Human rights monitors: new UK-Frontex agreement risks “axis of abuse” 

© aerial-drone - Adobe Stock
© aerial-drone - Adobe Stock

Charities on both sides of the English Channel have hit out at the new cooperation agreement between EU border agency Frontex and UK authorities signed in London today between UK officials and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson; citing human rights scandals surrounding both organisations and an enforcement approach that is “flawed from conception.” 

  • The “integrated border management” between countries described in today’s deal has had serious consequences. Frontex was recently found to be systematically sharing the coordinates of Mediterranean boats in distress with militias and pirates that return people crossing to conditions of abuse and violence. 
  • This news came over a year on from the forced resignation of its former director (now a European Parliament candidate for the French far-right National Rally) over the agency’s complicity and cover-ups in Greece’s deadly border campaign, which was supposed to herald a culture change. 
  • The number of UK border drownings has doubled in the past year, which rescue NGO Alarmphone says is linked to Anglo-French border policy. UK and French authorities have faced allegations of serious shortcomings in responding to Channel shipwrecks
  • Meanwhile the UK continues to attempt to undermine its own courts and international refugee law with its plans to outsource its asylum processes to Rwanda, and its abuse-ridden detention estate is widely documented.

Quotes from organisations responding to the move can be found below. 

Michele LeVoy, Director of the Brussels-based Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), said:

“Frontex is signing this new agreement with the UK border forces after countless reports of complicity by the EU agency in serious violence.”

“The plan is flawed from conception. Tougher enforcement does not reduce irregular crossings; it only makes people’s journeys more dangerous. These resources should instead be used to provide safe routes and proper support for people seeking safety.”

Mary Atkinson, Campaigns and Networks Manager at the London-based Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said:

“People move – they always have and always will. It’s something we should welcome, not something which needs to be ‘tackled’ or ‘cracked down’ upon. We urgently need change so that people can move without risking – and too often losing – their lives.

“This latest development is just more of the same tired old thinking. Making our borders more violent has never stopped those in need from coming here and all these measures will do is make it more dangerous. The government needs to wake up and accept that ‘deterrents’ never have – and never will – work. Instead, we need to listen to the evidence and develop policies that prioritise people’s safety and human rights.”

A spokesperson for Calais-based Human Rights Observers said: 

“Frontex, the EU’s biggest agency, which squanders European taxpayers’ money by massively violating human rights, is preparing to land on the French-British border. With at least 28 people killed by the murderous border policies of France and the UK in 2023, the presence of Frontex would only increase the insecurity of people seeking protection.” 

Josephine Valeske at Europe-wide campaign Abolish Frontex said:

“UK border policy has seen deaths by drowning double in the last year, and its government continues to insist on violating both UK and international law by deporting people seeking asylum to Rwanda.” 

“Frontex claims to have made progress on rights – but joining the UK for its new so-called “crackdown” on migration shows that nothing has changed. The EU cannot claim to defend human rights while Frontex continues to exist, and expand a European axis of abuse, at our expense.”