Although criticism from NGOs has been ignored for many years, today Frontex is under the spotlight. Since it began operating in 2005, the European border and coast guard agency has played a growing role in the implementation of the European Union’s (EU) security-driven migration policy. Frontex has been hailed for a long time by European institutions which have relentlessly increased its competences for 15 years in the areas of control and expulsions, as well as its budget (which has risen from 5 to 543 million euros). In 2020, it was publicly questioned about its activities and governance (by the European Commission and Parliament, the EU ombudswoman, OLAF) for the first time, and some of its supporters have partly turned their backs.
In effect, the agency stands accused of repeated human rights violations, and in particular of pushbacks at European borders (by NGOs and international media), of non-compliance with its regulatory duties, of internal malfunctions, and even of ineffectiveness (by the Court of Auditors).
If the media have been relaying the rights defenders, who have who have complained for over ten years about the way in which Frontex’s mandate undermines the human rights of people on the move, its secrecy, unchecked autonomy and its structural impunity, its harmful development is noted even within the agency, as the former deputy director of the agency said he was "very concerned about the threat to the agency’s reputation, its decision to arm its agents and its inability to prevent the far right from infiltrating its ranks, within the context of anti-migrant movements across Europe".
The years that have passed have amply demonstrated the dangerousness of an agency that is out of control and operates outside of the law, as the symbol of a hypersecuritarian European border policy and of the war against migrants.
Frontex cannot be reformed, only its abolition could usher in a new era in which attachment to fundamental rights is not a mere rhetorical artifice.
Have contributed to this Brief : Diletta Agresta (ASGI), Matteo Astuti (ASGI), Emmanuel Blanchard (Gisti), Brigitte Espuche (Migreurop), Lucia Gennari (ASGI), Jane Kilpatrick (Statewatch), Yasha Maccanico (Statewatch), Marie Martin (Migreurop), Claire Rodier (Gisti) and Anna Sibley (Migreurop).
Mapping : Hugo Roche
Photography : Salvatore Cavalli/AGF Italia
Graphical design : La Société