Roborder est coordonné par le centre de recherches et technologie de #Hellas (le #CERTH), en Grèce et comme le montre l’association #Homo_Digitalis le nombre de projets Horizon 2020 ne fait qu’augmenter en Grèce. En plus du CERTH grec s’ajoutent environ 25 participants venus de tous les pays de l’UE (où on retrouve les services de police d’#Irlande_du_Nord, le ministère de la défense grecque, ou encore des entreprises de drones allemandes, etc.).

      L’une des conditions pour le financement de projets de ce genre par Horizon 2020 est que les technologies développées restent dans l’utilisation civile, et ne puissent pas servir à des fins militaires. Cette affirmation pourrait ressembler à un garde-fou, mais en réalité la distinction entre usage civil et militaire est loin d’être clairement établie. Comme le montre Stephen Graham, très souvent les #technologies, à la base militaires, sont réinjectées dans la sécurité, particulièrement aux frontières où la migration est criminalisée. Et cette porosité entre la sécurité et le #militaire est induite par la nécessité de trouver des débouchés pour rentabiliser la #recherche_militaire. C’est ce qu’on peut observer avec les drones ou bien le gaz lacrymogène. Ici, il est plutôt question d’une logique inverse : potentiellement le passage d’un usage dit “civil” de la #sécurité_intérieure à une application militaire, à travers des ventes futures de ces dispositifs. Mais on peut aussi considérer la surveillance, la détection de personnes et la #répression_aux_frontières comme une matérialisation de la #militarisation de l’Europe à ses frontières. Dans ce cas-là, Roborder serait un projet à fins militaires.

      De plus, dans les faits, comme le montre The Intercept (https://theintercept.com/2019/05/11/drones-artificial-intelligence-europe-roborder), une fois le projet terminé celui-ci est vendu. Sans qu’on sache trop à qui. Et, toujours selon le journal, beaucoup sont déjà intéressés par Roborder.

      #IborderCtrl – détection d’#émotions aux frontières

      Si les essaims de drones sont impressionnants, il existe d’autres projets dans la même veine. On peut citer notamment le projet qui a pour nom IborderCtrl, testé en Grèce, Hongrie et #Lettonie.

      Il consiste notamment en de l’#analyse_d’émotions (à côté d’autres projets de #reconnaissances_biométriques) : les personnes désirant passer une frontière doivent se soumettre à des questions et voient leur #visage passer au crible d’un #algorithme qui déterminera si elles mentent ou non. Le projet prétend « accélérer le #contrôle_aux_frontières » : si le #détecteur_de_mensonges estime qu’une personne dit la vérité, un code lui est donné pour passer le contrôle facilement ; si l’algorithme considère qu’une personne ment, elle est envoyée dans une seconde file, vers des gardes-frontières qui lui feront passer un #interrogatoire. L’analyse d’émotions prétend reposer sur un examen de « 38 #micro-mouvements du visage » comme l’angle de la tête ou le mouvement des yeux. Un spectacle de gadgets pseudoscientifiques qui permet surtout de donner l’apparence de la #neutralité_technologique à des politiques d’#exclusion et de #déshumanisation.

      Ce projet a également été financé par Horizon 2020 à hauteur de 4,5 millions d’euros. S’il semble aujourd’hui avoir été arrêté, l’eurodéputé allemand Patrick Breyer a saisi la Cour de justice de l’Union Européenne pour obtenir plus d’informations sur ce projet, ce qui lui a été refusé pour… atteinte au #secret_commercial. Ici encore, on voit que le champ “civil” et non “militaire” du projet est loin de représenter un garde-fou.

      Conclusion

      Ainsi, l’Union européenne participe activement au puissant marché de la surveillance et de la répression. Ici, les frontières et les personnes exilées sont utilisées comme des ressources de laboratoire. Dans une optique de militarisation toujours plus forte des frontières de la forteresse Europe et d’une recherche de profit et de développement des entreprises et centres de recherche européens. Les frontières constituent un nouveau marché et une nouvelle manne financière de la technopolice.

      Les chiffres montrent par ailleurs l’explosion du budget de l’agence européenne #Frontex (de 137 millions d’euros en 2015 à 322 millions d’euros en 2020, chiffres de la Cour des comptes européenne) et une automatisation toujours plus grande de la surveillance des frontières. Et parallèlement, le ratio entre le nombre de personnes qui tentent de franchir la Méditerranée et le nombre de celles qui y laissent la vie ne fait qu’augmenter. Cette automatisation de la surveillance aux frontières n’est donc qu’une nouvelle façon pour les autorités européennes d’accentuer le drame qui continue de se jouer en Méditerranée, pour une “efficacité” qui finalement ne profite qu’aux industries de la surveillance.

      Dans nos rues comme à nos frontières nous devons refuser la Technopolice et la combattre pied à pied !

      https://technopolice.fr/blog/la-technopolice-aux-frontieres

    • Artificial Intelligence - based capabilities for European Border and Coast Guard

      In 2019, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, commissioned #RAND Europe to carry out an Artificial intelligence (AI) research study.

      The purpose of the study was to provide an overview of the main opportunities, challenges and requirements for the adoption of AI-based capabilities in border managament. Frontex’s intent was also to find synergies with ongoing AI studies and initiatives in the EU and contribute to a Europe-wide AI landscape by adding the border security dimension.

      Some of the analysed technologies included automated border control, object recognition to detect suspicious vehicles or cargo and the use of geospatial data analytics for operational awareness and threat detection.

      As part of the study, RAND provided Frontex in 2020 with a comprehensive report and an executive summary with conclusions and recommendations.

      The findings will support Frontex in shaping the future landscape of AI-based capabilities for Integrated Border Management, including AI-related research and innovation projects which could be initiated by Frontex (e.g. under #EU_Innovation_Hub) or recommended to be conducted under the EU Research and Innovation Programme (#Horizon_Europe).

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news/news-release/artificial-intelligence-based-capabilities-for-european-border-and-co

    • Pour les réfugiés, la #biométrie tout au long du chemin

      Par-delà les murs qui poussent aux frontières du monde depuis les années 1990, les réfugiés, migrants et demandeurs d’asile sont de plus en plus confrontés à l’extension des bases de #données_biométriques. Un « #mur_virtuel » s’étend ainsi à l’extérieur, aux frontières et à l’intérieur de l’espace Schengen, construit autour de programmes et de #bases_de_données.

      Des réfugiés qui paient avec leurs #iris, des migrants identifiés par leurs #empreintes_digitales, des capteurs de #reconnaissance_faciale, mais aussi d’#émotions… Réunis sous la bannière de la « #frontière_intelligente », ces #dispositifs_technologiques, reposant sur l’#anticipation, l’#identification et l’#automatisation du franchissement de la #frontière grâce aux bases de données biométriques, ont pour but de trier les voyageurs, facilitant le parcours des uns et bloquant celui des autres.

      L’Union européenne dispose ainsi d’une batterie de bases de données qui viennent compléter les contrôles aux frontières. Depuis 2011, une agence dédiée, l’#Agence_européenne_pour_la_gestion_opérationnelle_des_systèmes_d’information_à_grande_échelle, l’#EU-Lisa, a pour but d’élaborer et de développer, en lien avec des entreprises privées, le suivi des demandeurs d’asile.

      Elle gère ainsi plusieurs bases compilant des #données_biométriques. L’une d’elles, le « #Entry_and_Exit_System » (#EES), sera déployée en 2022, pour un coût évalué à 480 millions d’euros. L’EES a pour mission de collecter jusqu’à 400 millions de données sur les personnes non européennes franchissant les frontières de l’espace Schengen, afin de contrôler en temps réel les dépassements de durée légale de #visa. En cas de séjour prolongé devenu illégal, l’alerte sera donnée à l’ensemble des polices européennes.

      Se brûler les doigts pour ne pas être enregistré

      L’EU-Lisa gère également le fichier #Eurodac, qui consigne les empreintes digitales de chacun des demandeurs d’asile de l’Union européenne. Utilisé pour appliquer le #règlement_Dublin III, selon lequel la demande d’asile est déposée et traitée dans le pays européen où le migrant a été enregistré la première fois, il entraîne des stratégies de #résistance.

      « On a vu des migrants refuser de donner leurs empreintes à leur arrivée en Grèce, ou même se brûler les doigts pour ne pas être enregistrés dans Eurodac, rappelle Damien Simonneau, chercheur à l’Institut Convergences Migrations du Collège de France. Ils savent que s’ils ont, par exemple, de la famille en Allemagne, mais qu’ils ont été enregistrés en Grèce, ils seront renvoyés en Grèce pour que leur demande y soit traitée, ce qui a des conséquences énormes sur leur vie. » La procédure d’instruction dure en effet de 12 à 18 mois en moyenne.

      La collecte de données biométriques jalonne ainsi les parcours migratoires, des pays de départs jusqu’aux déplacements au sein de l’Union européenne, dans un but de limitation et de #contrôle. Pour lutter contre « la criminalité transfrontalière » et « l’immigration clandestine », le système de surveillance des zones frontières #Eurosur permet, via un partage d’informations en temps réel, d’intercepter avant leur arrivée les personnes tentant d’atteindre l’Union européenne.

      Des contrôles dans les pays de départ

      Pour le Transnational Institute, auteur avec le think tank Stop Wapenhandel et le Centre Delàs de plusieurs études sur les frontières, l’utilisation de ces bases de données témoigne d’une stratégie claire de la part de l’Union européenne. « Un des objectifs de l’expansion des #frontières_virtuelles, écrivent-ils ainsi dans le rapport Building Walls (https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/building_walls_-_full_report_-_english.pdf), paru en 2018, est d’intercepter les réfugiés et les migrants avant même qu’ils n’atteignent les frontières européennes, pour ne pas avoir à traiter avec eux. »

      Si ces techniques permettent de pré-trier les demandes pour fluidifier le passage des frontières, en accélérant les déplacements autorisés, elles peuvent également, selon Damien Simonneau, avoir des effets pervers. « L’utilisation de ces mécanismes repose sur l’idée que la #technologie est un facilitateur, et il est vrai que l’#autonomisation de certaines démarches peut faciliter les déplacements de personnes autorisées à franchir les frontières, expose-t-il. Mais les technologies sont faillibles, et peuvent produire des #discriminations. »

      Ces #techniques_virtuelles, aux conséquences bien réelles, bouleversent ainsi le rapport à la frontière et les parcours migratoires. « Le migrant est confronté à de multiples points "frontière", disséminés un peu partout, analyse Damien Simonneau. Cela crée des #obstacles supplémentaires aux parcours migratoires : le contrôle n’est quasiment plus lié au franchissement d’une frontière nationale, il est déterritorialisé et peut se produire n’importe où, en amont comme en aval de la frontière de l’État. »

      Ainsi, la « politique d’#externalisation de l’Union européenne » permet au contrôle migratoire de s’exercer dans les pays de départ. Le programme européen « #SIV » collecte par exemple dès leur formulation dans les #consulats les données biométriques liées aux #demandes_de_visas.

      Plus encore, l’Union européenne délègue une partie de la gestion de ses frontières à d’autres pays : « Dans certains États du Sahel, explique Damien Simonneau, l’aide humanitaire et de développement est conditionnée à l’amélioration des contrôles aux frontières. »

      Un programme de l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM), le programme #MIDAS, financé par l’Union européenne, est ainsi employé par 23 pays, majoritairement en Afrique, mais aussi en Asie et en Amérique. Son but est de « collecter, traiter, stocker et analyser les informations [biométriques et biographiques] des voyageurs en temps réel » pour aider les polices locales à contrôler leurs frontières. Mais selon le réseau Migreurop, ces données peuvent également être transmises aux agences policières européennes. L’UE exerce ainsi un droit de regard, via Frontex, sur le système d’information et d’analyse de données sur la migration, installé à Makalondi au Niger.

      Des réfugiés qui paient avec leurs yeux

      Un mélange des genres, entre organisations humanitaires et États, entre protection, logistique et surveillance, qui se retrouve également dans les #camps_de_réfugiés. Dans les camps jordaniens de #Zaatari et d’#Azarq, par exemple, près de la frontière syrienne, les réfugiés paient depuis 2016 leurs aliments avec leurs iris.

      L’#aide_humanitaire_alimentaire distribuée par le Programme alimentaire mondial (PAM) leur est en effet versée sur un compte relié à leurs données biométriques. Il leur suffit de passer leurs yeux dans un scanner pour régler leurs achats. Une pratique qui facilite grandement la gestion #logistique du camp par le #HCR et le PAM, en permettant la #traçabilité des échanges et en évitant les fraudes et les vols.

      Mais selon Léa Macias, anthropologue à l’EHESS, cela a aussi des inconvénients. « Si ce paiement avec les yeux peut rassurer certains réfugiés, dans la mesure où cela les protège contre les vols, développe-t-elle, le procédé est également perçu comme une #violence. Les réfugiés ont bien conscience que personne d’autre au monde, dans une situation normale, ne paie ainsi avec son #corps. »

      Le danger de la fuite de données

      La chercheuse s’inquiète également du devenir des données ainsi collectées, et se pose la question de l’intérêt des réfugiés dans ce processus. « Les humanitaires sont poussés à utiliser ces nouvelles technologies, expose-t-elle, qui sont vues comme un gage de fiabilité par les bailleurs de fonds. Mais la #technologisation n’est pas toujours dans l’intérêt des réfugiés. En cas de fuite ou de hackage des bases de données, cela les expose même à des dangers. »

      Un rapport de Human Rights Watch (HRW) (https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/15/un-shared-rohingya-data-without-informed-consent), publié mardi 15 juin, alerte ainsi sur des #transferts_de_données biométriques appartenant à des #Rohingyas réfugiés au Bangladesh. Ces données, collectées par le Haut-commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) de l’ONU, ont été transmises par le gouvernement du Bangladesh à l’État birman. Si le HCR a réagi (https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/press/2021/6/60c85a7b4/news-comment-statement-refugee-registration-data-collection-bangladesh.html) en affirmant que les personnes concernées avaient donné leur accord à ce #transfert_de_données pour préparer un éventuel retour en Birmanie, rien ne permet cependant de garantir qu’ils seront bien reçus si leur nom « bipe » au moment de passer la frontière.

      https://www.rfi.fr/fr/technologies/20210620-pour-les-r%C3%A9fugi%C3%A9s-la-biom%C3%A9trie-tout-au-long-du-chemin

      #smart_borders #tri #catégorisation #déterritorialisation #réfugiés_rohingyas

      –---

      Sur les doigts brûlés pour ne pas se faire identifier par les empreintes digitales, voir la scène du film Qu’ils reposent en paix de Sylvain George, dont j’ai fait une brève recension :

      Instant tragique : ce qu’un migrant appelle la « prière ». Ce moment collectif où les migrants tentent de faire disparaître leurs empreintes digitales. Étape symbolique où ils se défont de leur propre identité.

      https://visionscarto.net/a-calais-l-etat-ne-peut-dissoudre

  • China : Big Data Program Targets Xinjiang’s Muslims
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/12/09/china-big-data-program-targets-xinjiangs-muslims

    Leaked List of Over 2,000 Detainees Demonstrates Automated Repression (New York) – A big data program for policing in China’s Xinjiang region arbitrarily selects Turkic Muslims for possible detention, Human Rights Watch said today. A leaked list of over 2,000 detainees from Aksu prefecture provided to Human Rights Watch is further evidence of China’s use of technology in its repression of the Muslim population. The big data program, the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), apparently (...)

    #algorithme #biométrie #racisme #comportement #discrimination #HumanRightsWatch

  • How the Tech-Driven Overhaul of the UK’s Social Security System Worsens Poverty
    https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/09/29/automated-hardship/how-tech-driven-overhaul-uks-social-security-system-worsens

    How the Tech-Driven Overhaul of the UK’s Social Security System Worsens Poverty “Janet R.,” 35, a single mother who works at a college student advice center in London, suddenly found herself on the verge of financial ruin. On January 31, 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the United Kingdom’s ministry for social security, transferred her to a new benefits system known as Universal Credit. In early March, she received her first monthly payment. When she saw that it would only be (...)

    #algorithme #technologisme #discrimination #pauvreté #HumanRightsWatch

    ##pauvreté

  • Interview : Don’t Fear the Machines, Fear the People Running Them
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/29/interview-dont-fear-machines-fear-people-running-them

    What Happens When You Take The ‘Human’ Out Of Human Rights ? Governments worldwide increasingly use automation to deliver social welfare programs to people. They claim automation helps speed up the delivery of welfare support. But losing human input can spell danger for people’s livelihoods. As new research shows, badly-designed algorithms in the UK are miscalculating the financial support people are entitled to, and plunging people – even those with jobs - into debt and poverty. Amos Toh (...)

    #algorithme #technologisme #discrimination #pauvreté #HumanRightsWatch

    ##pauvreté

  • #Canada: Climate Crisis Toll on First Nations’ Food Supply | Human Rights Watch
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/21/canada-climate-crisis-toll-first-nations-food-supply
    https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/10/202010americas_canada_climate+change_main.jpg

    Climate change is taking a growing toll on First Nations in Canada, depleting food sources and affecting health.
    Canada is contributing to the climate crisis, which acutely affects Indigenous peoples who live off the land.
    Canada should urgently scale up its efforts to reduce emissions, and provide financial and technical support to First Nations dealing with the effects.

    (Ottawa) – Climate change is taking a growing toll on First Nations in Canada, depleting food sources and affecting health, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Canadian government is not adequately supporting First Nations’ efforts to adapt to the mounting crisis and is failing to do its part to reduce the global greenhouse gas emissions that are driving it.

    #premières_nations #climat #peuples_autochtones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ping @isskein @karine4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      #forensic_architecture #architecture_forensique

    • EU Border Agency Frontex Complicit in Greek Refugee Pushback Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      –---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Le gouvernement grec a également nié catégoriquement ces accusations.

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

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

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

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

    • Έστειλαν πίσω 200 πρόσφυγες γιατί ήταν… τζιχαντιστές

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


      Πρωτοσέλιδο

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

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

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

    • Greece’s coast guard accused of mass migrant pushbacks

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

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

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

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

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

      Abuse on board

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

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

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

      ’Largest pushback’ ABR has documented

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

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

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

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

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

      Tensions on migration in Greece

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

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

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

      State pushes ahead with migrant camps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Why did the meeting take place?

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

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

      What were the outcomes?

      Johansson remarked on twitter after the meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Members of EU Parliament reactions:

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

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

      An successful outcome: an independent inquiry:

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

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

    • EU erhöht Druck auf Frontex-Chef

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

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

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

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

      Keine Äußerung von Frontex und Griechenland

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

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

      Griechen haben Angst vor Bloßstellung

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri (Übersetzung von FragDenStaat)

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

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

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

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

      Menschenrechte geprüft in vier Stunden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      –---

      Thread sur twitter:

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

      –---

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

      –—

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

      –---

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

      –---

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

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

      –—

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

      –—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • La Grèce fortement soupçonnée de refouler les migrants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • EU border chief urged to quit over migrant pushback claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Frontex is taking us to court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • S&Ds call for Frontex Director to resign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Birgit Sippel, S&D LIBE coordinator, added:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • #Seehofer deckte offenbar griechische Verbrechen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri has been accused by a senior European Commission official of making statements “in a misleading manner” at a parliamentary hearing in December, when MEPs questioned him over the agency’s alleged role in pushbacks and the new fundamental rights monitoring framework included in 2019 legislation.

      Bang to rights

      In a letter obtained by Statewatch, Monique Pariat (the Director-General of the Commission’s migration and home affairs department), expresses “dismay” at Leggeri’s appearance before the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) on 1 December and rebukes, in no uncertain terms, the account he provided of the agency’s attempts to implement its new fundamental rights obligations.

      Those obligations include a fully functioning and independent fundamental rights office, an accessible complaints mechanism, and a credible serious incident reporting mechanism – the aim of which is to prevent, or at least ensure the reporting and investigation of, human rights abuses witnessed or committed by officials deployed on Frontex operations.

      A key role is foreseen in all this for the fundamental rights officer (FRO), who is supposed to head a team of at least 40 fundamental rights monitors – all of whom the agency was legally obliged to have recruited by 5 December 2020. However, it failed to do so.

