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MEPs call for EU Border Agency director to resign over 'migrant pushbacks'

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By Efi Koutsokosta
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MEPs call for EU Border Agency director to resign over 'migrant pushbacks'
Copyright  Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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MEPs have called on the Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of EU Border and Coastguard Agency Frontex to resign. It comes after allegations on the agency’s involvement in illegal practices and rights violations.

Politicians from the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament said he failed to answer questions relating to the agency’s involvement in pushbacks at the EU’s external borders aimed at preventing asylum-seekers from entering the EU.

It follows a heated hearing in Brussels in which Leggeri defended Frontex staff saying:

"We have not found evidence that there were active direct or indirect participation of Frontex staff or officers deployed by Frontex in pushbacks."

He commented on Greece’s alleged illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, that it was up to the competent authorities, pushing the responsibility onto Athens. He explains that if no rescue is declared by the competent authority, then there is a possibility to carry out an 'interception at the borders' and the host member state of a Frontex operation could 'invite the boat to change its course'.

But not everyone is convinced. A Swedish team that participated in a border operation say it was asked not to report any violations.

"We are not just shocked by the reports but we are also saddened by them," said socialist MEP Tanja Fajon.

"All incidents, firing, shots at people, destroying boat engines, putting people back in boats and throwing them away in fact we are speaking about pushbacks."

She said the fact that the EU and one of its agencies (Frontex) was tolerating this raises a question of Rule of law.

"You all know very well that Rule of Law has become a kind of a joke apparently."

The Frontex chief did however acknowledge that the recruitment of human rights observers at the Greek border had been delayed.