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MEPs refuse to approve Frontex's 2020 budget over human rights abuse reports

Euronews logo Euronews 2022/10/18 Alice Tidey
Members of the Frontex from Portugal rescue 56 people who were lost in an open sea as they try to approach on a dinghy the Greek island of Lesbos, on Dec. 8, 2015. © AP Photo/Santi Palacios Members of the Frontex from Portugal rescue 56 people who were lost in an open sea as they try to approach on a dinghy the Greek island of Lesbos, on Dec. 8, 2015.

European lawmakers on Tuesday refused to approve the 2020 budget of the bloc's external border agency over serious misconduct allegations.

MEPs in Strasbourg voted against the discharge with a 345 to 284 votes margin.

In May, they had postponed the vote demanding instead to see a report into alleged human rights violations against migrants.

The discharge procedure is the Parliament's final approval of how the EU budget for a specific year has been implemented. If MEPs refuse to grant a discharge of funds, the EU agency concerned must act on the Parliament's recommendations before seeking the discharge again.

The report from the bloc's anti-fraud office, OLAF, was completed in February after a year-long investigation but kept confidential.

It was leaked in full last week and detailed how Frontex managers committed “serious misconduct and other irregularities" in covering up pushback incidents -- the illegal practice of forcing back migrants who have reached EU territory, whether on land or at sea -- or failed to investigate them properly.

Members of the Budgetary Control Committee recommended earlier this month against clearing the 2020 budget for Frontex citing the “magnitude of the committed serious misconduct” and possible structural problems under the previous executive director of the agency.

They also expressed "shock and deep concern about the case of suicide of a staff member, related to alleged practices of sexual harassment". However, they welcomed the new interim leadership and its decision to reopen the cases.

Former chief Fabrice Leggeri resigned from his post in April, a day after a consortium of European media organisation released an investigation that found the agency's staff forced back at least 957 asylum seekers in the Aegean sea between March 2020 and September 2021 and recorded at least 22 pushbacks as "prevention of departure".

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