By LORNE COOK, associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) – The frontier of the European Union and the Coast Guard agency, Frontex, are themselves under the watch of the bloc of the 27-nation bloc to keep an eye on its front and anyone who can try to enter without authorization – And under fire.
Almost infrequently: In the Aegean Sea, Turkish fighter jets and ships hoist frontex aircraft or scare agency boats monitoring migratory movements across the narrow strip of sea between Turkey and Greece’s eastern islands . Turkish soldiers allegedly fired warning shots into the air at the land border.
And in the European Parliament, calls have come for the resignation of Executive Director Fabrice Leggi. Some lawmakers say they have denied allegations that the agency was involved in basic violations of the rights of migrants.
Charity groups and media outlets accuse Frontex of denying people their right to apply for asylum – which is illegal under EU law and refugee treaties. They say it was also complicated, or failed to prevent, alleged pushback at sea by Greece’s coast guard, where migrants were returned to Turkish waters.
Although the agency was supposed to hire 40 Fundamental Rights officers by December, it still has not.
One investigation found no link between Frontex and Aegean pushback. But Parliament has set up a “scrutiny group” to address the report and human rights concerns. The European Union’s Anti-Fraud Office is also looking into them, and on claims of misconduct by senior managers.
Even as criticism, Frontex’s powers are increasing. In the coming years, the agency is projected to swell a 10,000-strong standing force with armed officers and high-tech surveillance equipment. Its budget has grown to 5.6 billion euros (6.7 billion dollars) over the next seven years.
In 2014, a year before the EU migrant challenge reached its peak, the agency had an annual budget of around 100 million euros and had to request border staff from member states.
Its role is also expanding. More recently, when the United Kingdom left the European Union, it insisted that the Frontex handle border controls at airports in the British territory of Gibraltar instead of British authorities.
But as the powers and duties of the Frontex increase, so too does his need for supervision.
“It is, in my view, the most important agency in the entire European Union. And with power and money comes responsibility, and of course security and investigation,” EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson told EU MPs on March 4 Told about the investigation.
Furthermore, any failure at the Frontex is an added embarrassment for nations that over the years have been deeply divided over what responsibility should be taken for those who enter without authorization and whether other member states are obliged to help. Should be
Han Birens at the Migration Policy Institute said “in the absence of the European Union, what happens is firmly on the ground when the migration management is agreed, how the EU is viewed from the outside”.
The question is, who exactly is it when it comes to Frontex?
The agency is overseen by the National Interior Ministry, a management board of police and border officers that establishes its action plan and operations. The commission, which monitors respect for EU laws, has two out of 28 board seats.
In 2015, Lageri, a French civil servant named Executive Director, was tasked with carrying out the board’s strategy as thousands of Syrian refugees arrived in Europe. The posts of deputy director and many other senior positions are unfilled.
On paper, Frontex is legally accountable to 27 member states and the European Parliament. Through Johansson, the Commission has no political but legal responsibility for Frontex’s actions.
On the sea, or on land borders, however, the Frontex operations are controlled by the country in which they reside. In the Aegean, where several pushbacks have been reported, this means the Greek Coast Guard. This is where the lines of responsibility become sloppy.
Frontex and Greece vehemently refuse to do pushback, and the investigation cleared the agency, although it did uncover “monitoring and reporting” failures. But Legargi requested twice last year that Athens investigate the conduct of the Greek coast guard.
He also told EU lawmakers that when Turkey waged thousands of migrants through its borders with Greece last March, Athens attempted to “make optimal use of the provisions on the contradictions” in an emergency measure.
This means, Leggie said, “that in some cases the boats of the emigrants may be instructed not to stay or enter the territorial waters.” For some, this may be the very definition of a pushback, and it also raises the question: Should Frontex comply when an order to stop a migrant boat can actually break the law?
These blurred legal definitions, unclear lines of command and conflicting interests of coastal or inland EU member states make the Frontex ship a complex command.
German conservative jurist Lina DuPont – a member of the European Parliament “investigation group” – told the AP that there is much room to improve the “agency’s management ecosystem,” especially the way Frontex is growing.
“This is the first time we’ve had someone wearing a gun, someone wearing a European uniform,” he said, as part of a permanent corps rather than officers sent at the request of member states. Frontex is more “European than ever, and it is a drastic change within the agency.”
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