At the Commission’s request, the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) held an extraordinary meeting on 10 November 2020 to discuss the allegations of pushbacks of migrants in the Aegean Sea recently reported in the media, and a number of fundamental rights related points.
In addition to the Management Board’s members and Frontex Executive Director, the meeting was attended by Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Officer ad interim, the Executive Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency, and an expert representing the European Parliament LIBE Secretariat.
The main discussion focused on the allegations of pushbacks recently reported in the media. The Management Board in particular concluded that urgent action is needed in order to investigate all aspects related to the matter. It decided to set up a sub-group to the Management Board to further consider these aspects, in line with the distribution of responsibilities under the EBCG Regulation. The concrete mandate of this sub-group will be elaborated in view of the discussion at the next Management Board meeting on 25/26 November 2020.
The Commission will submit a number of questions to the Executive Director to provide further clarifications in writing regarding Frontex’s internal inquiry and the incidents, and on any follow up actions by the Agency’s staff or Executive Director.
Conclusions of the Chairperson of the Management Board
The Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) met today at the request of the Commission in an extraordinary session to discuss the Rapid Border Intervention ongoing in the Eastern Mediterranean, and in particular, the allegations of socalled pushbacks recently reported in the media.
The Management Board takes note of the report of the Executive Director on the “Rapid Border Intervention in the Eastern Mediterranean” and of the fact that the Executive Director will ask further legal interpretations of EU regulations’ provisions related to the operational activities at sea.
In this context, the Management Board stresses that all operations of Frontex have to be carried out in full compliance with the applicable legal requirements, and in particular with fundamental rights, notably the principle of non-refoulement. To that aim, the Management Board asks the Executive Director to ensure that the internal reporting system is solid and effective in order to allow for an immediate follow-up in case of incidences. Furthermore, it supports the proposal of the Executive Director to beef-up the training in fundamental rights and to provide this training not only to Frontex-deployed staff, but also to the staff of the ICCs.
Based on the initial proposal of the Executive Director to set up an evaluation committee, the Management Board concludes that urgent action is needed in order to investigate all aspects related to the matter. It decides to set up a sub-group to the Management Board to further consider these aspects, in line with the distribution of responsibilities under the EBCGRegulation. The mandate of this sub-group will be elaborated in view of the discussion at the next Management Board meeting, and should among others also contribute to clarify existing arrangements raised on the interpretation of EU regulations’ provisions related to operational activities at sea and the concerns raised by Member States about “hybrid threats” affecting their national security at external borders.
The Management Board expects that, pursuant to Article 46 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 on the European Border and Coast Guard, the Executive Director will suspend or terminate any activity, in whole or in part, if he considers that there are violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations that are of a serious nature or are likely to persist. The Executive Director is asked to inform immediately the Management Board and the Fundamental Rights Officer of the Agency of any substantiated allegation that would come to his knowledge.
The Management Board expects also that, in case such allegations would involve staff of the Agency, the Executive Director will take without delay all appropriate action.
The Management Board calls on the Executive Director and the Fundamental Rights Officer ad interim to complete as soon as possible all the necessary steps to operationalize the fundamental rights framework as provided for in Regulation (EU) 2019/1896.
The Management Board has asked the Executive Director to reply in writing, ahead of the next Management Board meeting on 25-26 November, to any questions that members of the Board may ask by Friday, 13 November 2020.