      Blame game

      Leggeri told MEPs that although he personally prioritised the swift recruitment of fundamental rights staff, vacancy notices published by the agency in November 2019 were withdrawn on the request of the Commission, and subsequent delays in agreeing the seniority of the posts meant that vacancy notices were only published again in November 2020.

      Pariat does not dispute these points, but underlines that the Commission was obliged to request the withdrawal of the notices, because the Management Board had not approved them, as required by the 2019 Frontex Regulation. Without that approval, the letter says that “the publication of these vacancies was plain and simply unlawful” (emphasis in original).

      She adds that the Frontex Regulation requires the involvement of the FRO in the appointment of their deputy, but there was no such involvement prior to the 2019 vacancy notice publication. The Commission had to intervene to request removal of the vacancy notices, says Pariat, “to prevent serious irregularities which could jeopardise the well-functioning and the reputation of the Agency.”

      Bad reputation

      The agency’s reputation has nevertheless taken a battering in recent months. Frontex has faced numerous accusations that it either knew of or has been involved in pushbacks at Greece’s sea border with Turkey, leading the Socialists & Democrats – the second-largest group in the European Parliament – to call for Leggeri’s resignation. There are numerous other reports of similar violent incidents in the Balkans involving officials deployed on Frontex missions.

      The EU anti-fraud agency, OLAF, has also launched an investigation into the border agency, although the exact reasons for this remain unclear. OLAF’s remit allows it to carry out “administrative investigations for the purpose of fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the Union.”

      Leggeri has said that the agency will be undertaking a thorough investigation into the allegations of pushbacks, although the working group set up to investigate the affair is made up representatives from the agency’s Management Board and does not include the Fundamental Rights Officer or the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights.

      “Active resistance”

      A document cited by Greek newspaper Kathimerini suggests that fundamental rights are not one of Leggeri’s main interests. The document, provided to the paper by someone described as having “knowledge of the inner workings of Frontex,” says Leggeri told agency staff that “reporting pushbacks involving Frontex personnel is not a route to popularity or promotion,” and that the serous incident reporting (SIR) mechanism is “intentionally centralized to be slow, cumbersome and very discreet”.

      According to the paper, the document also says that Leggeri “actively resisted” hiring the 40 fundamental rights officers required by the Frontex Regulation, and told staff at the agency in early 2020 that “it is not a priority.”

      Pariat’s letter suggests that Leggeri himself delayed the procedure for recruiting new fundamental rights staff by five months, because of his “insistence on an arrangement which would not have been compatible with the EBCG [Frontex] Regulation”.

      There was a “surprising reluctance” from the agency to follow the Commission’s advice on implementing the new fundamental rights framework, says Pariat. She argues that “if the Agency had followed the Commission’s timely guidance and suggestions, the main milestones… could have been completed on time.”

      Even though the recruitment procedure is now going ahead, concerns remain. At the LIBE hearing in December, several MEPs questioned whether the staff grade applicable to the 40 posts will confer adequate authority and independence to the fundamental rights officers.

      At the time of publication, Frontex had not responded to a request for comment.

      Documentation

      - European Commission letter to Mr Leggeri, 18 December: Subject: Your letter of 4 December 2020 (ref: CAB/KARO/10563/2020) (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1708/eu-com-letter-to-frontex-18-12-20.pdf
      – Fabrice Leggeri, Answers to written questions following the LIBE Committee meeting 1 December (pdf) - annex to this letter (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1709/eu-frontex-written-questions-answers-libe-hearing-1-12-20.pdf

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-frontex-director-accused-of-misleading-parliament-over-fundamental-ri

    • Refoulements et gestion contestée : la pression s’intensifie sur le patron de Frontex

      Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de l’agence européenne de protection des frontières, est sous la pression de la Commission et du Parlement.

      Ce n’est pas un appel à la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de Frontex, mais cela y ressemble fort. Rencontrant, lundi 18 janvier, plusieurs médias européens, dont Le Monde, Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, a été interrogée sur un éventuel départ du patron français de ce qui est désormais l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes. « Je ne fais pas de commentaire là-dessus. Des procédures ont été lancées, elles ne sont pas terminées. Mais je pense qu’elles doivent l’être », indiquait la commissaire socialiste suédoise.

      Des propos prudents mais qui cachent mal le fait qu’entre la Commission et Frontex le torchon brûle. Pour preuve, une lettre envoyée au siège de l’agence en décembre 2020 par #Monique_Pariat, chef de la direction générale de la migration et des affaires intérieures à Bruxelles. Un long réquisitoire reprochant à M. Leggeri des retards, des carences dans la gestion et des « hésitations incompréhensibles » à suivre les instructions. Voire un #mensonge au sujet du recrutement des personnels qui devaient être chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux au sein de l’Agence.

      Les « procédures » visant M. Leggeri et évoquées par Mme Johansson sont multiples. Et elles visent essentiellement la possible implication de Frontex dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Union, avant qu’ils aient pu introduire d’éventuelles demandes d’asile. En octobre 2020, plusieurs médias évoquaient, témoignages et images à l’appui, six cas de refoulements en mer Egée. Avec, notamment, les manœuvres dangereuses d’un navire de Frontex, qui aurait pu entraîner le #naufrage d’une embarcation. La direction de l’Agence démentait à l’époque toute infraction.

      Constitution d’un groupe de travail

      L’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union a lancé une enquête et, le 7 décembre 2020, les bureaux de M. Leggeri et de son directeur de cabinet ont été perquisitionnés. L’investigation porterait, aussi, sur des faits de #harcèlement et des erreurs de gestion.

      Plusieurs groupes politiques du Parlement européen ont, eux, transmis une longue liste de questions au directeur exécutif après qu’il a été entendu, le 1er décembre 2020, par l’Assemblée. M. Leggeri avait indiqué qu’une #enquête_interne n’avait pas prouvé l’implication de membres de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux. Peu convaincus, les eurodéputés du groupe socialiste ont exigé sa #démission, d’autres groupes ont réclamé des explications complémentaires.

      Au sein de Frontex même, un #groupe_de_travail avait été constitué en novembre, sur insistance de la Commission. Son rapport devrait être examiné lors d’une réunion du conseil d’administration, mercredi 20 et jeudi 21 janvier. Ce conseil est composé de représentants des pays membres de l’Union et de deux membres de la Commission.

      L’un des principaux reproches adressés à M. Leggeri est qu’il aurait tergiversé pour embaucher la quarantaine de personnes qui, en théorie, auraient dû être à pied d’œuvre dès décembre 2020 pour veiller au respect des droits des migrants et demandeurs d’asile. Dans la lettre de Mme Pariat qu’il a reçue en décembre, le directeur se voit reprocher d’avoir agi « de manière trompeuse » en ne livrant pas les explications correctes aux parlementaires quant à l’absence de ces employés. Mme Johansson pense également que certains des propos qu’il avait tenus n’étaient « pas vrais ».

      Action « illégale »

      La commissaire suédoise n’a, jusqu’ici, pas officiellement retiré sa confiance au directeur. Elle endosse cependant les critiques qui lui sont adressées par sa direction générale, qui évoque encore une action « illégale » de M. Leggeri en 2019, avec la publication de deux vacances de postes dirigeants qui n’avaient pas été approuvées par le conseil d’administration.

      Au Parlement, où la plénière débattait, mardi, du pacte migratoire proposé récemment par la Commission, la tension monte également. Mme Johansson a insisté sur la nécessité pour les pays de l’Union, les candidats à l’adhésion et « les agences européennes aussi » d’adhérer pleinement au respect des #droits_fondamentaux. Et plusieurs députés ont à nouveau mis en cause Frontex, l’élue socialiste bulgare #Elena_Yoncheva jugeant qu’en matière de « pushbacks » l’agence fait désormais « partie du problème, pas de la solution ».

      Une situation embarrassante pour toute l’Union : dotée maintenant d’uniformes, d’armes et d’un budget passé au total à 5,6 milliards d’euros pour la période 2021-2027, l’agence des garde-frontières peut difficilement voir la #légitimité de son principal dirigeant remise en question au plus haut niveau. A ce stade, celui-ci n’a pas réagi officiellement aux accusations qui le visent. Il pourrait le faire prochainement, selon un membre de son entourage.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/20/refoulements-et-gestion-contestee-la-pression-s-intensifie-sur-le-patron-de-

    • Le garde-frontière Frontex en pleine tourmente

      Les refoulements aux frontières européennes fragilisent la position du directeur de Frontex, l’agence européenne de garde-frontières. La Commission reproche à Fabrice Leggeri d’avoir ralenti l’embauche d’officiers de contrôle des droits fondamentaux. Son agence est soumise à plusieurs #enquêtes, dont une de l’#office_européen_anti-fraude. Des députés demandent sa #démission.

      Bruxelles (Belgique).– Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur de Frontex, est cerné de toutes parts. Sa position, à la tête de l’agence européenne de garde-côtes et de garde-frontières, est fragilisée suite à de récents scandales concernant des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile vers la Turquie, auxquels aurait participé Frontex. Des députés appellent à sa démission. La médiatrice européenne, #Emily_O’Reilly, a ouvert une #enquête le 11 novembre dernier pour évaluer le fonctionnement du mécanisme de #plainte_interne à Frontex. Même l’office européen de lutte anti-fraude investigue et scrute la gestion de l’agence.

      Le dernier coup de boutoir vient de la #Commission_européenne. Dans une lettre du 18 décembre, la directrice générale chargée des migrations et des affaires intérieures, Monique Pariat, adressait des mots durs à Fabrice Leggeri au sujet d’irrégularités et de retards dans les procédures de recrutement d’un officier des droits fondamentaux, de son adjoint et de 40 contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux, qui devaient faire partie de l’agence le 5 décembre 2020 au plus tard et qui ne sont toujours pas embauchés : « C’est la responsabilité de la Commission […] d’intervenir pour empêcher que des irrégularités sérieuses viennent compromettre le bon fonctionnement et la réputation de l’agence. »

      La réputation de Frontex a pourtant déjà été écornée à de multiples reprises dans le passé, sans que l’exécutif bruxellois s’en émeuve. « Pendant longtemps la Commission a protégé Fabrice Leggeri, commente #Birgit_Sippel, eurodéputée allemande du groupe des socialistes et démocrates. Il semble que le vent tourne, notamment sous la pression du #Parlement_européen. »

      C’est le 23 octobre 2020 que le vent a tourné. Une série de médias européens, dont Der Spiegel et Bellingcat, publiaient alors une enquête fouillée suggérant que l’agence européenne avait, entre mars et août 2020, soit assisté à des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile en mer Égée par des garde-côtes grecs, sans les avoir rapportés, soit participé activement au renvoi de canots vers les côtes turques, alors que les refoulements sont strictement prohibés par le droit international. Le 8 juin, un navire de l’opération « #Poséidon » de Frontex, battant pavillon roumain, aurait même bloqué un canot de migrants avant de contribuer à le repousser.

      Fabrice Leggeri est venu s’expliquer devant le Parlement européen le 1er décembre. Selon lui, l’enquête interne menée par ses services concluait à « l’absence de preuves » de refoulement dans les cas mentionnés par la presse. Il insistait sur le fait que les activités de contrôle aux frontières avaient toujours lieu « à la demande et sous le commandement des autorités nationales », Frontex intervenant en coordination des opérations maritimes, en mobilisant des avions, des navires et des garde-frontières originaires des 27 États membres.

      Ces déclarations élusives ont hérissé de nombreux députés européens. « La façon dont il a répondu à nos questions montre que Fabrice Leggeri ne prend pas vraiment au sérieux ces allégations. Frontex a besoin de changements structurels, et je pense qu’il n’est pas la bonne personne pour les mener », avance Tineke Strik, eurodéputée néerlandaise des Verts.

      De la #gauche_unitaire_européenne (#GUE) au groupe centriste de #Renew, les critiques pleuvent à l’encontre de Fabrice Leggeri, mais l’attitude à adopter crée des divisions. La centriste néerlandaise, #Sophie_In’t_Veld, du groupe Renew, milite pour qu’une commission d’enquête parlementaire soit mise sur pied, « car on parle d’actes criminels ». Avant de réclamer la démission du directeur – qui ne peut être décidée que par le conseil d’administration de Frontex composé des États membres et de la Commission – la députée pense « qu’il faut d’abord faire toute la lumière sur les faits ».

      Au sein du groupe des socialistes et démocrates, des députés veulent aller plus vite. « Pourquoi perdre un an avec une #commission_d’enquête ?, s’interroge #Birgit_Sippel. Les rapports décrivant les violations des droits humains aux frontières sont là. Pour l’instant, Fabrice Leggeri se cache et échappe à ses responsabilités. » Des députés de la GUE comme des #Verts réclament à la fois une commission d’enquête et la #démission du directeur. Quant à la droite, le Parti populaire européen n’a pas encore de position sur ces thèmes, mais voit d’un mauvais œil cette idée de commission d’enquête.

      Le mastodonte sans contrôle

      Pour Yves Pascouau, directeur du programme Europe à l’association Res-Publica, par ailleurs spécialiste des questions migratoires européenne (et élu de la majorité nantaise), « l’augmentation des moyens et des pouvoirs de Frontex ne peut pas se faire sans une augmentation de ses responsabilités ».

      Frontex, au fil des ans, est devenu un mastodonte. En 2012, son budget était de 89,5 millions d’euros. Il est en 2020 de 460 millions. 5,6 milliards d’euros ont été dégagés pour la période 2021-2027. Il s’agit de la plus grosse agence de l’UE qui sera dotée, d’ici 2027, de 10 000 garde-côtes véritablement européens, avec leurs propres uniformes. « Cela permettra d’augmenter la transparence et la responsabilité de Frontex », veut croire une source européenne.

      Aujourd’hui, Frontex se déploie sous commandement des autorités nationales. Mais les agents qui agissent en son nom ne sont pas exempts de responsabilités. Ils ont l’obligation d’envoyer un rapport aux dirigeants de Frontex à chaque incident sérieux auquel ils assistent, y compris lorsque des violations des droits humains sont observées.

      Le Forum consultatif de Frontex, qui réunit des institutions européennes, des organisations internationales et ONG, s’interroge inlassablement sur « l’effectivité » de ce système. En 2018, seuls 3 incidents sérieux relatifs à des violations de droits humains furent comptabilisés par l’agence, et 9 en 2019, sans que l’on sache quel a été le suivi de ces dossiers.

      Quant à l’embauche des milliers de garde-frontières, elle doit être contrebalancée par davantage de contrôles des activités de Frontex. L’officier des droits fondamentaux, son adjoint et sa petite équipe d’au minimum 40 contrôleurs sont considérés comme la clef de voûte de ce système de surveillance du respect des #droits_humains.

      Dans la lettre adressée à Fabrice Leggeri, Monique Pariat regrette qu’au 18 décembre, aucun de ces recrutements n’ait été effectué. Elle pointe la « réticence surprenante de Frontex » à suivre les lignes directrices de la Commission, « ce qui a encore davantage entravé et retardé cet important processus ». La directrice générale dénonce encore la démarche « illégale » du directeur général qui avait publié, en 2019, une première annonce pour le poste d’officier des droits fondamentaux, sans l’accord du conseil d’administration de Frontex qui sera pourtant le supérieur hiérarchique direct de ce futur employé.

      Elle l’accuse encore d’avoir présenté les faits aux eurodéputés « de manière trompeuse ». L’attaque est frontale. Au-delà de l’enjeu institutionnel, Giorgos Kosmopoulos, du bureau européen d’Amnesty International, estime que « l’embauche de contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux n’est pas une mauvaise chose à condition qu’ils aient véritablement les moyens de mener des enquêtes, d’aller sur le terrain ». Et sur le terrain, justement, les refoulements aux frontières de l’Europe sont documentés et très nombreux. En #Grèce, en #Croatie, en #Hongrie.

      En mars 2020, le comité européen pour la prévention de la torture rapportait des allégations « crédibles et consistantes » de refoulements et détentions arbitraires, souvent accompagnées de violences, à la frontière gréco-turque. « On ne parle pas de cas isolés, ajoute Giorgos Kosmopoulos. La pratique est si répandue et généralisée qu’il est impossible que Frontex ne soit pas au courant, vu son implication sur le terrain. »

      Le directeur de Frontex, s’il estime qu’il existe « des violations graves […] des droits fondamentaux » doit mettre un terme à l’activité litigieuse à laquelle participe son agence. « Le directeur doit vérifier la situation sur le terrain et le cas échéant il doit retirer ses équipes pour qu’elles ne soient pas liées à des violations de droits humains, mais ce n’est jamais arrivé », conclut Giorgos Kosmopoulos.

      Dans ce contexte, Tineke Strik pense qu’une démission de Fabrice Leggeri, certes bienvenue, « ne résoudra pas tout. Les problèmes sont structurels. Il faudra lancer une enquête approfondie sur le fonctionnement de Frontex ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/210121/le-garde-frontiere-frontex-en-pleine-tourmente?onglet=full

    • Validating Border Violence on the Aegean: Frontex’s Internal Records

      The Aegean Sea, separating Turkey from Greece’s ‘hotspot’ islands, is a site of longstanding and increasingly visible border violence: the systematic use of inflatable life rafts by the Hellenic Coast Guard to push people back to Turkey has been widely documented since March last year. This maritime borderzone also stages the operational theatre of Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon, under which patrol boats, helicopters and surveillance planes have been deployed to patrol the extensive breadth of water.

      Frontex repeatedly denied any involvement in these pushbacks (see here and here), stressing its commitment to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of fundamental rights. This ‘modus operandi’ in which fundamental rights become a rhetorical defence could no longer hold after investigative reporters showed visual evidence of Frontex’s complicit role in pushbacks, prompting further media scrutiny and pressure by the European Parliament and Commission.

      In November, Efsyn, a Greek media outlet, published an eighteen-page long Frontex internal document addressed to the agency’s Management Board. The document aimed at answering questions by Member States and the Commission about the on-going pushbacks in the Aegean. The document, which fuelled Frontex’s recent internal inquiry, lists a series of so-called ‘incidents’ and, at times, offers detailed accounts of the previously denied pushbacks. However, these were not recorded as such.

      A closer look at the document reveals numerous ‘#JORA_incidents’ classified as ‘prevention of departure’, as this transcript from August 19, 2020, illustrates:

      frontex

      The #Joint_Operations_Reporting_Application (#JORA) is the main information system that collects and stores all ‘border related incidents’ from Frontex joint operations. Such incidents range from Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, interceptions, Serious Incident Reports to, as the one above, so-called preventions of departure. The leaked document contains twenty of the latter, all following a similar pattern: Firstly, the location of the rubber boat is recorded in Turkish territorial waters; second, Frontex assets are “excused from the scene” after detection; and, finally, a rehearsed ending: the boat “altered course on her own initiative/will and headed towards the Turkish coasts” or, alternately, the Turkish Coast Guard “took over responsibility”.

      Importantly, these JORA incidents coexist with the regular documenting of border violence. Descriptions of boats of asylum-seekers returning to Turkey of their own volition jar with regular testimonies describing the coercive methods employed to push them back. Alarm Phone, Aegean Boat Report and Border Violence Monitoring Network document human rights violations occurring at the same border, on the same dates and, often, at the same time as the JORA incidents.

      On the same day as the JORA incident above:

      Logging the border

      JORA incidents, together with information collected via Eurosur, form the backbone of Europe’s external borders and migration situational picture, Frontex’s narrative of the border. Yet, what is and is not accounted for in JORA and how, has not received much attention. Contrary to the few Serious Incident Reports related to violations of fundamental rights, which are dealt with by the Fundamental Rights Officer and presented to the Management Board, other incidents recorded in JORA don’t reach the public domain. Once inserted and validated, they become a dot on a map at the Frontex Situation Centre in Warsaw. They are devised to feed into risk analyses, maps and weekly analytical overviews.

      This ‘business-as-usual’ mode of reporting is mostly done by a few officers from the host Member State— in Greece, by the Hellenic Coast Guard and Police—who insert incidents into a standardised template through a set of rigid, mandatory fields. Reporting is not done by the officers on the patrol boats but mostly those who sit at coordination centres. Once inserted in the system, incidents are sent to the International Coordination Centre and the Frontex Situation Centre where they are cross-checked with reports from both Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex deployed officers for validation. This validation process does not statically move in one direction; incidents can go back and forth in the validation chain. The final validation is done by a “specialized team of experts” at Frontex headquarters as the leaked document explains. Yet, incidents can be re-initiated and modified even after finalisation (see work by Pollozek).

