BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union lawmakers on Tuesday refused to approve the way the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency used its 2020 budget, citing concerns about serious staff misconduct and human rights issues related to Frontex’s work.
Frontex monitors the external borders of the 27 countries of the EU. The agency is under pressure over allegations that it was involved in the illegal pushback of migrants, particularly in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. The executive director resigned earlier this year following a fraud investigation.
In a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, legislators voted by 345 votes to 284, with 8 abstentions, not to sign Frontex’s 2020 bills.
“With a budget of 900 million euros ($884 million) in 2022, Frontex is the best-funded European agency. We can no longer tolerate public money being used to violate European law and international law,” Dutch Greens legislator Bas Eickhout said after the vote.
The move has no direct legal consequences, but will oblige EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, to take measures to address Parliament’s concerns. In similar circumstances, the entire committee resigned in 1999 on charges of corruption.
Several EU MPs have expressed concern about the suspected suicide of a Frontex employee apparently linked to sexual harassment allegations.
A report by the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, examined Frontex’s activities in Greece from spring to autumn 2020 and found that the agency did not properly examine or handle evidence of migrant pushbacks and sometimes tried to cover it up or failed to report it. not at all.
Pushbacks – the forced return of people across an international border, by land or sea, without an assessment of their rights to apply for asylum or other forms of protection – violate both international and EU law.
The Greek authorities have long been accused by human rights lawyers, non-governmental organizations, media investigations and other entities of carrying out violent and deadly pushbacks of migrants and refugees crossing the borders from Turkey.
Frontex has tried to put the allegations behind them. “The Agency takes the findings of investigations, audits and other controls seriously and uses them as opportunities to make change for the better,” Frontex said in a statement to The Associated Press on Friday.
While acknowledging the findings of “serious misconduct” by three Frontex staff, the agency’s management said it had taken “remedial measures” to address the issues, mainly procedural changes within the agency.
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