Illegal border crossings into the EU have increased by 77% this year in comparison with 2021, according to a Frontex report seen by EURACTIV on Thursday (1 December).
According to the EU coast guard, 281,000 people illegally crossed the EU’s borders between January and October, numbers that underscore the difficulties facing the bloc’s migration and asylum system.
The increased migration flows have also prompted new questions about the role of Frontex.
Between the end of 2020 and beginning 2021, EU’s anti-fraud watchdog (OLAF) conducted an investigation of Frontex’s behaviour at the border between Turkey and Greece in 2020, and concluded that the EU coast guard have not prevented illegal pushbacks of migrants at the border, violating human rights.
The head of the EU coast guard agency resigned in April 2022 after he was asked to comment on OLAF’s findings.
The report was shared with media in mid-October, and Frontex publicly replied in a note, stating that “these were practices of the past”.
Since then, Frontex has made major changes to its administration.
The European Parliament civil liberties committee hosted a hearing on Wednesday (30 November) for the three candidates nominated by the European Commission to lead the agency.
Terezika Gras, the current state Secretary at the Croatian Interior Ministry, and Hans Leijtens, a high ranking military official from The Netherlands, are competing with the current interim director Aija Kalnaja for the job.
At the centre of the discussion with MEPs was the question on how the new administration will guarantee the respect of human rights and protection of EU borders at the same time.
In an interview with EURACTIV, Lena Düpont MEP said that Frontex was “one of the most important EU agencies” and that the allegations of pushbacks and Frontex’s operations in the Mediterranean Sea were the main reason for the creation of the Parliament’s Frontex Scrutiny Working Group.
The working group’s first report in July 2021 concluded that “there was no involvement of the agency in alleged pushbacks. Nevertheless, we saw that there is an ecosystem of responsibility which the agency is placed in,” Dupont said.
The group also suggested a series of internal reforms “especially when it comes to the incorporation of fundamental rights questions into operational planning, but also the way the fundamental rights officer and his fundamental rights monitors are able to work within the agency,” the MEP said.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]