Frontex: EU border agency boss quits over allegations of mismanagement
Fabrice Leggeri, a figurehead for impenetrable European frontiers who was frequently accused of tolerating illegal "pushbacks" of migrants, has resigned as head of Frontex, the border agency said Friday.
The Frontex board made the announcement after holding a two-day meeting "in view of the European Anti-Fraud Office's (OLAF) investigations against three staff members including the agency's executive director," it said in a statement.
It said Leggeri had offered his resignation on Thursday and the board had "concluded that the employment has therefore come to an end," adding that deputy executive director Aija Kalnaja would fill in for him.
Today, after more than 2 years of investigations by @LHReports, the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex resigned. Small teams working in Europe’s public interest can make a big difference. Explainer in short 🧵 pic.twitter.com/4mkMHfiwue— Lighthouse Reports (@LHreports) April 29, 2022
A German government spokesman said earlier that the boss' departure "gives the opportunity to fully clear up allegations, to create transparency and make sure all Frontex's operations respect European law".
Olaf's confidential report into Leggeri found he "did not follow procedures, was dishonest with the EU and managed staff badly," French magazine Le Point reported.
Frontex has repeatedly been accused by aid groups of illegally returning migrants across EU borders - or of turning a blind eye when national authorities themselves carried out such "pushbacks".
Greece's land and sea borders with Turkey have been a major focus of such allegations.
On Wednesday, an investigation by French daily Le Monde and investigative outfit Lighthouse Reports found that Frontex recorded pushbacks in Greek waters between March 2020 and September 2021 as "operations to prevent departures (towards Europe), carried out in Turkish waters".
In recent months, Leggeri has publicly acknowledged confusion over whether his role was to hinder migrants' entry to Europe or to oversee national border agencies' treatment of asylum-seekers.
He said in December that he was "helpless" to work out his true mission.
"Between the imperative not to allow people to cross irregularly and the other, the principle of non-refoulement (which forbids pushbacks) as everyone in need of protection has the right to asylum, how should we act?" he said.
Frontex sent The New Arab this statement in response to allegations regarding illegal 'pushbacks': "Frontex ensures and promotes the respect of fundamental rights in all its border management activities.
"Frontex is fully committed to uphold the highest standards of border control within our operations and our officers are bound by a Code of conduct. This is the standard we bring to every one of our operations. Fundamental rights, including the respect for the principle of non-refoulement, are at the core of all the Agency’s activities."