| 4 March 2024, Monday |

EU Border Agency Chief quits after rights abuse accusations

The chief of the European Union’s border agency resigned on Friday, following years of allegations that the organization abused refugees at EU external borders.

Frontex’s management board called an emergency meeting on Thursday and Friday to address the allegations against Fabrice Leggeri and two other Frontex employees, claiming that Leggeri had resigned on Thursday.

“The management board took notice of his objectives and determined that his employment has therefore ended,” Frontex stated in a statement.

Leggeri, who has previously denied the allegations, was not immediately available for comment.

Last year, the EU’s anti-fraud body, OLAF, opened an inquiry into Frontex’s alleged abuses of human rights. The report of OLAF has not been made public.

On March 2, Erik Marquardt, a German member of the European Parliament from the Greens’ party, stated that the report’s summary “reveals that Frontex’s administration was aware of human rights crimes and purposefully avoided reporting them.”

The European Parliament issued its own investigation in 2021 in response to charges that Frontex was involved in so-called pushbacks, especially in the Aegean Sea between EU member Greece and Turkey.

Pushbacks are a violation of the EU’s commitments under international humanitarian law, which forbids returning individuals to situations where their lives might be jeopardized.

“Several reliable actors… consistently reported about fundamental rights violations at the border in a number of Member States, but that Frontex generally disregarded these reports,” said the European Parliament’s report.

“The Agency also failed to adequately respond to internal observations about certain cases of probable fundamental rights violations in Member States which were raised.”

EU member states as well as the Commission sit on the Frontex management board. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has pushed to strengthen rights oversight within Frontex as human rights organisations sounded the alarm over abuse.

EU countries have given Frontex additional money and powers since more than a million Syrian refugees reached Europe in 2015, overwhelming its reception and security capacity and fuelling far-right sentiment across the bloc.

As EU countries fought bitterly over letting in the mostly-Muslim people coming from the Middle East and Africa, migration became a top political issue.

The EU has since restricted asylum and migrants’ rights, fortified its borders and sealed deals – criticised by rights groups – with countries including Turkey to keep people on their soil.

  • Reuters