The head of Europe’s border and coastguard agency has assured he is cooperating with internal investigators after an early report into pushback allegations said it was “very concerned” that information on three incidents was still missing.
Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of Frontex, said on Thursday he was “closely cooperating” and promised to provide “all additional elements needed to finalise the report”.
He added it was “reassuring” that none of the accusations investigated so far had been proven, nor had there been any established Frontex involvement in pushbacks.
“I am pleased that so far the Working Group did not find evidence of any Frontex involvement in alleged pushbacks,” he wrote on Twitter. “It is reassuring that no violations of fundamental rights were substantiated in the cases it was able to close.”
The internal investigation, commissioned by the agency’s management board, has been looking into 13 claims of border guards unlawfully preventing migrants from reaching the EU. It is running alongside a separate investigation by OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud squad.
Specifically, both teams are investigating allegations of harassment, misconduct and illegal operations to push back refugees, a series of claims that were brought to light in a number of media reports last year.
On Thursday, the board’s working group said it had managed to close eight cases as there wasn’t enough evidence to establish fundamental rights had been violated. It said it was “very concerned,” however, that Frontex had failed to provide timely information for the three remaining cases. “No conclusions” could be made, as a result.
The working group has now called for Leggeri to submit the information “immediately” and to implement its further recommendations to improve the agency’s system for reporting rights violations.
This includes making sure the system is transparent; seeing reports are made to a specifically-assigned officer, and setting minimum qualification requirements for experts in the Frontex Situation Centre.
Recommendations have also been made for monitoring the system, including clarification for protecting whistleblowers and transparency when following up on reports.
“I welcome the report by the Management Board’s Working Group and its recommendations to upgrade our reporting system,” Leggeri added in his brief statement.
“I will work closely with my staff to ensure that no possible violation of fundamental rights goes unreported.”
Frontex now has until February 19 to return to the management board with details on his implementation the recommendations.
A final report from the working group will be submitted on February 26.