      The design of the system allows for the rehearsed recording of formulaic bordering practices that, if closely examined, resemble its coexistent violent forms. Shading into the routine, the JORA records circulate regularly from the islands to Piraeus and Warsaw. While the full JORA archive is inaccessible to the public, the reviewed incidents give us insight into how a particular doctrine of border enforcement is being sustained by the agency and to what effects.

      Normalising violence, eroding rights

      The effects of these records arguably extend beyond the tactical level of border policing. Through their production, a narrative arc is formed by the recorded incidents, generating a specific mode of understanding. Data must be made intelligible to the JORA system and officials along the chain before it can be validated. As a result, even acts of violence such as pushbacks can get translated into mundane logs and thus, brought within the remit of everyday border enforcement and legality.

      The leaked document asserts that the “the notion of ‘prevention of departure”, according to which these ‘incidents’ are classified, should be interpreted “in conjunction with the provisions of Regulation 656/2014, in particular Articles 6 and 7”. While the precise legal meaning of this category in this context remains unclear, its ramifications for the right to leave a country are concerning.

      Regulation 656/2014 indeed provides legal basis (in certain factual circumstances) for the interception of boats carrying asylum-seekers. Yet, it clearly stipulates that the actions that official entities may lawfully take to enforce the border must be compliant with their obligations under EU and international law, including, inter alia, international human rights and refugee law. Moreover, it states: “This Regulation should not affect the responsibilities of search and rescue authorities, including for ensuring that coordination and cooperation is conducted in such a way that the persons rescued can be delivered to a place of safety.”

      The records, however, present an account of border enforcement that exists in isolation from human rights and humanitarian commitments. The dangerous conditions in which border enforcement takes place and the vulnerability of asylum seekers to these conditions are rendered irrelevant and thereby, banalised. Rubber boats carrying illegalized migrants are generally considered seaworthy, not recognised as in distress, regardless of how many people they carry or the fluctuating weather conditions in the Aegean. In none of the incidents contained in the leaked document was a SAR triggered by the Hellenic Coast Guard or Frontex. In this sense, JORA acts as a mediator that transforms, translates, distorts and modifies the meaning of these ‘incidents’. Through the designation of bureaucratic categories (e.g. prevention of departure), JORA codifies and transforms situations that should trigger humanitarian and human rights obligations into legitimate practices of border control. In the process, the duty to render assistance at sea is distorted, and the obligation to facilitate access to asylum is obscured.

      In the context of on-going internal discussions about the legality of interceptions at sea, Frontex’s internal records reveal the practices deemed acceptable by the agency and their interpretation of international legal obligations. The records provide insight into a vision of border enforcement, crystallised at the boundaries of the global north, that perpetuates the violent securitisation of borders to the detriment of human mobility, dignity and safety. They carve out a space where border control activities are shielded from scrutiny, erasing human rights from the operational script.

      Any comments about this post? Get in touch with us! Send us an email, or post a comment here or on Facebook. You can also tweet us.

      https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2021/01/validating-border

    • Five migrant pushback claims under scrutiny

      The board of directors of the European border agency Frontex, which met on Wednesday and Thursday, has decided to further investigate five of 13 reported cases of illegal migrants pushbacks last year, with the alleged help of Frontex guards, from Greece into Turkish territorial waters in the eastern Aegean.

      The board deemed that Frontex did not provide the necessary information and clarifications for the five cases under investigation.

      In view of this, the team investigating the claims has been given additional time to complete its work and present its final conclusions to a new extraordinary board meeting scheduled for February 26.

      With regard to the other eight cases, the board said that there is no evidence to confirm any violations. It also accepted that some of these incidents unfolded in Turkish territorial waters, and in others the migrant boats turned back on their own accord.

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/261560/article/ekathimerini/news/five-migrant-pushback-claims-under-scrutiny

    • L’agence européenne Frontex fragilisée par les accusations d’expulsions illégales

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, qui a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie, est accusée d’avoir participé au « pushback », qui consiste à repousser les migrants sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile.
      Accusations d’implication dans des « pushbacks » – des refoulements illégaux de migrants et demandeurs d’asile aux frontières –, enquêtes de l’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union européenne (UE) et de la Commission de Bruxelles, mise en cause de son directeur, Fabrice Leggeri : l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Frontex, chargée de surveiller les frontières extérieures de l’UE, traverse de grosses turbulences. Mercredi 27 janvier, elle a même été contrainte d’annoncer qu’elle allait arrêter ses opérations en Hongrie, une première dans l’histoire de cette institution, fondée en 2004.
      « Nos efforts communs pour protéger les frontières extérieures ne peuvent réussir que si nous veillons à ce que notre coopération et nos activités soient pleinement conformes aux lois de l’UE », a expliqué un porte-parole, en critiquant implicitement les pratiques illégales de la police hongroise, auxquelles l’agence européenne participait pourtant depuis la crise des réfugiés de 2015.
      En cause, la pratique du « pushback », systématisée par le premier ministre ultranationaliste, Viktor Orban, et développée ailleurs dans l’Union. Le fait de repousser les migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile n’a pas été partout aussi clairement assumé qu’en Hongrie, mais la Grèce, la Croatie, l’Italie ou la Slovénie, notamment, ont été mises an cause pour s’être livrées, elles aussi, à cette pratique illégale. Un « Livre noir », épais de 1 500 pages et présenté récemment par un réseau d’ONG, a recensé pas moins de 900 cas de ce type, concernant près de 13 000 personnes.
      Expulsions inhumaines
      Depuis une loi adoptée en 2016, la Hongrie considère, elle, que tous les migrants arrivant sur son sol peuvent être immédiatement renvoyés vers la Serbie voisine. Lorsqu’ils sont arrêtés, après avoir réussi à franchir la clôture que M. Orban a fait construire tout le long de la frontière, ou même à Budapest, les migrants se voient systématiquement refuser de déposer une demande d’asile et sont expulsés sans autre forme de procès, dans des conditions parfois inhumaines.
      Présents à la frontière hongroise depuis 2015, les agents de Frontex ont participé à cette politique, malgré les critiques des organisations non gouvernementales. « La Hongrie est le seul pays à avoir légalisé les “pushbacks” et à les pratiquer aussi ouvertement. La police hongroise publie même des chiffres tous les jours sur le nombre de personnes renvoyées en Serbie », dénonce Andras Lederer, du Comité Helsinki hongrois, une ONG spécialisée dans l’aide aux migrants. Il estime que la Hongrie a pratiqué 50 000 refoulements depuis 2016. A l’issue d’une longue bataille juridique, la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne a estimé, le 17 décembre 2020, que les pratiques hongroises enfreignent les directives régissant le droit d’asile.
      Malgré cet arrêt, le gouvernement de Budapest a refusé de modifier sa législation et a continué ces pratiques. « La Hongrie ne va pas céder devant la pression des forces pro-immigration », affirmait encore le porte-parole du gouvernement, Zoltan Kovacs, jeudi 28 janvier. « Bruxelles veut nous prendre le peu d’aide qu’on avait », a-t-il ajouté en réaction au retrait de Frontex, devenu inéluctable après l’arrêt de la Cour de Luxembourg. Pour M. Lederer, ce retrait est en revanche « bienvenu » : « La Hongrie ne pourra plus se cacher derrière la présence de Frontex pour continuer cette pratique. »
      Violences aux frontières de l’Union
      Avec un contingent censé atteindre 10 000 hommes, un budget pluriannuel passé à 5,6 milliards d’euros et son rôle de gardienne stricte des frontières, en association avec les forces nationales, l’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est l’une des pièces essentielles de la politique migratoire de l’UE et du « pacte » proposé en 2020 pour la Commission. Sa mise en cause, alors même qu’elle est loin de tourner à plein régime, est de mauvais augure.
      Jeudi 28 janvier, alors que les vingt-sept ministres de l’intérieur, réunis en visioconférence, évoquaient – en présence du directeur de Frontex – le dossier de la migration, l’Agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés évoquait un droit d’asile « menacé » en Europe et disait recevoir « de nombreux rapports » sur les violences exercées aux frontières de l’Union.
      D’où l’attention toute particulière que porte la commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, au dossier des « pushbacks ». La responsable suédoise se satisfait-elle des explications de la direction de Frontex, dont le conseil d’administration affirmait, le 21 janvier, qu’il n’avait pas trouvé de preuves de violation des droits de l’homme dans les cas qu’il a examinés ? « Sur la base des informations fournies », il n’aurait « pu établir de preuves ». Il a toutefois précisé que ses conclusions ne concernaient que certains incidents en Grèce et que des clarifications étaient nécessaires. Cinq cas problématiques de possibles refoulements impliquant Frontex sont encore examinés.
      Jeudi, devant les ministres, Mme Johansson a réclamé « toutes les analyses nécessaires » pour, dit-elle, rétablir la confiance dans l’agence. Elle a aussi évoqué un projet de réforme, incluant la nomination de trois sous-directeurs et la mise en place – enfin – d’un système de surveillance des droits humains.
      Le débat « recule »
      Au-delà du sort de Frontex, la question est de savoir si une définition d’une véritable politique migratoire européenne, avec une refonte des règles de l’asile et une solidarité accrue entre les pays, a une chance de se réaliser. Confirmant que le débat sur le « pacte » élaboré par la Commission « n’a pas beaucoup avancé », le secrétaire d’Etat belge à la migration, Sammy Mahdi, déclarait, jeudi, au quotidien La Libre Belgique qu’il fallait le rendre « rationnel ». Pour sortir les discussions de l’ornière, pour vérifier que la proposition de la Commission est opérationnelle et, enfin, pour que chacun annonce vraiment ses intentions, M. Mahdi propose « une simulation » : sur la base des chiffres de l’année 2019, chaque pays préciserait ce qu’il pourrait accomplir concernant l’accueil, la solidarité, le financement des infrastructures d’accueil aux frontières, etc.
      Un communiqué du secrétaire d’Etat évoquait une possible évolution de la Hongrie et de ses partenaires du groupe de Visegrad, à condition que soit satisfaite leur revendication (très floue) d’une solidarité « flexible ». Un participant à la réunion de jeudi faisait preuve de moins de conviction : « Faire avancer le débat ? Mais il recule ! » Vétéran des conseils européens sur la migration, le ministre luxembourgeois Jean Asselborn n’est pas loin de confirmer : « Nous sommes sans doute tous d’accord sur les contrôles aux frontières extérieures ou sur les retours. Mais pas sur la manière de respecter les droits humains des demandeurs d’asile, sur les relocalisations obligatoires ou sur l’impératif de solidarité » entre les pays européens. Les Etats prêts à respecter ces principes se compteraient, en effet, désormais sur les doigts d’une main.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/29/l-agence-europeenne-frontex-fragilisee-par-les-accusations-d-expulsions-ille

    • Refoulement de migrants : « Frontex se retranche toujours derrière ses États hôtes » (Migreurop)

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie après une décision de la Cour de justice européenne critiquant le système d’asile de ce pays. L’Office européen de lutte antifraude enquête de son côté sur la gouvernance de l’agence par son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri dont plusieurs eurodéputés demandent la démission. Frontex a-t-elle participé à des opérations de « pushback », initiées par la Hongrie, qui consistent à repousser des migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile ? Le décryptage de Brijitte Espuche, co-coordinatrice du réseau Migreurop.

      https://www.rfi.fr/fr/podcasts/invit%C3%A9-international/20210129-refoulement-de-migrants-frontex-se-retranche-toujours-derri%C3%A8re-ses

    • Frontex: Management Board pushes back against secrecy proposals in preliminary report

      Statewatch is publishing the preliminary report of the working group set up by the agency’s Management Board following allegations of involvement in pushbacks from Turkey to Greece. Amongst other things, the report indicates that Frontex has proposed labelling Serious Incident Reports as EU Classified Information, which would reduce transparency and, in turn, accountability.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim

    • Scandals Plunge Europe’s Border Agency into Turmoil

      Accusations of workplace harassment, mismanagement and financial irregularities have led to chaos at Europe’s border agency. The allegations weigh heavily on Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri.

      The men and women who are part of Europe’s new elite border force meet every morning at 9 a.m. for a video conference that is viewed on screens in countries like Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania. The Frontex officials usually discuss migration movements and human trafficking, But since the beginning of January, the internal meetings have focused primarily on low morale within the team.

      "Do something at last, or soon no one will work here anymore,” one border guard warned in one of the calls. The policemen and women who regularly complain about their woes are the European Union’s first dedicated border guards. They’re part of Frontex’s standing corps.

      For months now, Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency, and its head Fabrice Leggeri, have been embroiled in a series of scandals. Frontex has been accused of being involved in illegal repatriations of refugees at Europe’s external borders, workplace harassment and a possible case of fraud linked to the agency. Now the crisis has also reached the standing corps, the border management agency’s prestige project.

      Frontex plans to deploy up to 10,000 border guards to the EU’s external borders in the coming years. The civil servants were promised brand new equipment and EU jobs with lavish salaries and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally pushed for the creation of the standing corps. The stars of the EU flag sparkle on the sleeves of the new dark blue uniforms worn by the reserves.

      The job may sound glamorous on paper, but it is anything but in the countries where the reserve guards have been deployed, like Greece, Croatia and Albania. Several officers have told DER SPIEGEL of a shortage of agency vehicles, such that expensive SUVs must be rented instead — with officers allegedly even having to pay for gas themselves in some cases. They claim that expenses weren’t reimbursed for bureaucratic reasons, and that parts of the new uniforms were missing and had to be bought by the border guards themselves.

      The officers should be out hunting down criminals and catching smugglers, but Category 1 officers, who are directly employed by Frontex, so far haven’t been allowed to carry weapons because the agency failed to provide the legal basis for doing so in time. The result is that the border guards, supposedly members of an elite European force, have to be escorted on every one of their patrols by national security forces.

      When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex also said that the pandemic has created additional challenges for deploying the force, but things are back on track again. Yet the agency’s own officers don’t see it that way. It’s a "Potemkin reserve,” scoffs one. "It’s not worth it,” says another officer, who is thinking about quitting.

      The establishment of the standing corps is one of the EU’s most important migration policy projects. The purpose is to control irregular immigration. But now the European Commission and the member states must stand by and watch as it becomes the focus of ridicule.

      The fiasco over the standing corps has become emblematic of an agency that has been falling short of public expectations for years, and of an agency head who is accumulating more and more power but doesn’t seem to know how to use it correctly.

      Under Leggeri, Frontex has stumbled from one scandal to the next. Last autumn, DER SPIEGEL, together with international media partners, first reported that Frontex forces in the Aegean Sea were involved in illegal repatriations of refugees, which are called pushbacks. The Frontex Management Board is investigating the allegations and the EU Ombudsman has opened an inquiry. Leggeri himself is apparently obstructing the investigations.

      In January, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced it had launched an investigation into Frontex. Leggeri claims that the investigators are looking into the pushback reports and that he cannot provide any further comment. But DER SPIEGEL has found in its reporting that the accusations go much further. The investigation involves a possible case of fraud involving a service provider, allegations of workplace harassment and whether information was withheld from the agency’s fundamental rights officer, whose job is to monitor Frontex’s adherence to basic human rights laid out in EU charters, conventions and international law. Internal documents suggest that Leggeri’s entire leadership style is under scrutiny.

      What happened? How could the authority charged with protecting the EU’s external borders descend into such chaos? And what does it all mean for the EU’s migration policy?

      DER SPIEGEL, the media organization Lighthouse Reports and the French newspaper Libération interviewed nearly a dozen current and former Frontex officials in the reporting of this story. Most insisted that their names not be mentioned in the story for fear that they could lose their jobs. Leggeri, for his part, rejected an interview request.

      When combined with internal documents that DER SPIEGEL and its partners were able to view, the insiders’ reports paint a picture of an agency in turmoil.

      France Télécom: How Leggeri seized power at Frontex

      The headquarters of Frontex are located in an office complex in Warsaw’s Wola district, not far from the city center. For years, only a few officials worked here compiling reports on migration routes. Actual border guards were borrowed from national police forces.

      But the agency has grown from a budget of just over 6 million euros in 2005 to 460 million euros in 2020. By 2027, Europe’s taxpayers will have provided 5.6 billion euros in funding to the agency.

      Frontex now has its own border guards, called the standing corps, in addition to aircraft and drones that will soon be complemented by unmanned airships that will provide surveillance as they circle over the Aegean Sea. Frontex’s rise has had a lot to do with Leggeri, the man who has done more than anyone else to shape the agency.

      Leggeri, 52, was born in Mulhouse, in France’s Alsace region, and speaks fluent German. He studied at the École Nationale d’Administration in Strasbourg, a university that has long produced the French elite. Starting in 2013, he worked at the Interior Ministry in Paris in the department for irregular immigration. At the time, the government advocated for Frontex’s expansion, and two years later, Leggeri was named head of the agency.

      Colleagues describe Leggeri as a technocrat. At a Christmas party once, the team gathered around and he began talking with great pathos about the achievements of the "Frontex family.” But Leggeri was reading from his notepad. "It seemed like the whole things was out of his league,” recalled one audience member.

      During the course of Frontex’s expansion, Leggeri tailored the agency to precisely fit his needs. He expanded his cabinet, filling many important posts with fellow French compatriots.

      Frontex workers say Leggeri is on rarely seen in the hallways, and that all important decisions are made by a small inner circle. They describe him as being a control freak, with some former staffers even going so far as to call him a "dictator.” Leggeri "runs the agency like it’s a sub-prefecture,” says someone who has worked with him for a long time. "You may be able to run a French ministry that way, but not an international organization.”

      Frontex staffers have taken to calling Leggeri’s cabinet "France Télécom” when the bosses aren’t around. It’s a reference to the scandal at the French telecommunications authority, which involved systematic bullying and harassment so bad that it drove a number of employees to commit suicide.

      The resentment felt by many Frontex staffers is largely directed at one of Leggeri’s closest confidants: Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin. The Frenchman comes from an aristocratic family from southern France. He once worked for Bernard Carayon, a member of the French parliament, who used to be part of a far-right student union. De La Haye Jousselin is a reserve officer in the French army and has a thing for the military and uniforms. “De La Haye Jousselin is clearly on the right politically,” says someone who has known him for years. Now, he serves Leggeri as the head of his cabinet.

      Insiders say that de La Haye Jousselin leads with an iron fist, and that he is quick to lose his temper. Employees claim he insults people and engages in disrespectful behavior. The agency stated that Frontex has not received any official complaints about de La Haye Jousselin and also claimed that no cabinet member has been hired solely on the basis of their nationality. De La Haye Jousselin dismissed the accusations as "false and baseless.”

      But the behavior of Leggeri and his cabinet chief has consequences. Dissent seems to be frowned upon. And this is likely one of the reasons internal control mechanisms at the agency are becoming less effective.

      Inmaculada Arnáez has more than 20 years of experience in human rights issues. The Spanish lawyer has worked for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and she has been with Frontex since 2012. As the fundamental rights officer, she is supposed to operate independently of the executive director in her job as the agency’s internal watchdog. But when Leggeri took the helm in 2015, she quickly became aware of how little concern the new leader apparently had for human rights.

      Former Frontex employees report that Arnáez was left out in the cold. "We felt like Leggeri just bypassed her.” They claim that human rights had never been his priority.

      The final break between Leggeri and Arnáez came when the European Parliament granted the fundamental rights commissioner more powers in 2019. Arnáez was to be assisted by 40 human rights observers, which would have enabled her office to conduct its own investigations at Europe’s external borders. Apparently that was unthinkable for Leggeri.

      On Nov. 19, 2019, just as Arnáez was returning from an extended illness, the Frontex chief publicly advertised her position. In doing so, Leggeri had also bypassed the Frontex Management Board, since such a job posting requires the board’s approval. He had informed Arnáez only a short time before. In a written assessment obtained by DER SPIEGEL, the European Commission states that Leggeri’s move had been "plain and simply unlawful” and "could be considered as an attempt to discredit or weaken” Arnáez.

      The Commission forced Leggeri to withdraw the job posting. But the Frontex chief didn’t give up. He claimed Arnáez had to be replaced because she doesn’t have enough management experience to lead 40 employees.

