February 2, 2023

Leader of E.U. Border Agency Departs After Accusations of Abuses During His Tenure

4 min read

BRUSSELS – When a French government employee, Fabrice Leggeri, took over the European border agency known as Frontex in 2015, his work was outside a small office in Warsaw, mostly administrative.

In its heyday, it became the best agency in the European Union, with an annual budget of 3 543 million, and it developed the bloc’s first joint, armed border force because of the number of migrants fleeing war and economic hardship. Tried to reach Block

The high profile was met with further scrutiny: Frontex was accused of maladministration, harassment, and concealment of human rights violations at Europe’s borders – and even of committing them. Some of those claims were investigated by the bloc’s anti-fraud agency, but before the results of the inquiry became public, Mr Legri offered his resignation in a letter written on Thursday.

In a letter to the agency’s governing board, Mr Legri added a slanted statement that Frontex had “quietly but effectively changed its mandate”. Observers took this to mean that he felt as if he was being falsely accused of failing to respect his human rights obligations when the agency’s primary mission was to protect the bloc’s borders.

Sophie Ant Weld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said the contents of Mr Legri’s resignation letter showed he did not understand the seriousness of the allegations. “He still doesn’t think he was wrong,” she said. “He is not taking responsibility for his actions.”

Mr Legri was not only accused of covering up the abuse, including Removing illegal asylum seekers From EU territory – An exercise called “pushbacks” – But financial mismanagement and harassment that forced many staff members to leave.

He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The final results of the Anti-Fraud Agency inquiry are expected to be published soon.

The agency’s board said in a statement on Friday that Mr Legri had decided to step down after being offered a chance to comment on the results of the investigation.

Analysts say Mr Legiri’s departure is unlikely to lead to any reckoning, as although pushbacks are illegal under EU law, the bloc’s member states and the European Commission, its executive arm, have been Looking the other way.

“Pushbacks were not Mr Legri’s special responsibility,” said Camino Mortera Martinez, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Reform in London. “Frontex is doing what all of Europe’s national border agencies are doing.”

The controversial role of the frontex reflects the wider struggle for the development of the European Union. An integrated migration policyWhich has sharply contradicted the bloc, a self-proclaimed defender of human rights, against its declared values.

Border management and home affairs are the responsibility of national governments, and until 2015, Frontex was a foreign agency tasked with coordinating national border authorities.

The 2015 refugee crisis Keep the transition in the spotlight and significantly increase the Frontex profile. More than a million asylum seekers, particularly from Syria and Afghanistan, entered the bloc, and the need for a more coordinated response became apparent. Migration became a growing issue in Europe’s political and cultural wars, and it fueled the rise of far-right mass movements.

The importance of the frontex, and its financing, grew with the blockade on refugees and asylum seekers. An effective migration strategy has ended the 27-nation bloc, but it has managed to strengthen Europe’s external borders, a policy sometimes referred to as “Fortress Europe”.

The ever-expanding frontex became a symbol of this view, which has been condemned by human rights groups. The agency has acquired high-tech border security equipment, such as drones, and will soon deploy the bloc’s first joint armed force to protect external borders.

Ms Mortera Martinez said the main goal of national governments and the European Commission was to avoid a repeat of the 2015 crisis and to reduce the number of people entering the bloc.

The European Union has been successful in this regard, although the war in Ukraine has recently put new pressure on member states, the largest influx of refugees on the continent since World War II.

Camille Lee Koz, a policy analyst at the Brussels-based Migration Policy Institute, said Mr Legri’s resignation was a “symbolic victory” for human rights defenders. “However, the system that allowed these mismanagement remains,” he said.

The European Commission, which oversees the agency’s work, said on Friday that there had been no change in Frontex’s mandate, and that it would continue to play a key role in protecting the EU’s external borders while upholding fundamental rights. No changes have been made. Under EU law, these fundamental rights include providing access to the asylum procedure to anyone.

The agency’s board, which includes heads of national border officials and representatives of the European Commission, will select Mr Legiri’s replacement before June, the board said in a statement on Friday.

Mr Legiri’s departure was greeted with relief at the European Parliament, where widespread frustration over the frontex has spread.

Damen Bozelger, a Green lawmaker from Germany, said lawmakers had been “demanding his resignation for some time” and that an investigation by the European Parliament had revealed that “the issue is partly due to leadership.” With. “

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