Metsola in MEP delegation investigating Frontex violation of fundamental rights

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola forms part of a European Parliament investigation into allegations that Frontex violated fundamental rights

Frontex was accused of forcing migrants out of EU waters and back to Turkey (Photo: Frontex)
Frontex was accused of forcing migrants out of EU waters and back to Turkey (Photo: Frontex)

A new EP Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) will monitor all aspects of the functioning of the border agency, including its compliance with fundamental rights.

The delegation includes Nationalist MEP and EP vice-president Roberta Metsola.

Following a decision by the Civil Liberties committee coordinators on 29 January, fourteen MEPs – two per political group – will assess Frontex activities and organisation, including its reinforced role and resources for integrated border management and the correct application of the EU acquis.

The constitutive meeting will be held on Tuesday 23 February. Within the first four months of its existence, the FSWG should carry out a fact-finding investigation, gathering all relevant information and evidence regarding alleged violations of fundamental rights in which the Agency was involved. The Frontex Scrutiny WG meetings will take place twice per month.

The membersare Roberta Metsola and Lena Dupont from the EPP; Bettina Vollath and Javier Moreno Sanchez (S&D); Malik Azmani and Dragos Tudorache (Renew); Nicolas Bay and Peter Kofod (Ind); Erik Marquardt and Tineke Strik (Greens); Patryk Tomas Jaki and Jorge Buxadé Villalba (ECR); and Sira Rego and Cornelia Ernst (The Left).

Human rights group Mare Liberum published a damning report on so-called pushbacks between the Greek Aegean islands and Turkey, the country with the largest refugee and migrant population in the world.

According to Mare Liberum, 2020 saw “an unprecedented escalation of human rights violations in the Aegean” at the Greek-Turkish border.

The main actor who carried out the “systematic expulsions”, according to the NGO, was the Greek coast guard, while European border and coast guard agency Frontex as well as ships under NATO command were also involved.

Mare Liberum said it documented 321 incidents, both at sea and on land, in which 9,798 people were illegally pushed back in 2020. Although not new, “their scale, the precise methodology and the strategically deployed violence and humiliation” had “reached an entirely new dimension” that began in March, according to the report.

Deprived of right to asylum

Most cases detailed in the report are about the damage to inflatable boats of people seeking protection, as well as the passengers, which included children, “deliberately being subjected to physical and psychological violence.”

“These pushbacks are not isolated or extreme instances of European deterrence, but rather the current and everyday “modus operandi” at the EU's external border,” said Paul Hanewinkel of Mare Liberum, one of the authors of the report. “We live in a Europe where people are abandoned at sea in tiny life rafts, instead of legally accepting people seeking protection.”

Mare Liberum said it mainly reconstructed the pushbacks “through the testimonies of witnesses who were themselves pushed back at the Greek-Turkish border, cross-checking and evaluating official government websites, press reports and data from other organizations and actors.”

So-called pushbacks refer to the practice of preventing people from seeking protection on their territory by forcibly returning them to another country, generally immediately after they crossed it. They are illegal as they violate international law and human rights, including the principle of non-refoulement and the right of migrants to claim asylum after they crossed a border.

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