      It seems likely, though, that the Frontex chief was mainly bothered by Arnáez because of her advocacy for human rights. Arnáez has repeatedly warned Leggeri against breaking the law. Colleagues say that she believed in the power of her reports. She regularly informed Leggeri about human rights violations in the Aegean Sea and recommended that he abandon the mission in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán legalized pushbacks in 2016.

      Leggeri ignored the fundamental rights officer’s reports and continued the operation in the Aegean Sea. He only withdrew his officers from Hungary a few weeks ago after a ruling by the European Court of Justice forced him to do so. When contacted for comment, Leggeri stated that he had always valued working together with Arnáez. He added that management experience is needed in the post because of the sharp increase in the budget.

      Leggeri still hasn’t hired the 40 human rights monitors to this day. When grilled by the European Parliament, Leggeri blamed the European Commission for the delays. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for the portfolio that includes Frontex, then accused him of having misled parliament.

      Arnáez has been on medical leave again since last March. The Frontex Management Board replaced her on an interim basis with Annegret Kohler, a German national who had previously worked in Leggeri’s cabinet. "It’s a clear conflict of interest,” says a Frontex official.
      The Pushback Affair: How Frontex Covered Up Human Rights Violations

      The walls of the Frontex Situation Centre are covered in monitors, with surveillance planes and satellites transmitting real-time images from border regions. From their desks, Frontex officers can closely monitor events taking place on the edges of Europe. “You can see how many people are sitting in a refugee boat,” says someone who knows the room well.

      A collection of images that appeared on screens here on the night of April 18-19, 2020, continue to occupy members of European Parliament until today. They come from a Frontex surveillance plane flying over the Aegean, according to several internal Frontex reports that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      Shortly before midnight, Greek border patrol officers intercepted a rubber dinghy just north of the island of Lesbos and transferred the 20 to 30 refugees onboard their ship. According to prevailing law, they should have then brought the asylum-seekers to Lesbos, where they could apply for asylum. Instead, though, they put the refugees back into the dinghy and then towed them back toward Turkey.

      Greek officials in the coordination center in Piraeus ordered the Frontex pilots to change course away from the dinghy. The Frontex team leader asked if there was a particular reason for the change in course. “Negative,” came the response from the Greeks.

      At 3:15 a.m., the Frontex plane began running low on fuel. The pilot took one last image, which showed the refugees alone at sea, a few hundred meters from the Turkish coast. No Turkish units were in the area, the pilot reported. The dinghy, he reported, had no motor and the Greek Coast Guard had sailed off. The refugees, including four children, were only rescued the next morning at 6:52 a.m. by the Turkish Navy.

      The Greek Coast Guard has been systematically conducting pushbacks for several months. They stop refugee boats in Greek territorial waters and sometimes destroy their motors before then towing them back toward Turkey. “Aggressive surveillance,” is the official term the government in Athens has come up with to describe the practice. In fact, it is illegal.

      Frontex regulations require Leggeri to suspend missions when he learns of rights violations of a serious nature or that are likely to persist. His forces, after all, are supposed to protect human rights. But Leggeri insists that he has no reliable information about pushbacks in his possession – despite the fact that DER SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have exhaustively documented how Frontex units were nearby during at least seven illegal pushback operations.

      During their operations, Frontex personnel are under the command of Greek border officials. Already last March, a Greek liaison officer ordered a Danish Frontex unit to abandon a group of intercepted refugees at sea, according to internal emails that DER SPIEGEL has reviewed. Nevertheless, Frontex decided nothing was wrong and closed the matter within a day. Later, in testimony he delivered before the European Parliament, Leggeri claimed the incident had merely been a misunderstanding.

      The pushback that took place off Lesbos in the night of April 18-19 was exhaustively documented by Frontex officers themselves. There is a strong belief “that presented facts support an allegation of possible violation of Fundamental Rights or international protection obligations such as the principle of non-refoulement,” reads an internal Frontex report that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      The case was apparently so sensitive that Leggeri took personal control over the investigation and did not, as was standard procedure, delegate it to his Fundamental Rights Officer. On May 8, he wrote to Ioannis Plakiotakis, the Greek minister of maritime affairs, a letter that DER SPIEGEL has obtained. In it, Leggeri voiced his concern and requested an internal investigation. The observance of human rights, particularly the principle of non-refoulement, is an “ultimate requirement” of the Frontex mission, he wrote.

      The answer from the Greek government is a smorgasbord of attempts to explain it away. Migration flows in the Aegean represent a “hybrid nature threat,” the response reads. Because of the corona crisis, it continues, it is more important than ever to prevent illegal border crossings and none of the migrants had requested asylum. According to an initial assessment by Greek officials, the letter claims, none of those on board were in particular need of protection.

      Legal experts see the Greek response as worthless. “The Greek Coast Guard without a doubt committed a human rights violation in the case,” says Dana Schmalz, an international law expert with the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. From her perspective, it is a clear case of an illegal pushback. It is impossible, she says, to determine if someone needs protection or if they are faced with danger back in Turkey on board a rickety dinghy. Individual proceedings conducted on land are necessary to make such a determination, she says. Furthermore, she continues, the Greek Coast Guard put the migrants’ lives in danger by abandoning them at sea in a dinghy without a motor.

      But Leggeri was satisfied with the report. The verdict: There was no pushback, there were no human rights violations. The head of Frontex silently buried the incident. “There have been several occasions when Leggeri has not provided us with adequate information,” says Tineke Strik, a member of European Parliament from the Netherlands.

      When reached for comment, Frontex said the Greek government had not ascertained any human rights violations. The agency has to rely on national authorities to investigate such incidents, Frontex insisted, since it is not authorized to undertake such investigations itself.

      Frontex officials are actually required to report incidents where they suspect that human rights violations may have occurred, so-called “Serious Incident Reports.” But such reports are hardly ever written. For years, Frontex officials have followed the example of their boss Leggeri: When in doubt, keep quiet.

      Insiders describe the rules as a kind of omertà, a code of silence. Hardly anyone is willing to risk their career or cause problems for their host country. In one case, an official even tried to prevent a Swedish colleague from submitting a Serious Incident Report, the head of Swedish border control told the Frontex Management Board.

      A German federal police officer is one of the few willing to dissent, though he has asked that we not publish his real name. On Nov. 28, 2020, his first day on a Frontex mission on the Greek island of Samos, an article from DER SPIEGEL popped up on his mobile phone. The story was about the Uckermark, the ship on which he was scheduled to serve that very evening. The article reported that the Germans had stopped a refugee boat on August 10 and handed it over to the Greek Coast Guard, which then proceeded to abandon the refugees at sea.

      The federal policeman went to his commanding officer and said he couldn’t participate in such operations and essentially said he didn’t want to be an accessory to any legal transgressions. Later, he sent an explanation around to his comrades via WhatsApp: “I have decided for me personally that I cannot tolerate the measures taken by the Greeks and certainly cannot support them.”

      His commanding officer responded a few minutes later: “The fact is that our actions are legal! Covered by the Frontex mandate.” He apparently was referring to the requirement to obey orders from the Greek Coast Guard.

      The German Federal Police does not contradict the man’s account, but when contacted, the force denied having taken part in any legal violations. The policeman himself, however, had a different view of the situation. He refused to take part in the mission, preferring instead to stay on land. He says he will never again volunteer to take part in a Frontex mission.

      Dodgy Business: How Leggeri Landed in the Sights of the European Anti-Fraud Office

      The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) always gets involved when there are suspicions that EU financial interests have been violated. And recently, OLAF opened an investigation into Frontex. On Dec. 7, OLAF officials searched Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, including the offices belonging to Leggeri and to Head of Cabinet Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin.

      Leggeri has yet to comment publicly on the investigation. According to members of the German parliament, the Bundestag, Leggeri testified before the Committee on Internal Affairs in January in Berlin and said that the inquiry had to do with the pushback accusations and that he couldn’t say any more. That, though, is at best only half true.

      DER SPIEGEL has learned that the investigation has a much broader scope than that. For weeks, OLAF officials have been summoning witnesses and interrogating Frontex staff members.

      One focus of the investigation is apparently a possible case of fraud. A Polish IT company sold the agency a business software solution that cost hundreds of thousands of euros, in part for the training of border guards. Frontex employees complained to their superiors, however, that the software didn’t work well. But the agency nevertheless paid most of the negotiated purchase price. According to documentation DER SPEIGEL has seen, employees informed management in 2018 that the inconsistencies in the case could amount to fraud.

      Leggeri, too, learned of the allegations, and an internal investigation was undertaken. “But according to EU regulations, the Frontex director is required to immediately report potential cases of fraud to OLAF,” says Valentina Azarova of the Manchester International Law Centre. Frontex declined to comment on the OLAF investigation. The Polish software company in question insisted that it has thus far correctly fulfilled all of its contractual obligations to Frontex. And the company is still getting contracts from the European border agency, some of them worth millions.

      The OLAF investigators are also apparently interested in suspicions of workplace harassment at Frontex. They hope to find out if Leggeri or his head of cabinet have yelled at or otherwise harassed agency employees. They are also investigating whether staff members were ordered to withhold information from Fundamental Rights Officer Arnáez and her successor – and if so, by whom.

      OLAF emphasizes that the presumption of innocence still applies, despite the inquiry, explaining that the existence of the investigation offers no proof that anything untoward took place. But there are apparently serious indications of personal misconduct on the part of Leggeri. The collection of questions being asked by investigators indicate significant doubts about his leadership style.

      In Brussels, some refer to Leggeri as “Fabrice Teflon,” with the Frontex boss having thus far survived despite accusations of mismanagement and allegations that his agency was involved in pushbacks. Now, though, the pressure has been cranked up.

      European Commissioner Johansson has more or less made it clear that she no longer considers Leggeri to be tenable in his position. “It has been difficult to keep track of the missteps,” says a high-ranking Commission official. “The priority must be on the long-term reputation of the agency. But it has been hard to reconcile recent actions with that aim.”

      It is not, however, up to the European Commission to decide Leggeri’s fate. That is a decision that must be made by the Frontex Management Board. The board is essentially made up of representatives from those countries that are part of the Schengen Area, with the Commission having just two deputies on the board. EU member states have always thrown their support behind Leggeri in the past. And many of them are likely pleased by the occasionally ruthless methods employed by Frontex to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing into the EU, believes Giulia Laganà, a migration expert with the Open Society European Policy Institute.

      The question is whether the Management Board will continue to back Leggeri once the accusations of workplace harassment and even potential fraud are made public. The European Parliament has already announced its intention to conduct a four-month inquiry into the agency, with the investigation’s mandate having been kept intentionally broad. Leggeri’s leadership style and the workplace atmosphere at Frontex are to be included in the inquiry.

      Even Leggeri’s own staff members in Warsaw have begun wondering how long their boss will continue to cling to his post. “OLAF is onto us, morale is down,” says one official. “I wonder why he doesn’t just leave.”

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/missteps-and-mismanagement-at-frontex-scandals-plunge-europe-s-border-agency

    • Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières, à nouveau mise en cause pour ses liens avec des lobbyistes

      Premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne, l’organisme n’aurait pas déclaré ses liens avec des lobbyistes de l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      De nouvelles accusations contre Frontex ont été lancées, vendredi 5 février, par la chaîne publique allemande ZDF, laquelle a, avec la collaboration de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), mené une enquête sur les liens entre l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      Des dizaines de documents, auxquels Le Monde a également eu accès, démontrent des infractions aux règles des institutions européennes sur le lobbying, un défaut de transparence et une absence quasi complète de préoccupation pour le respect des droits humains. Ce dernier point était déjà au cœur d’un débat récent sur le rôle du corps européen dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants, en Grèce et en Hongrie notamment.

      Dotée d’un budget en forte hausse (6 millions d’euros lors de sa création en 2005, 460 millions en 2020, 5,6 milliards prévus pour 2021-2027) et d’un effectif qui devrait atteindre 10 000 personnes à terme, Frontex, premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne (UE), effectue actuellement des missions de sauvetage et de surveillance, en appui des forces nationales. Elle lutte aussi contre divers trafics et participe aux expulsions des migrants irréguliers.

      Mais l’agence est, en réalité, en train de devenir un véritable corps de police appelé à se doter de nombreux équipements : armes, radars, drones, systèmes de vérification des documents et de reconnaissance faciale, véhicules, avions, etc.
      Profiter des opportunités

      Devient-elle, du même coup, une sorte d’acteur du secteur de la sécurité et de l’armement ? Et échappe-t-elle au contrôle démocratique, celui du Parlement européen notamment, qui, en 2019, exigeait de l’institution dirigée par le Français Fabrice Leggeri la mise au point d’un « registre transparence », conforme aux pratiques des autres institutions de l’UE ? Ce sont les questions posées par les investigateurs de la ZDF et de CEO, qui ont examiné les dernières années de fonctionnement de l’institution installée à Varsovie.

      Le registre, qui était réclamé par les eurodéputés, devait notamment recenser l’ensemble des réunions tenues avec des représentants des entreprises. Il est « en préparation », dit-on chez Frontex. Et il ne devrait pas satisfaire les attentes : en 2018 et 2019, indiquent des documents de CEO, 91 des 125 lobbyistes reçus par Frontex (soit 72 %) n’étaient pas inscrits au registre européen de la transparence, comme le veulent pourtant les règles fixées pour les institutions de l’UE.

      Idem pour 58 % des entreprises consultées. Sur une application créée pour centraliser les demandes de contacts, aucune demande ne leur est d’ailleurs formulée quant à leur inscription dans ce registre. Etonnamment, le service de presse de Frontex affirme de son côté que l’agence « ne rencontre pas de lobbyistes ».

      Il semble évident, pourtant, que le secteur de la défense entend profiter des opportunités offertes par le développement des missions et des moyens de l’agence. Le programme Horizon 2020 avait déjà affecté 118 millions d’euros au développement de la recherche en lien avec le projet de « Sécurité aux frontières extérieures » de l’UE. Un fonds avait, lui, été doté de 2,8 milliards d’euros pour la période 2018-2020. Et la nécessité d’équiper Frontex a évidemment aiguisé un peu plus les appétits des acteurs du marché mondial du « border control », qui enfle de 8 % chaque année et frôle désormais les 20 milliards d’euros.
      « Surveillance agressive »

      L’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est-elle sortie de son rôle en s’arrogeant un statut d’intermédiaire de fait entre l’industrie et des institutions européennes soucieuses de conjurer à tout prix le risque de nouveaux flux migratoires ? Serait-elle, même, devenue un acteur qui entend stimuler cette industrie, voire lui confier les rênes d’une politique à vocation essentiellement sécuritaire ?

      Avec son objectif de « faciliter la coopération entre les autorités de contrôle aux frontières, la recherche et l’industrie », Frontex a, en tout cas, multiplié les congrès, les rencontres et les « ateliers » où grands patrons, hauts fonctionnaires, mais aussi délégués des Etats membres échangent beaucoup. Sur des questions de technologie, de sécurité, de « surveillance agressive », mais rarement de droits humains.

      Déjà mise en cause pour avoir tardé à mettre en place un service interne chargé de la surveillance du respect des droits fondamentaux des migrants, l’agence n’aurait, en effet, presque jamais consulté le « Forum des droits fondamentaux » constitué à cette fin. Une organisation qui était membre du forum indique d’ailleurs n’avoir aucun souvenir d’un quelconque échange sur la question des droits et des libertés dans le cadre du lancement d’appels d’offres.

      « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », notent les responsables de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory

      Parmi les participants à des réunions, on a noté, en revanche, la présence de représentants de pays très critiqués pour leur politique à l’égard des migrants, comme la Bosnie-Herzégovine ou l’Australie. Des responsables du département américain de la Homeland Security ont été également conviés.

      « Les conclusions de tout cela sont extrêmement préoccupantes », notent les responsables de CEO. Ils déplorent une politique migratoire qui risque de reposer seulement sur une force de police armée et des techniques comme la surveillance biométrique. « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », relèvent-ils.

      « Nous vivons une métamorphose du rôle de Frontex. Il faut en prendre la mesure et s’y habituer », affirmait, vendredi, M. Leggeri, interrogé par Europe 1. On ne sait pas si Ylva Johansson, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, qui demande que la confiance en Frontex soit « entièrement rétablie », approuvera totalement ce propos.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/02/05/nouvelles-accusations-contre-frontex-l-agence-europeenne-des-gardes-frontier

    • PUSHBACK REPORT 2020

      VIOLENCE IS INCREASING – IN #2020 MARE LIBERUM COUNTED AT LEAST 9,000 PEOPLE ILLEGALLY PUSHED BACK

      #Mare_Liberum monitors the current human rights situation in the Aegean Sea using its own ships. As independent observers, we conduct research in order to document and publicise circumstances at the European border. Since March 2020, Mare Liberum has witnessed a dramatic increase in human rights violations in the Aegean, both at sea and on land. Illegal pushbacks, in which those fleeing and migrating people are pushed back across a national border, play an especially crucial role. Over the past year in particular, pushbacks have become an inhumane everyday reality for people on the move. Pushbacks happen almost daily at the Greek-Turkish border and in 2020 alone, we counted 321 pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with some 9,798 people pushed back.

      Although pushbacks have demonstrably been carried out at the EU’s external border for years, media attention has now increased notably, especially in recent months. News magazines such as Der Spiegel and the research collective Bellingcat have been able to publicly demonstrate how the Hellenic Coast Guard forcibly pushes those seeking protection back to Turkey, thereby violating international, European and national law. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, as has become all too clear, not only turns a blind eye to illegal repatriation operations, but rather actively and systematically participates.

      Within the framework of the annual report, we seek to adopt a perspective on pushbacks that looks at the long-term development of these practices at the EU’s external border. The comprehensive documentation of pushbacks forms the basis of the report and is an essential part of our monitoring work in the Aegean. Beyond the mere counting of pushbacks, our work also includes the collection of relevant information on the persons affected by pushbacks, practices by the responsible actors and related geographical data. We have gained deeper insights into these issues by conducting interviews with people who have themselves been pushed back at the Greek-Turkish border.

      https://mare-liberum.org/en/pushback-report

    • NEW REPORT ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE AEGEAN

      Since March 2020, collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea have been perpetrated with impunity.

      Legal Centre Lesvos’ new report contributes to the growing body of evidence, media coverage, civil society reports and other investigations which have documented how Greek authorities are deliberately and systematically abandoning hundreds of migrants in the middle of the Aegean sea, without means to call for rescue, on unseaworthy, motorless dinghies and liferafts. It is intended to serve as a resource for survivors of collective expulsions and solidarity actors.

      Following the Legal Centre Lesvos’ first report, the present report is based on evidence shared by over fifty survivors of collective expulsions, and underscores the widespread, systematic and violent nature of this attack against migrants. Beyond being egregious violations of international, European and national human rights law, this report argues that the constituent elements of the modus operandi of collective expulsions in the Aegean amount to crimes against humanity within the definition of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

      Despite overwhelming evidence of collective expulsions in the Aegean, the national and European response has been to turn a blind eye: failing to even attempt to hold the responsible Greek authorities to account, let alone other public and private actors directly or indirectly involved. On the contrary, the European Commission has praised the violent “border and migration management” practices implemented in Greece and underwritten its support with substantial financial and material assistance. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented Greece carrying out “official” deportations to Turkey, collective expulsions have conveniently served as an unofficial implementation of the “EU-Turkey Deal” and other bilateral “readmission” agreements with Turkey, which form part of fortress Europe’s border externalisation drive.

      There are only so many times legal and civil society actors can list and table such human rights violations and be met with deafening silence and inaction before this itself becomes evidence of Greek and European liability for collective expulsions as an egregious attack on migrants’ lives. Such inaction also reveals how migrants’ lives are increasingly treated as disposable, in a manner that has historically accompanied the commission of atrocity crimes.

      While the systematic violence of pushbacks in the Aegean is scandalous, it is also the logical endpoint of a dehumanising and punitive European border regime that has systematically obstructed access to territory and the right to asylum by prioritising and funding the ‘hotspot’ containment system, accelerated procedures, detention, deportations, border militarisation and externalisation through deals of questionable legality with third countries; as well as by prosecuting migrants and solidarity actors in a manner that successfully obscures Europe’s own violent, imperialist role in many of the reasons people migrate.

      The absence of serious investigations, let alone practical steps to redress violations are a clear sign that collective expulsions form part of a Greek and European migration policy: instrumentalising human suffering in acts of spectacular state violence for the purpose of deterring migration, at any cost.

