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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Leggeri’s statements show we need far more to fix the EU’s violent, rotten, border system

In a letter to his former staff, departing director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri has said he did not receive ‘political support’ and that he believes Frontex is being ‘turned into’ some kind of ‘human rights organisation’.

We ought to point out immediately that it would be extraordinarily good if Frontex were to become a human rights organisation, but that in fact what people have actually called for it to do is nothing more than simply obey international law, including human rights. Instead, it has been actively involved in pushbacks, as well as in hiding and denying those carried out by EU governments.

As we noted yesterday (Friday 29 April 2022) Leggeri resigned after a series of investigations, including some using Frontex’ own records and one by the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF, proved each of these to be true.

But Leggeri has as yet failed to accept even the pushbacks Frontex has been proven to have taken part in.

Potentially more interestingly, however, in his e-mail to Frontex staff, he said: ‘But all along the last two years, I can see that discretely but efficiently, a narrative is overwhelming our environment.

This narrative tells the story that Frontex’s core mandate should be transformed in practice into a sort of Fundamental Rights Body monitoring what Member States are doing at their external borders. But the mandate that the Agency got from the EU legislator in 2016 and even more in 2019 is to be the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

The mandate I was entrusted with and am accountable for, when my term was renewed in June 2019, was to develop the first EU uniformed service of the EU empowered to support member states in managing and protecting the external borders.

We wrote about this yesterday, and noted that Leggeri’s claims might of course be the spite of a man proven to be unfit to do his job, and angry at being forced to resign.

But we also noted that – worryingly – it is not possible to entirely dismiss the idea that the EU genuinely set up and instructed Frontex to break the law in order to prevent people entering the bloc.

To address Leggeri’s specific claims, first of all no-one is calling for Frontex to ‘monitor’ EU Member States’ lawbreaking. Some people are calling for Frontex to be disbanded, others for it to be entirely restructured, but no-one is saying they want Frontex to be a monitoring organisation. We already have monitoring organisations.

What people want and expect Frontex to do is to abide by international law. This does not mean ‘being a Fundamental Rights Body’ it means abiding by the law and respecting human rights. Frontex so far has done the opposite, by physically harming people, and breaking the law by denying them the right to enter the EU and apply for asylum.

He claims to believe Frontex should be a ‘Coastguard’ service, but appears to have misunderstood (we will be kind and say possibly not deliberately) the term. A Coastguard does not ‘guard the coast’ and prevent people landing on it, that is the job of a Navy (and even then, not in the case of people seeking decent places to live, learn and work). It protects and saves the lives of people at sea. Frontex has done the opposite.

He also claims to believe Frontex should be a European Border Guard Agency, and ‘support member states protecting and guarding external borders’.

But he must be aware that it is not legal to ‘guard’ one’s border from unarmed refugees seeking safety. If he is not, then it is better for everyone that he has resigned.

At this point, it appears that Leggeri is arguing that he should not have had to resign for breaking international law, repeatedly, and covering up events which led directly to the deaths of men, women and children at the borders of Greece, Poland and many other states.

Of course, he should.

But as we noted in yesterday’s piece, if even a small amount of what he claims – that he was given a ‘mandate’ to break international law (and as we noted, statements from EU Commission President Ursula von der Layen that ‘Greece is our shield’ and the words and actions of Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis, a man who is personally and politically responsible for tens of thousands of illegal pushbacks, as well as dozens of deaths, in the last 25 months, who on 21 January this year awarded Leggeri a medal for helping him carry this out – then far more than just his resignation is necessary.

We mut find out who told Leggeri his job was to break the law, and they must resign. We must find out who helped him cover up and deny the obvious brutal and in some cases murderous activities at the Greek, Polish, and other borders, and they must resign.

We may even ask for international criminal cases to be opened against Leggeri, but also certainly those who told him to break the law, as well as against Mitarachis, Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis, von der Leyen, and the leaders of the Polish government.

We also need the fundamental restructure of Frontex so that not only will it never again carry out such embarrassing and inexcusable activities, but also so that it will never again be tempted to hide other people doing even worse.

It may be that Leggeri is simply lying to ‘cover’ himself, or out of anger. But there is every likelihood that he is not.

The simple, sad fact is that, as we and many others have been saying for several years, we urgently need to remove the rotten heart from the EU’s violent and illegal border system.


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