Anti-Fraud Office Investigates EU's Border and Coast Guard Agency

File image courtesy Frontex

Published Jan 12, 2021 9:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating the EU's newly-strengthened border agency, Frontex, in connection with alleged migrant pushbacks at Europe's borders. 

"OLAF can confirm that it has opened an investigation concerning Frontex," the agency told media in a statement. "The fact that OLAF is conducting an investigation does not mean that the persons/entities involved have committed an irregularity/fraud."

OLAF provided no additional details, but Politico reports that the substance of the probe deals with allegations of harassment within the agency and alleged illegal pushback operations against migrants.

Frontex says that it is cooperating fully with the investigation, and it said that OLAF's inquiries are part of "normal practices of good governance."

Some members of the European Parliament have criticized Frontex and its executive director Fabrice Leggeri over a series of incidents at Greece's maritime border with Turkey last year. Media investigations suggested (controversially) that a Frontex unit may have been involved in at least one attempt to block migrant boats from entering Greek waters by pushing them back. In a parliamentary hearing in December, Leggeri denied that any wrongdoing had occurred.

Frontex has launched its own investigation into the allegations, but the European Green Party has called for an external inquiry and the Socialists & Democrats have called for Leggeri's resignation. 

The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has opened a separate investigation into how Frontex handles complaints of breaches of fundamental rights. The inquiry focuses on Frontex's complaints mechanism and the independence of Frontex staff tasked with ensuring the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. Frontex has been working to recruit "fundamental rights monitors" to fill this role.