European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said Monday she was “shocked” when reading a recent report on Frontex, the EU border protection agency, having covered up Greece’s illegal pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea.
Johansson told European Parliament members in Brussels that they have taken the issue seriously since allegations of Greece pushing migrants back to Türkiye first emerged.
In February, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) prepared a report on Frontex’s role in the violation of fundamental rights at the EU’s external borders.
Johansson said the report revealed the personal mismanagement of three people from Frontex management, including the then director.
Stressing that Frontex has an important responsibility to protect fundamental human rights while safeguarding the EU’s external borders, she said the previous administration’s abuse of power is a very serious issue.
This has damaged the institution’s prospects of fulfilling its mandate, she added.
According to the report by OLAF, which was made public by the Germany-based freedom of information website FragDenStaat, Der Spiegel and Lighthouse Reports, Frontex has been withholding cases of possible human rights violations from its own fundamental rights officers, suspending aerial surveillance to avoid recording illegal activities, co-financing Greek units that carried out pushbacks, and misleading the authorities responsible for overseeing the agency.
The report highlighted that principal Greek officials claim they haven’t read the report and European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas of Greece, whose portfolio includes migration, declined to comment on whether he was informed himself of the allegations.
In recent years, Frontex has come under fire for alleged mistreatment of migrants, often endangering their lives.
Türkiye and global rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Earlier this year, Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri resigned amid the scandal.
Human rights groups have also documented other human rights violations on EU borders where Frontex operates.