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Opposition allegations: Frontex President Legere resigns

Opposition allegations: Frontex President Legere resigns

According to Frontex, Aiga Kalnaja will assume the official duties of Legiri on a temporary basis. Prior to joining Frontex, she was the Deputy Chief of Police in Latvia.

Frontex has long been criticized for illegally rejecting refugees in the Mediterranean. The agency’s executives are said to have deliberately covered up the fact that Greek border guards were returning refugees to the open Mediterranean. Refusal of people seeking protection at external borders – returns – is illegal in most cases under international law.

Only on Wednesday, Spiegel reported that Frontex records practices at the EU’s external borders in a database. Based on European Freedom of Information Act, researchers were able to look at the internal Frontex database and compare it with photos and videos of responses, according to the journal. Frontex was implicated in illegal pushbacks of at least 957 refugees between March 2020 and September 2021.

Olaf’s report is said to contain serious allegations

According to a March Spiegel report, the European Union’s anti-fraud body, OLAF, has also raised serious allegations against Frontex in this case. An OLAF report on the allegations has not yet been published, but the findings were summarized and submitted to some MEPs and Frontex board members in March.

Specifically, it relates to allegations against Leggeri and two other Frontex executives, against whom the Counter-Terrorism Office has recommended disciplinary action, according to Spiegel. During the investigation, 20 witnesses were questioned, among other things, the office of the President of Frontex was searched.

Leggeri has always denied the allegations

Leggeri, who took office in 2015, dismissed repeated criticism of Frontex’s actions. Last year he told German “Welt” on the subject: “With regard to Greece, I will not only talk about disabilities.”

There are situations at sea between Turkey and Greece that are not distress situations because the boats are not out of control. “They are trying to evade border controls and it is believed that they are being used in criminal activities,” the Frenchman said. Then the legal framework for intercepting the boats is applied.

Call to solve Frontex

German aid organization Sea-Watch, which works to rescue boats in the Mediterranean, described Leggeri’s resignation as “late but not enough”. The border agency “systematically violates human rights” and is considered a “symbol of deadly European isolation”. So it must be cancelled.

European Union Commission spokesmen in Brussels rejected calls to dissolve Frontex. The agency plays a central role by supporting member states in protecting external borders and “at the same time upholding fundamental rights”. For this, Frontex must be stable and working well. The agency was established in 2004 as the European Union expanded eastward.

Karner: ‘A strong border protection agency needed more than ever’

Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) has urged the issue of driving in Frontex to be clarified as soon as possible. A strong border protection agency is needed now more than ever. All EU countries agree that strong external protection is required,” Karner said.

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If the external borders are not protected, it could put the European Union at risk in the long run, according to the interior minister. “Many member states, including Austria, are significantly affected by illegal immigration, even though they do not have an external border with the European Union,” Karner said. The goal should be to “combat people smugglers” at the EU borders. All persons there must be consistently registered.

Resignation ‘late’ and ‘inevitable’

SPÖ MEP Bettina Vollath spoke on Friday – even before the official announcement – about Legerei’s long-awaited resignation. “It is clear that Frontex has been implicated in violations of the law at the external borders of the European Union, for which the top management of the EU agency is of course responsible,” she said in a radio statement. Leggerie did not show the instinct needed to run the sensitive agency during his seven-year tenure.

According to Vollath, Frontex’s internal database shows that between March 2020 and September 2021 alone, Frontex was involved in push-backs of at least 957 people. “These numbers are shocking – the EU, as the guarantor of the rule of law and democracy, must set a good example, and fundamental rights also apply to our external borders,” said the SPÖ politician. It should be made clear what personal responsibility Leggeri has in these cases. A rethink is also needed across the EU agency.

In the Ukraine crisis, Europe is showing its friendly face, and perhaps it will learn from it. “Inhumanity against the homeless should not be a strategy,” said Michel Raymond, a European spokesman for the Greens. Inhumane behavior at the EU’s external borders against displaced people is unacceptable and does not deserve a developed union. “The right to asylum is a human right and therefore it is not negotiable. Legere’s resignation is inevitable,” Raymond said.

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“The possibility of a fresh start”

The German government welcomed Leggerie’s resignation. According to a German Interior Ministry spokesperson, this offers the opportunity for a fresh start in Frontex, to fully clarify the allegations and to ensure that all agency operations are carried out in accordance with European law. This is the clear expectation of the federal government. Germany has a seat on the Frontex Board of Directors.