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New Frontex chief vows to finish unlawful pushbacks of migrants at border

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The brand new head of the EU’s border company vowed on Thursday to finish the follow of unlawful pushbacks and guarantee respect of basic rights as Frontex is being referred to as upon to spice up the variety of returns. 

Hans Leijtens instructed reporters throughout a press convention in Brussels with EU Residence Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, that he’ll adhere to a few “guiding rules” throughout his tenure: accountability, respect for basic rights and transparency.

“Pushbacks, and naturally I am accountable for Frontex operations by Frontex officers, will not be authorized so they need to be, nicely, they’re forbidden. So I am accountable for the truth that my folks do not take part in something referred to as a pushback. I feel that’s completely clear. That is the authorized framework I work in,” he mentioned.

Leijtens will take the reins of the company on 1 Match and change Aija Klanaja, who has served because the interim director of Frontex since April 2022. Final month, the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF declared her a “individual of concern” in an ongoing investigation into the organisation.

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Klanaja’s predecessor, Fabrice Leggeri, resigned after preliminary findings of an OLAF investigation revealed that the EU company’s guards lined up the unlawful pushbacks of migrants on the border on an enormous scale in a violation of human rights between 2020 and 2021.

The OLAF evaluate discovered that not less than six pushbacks concerned Greek coastguard ships that had been co-financed by Frontex.

The organisation has additionally been accused of gathering intelligence that was used to push again migrants in Libya the place they face violence and torture in detention camps.

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In a press launch printed in October 2022, the EU border guards company responded that “these had been practices of the previous”.

“I feel that we will enhance our accountability and transparency. Frontex has a historical past of taking over a defensive angle”, Hans Leijtens admitted throughout the press convention on Thursday.

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“We’re going to restore belief by being very clear about what we’re doing and the way we’re doing it. We’re going to do our jobs in accordance with the regulation and in accordance with what member states need. There must be completely nothing to cover”, he mentioned.

EU vows to “step up returns of irregular migrants”

The company is in the meantime anticipated to take a higher function to spice up the variety of returns of irregular migrants, Johansson mentioned.

Yearly, round 500,000 overseas nationals are ordered to depart the EU as a result of they’ve entered or they’re staying irregularly, based on the European Fee. Nonetheless, solely round 30% of them return again to their house nation or to the nation from which they travelled to the EU.

The low numbers replicate quite a lot of difficulties, together with the refusal of nations to just accept duty for folks whose id paperwork might have been misplaced, destroyed or stolen.

“The issue is that member states solely make readmission requests for roughly 10 to twenty % of return choices”, Johansson mentioned.

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“Frontex is sending empty planes to nations of origin which might be open to taking again their residents. Just lately, a aircraft was despatched again to Bangladesh with solely eight passengers on board”, she added.

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Frontex is accountable for the coordination of return operations, however the resolution about who must be returned is all the time taken by the judicial or administrative authorities of the member states.

“Now Frontex is well-equipped to truly assist member states. We’ve a devoted deputy and our government director on this matter,” Johansson mentioned, including that Frontex “can assist member states in all elements of the return operations to nations of origin.”

“We additionally now have a return co-ordinator within the Fee”, she mentioned. “And I’ll subsequent week current an operational technique on returns.”

Johansson insisted that the EU’s return coverage can solely be efficient if nations cooperate and work collectively.

“The Crew Europe strategy is significant on the subject of returns. It’s vital to not go away member states alone but in addition to ask member states to step up when now we have the political momentum with a 3rd nation”, the EU’s house affairs commissioner insisted.

In September 2022, consultants from Frontex, EU nations and the European Fee created a community to coordinate the efforts made by all member states to make sure efficient returns at EU stage.

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