Frontex: EU's border agency probed over harassment, misconduct and migrant pushback claims

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By Darren McCaffrey
Life jackets abandoned in the sea
Life jackets abandoned in the sea   -  Copyright  Picasa/ Frontex

The EU's anti-fraud watchdog (OLAF) has launched a probe into the EU's border agency Frontex.

OLAF is looking into allegations of harassment, misconduct and unlawful operations aimed at stopping migrants from reaching EU shores.

“OLAF can confirm that it has opened an investigation concerning Frontex," said OLAF in a statement to Euronews.

"However, as an investigation is on-going, OLAF cannot issue any further comment. This is in order to protect the confidentiality of on-going and possible ensuing investigations, subsequent judicial proceedings, personal data and procedural rights.”

In response, Frontex told Euronews that it is "cooperating fully with OLAF". It added that OLAF visits to EU agencies, institutions and entities are a "normal practice of good governance" and that it's "important to note that such visits do not necessarily imply any malpractice".

When asked about the investigation a spokesperson for the European Commission remained tight-lipped:  "This is not the first time Frontex has faced allegations of violating international law and bad governance, though it is something management has always strenuously denied."

The investigation comes after MEPs called for Frontex's director to resign over alleged migrant pushbacks. In a heated debate at the European Parliament, MEPs said Fabrice Leggeri had 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.

The news of the OLAF investigation coincided with Frontex releasing a much-derided video showing-off their new uniform. It is the first EU service to have a uniform.