JRS Europe submits Frontex concerns to EU Ombudsman

30 August 2012

Brussels, 30 August 2012 – JRS Europe has submitted a paper outlining its main concerns regarding Frontex’s human rights record to the EU Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros. This was in response to a request from the ombudsman for observations from interested parties, NGOs other specialist organisations on Frontex’s reply to his inquiry into their implementation of fundamental rights obligations.

On 6 March, the Ombudsman launched an own-initiative inquiry and in his opening letter to Frontex noted that the legal framework under which Frontex operates has changed. This change stems from the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, which has made the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU legally binding on Frontex. In addition, a new law regulating the agency (Regulation 1168/2011/EU) was adopted in October 2011 providing for additional fundamental rights obligations incumbent on Frontex.

In the letter the Ombudsman put a number of specific questions to Frontex concerning, for instance, their adoption of a fundamental rights strategy and the appointment of a Fundamental Rights Officer. On 17 May, Frontex submitted its opinion to the Ombudsman.

JRS Europe Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Stefan Kessler submitted a letter raising several key concerns:

  • A distinct lack of proper monitoring mechanisms that would ensure compliance with the non-refoulement principle and identification of people in need of protection.
  • Frontex’s failure to consider the human rights in the countries of transit where intercepted migrants may be returned.
  • The absence of any mechanism that would enable a migrant to make a formal complaint to the Fundamental Rights Officer or any other Frontex officer with the authority to halt an operation.
  • A code of conduct must be established to guide Frontex’s role in joint return operations.
  • The need for Frontex to hire a Fundamental Rights Officer. The five month delay in merely posting the job vacancy and the continued lack of a clear job description must be addressed.The necessity of including the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in the process of drafting the Fundamental Rights Officer’s job description.

Mr Kessler’s full letter is available here

JRS Europe is very pleased to be involved and has positive aspirations for the inquiry.

“We warmly welcome the initiative as it raises important questions. Since the Ombudsman made his initiative and Frontex’s response public, it will help to raise awareness among European policy makers of the serious human rights issues that are at stake”, said Mr Kessler

New membership on Frontex human rights forum. JRS Europe has also been invited to join the newly established Frontex Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights. A first meeting will be held on 5th September 2012. The aim of this forum is to create a knowledge and expertise resource body to enable Frontex to gain information and advice relevant to the aim of developing and promoting the full respect of fundamental rights in all the Agency’s activities.

Mr Kessler stated, “We appreciate the opportunity to consult directly with Frontex and other organisations on how to monitor and safeguard human rights at the borders. We hope the meetings are fruitful and have a positive impact on migrants’ lives”.

Also invited were the Amnesty International EU Office, Caritas Europa, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, the Council of Europe, the European Asylum Support Office, the European Council for Refugees and Exiles, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the International Catholic Migration Commission, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Organization for Migration, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, the Red Cross EU Office and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.