BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s border agency on Friday sought to put a damning report highlighting its involvement in covering up alleged migrant pushbacks from Greece behind it, saying that any wrongdoings are “practices of the past.”
Frontex spoke out a day after the publication of the EU anti-fraud report which also found that the agency committed other irregularities.
“The Agency takes the findings of investigations, audits and other forms of scrutiny seriously and uses them as opportunities to make changes for the better,” the agency said in a statement to the Associated Press.
While acknowledging the findings of “serious misbehavior” committed by three Frontex employees, the agency’s management says that it has taken “remedial measures” to address the issues, mainly procedural changes within the agency. For instance, Frontex said it has amended procedures for reporting serious incidents, including pushback allegations.
The OLAF report which examined Frontex activities in Greece from spring to autumn 2020, found that Frontex wasn’t investigating or handling evidence of pushbacks correctly and of attempting at times to cover them up or not reporting them at all.
Pushbacks, the forcible return of people across an international border, on land or at sea, without an assessment of their rights to apply for asylum or other forms of protection, violate both international and EU law.
Greek authorities have long been accused by human rights lawyers, non-governmental organizations, media investigations and other entities of conducting violent and deadly pushbacks of migrants and refugees crossing into its borders from Turkey.
Greece has so far denied any wrongdoing, pointing the finger instead at Turkish authorities whom they accuse of instrumentalizing migration.
It is statement, Frontex says it established an action plan this summer together with Greek authorities “to right the wrongs of the past and present.”
Greek authorities have yet to respond to questions sent by AP on Thursday.
The European Commission also did not comment on findings of the report which said Frontex managers who were investigated lacked loyalty towards the EU and held the Commission in “low esteem.” Specific questions sent to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson have also gone unanswered.
EU Commission Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Anitta Hipper highlighted a number of changes already underway at Frontex and said that a new director should be appointed within weeks.