      In this context, it is important to ask what justice might look like for survivors of crimes against humanity in the Aegean, many of whom experience ongoing psychological trauma and distress as a result of these crimes. Survivors who have been in contact with the Legal Centre Lesvos have spoken about justice in terms of being able to safely reach Europe. Justice for collective expulsions as crimes against humanity must therefore include safe and legal routes to Europe, as well as defunding, demilitarising and dismantling Europe’s violent border regime.

      https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2021/02/01/crimesagainstumanityintheaegean

      #crimes_contre_l'humanité

      pour télécharger le rapport :
      legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Collective-Expulsions-in-the-Aegean-LCL-01.02.2021-1.pdf

    • UE : Frontex accusée d’incarner l’« Europe forteresse »

      Soupçons de refoulements illégaux de migrants et de bafouement des droits fondamentaux, l’agence Frontex est dans la tourmente. Au point de diviser la Commission européenne.

      C’est potentiellement ce que les Anglo-Saxons appellent la « tempête parfaite », la « poly polémique » qui couve chez Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes.

      Entre les accusations de fermer les yeux ou de participer à des refoulements illégaux de migrants, l’enquête de l’Office anti-fraude sur des allégations de harcèlement et d’inconduite ayant poussé des responsables à quitter l’agence ou l’absence, à ce jour, de recrutement des quarante agents chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux, Frontex accumule les tuiles.

      Après l’enquête de la médiatrice européenne, qui s’est aussi penchée sur son cas, c’est le Parlement européen qui s’en mêle. Outre la mise en place d’un « groupe d’enquête permanent », les eurodéputés ont aussi refusé, fin de la semaine dernière, d’octroyer « la décharge budgétaire » à l’agence, nous explique l’élue belge Saskia Bricmont (Ecolo). « Chaque année, le Parlement a un pouvoir de contrôle budgétaire. Donner la décharge, cela signifie qu’on considère que Frontex a accompli ses missions, a respecté le cadre légal et a donc droit au budget suivant », explique-t-elle. En commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures, les eurodéputés ont donc décidé de reporter de six mois cette décharge, une décision qui doit être validée en plénière mais que « tous les groupes politiques » soutiennent, ajoute l’élue. D’ici là, il est principalement attendu de Frontex qu’elle recrute les agents chargés de défendre en interne les droits fondamentaux.
      Mandat et budget élargis

      Depuis cinq ans, le mandat de l’agence a été élargi considérablement. Ses effectifs multipliés. En 2016, Frontex se félicitait du fait qu’elle emploierait 1500 agents à l’horizon 2020. Elle devrait être à 10.000 d’ici 2027, pour un budget de plus de cinq milliards sur sept ans, contre une enveloppe annuelle de 19 millions il y a quinze ans.

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      Car pour Fabrice Leggeri, le patron de Frontex, les critiques trouvent bien leur source dans ce renforcement des pouvoirs de l’agence. « Pour la première fois, une agence cesse d’être un objet simplement administratif européen, mais a du personnel sur le terrain. C’est une responsabilité d’autant plus grande que nous avons l’usage de la force, sous l’autorité et le contrôle des Etats, et qu’il y a bien sûr des contrepoids, les droits fondamentaux. C’est tout à fait normal que cela suscite des réactions, parce que c’est inhabituel », a-t-il expliqué la semaine dernière lors d’un événement organisé par la Fondation Robert Schuman. « Il peut y avoir des retards de mise en œuvre de certaines choses, tout ne sera certainement pas parfait. Il faut utiliser cette période où il y a beaucoup de questionnements sur l’agence pour expliquer, faire de la pédagogie », a-t-il ajouté.

      A ses côtés, le vice-président de la commission en charge de la Promotion du mode de vie européen, Margaritis Schinas, a évoqué la tentative de « quelques milieux » de bâtir « un narratif qui affaiblit Frontex au moment où nous avons le plus besoin de l’agence. Ça, je ne l’accepterai jamais ». Un ton qui contraste avec celui de sa collègue aux Affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, qui a démenti fin janvier les explications données par Leggeri pour justifier le retard de l’embauche des 40 agents pour les droits fondamentaux.

      Selon le quotidien français Le Monde, François Xavier-Bellamy, chef de la délégation Les Républicains au sein du groupe du Parti populaire européen (PPE, conservateurs) du Parlement européen, a écrit à Ylva Johansson en évoquant de sa part une tentative de déstabilisation voire de procès politique envers Fabrice Leggeri.
      Pas en ligne sur le lobbying

      S’ajoutent à tout cela les accusations de relations troubles avec l’industrie de l’armement et de la biométrie (par exemple, la reconnaissance faciale), étudiées de long en large par l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) le mois dernier. Cette dernière estime que l’élargissement des compétences de Frontex et son besoin d’équipement neuf (y compris en matière de défense) ont été une aubaine pour ces industries.

      Entre 2017 et 2019, Frontex a rencontré pas moins de 108 entreprises pour discuter d’armes à feu et de munitions, d’équipements de surveillance etc. Contre dix think tanks, 15 universités et seulement une ONG. Dans les procès-verbaux de ces réunions obtenus par CEO grâce à des demandes d’accès aux documents, elle a pu constater que les droits fondamentaux figuraient rarement à l’agenda. « Sans surprise, il y a des chevauchements significatifs entre les entreprises qui font du lobbying à Frontex et celles qui bénéficient le plus des marchés publics » de l’agence, explique l’ONG.

      En outre, l’agence ne publie pas toutes ses rencontres et voit majoritairement (72 %) des représentants du privé qui ne sont pas enregistrés dans le registre de transparence de l’UE. Frontex s’en est défendu en répondant qu’elle ne faisait pas l’objet de lobbying, compte tenu du fait qu’elle n’est pas impliquée dans le processus législatif européen. Alors, acharnement ou véritable scandale ? L’enquête des eurodéputés devrait permettre d’y voir clair. C’est aussi l’avis/l’espoir de Fabrice Leggeri, qui a jusqu’ici résisté aux appels à la démission.

      https://plus.lesoir.be/358143/article/2021-03-01/ue-frontex-accusee-dincarner-leurope-forteresse

    • La droite française au secours de Fabrice Leggeri, patron de Frontex

      Le groupe #LR au Parlement européen critique la « tentative de déstabilisation » à laquelle se livrerait la commissaire Ylva Johansson à l’égard du directeur de l’agence.

      Le torchon brûle entre la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, #Ylva_Johansson, et la droite française. Dans une lettre au ton cinglant adressée vendredi 26 février à l’ancienne ministre sociale-démocrate suédoise et lue par Le Monde, #François_Xavier-Bellamy, chef de la délégation #Les_Républicains (LR) au sein du groupe du #Parti_populaire_européen (#PPE, conservateurs) interroge la commissaire. Et il parle de « tentative de déstabilisation », de « divergence de fond », voire de « procès politique » que la commissaire instruirait contre Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’agence des gardes-frontières et gardes-côtes Frontex.

      Ce responsable français est sur la sellette depuis des mois. Pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants (pushbacks) qu’aurait favorisés l’agence. Pour des retards dans le recrutement d’une quarantaine d’officiers chargés précisément de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux par les agents de Frontex. Pour d’apparentes réticences à se conformer à des règles administratives en matière budgétaire. Ou encore pour ne pas avoir souscrit à des obligations de transparence en ce qui concerne des réunions avec des lobbys et des responsables de l’industrie de la défense et de la surveillance.

      Le groupe socialiste du Parlement a demandé la démission du numéro un de Frontex

      Ce dernier point n’est pas mentionné dans la lettre de M. Bellamy et l’entourage de Mme Johansson semble, par ailleurs, considérer qu’il n’y a pas de quoi mettre en cause M. Leggeri pour ces contacts, dénoncés notamment par l’ONG #Corporate_Europe_Observatory. Sur les autres questions, en revanche, la commissaire a demandé des explications. Et le groupe socialiste du Parlement a demandé la démission du numéro un de Frontex. En décembre, la responsable de la direction générale des affaires intérieures de la Commission adressait, elle, une longue lettre à M. Leggeri, avec, à la clé, de nombreux griefs.

      Demande de preuves

      Les élus LR volent, eux, au secours du directeur et demandent très fermement des explications à la commissaire. Quelles preuves a-t-elle, interrogent-ils, quand elle accuse M. Leggeri de ne pas se conformer aux directives budgétaires, comme elle l’a fait le 22 février dans la commission de contrôle du Parlement ? Sans éléments incontestables, cela pourrait s’apparenter à une volonté de déstabiliser le patron de l’agence, estiment-ils.

      A propos des refoulements illégaux de migrants, les eurodéputés français endossent les explications livrées jusqu’ici par Frontex : sur treize épisodes douteux, huit ont été jugés conformes par un groupe de travail constitué par la Commission. Cinq autres cas sont encore à l’examen, sur lesquels Mme Johansson a exigé « toutes les explications nécessaires ».

      La Turquie est soupçonnée d’être à l’origine d’informations sur les refoulements illégaux de migrants

      M. Bellamy lui demande à son tour si elle a répondu à un courrier qui lui a été adressé en novembre par M. Leggeri, et dans lequel il réclamait des instructions claires quant à l’attitude à adopter à l’égard de la Turquie. Celle-ci, qui a orienté massivement des migrants vers la Grèce et la Bulgarie en mars 2020, est aussi soupçonnée par certaines sources d’être à l’origine d’informations sur les refoulements illégaux de migrants.
      « Reproches infondés »

      Le groupe LR, qui bénéficie du soutien tacite d’autres élus du PPE, exige, dès lors, de disposer de tous les échanges entre Frontex et la Commission. La lettre se termine par des questions sur l’éventuel désaccord entre la commissaire Johansson et Frontex au sujet des missions mêmes de l’agence.

      Relayant l’idée que la commissaire serait partisane des « frontières ouvertes » – ce qu’elle conteste – les eurodéputés lui demandent s’il y a, de sa part, « un désaccord de fond » sur la stratégie actuelle de la Commission von der Leyen, qui vise à garantir le « mode de vie européen » ? A savoir la maîtrise des frontières, la lutte contre l’immigration clandestine et la contribution à « la sécurité intérieure ».

      « En instruisant un procès politique au moyen de reproches infondés, vous prendriez le risque de violer les principes fondamentaux de l’Etat de droit, de salir des fonctionnaires intègres et loyaux, de fragiliser la cohérence de l’action européenne », conclut la lettre. Contacté dimanche, le cabinet de Mme Johansson a déclaré avoir reçu la lettre mais ne pas souhaiter réagir immédiatement.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/03/01/la-droite-francaise-au-secours-de-fabrice-leggeri-patron-de-frontex_6071549_

    • Un rapport d’enquête interne peu concluant sur le rôle de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      Le document présenté lundi s’abstient d’impliquer des membres de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et garde-côtes dans des incidents en mer Egée.

      Un long rapport, lu par Le Monde et présenté, le 1er mars, par un groupe de travail désigné par le conseil d’administration de Frontex, confirme qu’il ne sera décidément pas simple, voire pas possible, de démontrer que des membres de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et garde-côtes ont été impliqués dans des « pushbacks » en mer Egée, des refoulements illégaux de migrants.

      Ce document final, pourtant très attendu, n’apporte aucune conclusion déterminante. D’autant que, sur quatre des cinq incidents encore jugés litigieux (huit ont été classés en janvier), l’enquête se poursuit.

      Sur la base des informations qui lui ont été livrées, le groupe de travail, composé de représentants de diverses institutions européennes et d’Etats membres, formule quelques recommandations qui peuvent être lues comme des critiques implicites du fonctionnement actuel de Frontex. Il prône ainsi une amélioration des rapports et de la surveillance des missions, une utilisation systématique de la vidéo, la recension de toute possible violation des droits humains et la suspension de l’aide apportée aux pays qui ne les respecteraient pas.
      Situations douteuses

      Pour le reste, la liste des « incidents » qui se seraient déroulés entre le 18 avril et le 21 octobre 2020 ne mentionne que les soupçons, parfois lourds mais jugés insuffisants, qui pèsent plutôt, en réalité, sur les gardes-côtes grecs et la marine turque, qui agissent aux limites des eaux territoriales des deux pays. Embarcations chassées, menacées, remorquées : dans certains cas, un navire suédois ou un avion danois mis à la disposition de l’agence ont recensé des situations douteuses, mais le groupe de travail conclut qu’il semble « impossible de les élucider entièrement ». D’autant que ce sont les autorités nationales qui assurent le commandement des opérations.

      Le rapport tient à souligner cependant l’importance de la mission de Frontex, présentée comme la « principale garantie de frontières solides et protégées ». Il y est rappelé aussi que, grâce aux interventions de Frontex, 28 000 personnes ont été sauvées en 2019 et près de 3 000 en 2020, tandis que 10 433 illégaux et 84 trafiquants étaient arrêtés. A propos des incidents considérés comme des « pushbacks » par des journalistes et des ONG, le document invite à considérer qu’aucun décès, aucune disparition et aucune blessure n’y seraient liés.

      Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur exécutif de l’agence, qui doit être entendu jeudi 4 mars par un comité spécial du Parlement européen, pourra se prévaloir de ces conclusions face aux diverses accusations dont il faitl’objet. L’Office de lutte antifraude (OLAF) et la médiatrice de l’Union européenne enquêtent aussi sur la gestion de l’agence, basée à Varsovie, tandis que la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, a réclamé toutes les explications sur l’action en mer Egée.
      Action de la Turquie

      M. Leggeri soulignera sans doute, jeudi, qu’il espère obtenir de la Commission qu’elle lui indique les lignes directrices précises qu’il doit suivre en ce qui concerne, notamment, l’action de la Turquie. Dans les considérations qu’il a formulées à destination du groupe de travail de son conseil d’administration, il rappelle d’ailleurs que les autorités d’Ankara entendent utiliser la migration comme un « levier politique » et il souligne que la Grèce se dit soumise aux « menaces hybrides » du régime turc.

      Soutenu entre autres par la droite française au Parlement, le directeur de Frontex transforme ainsi le débat sur le rôle humanitaire de son agence en une question géostratégique, et il incite la Commission à se positionner par rapport à l’encombrant partenaire avec lequel elle a signé, en 2016, un accord visant à réduire les flux migratoires vers l’Europe.

      Pendant ce temps, la Ligue hellénique des droits de l’homme, l’ONG Legal Centre Lesvos et l’organisation juridique Front-Lex demandent à Frontex « de suspendre immédiatement ou de cesser » ses activités en mer Egée, sous peine d’une action devant la justice européenne. Legal Centre Lesvos aurait documenté, depuis mars 2020, 17 refoulements de plus de 50 migrants entre la Grèce et la Turquie. L’ONG estime aussi que l’agence a enfreint le droit européen et violé la convention de Genève de 1951 relative aux droits des réfugiés.

      Frontex est aussi taxée de complicité dans la « détention sommaire de migrants sur les îles de la mer Egée dans des ports, des bus, des navires, des plages où l’accès aux procédures d’asile leur a été refusé ». Le 12 février, l’ONG allemande Mare Liberum faisait état, pour sa part, d’une « escalade inédite » des refoulements de migrants en mer Egée impliquant Frontex en 2020.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/03/03/un-rapport-d-enquete-interne-peu-concluant-sur-le-role-de-frontex-dans-des-r

    • Le patron de Frontex se défend devant les eurodéputés, Bruxelles maintient la pression

      Le patron de Frontex a souligné jeudi devant des eurodéputés qu’aucune « preuve » d’une implication de l’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants n’avait été établie par une enquête, mais Bruxelles a réitéré ses critiques.

      Le patron de Frontex a souligné jeudi devant des eurodéputés qu’aucune « preuve » d’une implication de l’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE dans des refoulements illégaux de migrants n’avait été établie par une enquête, mais Bruxelles a réitéré ses critiques.

      Ce rapport interne, qui doit être examiné vendredi par le conseil d’administration de Frontex et consulté mercredi par l’AFP, n’a pas permis de « clarifier complètement » les circonstances de plusieurs incidents au cours desquels des refoulements de migrants auraient eu lieu. Il préconise d’ailleurs d’améliorer le système de signalement et de surveillance des missions de l’agence.

      « Il n’y a pas eu de faits étayés ou prouvés pour aboutir à la conclusion que Frontex aurait participé ou se serait livrée à des violations des droits fondamentaux », a déclaré son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri, devant un groupe d’eurodéputés qui a ouvert sa propre enquête sur ces incidents.

      L’agence est montrée du doigt depuis la publication en octobre 2020 d’une enquête de plusieurs médias l’accusant d’être impliquée avec les garde-côtes grecs dans des incidents de refoulement de bateaux de migrants à la frontière entre la Grèce et la Turquie.

      Ces accusations ont également entraîné une enquête du gendarme européen antifraude, l’Olaf, ainsi que de la médiatrice de l’UE.

      La Commission européenne, membre du conseil d’administration de Frontex aux côtés des 27 Etats membres, s’est montrée critique sur la gestion de l’agence, fustigeant notamment la lenteur du recrutement des officiers chargés de surveiller le respect des droits fondamentaux et des agents devant constituer le nouveau contingent permanent.

      Créée en 2004, Frontex a vu son mandat renforcé en 2019. Elle doit se doter d’agents en uniforme et armés, employés directement par l’agence, et non plus mis à disposition provisoirement par les Etats membres.

      Le directeur exécutif a notamment dit qu’un officier et 40 « moniteurs » chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux étaient en cours de recrutement et que 300 officiers du contingent permanent étaient déployés sur le terrain ou allaient l’être la semaine prochaine.

      La commissaire européenne aux Affaires intérieures Ylva Johansson a toutefois souligné que 700 officiers auraient dû être déployés en janvier.

      Elle a aussi estimé que les « clarifications » sur les accusations de refoulements n’avaient que « trop tardé », et que ce délai n’était « pas bon pour la réputation et la confiance » dans Frontex.

      « Une agence de première classe a besoin d’une gouvernance de première classe », a-t-elle poursuivi, se réjouissant toutefois d’« entendre que beaucoup de choses sont en train d’être réglées ».

      Si des eurodéputés à gauche ont demandé la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, la droite française au Parlement européen a quant à elle pris la défense du patron de Frontex.

      Dans une lettre adressée le 26 février à la responsable suédoise, le président de la délégation française du groupe PPE (droite) François-Xavier Bellamy lui a demandé des « justifications solides et vérifiées » à ses « accusations », dénonçant une « tentative de déstabilisation » du chef de Frontex et « un procès politique ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/fil-dactualites/040321/le-patron-de-frontex-se-defend-devant-les-eurodeputes-bruxelles-maintient-

    • Greece accused of ‘shocking’ illegal pushback against refugees at sea

      Lawsuit filed at European court of human rights says group were abandoned in life rafts after some were beaten.

      A lawsuit filed against the Greek state at the European court of human rights accuses Athens of a shocking level of violence in sophisticated inter-agency operations that form part of an illegal pushback strategy to stop the arrival of refugees and migrants.

      The suit, filed by the NGO Legal Centre Lesvos, centres on an incident in October last year in which a fishing boat set off from Marmaris in Turkey for Italy carrying about 200 people, including 40 children and a pregnant woman. The boat ran into difficulty in a storm off the south coast of Crete, leading the captain to radio for assistance.

      The legal case claims that in an operation of unprecedented size and sophistication, instead of helping the stranded people onboard, a Greek search and rescue vessel and two small patrol boats stalled the smuggler’s boat for five hours until speedboats carrying masked commandos arrived. Several passengers claim they were beaten in the ensuing incident.

      Those onboard were separated into two groups and taken to two large coastguard boats, where armed crews of between 10 and 15 men, most wearing balaclavas, searched them and confiscated belongings including phones, passports and money.

      The passengers were then reportedly forced on to several small life rafts, towed back to Turkish waters and abandoned at sea without food, water, life jackets or any means to call for help. By the time they were picked up by the Turkish coastguard, their ordeal had lasted more than 24 hours.

      “It was like watching a movie. The men from the speedboats jumped onboard screaming and shouting, they all had guns and knives and were wearing black and masks,” said Mahmoud, a witness from Syria whose name has been changed.

      “They began beating people with batons, looking for the captain. They punched me in the face and broke my glasses … I understand they don’t want us, but you could send us back to Turkey without the need for violence. When they cut us loose on the rafts we all thought we were going to die,” he said.

