Friday, 20 June 2014

Press release by Migreurop-REMDH-FIDH in the framework of the Frontexit Campaign

“Frontex between Greece and Turkey: at the Border of Denial"

The deployment of Frontex is impairing the right of asylum

At the Greek-Turkish border, the European Agency for controlling the external borders, Frontex, is taking part in a process that prevents refugees from benefitting from international protection. The latest report of the FRONTEXIT Campaign, “Frontex between Greece and Turkey: The Border of Denial”, underlines the dramatic consequences of the intensification of surveillance at that border (push-backs, lack of access to the asylum procedure, physical and verbal violence, etc.), and also the Agency’s lack of accountability.

On the basis of dozens of testimonies and numerous exchanges with Frontex, the report documents the serious Human Rights violations committed in this centre of gravity of the Agency’s operations. The Council of Europe, the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, as well as numerous civil society organisations have recently expressed their deep concern regarding the violations committed at that border.

For while the Agency and the European Union take pride in the increasing number of interceptions in the Aegean sea during recent months, the official statistics say nothing of the policy’s deadly consequences: Since September 2012 our organisations have listed 18 shipwrecks, at least 191 deaths and over 30 missing. The majority of the victims are Syrian, Afghan, and Eritrean refugees, including many families and children. If their embarkations had succeeded in reaching the shores of the European Union they would certainly have been granted asylum.

Many testimonies have confirmed the practice of collective expulsions (push-backs): Migrants’ boats are intercepted and towed to Turkey by the Greek coastguards, often with violence and without the refugees having been identified, which is contrary to international law. The report also gives instances of ‘deterrent’ practices aimed at forcing back the migrants’ embarkations.

“Instead of taking measures to receive the refugees, the European Union, through Frontex, has persisted in an intolerable policy of closure, aiming at preventing at all costs the refugees from reaching the European coasts” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH president.

According to a document received by our organisations from the Agency, Frontex had been informed of 27 reports of collective expulsions, and of problems of access to the asylum procedure, acts of violence, and inhuman and degrading treatment. Despite such violations, the Agency continues to provide logistic support for the operations (vessels, aircraft, thermal cameras, coastguard training, identification of migrants’ nationalities).

“By continuing such activities on this border, although it knew of the proven and repeated violations, the Agency is in fact an accomplice” declared Olivier Clochard, Migreurop president.

Lastly, the report highlights the lack of transparency, in particular the lack of access to the complete operational plans (the legal basis for the Agency’s operations), and the difficulty of making Frontex accountable for the implementation of the actions it coordinates.  Frontex has also rejected a recommendation of the European mediator calling for the setting up of a mechanism for complaints against the Agency and its agents.

“This response confirms the Agency’s unwillingness to be held accountable as coordinator of the operations deployed at the European Union’s external borders”, concluded Michel Tubiana, REMDH president.

The report is available in French, pdf English (2.76 MB) , and will shortly be available in Turkish and Greek.

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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Vendredi 23 mai à 9h30 au Résidence Palace (Rue de la Loi, 155 à 1040 Bruxelles) 

In the run up to the European elections, after a year of research on Frontex, the members of the FRONTEXIT campaign are presenting their findings and their latest report, 'Frontex between Greece and Turkey: The border of denial', at a press conference on 23 May in Brussels.            Despite cosmetic changes in the agency’s mandate and the development of a professional communications strategy, its activities remain incompatible with the respect of fundamental rights.

Based on reports and direct testimonies, the members of the campaign call attention to:

  •          Frontex’s complicity in the violation of migrants’ rights;
  •          A lack of transparency and control regarding its work;
  •          The absence of any significant accountability for its activities; and
  •          The agency's growing influence in the shaping of border management in the EU and beyond.

With a budget of €89 million in 2014, Frontex has seen its powers increase continually despite the lack of fundamental rights safeguards, in particular through the revision of its mandate in 2011, and most recently in 2014, with the adoption of a new regulation on maritime interception. It also has the key responsibility of administrating Eurosur, the vast European border surveillance system. These new competences have come on top of the existing prerogatives of the agency: border surveillance, the interception of migrants and the coordination of forced return operations.

In March 2013, 21 organisations together with researchers and civil society activists from Africa and Europe launched the FRONTEXIT campaign. Their latest findings make clear the importance of the concerns raised by the UN Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the EU Ombudsman and the Council of Europe over Frontex's responsibility for the violation of migrants' rights.

Frontex is responsible for implementing and further developing a European border management policy based on quasi-military technology and equipment. Each year thousands of people are treated as “enemies” and end up detained, 'pushed back' or even dead - the victims of a strategy based on security and not human rights.

Press conference on Friday 23 May 2014 at 09.30 a.m

09.30 am -Welcome

10.00-10.50 am - Presentation of the annual outcome of the research undertaken by the FRONTEXIT campaign by Caroline Intrand of the Coordination et initiatives pour réfugiés et étrangers-CIRE/Migreurop and Anna Sibley de la Fédération des associations de solidarité avec les travailleur-euse-s Immigré-e-s-FASTI/Migreurop + discussion with the audience

10.50 -11.30 am-Launch of the report: “Frontex between Greece and Turkey: The border of denial” byAnita Kynsilehto of the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network-EMHRN+ discussion with the audience

PRESS CONTACTS: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information on the Frontexit campaign: www.frontexit.org/en/

Monday, 14 April 2014

On the 16th of April, the European Parliament will vote on the proposal for a Regulation on the maritime surveillance by the European agency for the coordination of the cooperation at the external borders (Frontex). There is no reason to celebrate: Frontex’ mandate is to intercept migrants, not to save lives.