Investigations into alleged misconduct by EU border agency Frontex will leave no stone unturned in its bid to restore the reputation of the agency and the European Union in the migration sector. European Parliament Vice President Roberta Metsola, who is chairing this committee, insisted that the upholding of fundamental human rights is a core principle around which the whole concept of the EU is built and the European Parliament would therefore not accept any action which puts such rights in jeopardy, even during emergencies.
Metsola also revealed that the Committee may look into allegations that the Maltese Government used private fishing vessels to push back migrants, with Frontex possibly complicit or looking away as events unfolded: “We want to give clear answers to the questions asked. We will be investigate Frontex’s actions, its internal management and whether it respected the standards, accountability and transperancy that citizens expect of an EU agency”.
The committee, composed of 14 MEPs was setup last week and is expected to report on its findings in four weeks time. A first operational meeting with Frontex and its under-fire Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson was held yesterday.
Metsola said that migration was a sensitive and emotive issue but insisted that the Committee was determiend to conduct its work based on facts, by collecting as much information and testimony as possible.
Tineke Strik, a Dutch Green MEP who acts as a rapporteur on the investigation added that the European Parliament will also be pushing the European Commission to take its role seriously and if need be take action in front of the European Court of Justice against both Member States and Frontex if wrongdoing is idenfied. She added that the Committee will also come up with recommendations to improve the situation in the border control agency.
The Malta-related incident was not the only story to shed doubts on the agency’s operations. Last year, the Agency was accused of illegal acts near the Eastern Aegean sea, with Der Spiegel, a German magazine, accusing the Warsaw-based agency of forcing people on small rubber boats back into Turkish territorial waters. Allegations that most Frontex vessels in the area had switched off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders to avoid disclosing their locations also made it to the international press.
To pile further pressure on the EU border agency, the anti-fraud agency, Olaf, and the EU Ombudsman are also investigating it for financial and internal mismanagement.
A number of MEPs have in recent weeks called for Leggeri’s resignation since allegations were raised last year of the agency’s involvement in illegal pushbacks of migrants arriving in Greek waters from Turkey. Grilled by an EU Parliamentary Committee in December, Leggeri rejected such demands and insisted that Frontex is important in the fight against human trafficking.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.