      The lawsuit claims the practice of “pushbacks” has become standard for the Greek coastguard since March 2020, when Turkey, in an effort to pressure the EU, told its 4 million registered refugees that it would no longer stop them trying to reach Europe as per a 2016 deal between Ankara and Brussels.

      Athens reacted by temporarily halting all new asylum applications and allegedly employing increasingly brutal tactics to dissuade people in Turkey from making the journey.

      Exact figures are difficult to verify, but rights groups and journalists have recorded hundreds of alleged pushback incidents over the last 12 months. In most cases, people trying to cross the Aegean have been intercepted and towed back to Turkish waters. They are then cut loose either in their own boats, after the Greek coastguard has disabled their engines, or on overcrowded life rafts.

      On several occasions people claim to have been pushed back after landing on Greek soil, and passengers have been abandoned on an uninhabited Turkish islet at least twice, according to reporting by Der Spiegel, Lighthouse Reports and the New York Times.

      In at least one case, the EU border agency, Frontex, is accused of covering up evidence of a Greek pushback operation.

      These collective expulsions, as they are known, are illegal under international law but not under Greek national law. The Guardian’s requests for comment from Greek officials went unanswered. Greece has denied illegality in the past.

      The incident in October stands out because of the reported level of violence involved and the size and scope of the operation, which would have taken hours to coordinate and involved eight Greek vessels and two dozen crew from different agencies.

      “‘Pushback’ isn’t even really the right term. It’s a decision by the authorities to deliberately abandon people at sea putting their lives at risk, with no means to call for rescue and no chance at all to claim asylum,” said Natasha Ntailiani, a Legal Centre Lesvos lawyer representing some of the survivors before the ECHR.

      “It’s a new and disturbing trend characterised by planned and systematic violence, which has increased over the last year in the Aegean region. Even search and rescue vessels and materials are now being used against migrants, which is a remarkable insight into the lengths the Greek authorities are now willing to go to.”

      Testimony from 11 complainants and dozens of pages of collaborating evidence – including geo-located pictures and video, GPS coordinates, and phone and message logs from the ship’s radio, passengers, the Alarm Phone hotline and the Greek and Turkish coastguards – painted a complete and damning picture of the new tactics, the centre said.

      The suit is the fifth LCL has filed at the ECHR in recent years to allege violations of migrant and refugee rights in Greece. Progress is slow, but the applicants hope the latest case will persuade the court that pushbacks, despite the fact they are now reportedly a systemic and regular feature of Greek border policing, are illegal.

      A decision at the court last year that Spain did not breach the rights of two men it expelled from the Melilla enclave on the basis they had tried to enter illegally “as part of a large group” sets a worrying precedent.

      In light of the judgment, Frontex has since asked the European commission if it can refuse to process individual asylum claims if people are travelling in groups, as is often the case in the Aegean.

      “I didn’t even want to go to Greece. We knew that they were harming refugees when they arrive, but it was shocking to experience the reality, which is that Europe doesn’t care at all about human rights and dignity,” said Yara from Damascus, whose name has also been changed. She said she had been traumatised by her experiences on the day the storm hit the fishing boat.

      “Despite all of that, I will still try again. I can’t build a life in Syria or Turkey,” she said.

      Mahmoud echoed Yara’s thoughts. “I got kicked out of Qatar because of the pandemic. I would rather have stayed there,” he said. “If there was a legal way to get to Europe I would take it, but there isn’t. I don’t want to make that journey again, but I will, because I have to.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/greece-accused-of-shocking-pushback-against-refugees-at-sea

    • Grèce : refoulements illégaux en Mer Egée

      En Grèce, les « pushbacks » ou refoulements illégaux de potentiels demandeurs d’asile par les garde-côtes grecs vers les eaux turques, se sont systématisés depuis un an.

      Le gouvernement grec se félicite d’avoir réussi à tenir une de ses promesses électorales : réduire le flux de migrants.

      La pratique est en infraction avec le droit maritime et l’obligation de porter assistance aux personnes en détresse en mer, mais aussi au regard du droit européen et international dont l’article 3 de la Convention des Droits de l’Homme stipule l’interdiction du refoulement des réfugiés.

      Informés, le Haut-Commissariat aux Réfugiés de l’ONU et des commissaires européens se disent “alarmés” mais semblent jusqu’à présent bien impuissants à faire respecter le droit d’asile par Athènes. Documentés et dénoncés par des avocats et des ONG internationales, ces refoulements illégaux révèlent des pratiques cruelles et cyniques. Mais rares sont les voix en Grèce à s’élever la voix contre ces renvois aux frontières de l’Europe.

      https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/102791-000-A/grece-refoulements-illegaux-en-mer-egee
      #Samos

    • Message de Claire Rodier via la mailing-list Migreurop :

      Dans une interview au Guardian, Gil Arias Fernández, ancien directeur adjoint de Frontex a déclaré qu’il était profondément inquiet de l’atteinte à la réputation de l’agence, de sa décision d’armer les agents et de son incapacité à empêcher l’extrême droite d’infiltrer ses rangs, dans un contexte de mouvements anti-migrants en Europe.

      –—

      Frontex turning ‘blind eye’ to human rights violations, says former deputy

      The former deputy head of Europe’s border and coastguard agency has said the state of the beleaguered force “pains” him and that it is vulnerable to the “alarming” rise of populism across the continent.

      In his first interview since leaving office, #Gil_Arias_Fernández, former deputy director at Frontex and once tipped for the top post, said he was deeply worried about the agency’s damaged reputation, its decision to arm officers, and its inability to stop the far-right infiltrating its ranks, amid anti-migrant movements across Europe.

      “Weapons are not needed for Frontex operations,” he said. “They are more of a problem than a help.”

      Frontex is experiencing the most acute crisis in its 16-year history. The agency is being investigated by the European parliament over allegations of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean and its head, Fabrice Leggeri, is facing calls to quit over allegations he misled the EU commission. Leggeri has strongly rejected allegations about the agency’s operations.

      Arias Fernández, 65, now retired, lost out on the top role to Leggeri in 2015. He admits he did not get on with Leggeri when they worked together for a year.

      “From the first moment I saw that he had a perhaps excessive eagerness to change things. Maybe it was to put his personal stamp on things,” said Arias Fernández.

      He said decisions made by one of the EU’s most powerful agencies had led to complicity in human rights violations.

      “Frontex pains me,” he said. “Especially for the staff, because they don’t deserve what they are going through. We saw the agency as an instrument to help the member states and the migrants. These events put a dent in all that effort.

      “I do not believe that the agency has proactively violated the rights of migrants, but there are reasons to believe that it has turned a blind eye.”
      Gil Arias Fernández. ‘Frontex pains me,’ he said. Photograph: Jose Bautista/Courtesy of Fundation for Causa

      In January 2015, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, several European politicians suggested the presence of refugees among the terrorists.

      When the media asked Frontex about any link between refugees and the Paris attack, Arias Fernández, a former police commissioner in Spain, told them there was no evidence.

      Arias Fernández believes this cost him the director’s job.

      The political pressure made the job a tough one, Arias Fernández said. “There is a lot of pressure on the part of certain states to put their people in positions of responsibility. Whether the agency is headed by a Frenchman or a Finn may determine whether there is more or less sensitivity to migration problems. The agency is independent, but ‘independent’ should be put in quotation marks because without a fluid relationship with the [European] commission, you have a hard time.

      “Operations have always been conducted unarmed and there have never been any problems. In operations where Libyan tribal clans smuggling migrants shot in the air to frighten the patrols, even there it was not considered appropriate to carry weapons. In this case, weapons are more a problem than a help. The proposal of carrying weapons came from the European Commission, which I do not know to what extent is influenced by lobbyists in Brussels.

      “There is no filter in the recruitment system. You cannot prevent people with extremist ideas from entering, unless they clearly express their position in favour of hate crimes, xenophobia and racism.”

      Arias Fernández pointed to the dearth of human rights training for Frontex officers. “But lack of information should not be used to justify certain things,” he said. “The incidents under investigation were carried out by Greek units following the instructions of their commanders.

      “When there are irregularities like this in operations, it is usually because there are instructions from the authorities responsible for coordinating the operation. The decision to turn back a boat with migrants is not taken by an officer but is an order from above.”
      A rescue boat escorts a dinghy with migrants from Afghanistan as a Frontex ship patrols off Lesbos in Greece. Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters

      He said he appreciated borders needed a certain level of security to know who was entering but added that immigration was vitally important for the survival of all European states.

      “I come to this conclusion because there are studies that show that if we do not resort to immigration and other incentives, the EU will have serious problems and the welfare state will be a chimera. We should learn these lessons. In the first half of the pandemic, migrants saved our bacon.

      “In Europe, movements that use populism are growing at an alarming rate, and the fight against immigrants is one of those arguments. States are excessively prudent in not touching this issue. The commission presented the new pact on migration and asylum, which contains no proposals for channelling migration through legal channels. They tried to satisfy all the blocs, Visegrád [Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia], southern states, northern states, and I fear that in the end it satisfies no one.”

      Arias Fernández said the lack of migrants being allowed into Europe would have a severe economic impact amid an ageing workforce: “Who will pay the pensions of the growing number of pensioners?”

      A Frontex spokesman denied the agency ignored migrants’ rights. “The executive director of Frontex has written several letters to the Greek authorities to address incidents that raised his concerns. Two inquiries, including one that was conducted by representatives of national authorities and the European Commission, have found no evidence of violations of human rights in Frontex operations in Greece.”

      The spokesman also denied that officers had always conducted operations while unarmed, saying: “Before this year, Frontex relied exclusively on officers provided by national authorities, who brought their own weapons to the agency’s operational activities. Today, Frontex has its own operational arm, the standing corps, whose core is made up of officers directly employed by the agency who require weapons for self-defence and to protect others.

      “Since Mr Arias left more than half-a-decade ago, Frontex has undergone a massive transformation that included a much bigger focus on cross-border crime, which means a greater chance that our officers may encounter life-threatening situations while patrolling the borders or performing other duties.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jun/11/frontex-turning-blind-eye-to-human-rights-violations-says-former-deputy

      #extrême_droite

    • Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads

      It is not a ‘one-off’. It did not take place six, twelve or eighteen months ago, and now things are better.

      It was just one of 491 incidents since March 2020, in which 14,720 men, women and children have been denied their fundamental human rights by a coastguard armed with assault rifles and behaving like a sea-militia ‘defending’ Greece against innocent, unarmed, and peaceful men, women and children attempting to find safe places to live.

      In the morning of 10 June, a boat carrying 31 people travelled towards Kos. Closing in on Ag. Fokas, on the south east side of the island, the boat was approached by several vessels from the Hellenic coast guard, and forced back towards Turkey.

      If anyone is wondering what a pushback at sea looks like, this is how it’s being carried out. And it is illegal.

      https://videopress.com/v/vPX3Vme3

      This shocking, immoral and illegal practice has become ‘normal’ in the Aegean Sea. Greece carries it out without let or hindrance, while the EU seems unable or unwilling to act.

      Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads.

      According to the Greek government and Frontex, this isn’t a pushback, but a ‘prevention of entry’.

      There are two major problems with this assessment. First, under international law, no country is allowed to ‘prevent the entry’ of men, women and children not suspected of any crime (as these people are not) and who intend to apply for asylum. Even if the people in this boat had not entered Greek waters, the Greek coastguard would have broken international law, by forcibly preventing people who wish to apply for asylum, from entering Greece.

      But in fact, secondly, these people had in fact already entered Greek water. It cannot be a ‘prevention of entry’ if people have already ‘entered’: it is a pushback. And it is absolutely illegal.

      In the video we can hear one of the officers on the Hellenic coast guard vessel ΛΣ150, say “everyone abide by the rules, because he’s filming”. It’s disturbing that this even needed to be said. First, because what would have happened had this person not had the presence of mind, and technology, to film? What would have happened then? How would the heavily-armed coastguard have responded to these innocent, unarmed people trying to exercise their fundamental human rights? Why did this coastguard, who noticed a person filming, need to advise his colleagues to abide by the law? What did he fear they would do?

      Secondly, the disturbing images we can see in this video are in fact not ‘abiding by the rules’. It appears the coastguard does not understand – or perhaps accept – the rules. This is a video of the Greek coastguard breaking the law, even as one member of the coastguard warns his colleagues not to do something even worse.

      Nor is this an isolated incident.

      It’s how the Hellenic coastguard – and in some cases also Frontex – have been operating for the last 15 months.

      We must demand that Notis Mitarachis, and Fabrice Leggeri, are held to account for their continued, immoral, unacceptable, and illegal activity in the Aegean Sea. We must demand that the EU – or if, as increasingly seems to be the case, the EU is unwilling – the wider international community takes legal action, now, to prevent the Greek coastguard, the Greek government, Frontex and the EU, breaking international law, and shaming the whole of Europe in the process.

      None of this is acceptable. None of it is even beneficial to either Greece or the EU.

      The time to stop this is now. The time to act is now. The EU can and must act. If it refuses, it is time for the international court to prosecute Mitarachis, Nea Dimokratia, Leggeri, Frontex, and the European Commission. Anything else is to further damage, and indeed make a laughing stock of international law, and all our human rights.

      https://aegeanboatreport.com/2021/06/28/human-rights-in-europe-are-at-a-crossroads

    • Communiqué de presse : Frontex a besoin d’une #réorganisation radicale

      Les députés du groupe de travail sur le contrôle de Frontex, sous l’égide de l’eurodéputée écologiste Tineke Strik, ont présenté aujourd’hui en commission des libertés civiles (LIBE) du Parlement européen, le rapport sur le rôle de Frontex dans le #refoulement illégal des réfugiés. Un des principaux enseignements est la nécessité d’ une réorganisation radicale de l’agence pour qu’elle respecte les droits humains.

      L’enquête menée par les eurodéputés confirme que Frontex a manqué à ses responsabilités en matière de protection des droits humains aux frontières de l’UE. L’agence avait connaissance de violations des droits fondamentaux commises dans des pays de l’UE avec lesquels elle coopère, et n’a pas réagi face à ces allégations. La direction de Frontex a sciemment ignoré les rapports des journalistes d’investigation et d’ONG, les avertissements internes du personnel et même les séquences vidéo dans lesquelles ces violations étaient visibles.

      Saskia Bricmont, députée européenne Vert/ALE, membre de la commission LIBE et responsable du rapport sur la décharge budgétaire Frontex, déclare :

      “En ne faisant pas respecter les droits fondamentaux aux frontières de l’UE, Frontex a failli à son devoir. L’agence a besoin d’une réorganisation radicale. Je salue le travail d’enquête mené par mes collègues : il est essentiel d’identifier les lacunes et les fautes afin d’y remédier au plus vite.”

      “Le rapport dévoile que Frontex était non seulement conscient des violations des droits fondamentaux, mais n’a de surcroît pas réagi de manière appropriée face à son obligation de prévenir les violations des droits humains. En dépit des différents signaux d’alerte provenant d’acteurs internes et externes, l’agence a fait preuve d’inactivité manifeste, voire de réticence à agir. Nous sommes particulièrement préoccupés par le respect des normes en matière de droits humains dans les opérations menées en Grèce et en Hongrie. Nous demandons au directeur exécutif de suspendre immédiatement les opérations en Hongrie et d’évaluer les opérations en Grèce.”

      “Il existe des signes clairs de mauvaise gestion : les rapports internes faisant état de violations des droits fondamentaux ont été ignorés, le recrutement des agents spécialisés dans les droits fondamentaux a été retardé et reste incomplet. Nous ne croyons pas en la capacité de l’actuel directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri, à résoudre les problèmes que nous avons exposés. M. Leggeri a induit le Parlement européen en erreur à plusieurs reprises et a encouragé une culture d’impunité, tout en continuant à nier l’existence des refoulements illégaux.”

      “Notre rapport exhorte le Conseil d’administration de Frontex à reconsidérer la position de M. Leggeri et de l’ensemble de la direction générale. Dans un tel contexte, la décharge budgétaire ne doit pas être octroyée à l’agence. Par ailleurs, il est temps que les États membres assument leur responsabilité commune dans la défense des valeurs européennes en matière de gestion des frontières et le respect des droits fondamentaux.”

      https://twitter.com/saskiabricmont/status/1415611092894724097

      Recommandations du #rapport :

      – Frontex ne doit effectuer des opérations conjointes qu’avec des pays qui agissent dans le plein respect des droits fondamentaux. Pour remplir cette obligation, Frontex devrait surveiller l’ensemble de la zone opérationnelle et enquêter sur tous les incidents ou autres indications de non-conformité.

      – Si un refoulement est signalé à Frontex, l’agence ne devrait pas seulement enquêter en s’appuyant sur les réponses des autorités gouvernementales, mais également vérifier les informations fournies.

      – La Commission européenne devrait conditionner le financement européen de la gestion des frontières au respect des droits fondamentaux par l’État membre concerné.

      https://saskiabricmont.eu/frontex-besoin-reorganisation-radicale
      #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés

      –—

      Réaction de Frontex :

      Frontex welcomes report by the Scrutiny Working Group

      Frontex welcomes the report by the Scrutiny Working Group and its conclusions which reaffirmed that there is no evidence of the Agency’s involvement in any violation of human rights.

      The agency has been working with the Parliament’s scrutiny group in an open and transparent manner, sharing information and receiving the MEPs during an online visit to Frontex. The agency remains committed to cooperating with the European Parliament.

      “I acknowledge the conclusion of Parliament’s fact-finding scrutiny and its recommendations. Frontex is a bigger, more complex organisation than a couple of years ago, so a system that was designed in the past needs to undergo further transformation. The report underlined the challenges of the Agency’s transformation in a more and more complex security environment,” said Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri.

      “We are determined to uphold the highest standards of border control within our operations. We will look into the recommendations and see how we can implement them to further strengthen the respect of fundamental rights in all our activities,” he added.

      Frontex has completed two stages of the inquiry into last autumn’s media allegations. Both an internal inquiry and the report by a special working group appointed by the Management Board (with Commission and Member states representatives) have found no evidence of any Frontex involvement in violation of human rights.

      The agency has already taken on board many of the recommendations issued by the working group, upgraded its reporting mechanism and reinforced its operational coordination centres to improve information exchange. It will continue working towards an effective and transparent management of EU external borders in full respect of fundamental rights.

      Recent events at the European Union’s external borders have shown that Frontex is an essential assistance for Member States and the whole EU in situations of increased migratory pressure. Our security environment is increasingly volatile and complex.

      Today, Frontex has officially launched its rapid border intervention at Lithuania’s border with Belarus and deployed standing corps officers and equipment to help secure EU’s common external border.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news/news-release/frontex-welcomes-report-by-the-scrutiny-working-group-0AQJWY
      https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1415654854412877824

    • EU border agency ‘has failed to protect asylum seekers’ rights’

      Author of European parliament report says Frontex agency’s director should resign or be sacked

      The EU border agency has failed to protect the human rights of asylum seekers, according to a damning European parliament report on the organisation.

      After a four-month investigation by MEPs the report’s author, Tineke Strik, told the Guardian, that Frontex “did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations”.

      Strik, a Dutch Green MEP, wants the agency’s director, Fabrice Leggeri, to resign or be fired, but the special cross-party group of eight MEPs, spanning rightwing nationalists to the radical left, that was convened to investigate Frontex has not made that call.

      Speaking before the report was released on Thursday, Strik continued: “We should consider in the end, can we have confidence in this executive director to really implement those recommendations [in her report] and really change it into a human rights sensitive agency? My group [Green MEPs], we don’t have confidence in him any more. We think it would be sound if the management board would draw the same conclusion and start the search for a new executive director.”

      Once an obscure EU agency, Frontex has become a central pillar of EU border management. After more than a 1.2 million people sought asylum in the EU in 2015, European leaders agreed to give the Warsaw-based organisation more staff and money, a point of consensus in the often fraught EU debate on how to manage migration. By 2027, Frontex will have 10,000 border and coastguards, while its budget has already increased more than 19-fold since its creation in 2006.

      But the agency has come under growing scrutiny over its role in alleged pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with dozens of human rights organisations calling for it to be abolished.

      Last year Frontex was accused of complicity in forcing back asylum seekers in breach of international law, after video footage emerged of one of its ships creating waves that drove back a dingy in the Aegean Sea crammed with people. That footage came through a joint investigation by Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said it had found six incidents where the agency was directly involved in a pushback in the Aegean or in close proximity to one.

