Frontex heavily criticised by Human Rights Watch for their involvement in Evros – and PR response by Frontex

Human Rights Watch published today, on the 21st of September 2011 a report about the Frontex operation in Evros underlining the international responsibility on the human rights violations against sans-papiers and asylum seekers in the detention centres of the region.

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The EUs dirty hands
The EUs Dirty Hands: Frontex Involvement in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece

Frontex reacted immediately with a press release:

Warsaw, 21 September 2011 – Frontex welcomes the revised report of HRW and is satisfied to note that its comments on the original draft were taken on board. The report now highlights an issue, which we agree, is of great importance.

A Frontexian in Evros

We would like to recall that Frontex fully respects and strives for promoting Fundamental Rights in its border control operations which, however, do not include organization of, and responsibility for, detention on the territory of the Member States, which remains their exclusive remit.
Frontex has been expected to operate in an exceptional environment where an evaluation mechanism of the national migration management processes is missing.
However, as we noted even before the beginning of the RABIT operation and have continued to stress ever since, there are practical measures, which can be undertaken to improve responses to such situations. There is a need for earlier and more complete involvement of other EU and International actors in planning and executing emergency responses in order to alleviate problems, including the overcrowding in detention centres which the apprehension of large numbers of irregular migrants is bound to create.
Frontex was receiving signals of concern from national officers deployed to the region. The Agency has been extremely concerned with the conditions at the detention centres – a point which we raised on several occasions both with the Greek authorities and with the European Commission.
Nevertheless, we continue to stress that at the practical level abandoning emergency support operations such as RABIT 2011 is neither responsible, nor does it do anything to help the situation of irregular migrants on the ground.
‘With regard to the HRW recommendations, we will give them serious consideration – in fact, the content of this report will be discussed at the next Frontex Management Board meeting together with the action plan for our Fundamental Rights strategy‘ said Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen.
‘I would however point out that most of the HRW recommendations are already included as provisions in the text of the new Frontex Regulation’ – he added. These include, among others, the possibility for Frontex to co-command a joint operation together with a Member State hosting it, the possibility of suspending or cancelling an operation if serious violations of fundamental rights occur the nomination of a fundamental rights officer as well as the creation of the Fundamental Rights Consultative body.
Moreover, Frontex has already implemented a number of measures aiming at improving the respect of Fundamental Rights in the areas for which it is responsible, including the creation of the code of conduct for all those taking part in Frontex-coordinated operations, as well as the Fundamental Rights strategy, which will be guiding our future actions. This will be carried out in continuing the cooperation with Frontex partners, such as European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), European Asylum Support Office (EASO), UNHCR and IOM.

video with the press conference response to the HRW-report

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... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.

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