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Lawyers against Frontex must be heard by Parliament’s scrutiny working group

A legal action has been filed against Frontex for the first time in the EU border agency’s 17-year history over its human rights violations in the Aegean Sea.

Earlier this week, a group of lawyers from Front-Lex, Progress Lawyers Network and Greek Helsinki Monitor made their submission to the EU Court of Justice over Frontex’s abuse.

Left MEPs have welcomed this unprecedented and long overdue action. However, our request for the lawyers to be invited to present their case to the European Parliament’s Frontex Scrutiny Working Group have been repeatedly blocked by the liberal, conservative and far-right political groups. This request for the lawyers to give evidence will be decided this coming Monday (31/5/2021).

This week, and speaking on behalf of Left members in the Scrutiny Working Group Cornelia Ernst and Sira Rego, Clare Daly raised our concerns to the Civil Liberties committee (LIBE) to complain about the majority in the Parliament for refusing to let key stakeholders from giving first hand evidence against Frontex. She added that these human rights lawyers from must be allowed to present their evidence as it is in the public interest. You can watch her speech below:

 

The case was filed on behalf of two asylum seekers – an unaccompanied minor and a woman – who, while seeking asylum on EU soil (Lesbos), were violently rounded up, assaulted, robbed, abducted, detained, forcibly transferred back to sea, collectively expelled, and ultimately abandoned on rafts with no means of navigation, food or water.

The Applicants were also victims of other ‘push-back’ operations during their attempts to seek protection in the EU.

Front-Lex stated that despite undisputed and overwhelming evidence of serious and persisting violations of fundamental rights, Frontex and its Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, have failed to end the EU agency’s activities in the Aegean Sea – in flagrant infringement of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, as well as Frontex’s own Regulation.

Amsterdam-based Front-Lex also elaborated that Frontex and Greece’s policy aims to stem ‘migration’ at all costs. This systematic and widespread attack against asylum seekers breaches the right to asylum, the prohibitions on refoulement and collective expulsions, and amount to crimes against humanity of, amongst others, deportation.

Commenting on the case, Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) said:

“We welcome the lawsuit against Frontex, and we thank Front-Lex, Progress Lawyers Network and Greek Helsinki Monitor for their important work and dedication.”

“It is incredibly important that Frontex and its Executive Director are held accountable for their role in serious, systematic, and widespread violations of fundamental rights under EU law, as well as their obligation to inform the Parliament in a truthful and transparent manner.”

“In light of this legal submission, it is crucial that the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group can hear from these lawyers and their case. Even though continuous proposals in the last weeks to do this have been blocked by conservative, liberal and right-wing forces in the Working Group, Left MEPs will continue to push for the lawyers to be invited to the LIBE Committee in order to present their historic and important legal case,” she added.

Sira Rego (Izquierda Unida, Spain) said:

“We welcome the complaint brought before the ECJ by Front-lex, Progress Lawyers Network and Greek Helsinki Monitor.”

“We wish that this had been resolved politically before going to court and that all responsibilities had been assumed, but if no one is going to take responsibility for what happened with Frontex, its complicity in push-backs and the violations of fundamental rights, then the law of the land must be heard.”

“We have long insisted, and will continue to do so, that these lawyers and the victims of the push-backs must be heard in the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group. However, conservative and far-right are blocking this, which is why we believe this complaint is so necessary, and we hope that what happened in the Aegean will be investigated and that the victims will be heard.”

 

The case brought to the ECJ can be found here: English – Front-Lex

 

Photo courtesy of Maso Notarianni on Flickr

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