German and British media published reports on Monday that place the European Union border agency Frontex at the scene of illegal activities by national border guards that may have constituted human rights violations.
According to research by the Returns Network, not only have Frontex guards tolerated violence against displaced people by their national counterparts on the EU’s external border, they have often treated refugees inhumanely themselves.
Citing Frontex documents, the Network reported that national guards used nightsticks and pepper spray to subdue displaced people and used dogs to chase them through forests. The border guards in Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary are especially brutal, the Network found. Rather than pulling its own agents from collaborations with national border forces, Frontex simply closed the cases.
There is mounting concern both over how Frontex is spending EU taxpayers’ money and how it can be held accountable. The migration panic roiling Europe’s politics has been a boon for a once unfashionable EU outpost that coordinated national coastal and border guards. Ten years ago Frontex’s budget was £79m. In the latest budget cycle it has been awarded £10.4bn.
The EU is already accused of crimes against humanity in a submission before the International Criminal Court for “orchestrating a policy of forced transfer to concentration camp-like detention facilities [in Libya] where atrocious crimes are committed”.
The case, brought by lawyers based in Paris, seeks to demonstrate that many of the people intercepted have faced human rights abuses ranging from slavery to torture and murder after being returned to Libya.