EU border chief pledges transparency, no illegal pushbacks

Jan 18, 2023, 2:49 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2023, 4:55 am
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, right, and new Executive Director of the Eur...

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, right, and new Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard, FRONTEX, Hans Leijtens, left, address a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

              European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, right, and new Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard, FRONTEX, Hans Leijtens, left, address a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
            
              European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, right, and new Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard, FRONTEX, Hans Leijtens, left, address a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
            European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson addresses a media conference after a meeting with New Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard, FRONTEX, Hans Leijtens at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo) New Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard, FRONTEX, Hans Leijtens addresses a media conference after a meeting with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The new executive director of European Union border agency Frontex pledged Thursday to ensure that illegal pushbacks of migrants trying to reach Europe wouldn’t take place under his watch.

Hans Leijtens was appointed as a replacement for Fabrice Leggeri, who resigned last year following media allegations that the agency was involved in that practice. A report by EU anti-fraud watchdog OLAF into Frontex later concluded that employees from the agency were involved in covering up pushbacks of migrants from Greece to Turkey.

Pushbacks — forcing would-be refugees away from a border before they can reach a country and claim asylum — are considered violations of international refugee protection agreements, which say people shouldn’t be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger because of their race, religion, nationality or being members of a social or political group.

“Pushbacks by Frontex officers are not legal. They are forbidden,” Leijtens said during a news conference with Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs. “I’m responsible for the fact that my people don’t participate in … pushbacks.”

Leijtens will start his new job on March 1.

According to the OLAF report made public in October, top managers at Frontex committed “serious misconduct and other irregularities” in covering up pushback incidents, not investigating them or not handling them correctly.

Leijtens said “there is nothing secret about Frontex” and that he would promote a nothing-to-hide attitude while improving transparency and putting an end to “defensive attitudes.”

“We can’t do our work when we are not trusted,” he said.

Leijtens’ nomination comes as the EU’s 27 member countries struggle to make progress in discussions over a long-delayed overhaul of the bloc’s asylum system proposed by the EU’s executive arm more than two years ago.

The number of attempts by migrants to enter the EU without authorization reached around 330,000 last year, the highest number since 2016, the EU’s border and coast guard agency said last week.

Johansson said the increase is mainly due to the arrivals of citizens likely not in need of international protection, who need to be returned to their country of origin.

“Frontex is well equipped to actually support the member states,” she said, adding that the agency last year carried out the return of 25,000 people.

Johansson added that she will next week present a new strategy on returns next week before a summit of EU leaders in February. She also exhorted EU countries to step up their cooperation with Frontex for a better management of returns.

Johansson cited a rise in arrivals to the EU by Bangladeshis, with most of them not in need of international protection. She said that after Bangladesh was put on a list of visas sanctions, local authorities improved their cooperation and are now open to taking back their citizens.

“But we are also in a situation where member states only do readmission requests for approximately 10% to 20% of the return decisions” she said. “And when Frontex are flying the planes to Bangladesh (…), they are not full. When we have a political momentum with a third country, it’s important that we work together: (the European) Commission, Frontex, all member states, to really make these returns happen.”

Johansson and Leijtens were also asked about reports from nongovernmental organizations, which argue that the use by Frontex of aerial surveillance to enable the EU-trained Libyan coast guard to intercept boats carrying migrants makes the agency complicit in the abuse that refugees are exposed to once they are returned to Libya.

Johansson responded that Frontex’s priority is to save lives and should obviously warn coast guards if they spot a vessel in danger.

“When it comes to Libya, there is a special challenge because of the conditions in Libya,” she said. “That’s why we don’t want to leave people there.”

Johansson said that the EU is working with the United Nations and the African Union to make sure that refugees are taken out of camps located in Libya and resettled in better locations elsewhere.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Grey clouds cover the sky over a building of the Credit Suisse bank in Zurich, Switzerland, ...
Associated Press

Credit Suisse posts $1.4B pre-tax loss as woes go on in 4Q

GENEVA (AP) — Credit Suisse on Thursday reported a pre-tax loss of more than 1.3 billion Swiss francs (about $1.4 billion) in the fourth quarter of last year, as its new managers vie to right the top-drawer Swiss bank that has faced a string of setbacks in recent years. The bank also announced the $175 […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

3 dead in apartment building fire in Novosibirsk, Russia

MOSCOW (AP) — A gas explosion in an apartment building in the south-central Russian city of Novosibirsk Thursday morning killed three people, according to the latest reports from local authorities. Novosibirsk is the administrative capital of Siberia and Russia’s third-largest city by population. Regional Gov. Andrey Travnikov confirmed the deaths of three people, noting that […]
1 day ago
FILE - A staff of Nissan car showroom wipes a car on Jan. 31, 2022, in Tokyo. Nissan reported a 55%...
Associated Press

Japan’s Nissan reports better profit as chip crunch eases

TOKYO (AP) — Nissan reported a 55% jump in October-December profit Thursday, as the Japanese automaker seeks to embark on a less bumpy journey with its French alliance partner Renault. Profit for the quarter at Yokohama-based Nissan Motor Co. totaled 50.6 billion yen ($386 million), up from 32.7 billion yen the previous year. Quarterly sales […]
1 day ago
Search teams and emergency aid from around the world are pouring into
Turkey and Syria as rescuers ...
Associated Press

Afghan women, children chase false rumor to Kabul airport

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Hundreds of Afghans, including women and children, dashed toward the Kabul airport after a false rumor spread that flights were leaving for Turkey to help rescue earthquake victims. Videos and photos posted on social media since Wednesday showed dozens of desperate people running on foot in the darkness and cold towards the […]
1 day ago
People warm up with fire in front of destroyed buildings in Antakya, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Fe...
Associated Press

Live Updates I Turkish president to visit quake-hit areas

Rescuers pulled more survivors from beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings Thursday, but hopes were starting to fade of finding many more people alive more than three days after a catastrophic earthquake and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 16,000. The earthquake that razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria […]
1 day ago
FILE - Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning gestures during a press conference at the Min...
Associated Press

Beijing calls US claims over balloons ‘information warfare’

BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday said U.S. accusations that a downed Chinese balloon was part of an extensive surveillance program amount to “information warfare against China.” The Pentagon on Wednesday said the Chinese balloon shot down off the South Carolina coast Saturday was part of a program involving a number of such airships that […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
EU border chief pledges transparency, no illegal pushbacks