Internal report identifies ‘deficiencies’ at EU border agency – POLITICO

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A new internal report from the EU’s border agency Frontex says the organization suffers from “deficiencies” and is in need of a new “culture,” according to a copy seen by POLITICO.

The working group report, which will be presented to the agency’s board on Friday, comes after media reports in October accused the agency of taking part in violations of international law at the Greek-Turkish maritime border. The reports, including in the German weekly Der Spiegel, said migrants trying to reach EU coasts were turned back without being given the right to ask for asylum — a so-called pushback, which is illegal.

Frontex denied the allegations.

In the wake of the 2015-2016 EU migration crisis, Frontex received a new mandate to create a 10,000-strong corps of border and coast guards — one of the few things EU member states agreed on as it debated the controversial subject.

But after the recent reports about pushbacks, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson began criticizing the agency’s chief, Fabrice Leggeri, and called for clarity on whether the agency had respected the rules. During a Thursday hearing in the European Parliament, Johansson called for “first-class governance” at the agency and said the upcoming internal report might shed some light.

“Hopefully the report that will be presented to the management board tomorrow could clarify this,” she told a newly established Frontex Scrutiny Working Group at the Parliament. “But I think I do share with you that this has taken too long time. And this time has not been good for the reputation and trust for the agency.”

At the hearing, MEPs also pressed Leggeri about delays in recruiting enough monitors tasked with ensuring Frontex operations comply with the EU’s fundamental rights framework.

Separately, Leggeri is under fire from the EU anti-fraud agency, Olaf, which in January opened an investigation into allegations of pushbacks, harassment and misconduct at Frontex.

The report is a final version of a preliminary report that the same working group presented in January.

“The Working Group identified deficiencies in the monitoring and reporting system of Frontex and suggested further necessary improvement,” the new report reads. And, it adds, “the reporting system should be combined with a newly introduced culture, in which failure is acknowledged and addressed, in order to create awareness of and sensitiveness towards possible misconduct.”

In total, the working group looked into 13 allegations of pushbacks. During the hearing on Thursday, Leggeri stressed that when reading both the working group’s preliminary and final reports, “I can see that there is no violation of fundamental rights.”

But overall, on six of the allegations, the report says, “it has not been possible to completely resolve the incidents beyond any reasonable doubt.” Still, it welcomes that “the Agency has already undertaken efforts and actions to reform its reporting and monitoring mechanism.”

Officials and diplomats have questioned, however, why these actions did not take place before the agency came under public scrutiny.

Hans von der Burchard contributed reporting

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