Warsaw (dpa) – According to an internal report, the EU border protection force Frontex is unable to unambiguously dispose of allegations of possible violations of fundamental rights.
Due to weaknesses in Frontex’s reporting and control system, a working group was unable to fully clarify five such suspected cases, according to a report available to the DPA.
Frontex has been severely criticized for repeatedly driving boats carrying migrants back to Turkey by Greek border guards, according to media reports. Frontex officials would have been around without preventing this. Several EU agencies are investigating the allegations. The internal Frontex working group was mandated by the Board of Directors to investigate 13 such cases.
According to a preliminary report filed in January, no misconduct was detected in eight cases. Five other cases were further investigated. However, the final report cannot provide a complete clarification either. “The fact that four out of five incidents are still under investigation by Frontex is a reason to review the agency’s internal processes in case of possible violations of fundamental rights,” the newspaper said.
The internal working group consists of representatives from different EU countries and the EU Commission. Frontex’s supervisory board intends to discuss the report next Friday.
In one of the incidents investigated, a Frontex reconnaissance plane discovered a dinghy in Greek territorial waters on April 18 last year. According to the report, the empty dinghy was towed towards Turkish waters by a Greek Coast Guard vessel, with 20 to 30 people on board. When they reached the Greek-Turkish border, the Coast Guard put these people back on the dinghy. Then the ship was shut down.
“In the photos taken by the Frontex reconnaissance plane, no engine can be seen on the inflatable boat as it is being pulled by the Greek Coast Guard vessel,” the report said. Even when refugees were put back on the boat, there was no engine to be seen. The Coast Guard had assured that the boat had a working engine and was seaworthy. However, the working group was unable to fully clarify the facts.
In another case, where a reconnaissance aircraft observed a similar scene, only a limited sequence was recorded. A Coast Guard officer had instructed the flight crew “not to monitor the incident and to continue the patrol in a southeasterly direction.”
This procedure is part of the established procedure under which Member States’ authorities have tactical leadership, notes the working group. However, she recommends using the “four eyes principle” for the future. “Frontex surveillance aircraft and other Frontex capabilities should remain at the site of the incident discovered in the future to document the border police actions until they are completed,” the report said.
The working group also urges Frontex to immediately investigate all suspected violations of fundamental rights in the future and to complete the investigation as soon as possible. “Any form of retrograde interference to modify operational data should be avoided,” the committee emphasizes.