      The committee said they had not found “conclusive evidence” that the agency was involved in pushbacks but concluded Frontex had failed to investigate such reports promptly. “As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduced the risk of future fundamental rights violations,” said the report.

      Strik said it was “pretty clear that [Frontex] were at least aware of what was going on” in the Aegean Sea. The agency’s investigations were “very superficial”, she said. “They asked for a response from the [Greek] government and when the government denied [pushbacks] the case was closed.”

      She said Frontex’s modus operandi was to rely on the word of the EU member state it was working with. “They end up asking the government, the host member state, and they almost always accept this response. Our conclusion is that Frontex did not fulfil its human rights obligations and therefore did not address and therefore did not prevent future violations.”

      The agency had repeatedly failed to respond to reports of rights violations from inside the organisation and external organisations, the MEPs said.

      The blame is placed largely on Leggeri, a former senior official in France’s interior ministry in charge of illegal migration, who has been the agency’s executive director since 2015. He has been singled out for criticism for shoring up his own power base within the agency, while failing to recruit all 40 fundamental rights monitors as required by EU law.

      MEPs found that Leggeri had appointed 63 staff to his private office, a number that far exceeds the average. By contrast, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has 30 staff in her private office. “We contrast that in the way he acts with the monitors, only delaying and undermining, yet he provides for an amazing number of staff measures for his own cabinet,” Strik said.

      The MEPs concluded that Leggeri had delayed the recruitment of three executive directors required under EU law that might have checked his power.

      “That results in a complete lack of checks and balances within the organisation and of course we blame the executive director for that, but also the management board because the management board is overall responsible for good governance in the organisation,” Strik said.

      EU member states, she said, needed to make sure their representatives on the Frontex management board had the required expertise in fundamental rights and a direct line to ministers.

      “One of the problems,” she said, was that Frontex was conceived as a security rather than a rights organisation. EU member states found the agency reassuring: “[They] talk about threats at the border. They always call for Frontex. Maybe as reassurance for their own population, ‘we have secured your borders and we have made you safe’.”

      She said there was a perception inside and outside the agency that upholding human rights was in conflict with border control. “Some of the actors still perceive that when you start acting on fundamental rights, then you become less effective on border control … [Frontex] needs to do both and it’s possible to do both at the same time, so it’s a non-discussion actually.”

      The Guardian has contacted Frontex for a response to the European parliament’s report. The agency has always denied any involvement or knowledge of illegal pushbacks.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/eu-border-agency-has-failed-to-protect-asylum-seekers-rights

    • Frontex wusste von Menschenrechtsverletzungen – und tat nichts

      Monatelang haben EU-Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier SPIEGEL-Enthüllungen zu illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen in der Ägäis untersucht. Der Bericht ist eine Abrechnung mit Frontex-Direktor Leggeri – er soll belastendes Material vernichtet haben.

      Monatelang haben EU-Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier SPIEGEL-Enthüllungen zu illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen in der Ägäis untersucht. Der Bericht ist eine Abrechnung mit Frontex-Direktor Leggeri – er soll belastendes Material vernichtet haben.

      Der europäischen Grenzschutzagentur Frontex lagen Beweise für mutmaßlich illegale Pushbacks durch griechische Grenzschützer vor, die Agentur hat es jedoch »versäumt, die Grundrechtsverletzungen anzusprechen und zu verhindern«. Das ist das Ergebnis einer monatelangen Untersuchung des Europaparlaments.

      Eine Prüfgruppe unter Beteiligung aller Fraktionen hat untersucht, was Frontex von den illegalen Pushbacks von Flüchtlingsbooten in der Ägäis wusste – und ob Frontex-Chef Fabrice Leggeri angemessen auf die Rechtsbrüche reagiert hat. Der Bericht der Arbeitsgruppe, den der SPIEGEL vorab einsehen konnte, liest sich wie eine Abrechnung mit Leggeri. Er zeichnet das Bild eines Direktors, der sich für die Einhaltung von Menschenrechten an den EU-Außengrenzen kaum interessiert und alles tut, um Verstöße zu vertuschen. Auf 17 Seiten listen die Abgeordneten seine Verfehlungen auf.

      Leggeri ignorierte sämtliche Hinweise

      Frontex habe öffentliche Berichte über Menschenrechtsverletzungen an den EU-Grenzen generell abgetan, heißt es im Report. Auch auf interne Informationen über mutmaßliche Rechtsbrüche habe die Agentur nicht angemessen reagiert. Leggeri ignoriere die Stellungnahmen und Anfragen seiner Grundrechtsbeauftragten und des sogenannten Konsultativforums. Diese sollen eigentlich dafür sorgen, dass die Agentur die Rechte von Asylsuchenden achtet.

      Trotz zahlreicher Berichte über mutmaßliche Rechtsbrüche in der Ägäis habe Leggeri nie umfassend erwogen, den Frontex-Einsatz zu beenden, oder überlegt, wie er die Menschenrechtsverletzungen verhindern könne. »Im Gegenteil, der Exekutivdirektor behauptet weiterhin, dass ihm keine Informationen über Grundrechtsverletzungen bekannt sind«, schreiben die Parlamentarierinnen und Parlamentarier.

      Darüber hinaus habe Leggeri das Parlament lange Zeit nicht angemessen informiert. Bei seinen Auftritten im Ausschuss habe der Frontex-Direktor Informationen über einzelne Pushbacks verschwiegen. In mehreren Fällen seien Grenzbeamte davon abgebracht worden, Rechtsbrüche mittels eines sogenannten »Serious Incident Reports« an die Frontex-Führung zu melden. Selbst die Einstellung von 40 Grundrechtsbeobachtern, die die Grenzbeamten kontrollieren sollen, habe Leggeri erheblich verzögert. Sie seien noch immer nicht vollständig rekrutiert.

      Frontex machte sich bei Menschenrechtsverletzungen zum Komplizen

      Die Untersuchung des Europaparlaments ist eine Reaktion auf Enthüllungen des SPIEGEL. Gemeinsame Recherchen mit den Medienorganisationen Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat und dem ARD-Magazin »Report Mainz« zeigten, dass Frontex in der Ägäis in illegale Pushbacks verwickelt ist und sich bei griechischen Menschenrechtsverletzungen zum Komplizen gemacht hatte.

      Frontex-Beamte, darunter auch deutsche Bundespolizisten, stoppen in der Ägäis Flüchtlingsboote, bevor sie die griechischen Inseln erreichen, und übergeben sie an die griechische Küstenwache. Die Grenzschützer setzen die Geflüchteten anschließend systematisch auf dem Meer aus – entweder auf aufblasbaren Rettungsflößen oder auf Schlauchbooten, in denen sie den Motor entfernt haben. So stellen sie sicher, dass die Flüchtlinge nicht erneut griechische Gewässer erreichen können. Oft wenden die griechischen Beamten bei den Aktionen Gewalt an, stechen auf die Schlauchboote ein oder schießen ins Wasser. Bei mindestens sieben Fällen waren Frontex-Einheiten bei solchen Pushbacks in der Nähe oder in sie verstrickt.

      Pushbacks im Mittelmeer: Wie Frontex in Verbrechen verstrickt ist

      Griechische Grenzschützer schleppen Flüchtlinge systematisch aufs offene Meer zurück. Recherchen des SPIEGEL und seiner Partner zeigen, wie Frontex in die illegalen Operationen verwickelt ist. Sehen Sie hier den Film.

      In der Nacht vom 18. auf den 19. April zeichnete Frontex aus der Luft auf, wie die griechische Küstenwache Flüchtlinge auf ein Boot ohne Motor setzte und wegfuhr – ein klarer Rechtsverstoß, der die Menschen in Lebensgefahr brachte. Die Aufarbeitung des Pushbacks vom 18. April übernahm Leggeri persönlich. Dem Parlament verschwieg er den Pushback zunächst. Stattdessen stufte er den Vorfall nachträglich so ein, dass die Grundrechtsbeauftragte der Agentur fortan nicht mehr beteiligt war.

      Leggeri ließ offenbar belastendes Material vernichten

      Einer der brisantesten Vorwürfe im Bericht des Europaparlaments bezieht sich auf den Pushback in jener Nacht. Demnach wies Leggeri die Grundrechtsbeauftragte persönlich an, alle Informationen zu löschen, die sie zu dem Vorfall gesammelt hatte. Nach SPIEGEL-Informationen soll dies aus internen E-Mails hervorgehen, die die Abgeordneten einsehen konnten.

      https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/gefluechtete-in-griechenland-frontex-wusste-von-menschenrechtsverletzungen-u

  • Finally, Good News for Asylum Seekers in Italy. New Decree Rolls Back Some of the Worst Aspects of Immigration Policy

    It pledged last year to do so, and now the Italian government has restored some humanity to its immigration and asylum system. This week, the council of ministers adopted a decree that reverses many of the worst policies imposed by the previous interior minister and current leader of the anti-immigrant League Party, Matteo Salvini.

    The decree isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    The decree, adopted October 5, essentially re-establishes in Italian law the residency permit on humanitarian grounds that Salvini abolished in 2018, now called “special protection.” This two-year permit is for people who don’t qualify for asylum, but who shouldn’t be sent away because they would face a risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. The permit is also for people who have family and social links in Italy, or who suffer from serious physical or mental health issues. By one estimate, more than 37,000 people became undocumented since 2018 because humanitarian permits were abolished.

    Crucially, the decree allows people to convert this and other short-term residency permits into longer-term residency permits based on employment. This will help prevent people falling into undocumented status. The decree reduces detention pending deportation to three months from six.

    While the previous government restricted the nation’s reception system to recognized refugees and unaccompanied children, the new decree opens the doors to asylum seekers awaiting a decision. It also ensures asylum seekers have the right to register with the city hall where they live, since a Constitutional Court ruling this past July found the denial of this right made it “unjustifiably difficult for asylum seekers to access the services to which they are entitled.”

    One large blot on the decree is the failure to take a clear stand against criminalization of humanitarian activities. The government chose to reduce from 1 million to 50,000 euros, rather than eliminate, the noxious fines on ships that perform search-and-rescue at sea. Last year, six United Nations human rights authorities called on Italy to incentivize rather than discourage shipmasters from fulfilling their moral and legal obligation to respond to ships in distress. The current government has delayed disembarkations and impounded rescue vessels on administrative grounds.

    Parliament will have a chance to correct that, and make other improvements, when the decree is submitted for parliamentary oversight.

    https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/07/finally-good-news-asylum-seekers-italy

    #nouveau_décret #décret_salvini #Italie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Italie #130/2020 #decreto_immigrazione #décret #SPRAR #accueil #permis_de_séjour #protection_internationale #travail #protection_spéciale #protection_humanitaire #réfugiés_environnementaux #réfugiés_climatiques #sauvetage #Méditerranée #citoyenneté #naturalisation #SIPROIMI #hébergement

    ping @karine4 @isskein

    • In vigore il nuovo decreto in materia di immigrazione (D.L. n. 130 del 21 ottobre 2020): luci e ombre

      Oggi, 22 ottobre, è entrato in vigore il Decreto-legge n. 130/2020, pubblicato in Gazzetta ufficiale il 21 ottobre 2020 e recante “Disposizioni urgenti in materia di immigrazione, protezione internazionale e complementare, modifiche agli articoli 131-bis,391-bis, 391-ter e 588 del codice penale, nonché misure in materia di divieto di accesso agli esercizi pubblici ed ai locali di pubblico trattenimento, di contrasto all’utilizzo distorto del web e di disciplina del Garante nazionale dei diritti delle persone private della libertà personale.

      Atteso da svariati mesi e noto all’opinione pubblica come “decreto immigrazione”, il decreto interviene in svariate materie, modificando anzitutto i c.d. decreti sicurezza del 2018 e 2019, che avevano a loro volta modificato alcune norme contenute nel Testo unico sull’immigrazione (D. Lgs. n. 286/1998), nonché la legge n. 91/1992 in materia di cittadinanza e i D. Lgs. n. 25/2008 e D. Lgs. n. 142/2015 (attuativi della direttiva UE c.d. Procedure e della direttiva UE c.d. Accoglienza del Sistema europeo comune di asilo).

      In altre parole, il c.d. nuovo decreto immigrazione prevede una serie di modifiche, apportate a diverse fonti normative, su tematiche sensibili, che non si limitano alla disciplina in materia d’immigrazione, ma riguardano anche la protezione internazionale e nuove ipotesi di protezione speciale, il soccorso in mare, degli aspetti relativi alla disciplina in materia di cittadinanza e all’accoglienza dei richiedenti asilo.

      In materia di immigrazione, il decreto è intervenuto, anzitutto, sui permessi di soggiorno per motivi di lavoro. Alle categorie di permessi già convertibili, sono state aggiunte le nuove ipotesi permesso per protezione speciale, calamità, residenza elettiva, acquisto della cittadinanza o dello stato di apolide, attività sportiva, lavoro di tipo artistico, motivi religiosi e assistenza ai minori.

      Quanto poi alla protezione internazionale, il nuovo decreto ha stabilito delle modifiche procedurali e sostanziali alla previgente disciplina. Le prime hanno modificato le modalità di svolgimento degli esami prioritari, delle procedure accelerate, nonché della gestione delle domande reiterate in fase di esecuzione di un provvedimento di allontanamento. Sul piano sostanziale

      Inoltre, sono estese le categorie di soggetti che possono beneficiare di permessi di soggiorno per protezione speciale, che costituirà una sorta di nuova categoria residuale di protezione rispetto alle due forme di protezione internazionale (lo status di rifugiato e la protezione internazionale), tanto da far parlare, nei primi commenti, di un sostanziale ritorno alla categoria della precedente protezione umanitaria, pur sotto altra veste terminologica.

      Nella specie, la nuova normativa prevede che non possa essere espulso o respinto e piuttosto meriti protezione, per l’appunto speciale, non solo, come già era previsto sino ad oggi, la persona che rischiava di subire torture, ma anche due nuove ipotesi: i) chi rischia di subire trattamenti inumani o degradanti nel paese d’origine e ii) chi rischia la violazione del diritto al rispetto della propria vita privata e familiare nel territorio nazionale. Inoltre la durata del permesso di soggiorno per protezione speciale è stata ampliata da 1 anno a 2 anni.

      Infine, sempre in materia di protezione complementare, è stata ampliata la nozione del permesso di soggiorno per calamità naturale: attuale presupposto per la concessione del permesso è adesso la semplice esistenza di una situazione di “grave” calamità. In altre parole, non si richiede più che lo stato di calamità sia eccezionale e transitorio come in precedenza, in un probabile tentativo di apertura alla protezione dei c.d. migranti ambientali (normando quanto già preconizzato dalla giurisprudenza della Corte di Cassazione).

      Tra le note positive, viene altresì espressamente prevista l’iscrizione del richiedente protezione internazionale nell’anagrafe della popolazione residente.

      Quanto alla questione del soccorso in mare, in seguito alle pesanti critiche ricevute sul punto dal secondo decreto sicurezza, la nuova disciplina è intervenuta modificando il quadro dei divieti e dei limiti di navigazione per le imbarcazioni delle ONG. In particolare, il Ministro dell’interno, di concerto con il Ministro della difesa e dei trasporti ed informato il Presidente del Consiglio, può ancora limitare o vietare l’ingresso e il transito in acque territoriali a navi non militari o governative non commerciali. Tuttavia, il decreto prevede una deroga a tale divieto o limite di navigazione, nell’ipotesi di navi che abbiano effettuato soccorsi a norma delle convenzioni internazionali, e che abbiano comunicato le operazioni alle autorità competenti nazionali o del loro stato di bandiera.

      Negli altri casi, invece, di “inosservanza del divieto o del limite di navigazione”, è prevista la comminazione di multe che vanno da 10mila a 50mila euro. Si ricorda che, precedentemente al nuovo decreto, in caso di violazione del divieto di cui sopra, era prevista un’ammenda amministrativa, con un limite superiore all’attuale multa (fino a un milione per chi avesse salvato i migranti in mare). Infine, con il nuovo decreto, non è più previsto il sequestro dell’imbarcazione entrata in acque territoriali in maniera irregolare.

      Per quanto riguarda la normativa in materia di cittadinanza, il decreto ha modificato la legge n.91 del 1992, riducendo il tempo di attesa della risposta alla domanda per l’acquisto della cittadinanza italiana da quattro a tre anni, un risultato comunque insoddisfacente alla luce del fatto che la formulazione originaria della legge del 1992 stabiliva una durata di due anni (ed era stato aumentato a quattro anni dal decreto sicurezza del 2018 sopramenzionato). Inoltre non è abrogata la norma che prevede la revoca della cittadinanza per chi l’ha acquisita, in caso di condanna definitiva per reati collegati al terrorismo, creando una discriminazione odiosa rispetto a chi è cittadino italiano iure sanguinis.

      Infine, in materia di accoglienza, è stato creato il nuovo Sistema di accoglienza e integrazione, che sostituisce il SIPROIMI (Sistema di protezione per titolari di protezione internazionale e per minori stranieri non accompagnati), ritornando a un sistema simile ai vecchi SPRAR (Sistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati). Tuttavia, le funzioni di prima assistenza o soccorso verranno gestite nei centri governativi ordinari e straordinari istituiti dal Ministro dell’Interno, quindi attraverso i grandi e largamente disfunzionali centri di prima accoglienza che abbiamo imparato a conoscere. La successiva fase di accoglienza, invece, viene affidata agli enti locali e si articolerà in due livelli di servizi, distinti a seconda che si tratti di soggetti richiedenti protezione internazionale (per i quali la normativa torna appunto a prevedere forme di accoglienza in precedenza eliminate dal decreto sicurezza del 2018) ovvero titolari della stessa. Nel primo caso sono previsti servizi di assistenza sanitaria, sociale e psicologica nonché di mediazione linguistico-culturale, nel secondo caso si aggiungono servizi di integrazione del soggetto, tra cui l‘orientamento al lavoro e la formazione professionale. Inoltre, il decreto ha reso potenziali beneficiari dei suddetti servizi anche i titolari di una serie di permessi di soggiorno speciali (protezione speciale, protezione sociale, violenza domestica, calamità, particolare sfruttamento lavorativo, atti di particolare valore civile, casi speciali).

      Il nuovo decreto ha dunque nuovamente inciso sul precedente impianto normativo in materia di immigrazione e asilo riformando e, per lo più, abrogando le modifiche introdotte dai cosiddetti “decreti sicurezza”, pur mantenendone alcuni profili criticabili. I tempi di attesa per l’ottenimento della cittadinanza sopra evidenziati, così come il mantenimento della criminalizzazione del soccorso marittimo sono tra questi. In ogni caso, il contenuto può ritenersi complessivamente soddisfacente e il decreto è indubbiamente un passo verso l’apertura e un trattamento della politica migratoria quale evento strutturale e non meramente emergenziale.

      https://www.unionedirittiumani.it/in-vigore-il-nuovo-decreto-in-materia-di-immigrazione-d-l-n-130-d

  • Data Leviathan : China’s Burgeoning Surveillance State
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/08/16/data-leviathan-chinas-burgeoning-surveillance-state

    Classical totalitarianism, in which the state controls all institutions and most aspects of public life, largely died with the Soviet Union, apart from a few holdouts such as North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party retained a state monopoly in the political realm but allowed a significant private economy to flourish. Yet today, in Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest, a new totalitarianism is emerging—one built not on state ownership of enterprises or property but on the state’s intrusive (...)

    #algorithme #CCTV #technologisme #domination #vidéo-surveillance #Islam #surveillance (...)

    ##HumanRightsWatch

  • China : Police ‘Big Data’ Systems Violate Privacy, Target Dissent
    https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/19/china-police-big-data-systems-violate-privacy-target-dissent

    Automated Systems Track People Authorities Claim ‘Threatening’ (New York) – The Chinese government should stop building big data policing platforms that aggregate and analyze massive amounts of citizens’ personal information, Human Rights Watch said today. This abusive “Police Cloud” system is designed to track and predict the activities of activists, dissidents, and ethnic minorities, including those authorities say have “extreme thoughts,” among other functions. China has no enforceable (...)

    #algorithme #CCTV #technologisme #BigData #données #surveillance #HumanRightsWatch

  • Xinjiang’s System of Militarized Vocational Training Comes to #Tibet

    Introduction and Summary

    In 2019 and 2020, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) introduced new policies to promote the systematic, centralized, and large-scale training and transfer of “rural surplus laborers” to other parts of the TAR, as well as to other provinces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the first 7 months of 2020, the region had trained over half a million rural surplus laborers through this policy. This scheme encompasses Tibetans of all ages, covers the entire region, and is distinct from the coercive vocational training of secondary students and young adults reported by exile Tibetans (RFA, October 29, 2019).

    The labor transfer policy mandates that pastoralists and farmers are to be subjected to centralized “military-style” (军旅式, junlüshi) vocational training, which aims to reform “backward thinking” and includes training in “work discipline,” law, and the Chinese language. Examples from the TAR’s Chamdo region indicate that the militarized training regimen is supervised by People’s Armed Police drill sergeants, and training photos published by state media show Tibetan trainees dressed in military fatigues (see accompanying images).

    Poverty alleviation reports bluntly say that the state must “stop raising up lazy people.” Documents state that the “strict military-style management” of the vocational training process “strengthens [the Tibetans’] weak work discipline” and reforms their “backward thinking.” Tibetans are to be transformed from “[being] unwilling to move” to becoming willing to participate, a process that requires “diluting the negative influence of religion.” This is aided by a worrisome new scheme that “encourages” Tibetans to hand over their land and herds to government-run cooperatives, turning them into wage laborers.

    An order-oriented, batch-style matching and training mechanism trains laborers based on company needs. Training, matching and delivery of workers to their work destination takes place in a centralized fashion. Recruitments rely, among other things, on village-based work teams, an intrusive social control mechanism pioneered in the TAR by Chen Quanguo (陈全国), and later used in Xinjiang to identify Uyghurs who should be sent to internment camps (China Brief, September 21, 2017). Key policy documents state that cadres who fail to achieve the mandated quotas are subject to “strict rewards and punishments” (严格奖惩措施, yange jiangcheng cuoshi). The goal of the scheme is to achieve Xi Jinping’s signature goal of eradicating absolute poverty by increasing rural disposable incomes. This means that Tibetan nomads and farmers must change their livelihoods so that they earn a measurable cash income, and can therefore be declared “poverty-free.”

    This draconian scheme shows a disturbing number of close similarities to the system of coercive vocational training and labor transfer established in Xinjiang. The fact that Tibet and Xinjiang share many of the same social control and securitization mechanisms—in each case introduced under administrations directed by Chen Quanguo—renders the adaptation of one region’s scheme to the other particularly straightforward.

    Historical Context

    As early as 2005, the TAR had a small-scale rural surplus labor training and employment initiative for pastoralists and farmers in Lhasa (Sina, May 13, 2005). The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) then specified that this type of training and labor transfer was to be conducted throughout the TAR (PRC Government, February 8, 2006). From 2012, the Chamdo region initiated a “military-style training for surplus labor force transfer for pastoral and agricultural regions” (农牧区富余劳动力转移就业军旅式培训, nongmuqu fuyu laodongli zhuanyi jiuye junlüshi peixun) (Tibet’s Chamdo, October 8, 2014). Chamdo’s scheme was formally established in the region’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), with the goal of training 65,000 laborers (including urban unemployed persons) during that time (Chamdo Government, December 29, 2015).

    By 2016, Chamdo had established 45 related vocational training bases (TAR Government, November 17, 2016). Starting in 2016, the TAR’s Shannan region likewise implemented vocational training with “semi-military-style management” (半军事化管理, ban junshihua guanli) (Tibet Shannan Net, April 5, 2017). Several different sources indicate that Chamdo’s military-style training management was conducted by People’s Armed Police drill sergeants.[1]

    Policies of the 2019-2020 Militarized Vocational Training and Labor Transfer Action Plan

    In March 2019, the TAR issued the 2019-2020 Farmer and Pastoralist Training and Labor Transfer Action Plan (西藏自治区2019-2020年农牧民培训和转移就业行动方案, Xizang Zizhiqu 2019-2020 Nian Nongmumin Peixun he Zhuanyi Jiuye Xingdong Fang’an) which mandates the “vigorous promotion of military-style…[vocational] training,” adopting the model pioneered in Chamdo and mandating it throughout the region. [2] The vocational training process must include “work discipline, Chinese language and work ethics,” aiming to “enhance laborers’ sense of discipline to comply with national laws and regulations and work unit rules and regulations.”

    Surplus labor training is to follow the “order-oriented” (订单定向式, dingdan dingxiangshi) or “need-driven” (以需定培, yi xu dingpei) method, [3] whereby the job is arranged first, and the training is based on the pre-arranged job placement. In 2020, at least 40 percent of job placements were to follow this method, with this share mandated to exceed 60 percent by the year 2024 (see [2], also below). Companies that employ a minimum number of laborers can obtain financial rewards of up to 500,000 renminbi ($73,900 U.S. dollars). Local labor brokers receive 300 ($44) or 500 ($74) renminbi per arranged labor transfer, depending whether it is within the TAR or without. [4] Detailed quotas not only mandate how many surplus laborers each county must train, but also how many are to be trained in each vocational specialty (Ngari Government, July 31, 2019).

    The similarities to Xinjiang’s coercive training scheme are abundant: both schemes have the same target group (“rural surplus laborers”—农牧区富余劳动者, nongmuqu fuyu laodongzhe); a high-powered focus on mobilizing a “reticent” minority group to change their traditional livelihood mode; employ military drill and military-style training management to produce discipline and obedience; emphasize the need to “transform” laborers’ thinking and identity, and to reform their “backwardness;” teach law and Chinese; aim to weaken the perceived negative influence of religion; prescribe detailed quotas; and put great pressure on officials to achieve program goals. [5]

    Labor Transfers to Other Provinces in 2020

    In 2020, the TAR introduced a related region-wide labor transfer policy that established mechanisms and target quotas for the transfer of trained rural surplus laborers both within (55,000) and without (5,000) the TAR (TAR Human Resources Department, July 17). The terminology is akin to that used in relation to Xinjiang’s labor transfers, employing phrases such as: “supra-regional employment transfer” (跨区域转移就业, kuaquyu zhuanyi jiuye) and “labor export” (劳务输出, laowu shuchu). Both the 2019-2020 Training and Labor Transfer Action Plan and the TAR’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) only mention transfers outside the TAR in passing, without outlining a detailed related policy or the use of terminology akin to that found in related documents from Xinjiang. [6]

    In the first 7 months of 2020, the TAR trained 543,000 rural surplus laborers, accomplishing 90.5% of its annual goal by July. Of these, 49,900 were transferred to other parts of the TAR, and 3,109 to other parts of China (TAR Government, August 12). Each region is assigned a transfer quota. By the end of 2020, this transfer scheme must cover the entire TAR.

    Specific examples of such labor transfers identified by the author to other regions within the TAR include job placements in road construction, cleaning, mining, cooking and driving. [7] Transfers to labor placements outside the TAR include employment at the COFCO Group, China’s largest state-owned food-processing company (Hebei News, September 18, 2020).

    The central terminology employed for the labor transfer process is identical with language used in Xinjiang: “unified matching, unified organizing, unified management, unified sending off” (统一对接、统一组织、统一管理、统一输送 / tongyi duijie, tongyi zuzhi, tongyi guanli, tongyi shusong). [8] Workers are transferred to their destination in a centralized, “group-style” (组团式, zutuanshi), “point-to-point” (点对点, dianduidian) fashion. The policy document sets group sizes at 30 persons, divided into subgroups of 10, both to be headed by (sub-)group leaders (TAR Human Resources Department, July 17). In one instance, this transport method was described as “nanny-style point-to-point service” (“点对点”“保姆式”服务 / “dianduidian” “baomu shi” fuwu) (Chinatibet.net, June 21). As in Xinjiang, these labor transfers to other provinces are arranged and supported through the Mutual Pairing Assistance [or “assist Tibet” (援藏, Yuan Zang)] mechanism, albeit not exclusively. [9] The transferred laborers’ “left-behind” children, wives and elderly family members are to receive the state’s “loving care.” [10]

    Again, the similarities to Xinjiang’s inter-provincial transfer scheme are significant: unified processing, batch-style transfers, strong government involvement, financial incentives for middlemen and for participating companies, and state-mandated quotas. However, for the TAR’s labor transfer scheme, there is so far no evidence of accompanying cadres or security personnel, of cadres stationed in factories, or of workers being kept in closed, securitized environments at their final work destination. It is possible that the transfer of Tibetan laborers is not as securitized as that of Uyghur workers. There is also currently no evidence of TAR labor training and transfer schemes being linked to extrajudicial internment. The full range of TAR vocational training and job assignment mechanisms can take various forms and has a range of focus groups; not all of them involve centralized transfers or the military-style training and transfer of nomads and farmers.

    The Coercive Nature of the Labor Training and Transfer System

    Even so, there are clear elements of coercion during recruitment, training and job matching, as well as a centralized and strongly state-administered and supervised transfer process. While some documents assert that the scheme is predicated on voluntary participation, the overall evidence indicates the systemic presence of numerous coercive elements.

    As in Xinjiang, TAR government documents make it clear that poverty alleviation is a “battlefield,” with such work to be organized under a military-like “command” structure (脱贫攻坚指挥部, tuopin gongjian zhihuibu) (TAR Government, October 29, 2019; Xinhua, October 7, 2018). In mid-2019, the battle against poverty in the TAR was said to have “entered the decisive phase,” given the goal to eradicate absolute poverty by the end of 2020 (Tibet.cn, June 11, 2019). Since poverty is measured by income levels, and labor transfer is the primary means to increase incomes—and hence to “lift” people out of poverty—the pressure for local governments to round up poor populations and feed them into the scheme is extremely high.

    The Training and Labor Transfer Action Plan cited above establishes strict administrative procedures, and mandates the establishment of dedicated work groups as well as the involvement of top leadership cadres, to “ensure that the target tasks are completed on schedule” (see [2]). Each administrative level is to pass on the “pressure [to achieve the targets] to the next [lower] level.” Local government units are to “establish a task progress list [and] those who lag behind their work schedule… are to be reported and to be held accountable according to regulations.” The version adopted by the region governed under Shannan City is even more draconian: training and labor transfer achievements are directly weighed in cadres’ annual assessment scores, complemented by a system of “strict rewards and punishments.” [11] Specific threats of “strict rewards and punishments” in relation to achieving labor training and transfer targets are also found elsewhere, such as in official reports from the region governed under Ngari City, which mandate “weekly, monthly and quarterly” reporting mechanisms (TAR Government, December 18, 2018).

    As with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, overcoming Tibetans’ resistance to labor transfer is an integral part of the entire mechanism. Documents state that the “strict military-style management” of the vocational training process causes the “masses to comply with discipline,” “continuously strengthens their patriotic awareness,” and reforms their “backward thinking.” [12] This may also involve the presence of local cadres to “make the training discipline stricter.” [13]

    Because the military-style vocational training process produces discipline and transforms “backward employment views,” it is said to “promote labor transfer.” [14] Rural laborers are to be transformed from “[being] unwilling to move” to becoming willing to participate, a process that requires “diluting the negative influence of religion,” which is said to induce passivity (TAR Commerce Department, June 10). The poverty alleviation and training process is therefore coupled with an all-out propaganda effort that aims to use “thought education” to “educate and guide the unemployed to change their closed, conservative and traditional employment mindset” (Tibet’s Chamdo, July 8, 2016). [15] One document notes that the poverty alleviation and labor transfer process is part of an effort to “stop raising up lazy people” (TAR Government, December 18, 2018).

    A 2018 account from Chamdo of post-training follow-up shows the tight procedures employed by the authorities:

    Strictly follow up and ask for effectiveness. Before the end of each training course, trainees are required to fill in the “Employment Willingness Questionnaire.” Establish a database…to grasp the employment…status of trainees after the training. For those who cannot be employed in time after training, follow up and visit regularly, and actively recommend employment…. [16]

    These “strict” follow-up procedures are increasingly unnecessary, because the mandated “order-oriented” process means that locals are matched with future jobs prior to the training.

    “Grid Management” and the “Double-Linked Household” System

    Coercive elements play an important role during the recruitment process. Village-based work teams, an intrusive social control mechanism pioneered by Chen Quanguo, go from door to door to “help transform the thinking and views of poor households.” [17] The descriptions of these processes, and the extensive government resources invested to ensure their operation, overlap to a high degree with those that are commonly practiced in Xinjiang (The China Quarterly, July 12, 2019). As is the case in Xinjiang, poverty-alleviation work in the TAR is tightly linked to social control mechanisms and key aspects of the security apparatus. To quote one government document, “By combining grid management and the ‘double-linked household’ management model, [we must] organize, educate, and guide the people to participate and to support the fine-grained poverty alleviation … work.” [18]

    Grid management (网格化管理, wanggehua guanli) is a highly intrusive social control mechanism, through which neighborhoods and communities are subdivided into smaller units of surveillance and control. Besides dedicated administrative and security staff, this turns substantial numbers of locals into “volunteers,” enhancing the surveillance powers of the state. [19] Grid management later became the backbone of social control and surveillance in Xinjiang. For poverty alleviation, it involves detailed databases that list every single person “in poverty,” along with indicators and countermeasures, and may include a “combat visualization” (图表化作战, tubiaohua zuozhan) feature whereby progress in the “war on poverty” is visualized through maps and charts (TAR Government, November 10, 2016). Purang County in Ngari spent 1.58 million renminbi ($233,588 dollars) on a “Smart Poverty Alleviation Big Data Management Platform,” which can display poverty alleviation progress on a large screen in real time (TAR Government, February 20, 2019).

    Similarly, the “double-linked household” (双联户, shuang lian hu) system corrals regular citizens into the state’s extensive surveillance apparatus by making sets of 10 “double-linked” households report on each other. Between 2012 and 2016, the TAR established 81,140 double-linked household entities, covering over three million residents, and therefore virtually the region’s entire population (South China Morning Post, December 12, 2016). An August 2020 article on poverty alleviation in Ngari notes that it was the head of a “double-linked” household unit who led his “entire village” to hand over their grassland and herds to a local husbandry cooperative (Hunan Government, August 20).

    Converting Property to Shares Through Government Cooperatives

    A particularly troubling aspect of the Training and Labor Transfer Action Plan is the directive to promote a “poverty alleviation industry” (扶贫产业, fupin chanye) scheme by which local nomads and farmers are asked to hand over their land and herds to large-scale, state-run cooperatives (农牧民专业合作社, nongmumin zhuanye hezuoshe). [20] In that way, “nomads become shareholders” as they convert their usage rights into shares. This scheme, which harks back to the forced collectivization era of the 1950s, increases the disposable incomes of nomads and farmers through share dividends and by turning them into wage laborers. They are then either employed by these cooperatives or are now “free” to participate in the wider labor transfer scheme. [21] In Nagqu, this is referred to as the “one township one cooperative, one village one cooperative ” (“一乡一社”“一村一合” / “yixiang yishe” “yicun yihe”) scheme, indicating its universal coverage. [22] One account describes the land transfer as prodding Tibetans to “put down the whip, walk out of the pasture, and enter the [labor] market” (People.cn, July 27, 2020).

    Clearly, such a radical transformation of traditional livelihoods is not achieved without overcoming local resistance. A government report from Shuanghu County (Nagqu) in July 2020 notes that:

    In the early stages, … most herders were not enthusiastic about participating. [Then], the county government…organized…county-level cadres to deeply penetrate township and village households, convening village meetings to mobilize people, insisted on transforming the [prevailing attitude of] “I am wanted to get rid of poverty” to “I want to get rid of poverty” as the starting point for the formation of a cooperative… [and] comprehensively promoted the policy… Presently… the participation rate of registered poor herders is at 100 percent, [that] of other herders at 97 percent. [23]

    Importantly, the phrase “transforming [attitudes of] ‘I am wanted to get rid of poverty’ to ‘I want to get rid of poverty’” is found in this exact form in accounts of poverty alleviation through labor transfer in Xinjiang. [24]

    Given that this scheme severs the long-standing connection between Tibetans and their traditional livelihood bases, its explicit inclusion in the militarized vocational training and labor transfer policy context is of great concern.

    Militarized Vocational Training: Examining a Training Base in Chamdo

    The Chamdo Golden Sunshine Vocational Training School (昌都市金色阳光职业培训学校, Changdushi Jinse Yangguang Zhiye Peixun Xuexiao) operates a vocational training base within Chamdo’s Vocational and Technical School, located in Eluo Town, Karuo District. The facility conducts “military-style training” (军旅式培训, junlüshi peixun) of rural surplus laborers for the purpose of achieving labor transfer; photos of the complex show a rudimentary facility with rural Tibetan trainees of various ages, mostly dressed in military fatigues. [25]

    Satellite imagery (see accompanying images) shows that after a smaller initial setup in 2016, [26] the facility was expanded in the year 2018 to its current state. [27] The compound is fully enclosed, surrounded by a tall perimeter wall and fence, and bisected by a tall internal wire mesh fence that separates the three main northern buildings from the three main southern ones (building numbers 4 and 5 and parts of the surrounding wall are shown in the accompanying Figure 4). The internal fence might be used to separate dormitories from teaching and administrative buildings. Independent experts in satellite analysis contacted by the author estimated the height of the internal fence at approximately 3 meters. The neighboring vocational school does not feature any such security measures.

    Conclusions

    In both Xinjiang and Tibet, state-mandated poverty alleviation consists of a top-down scheme that extends the government’s social control deep into family units. The state’s preferred method to increase the disposable incomes of rural surplus laborers in these restive minority regions is through vocational training and labor transfer. Both regions have by now implemented a comprehensive scheme that relies heavily on centralized administrative mechanisms; quota fulfilment; job matching prior to training; and a militarized training process that involves thought transformation, patriotic and legal education, and Chinese language teaching.

    Important differences remain between Beijing’s approaches in Xinjiang and Tibet. Presently, there is no evidence that the TAR’s scheme is linked to extrajudicial internment, and aspects of its labor transfer mechanisms are potentially less coercive. However, in a system where the transition between securitization and poverty alleviation is seamless, there is no telling where coercion stops and where genuinely voluntary local agency begins. While some Tibetans may voluntarily participate in some or all aspects of the scheme, and while their incomes may indeed increase as a result, the systemic presence of clear indicators of coercion and indoctrination, coupled with profound and potentially permanent change in modes of livelihood, is highly problematic. In the context of Beijing’s increasingly assimilatory ethnic minority policy, it is likely that these policies will promote a long-term loss of linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage.

    Adrian Zenz is a Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Washington, D.C. (non-resident), and supervises PhD students at the European School of Culture and Theology, Korntal, Germany. His research focus is on China’s ethnic policy, public recruitment in Tibet and Xinjiang, Beijing’s internment campaign in Xinjiang, and China’s domestic security budgets. Dr. Zenz is the author of Tibetanness under Threat and co-editor of Mapping Amdo: Dynamics of Change. He has played a leading role in the analysis of leaked Chinese government documents, to include the “China Cables” and the “Karakax List.” Dr. Zenz is an advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, and a frequent contributor to the international media.

    Notes

    [1] See for example https://archive.is/wip/4ItV6 or http://archive.is/RVJRK. State media articles from September 2020 indicate that this type of training is ongoing https://archive.is/e1XqL.

    [2] Chinese: 大力推广军旅式…培训 (dali tuiguang junlüshi…peixun). See https://bit.ly/3mmiQk7 (pp.12-17). See local implementation documents of this directive from Shannan City (https://bit.ly/32uVlO5, pp.15-24), Xigatse (https://archive.is/7oJ7p) and Ngari (https://archive.is/wip/R3Mpw).

    [3] See also https://archive.is/wip/eQMGa.

    [4] Provided that the person was employed for at least 6 months in a given year. Source: https://archive.is/KE1Vd.

    [5] See the author’s main work on this in section 6 of: “Beyond the Camps: Beijing’s Long-Term Scheme of Coercive Labor, Poverty Alleviation and Social Control in Xinjiang,” Journal of Political Risk (Vol. 7, No. 12), December 2019. https://www.jpolrisk.com/beyond-the-camps-beijings-long-term-scheme-of-coercive-labor-poverty-allev.

    [6] See https://archive.is/wip/Dyapm.

    [7] See https://archive.is/wip/XiZfl, https://archive.is/RdnvS, https://archive.is/w1kfx, https://archive.is/wip/NehA6,