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Migration crisis. Fogiel on the dismissal of the head of Frontex and “Brussels politicians”. It wasn’t like that

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Radosław Fogiel argued on the radio that the head of the European border guard, Frontex, was dismissed “because, according to Brussels politicians, Frontex should help in crossing European borders.” And what was it really like? The head of this EU agency resigned after accusations that he tolerated push backs.

“We are eliminating incentives to come to Europe illegally” – on October 2 on Polish Radio 24 Law and Justice MP Radosław Fogiel spoke about the Polish government’s actions to stop the inflow of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. He also talked about strengthening Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, while recalling the events of 2022, when the head of this institution was dismissed:

We remember what happened when Frontex performed its duties, that is, helped Poland protect our border with Belarus. He helped protect the European Union’s border. Its head was dismissed because, according to Brussels politicians, Frontex should help cross European borders.

The head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, lost his position in April 2022. He left, accused of tolerating push backs in the Mediterranean. His dismissal was decided by the Frontex management board, where the dominant voice is held by representatives of European Union member states. It is worth adding that Leggeri praised the response of the Polish authorities to the crisis on the border with Belarus in 2021.

We present what is known about the circumstances of his resignation.

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The head of Frontex and the tolerance of push backs

Purpose established in 2004 Frontex agency is to help EU and Schengen area member states “protect the external borders of the EU area of ​​free movement of persons.” Frontex is financed from the EU budget and from contributions from Schengen associated countries.

On April 29, 2022, Frontex announced that Fabrice Leggeri resigned from his position with immediate effect. “This followed the revelation of serious allegations against Leggeri and his associates, including covering up the illegal diversion of migrant boats in the Mediterranean Sea” – he reported then “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” after the Polish Press Agency and the dpa agency. According to the German agency, Leggeri’s resignation was primarily influenced by an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The findings showed that several people from the Frontex management deliberately concealed that the Greek border guards were committing illegal push backs – they were turning back boats with migrants to the open sea.

Importantly, the Frontex management board that accepted Leggeri’s resignation is not the “Brussels politicians” that Radosław Fogiel spoke about. Tomasz Bielecki, Brussels correspondent of “Gazeta Wyborcza” and Deutsche Welle, commenting these events on April 29, 2022, he explained that due to security powers, EU member states play the first fiddle in Frontex. At that time, the management board included two representatives of the European Commission and 26 representatives of EU countries (excluding Ireland). “The vast majority supported the dismissal without initiating disciplinary proceedings against the Frenchman,” Bielecki reported.

The current composition of the Frontex management board is presented on the website agencies are mostly representatives of the interior ministries, police or national services responsible for border protection. Poland’s representative is Grzegorz Niemiec, deputy commander of the Border Guard.

“It makes your hair stand on end. No one has controlled this before.”

In October 2022, OLAF published over a hundred pages report regarding Frontex. As the website reported in January 2023 Euractivit described that the agency’s management covered up push backs and did not investigate them.

Euractiv further reported that Leggeri did not agree with the accusations leveled against him, and in a letter to his colleagues he criticized the changes taking place in the agency he subordinated to. “For the last two years, I have been observing how the narrative surrounding us is changing discreetly but effectively. According to it, the main principle of Frontex should in practice be to constitute another body dealing with fundamental rights and monitoring how Member States comply with them. (…) According to In my vision, Frontex should be an institution with operational capabilities,” he said (quote from Euractiv).

After the European Parliament failed to discharge Frontex for the 2020 financial year, MEPs criticized the agency for irregularities dating back to Fabrice Leggeri. At that time, there was talk not only about push backs, but also about reported cases of sexual harassment in the agency. “When you read about the scale of various types of abuse, your hair stands on end. No one had controlled it before, no one knew what had happened in recent years. It’s as if Fabrice Leggeri was a king in his own kingdom,” he commented at the time on Tok FM radio Dr. Paweł Cywiński, co-creator of projects dedicated to refugees, researcher at the Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies at the University of Warsaw.

The former head of Frontex praised the Polish government for its actions on the border with Belarus

There is an important Polish thread in the whole matter – and the meaning of Mr. Fogel’s statement. In October 2021 Fabrice Leggeri was in Poland and praised the PiS government for its response to the migration crisis on the border with Belarus. The tense situation at the border had already been going on for several months. The Border Guard reported that over 10,000 were thwarted. attempts to illegally cross the Belarusian-Polish border in connection with the hybrid operation of the Belarusian regime (more about it later in the article).

“Executive Director Leggeri reviewed the operations conducted by the Polish Border Guard and was impressed by the measures used to protect the border,” we read in a press release published at the time. message Frontex.

In the above-mentioned conversation on TOK FM, Dr. Paweł Cywiński said that Leggeri’s words “reflect poorly on him.” “Leggeri himself is accused of a thousand illegal push backs carried out by Frontex. However, when we look at the Polish border, in the last year we have had tens of thousands of illegal deportations,” he emphasized.

In June 2022, Leggeri, in an interview for TVP Info, talked about pressure from the Frontex management to take into account voices calling for more effective protection of human rights. The interview was covered by a pro-government website wpolityce.pl. Leggeri spoke about the controversy regarding the application of regulations by Frontex. The agency and the independent fundamental rights experts it hired had different understandings of regulations, for example, regarding immigrants crossing the border outside official crossings. “Leggeri, who carried out the legally assigned mission to protect Schengen borders and support nation states in security activities, was removed. The basis was the shallow expertise of ‘independent experts'” – commented wpolityce.pl.

Belarusian Operation “Sluice”

The migration crisis on the borders of Belarus with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia was caused in mid-2021 by Alexander Lukashenko, who is accused of waging a hybrid war in this way. This operation involves the organized transfer of migrants from Belarus to the territory of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The operation of bringing migrants to Belarus from the Middle East or Africa to cause a migration crisis was described on his blog in the summer of 2021 by Tadeusz Giczan, a journalist from the Belarusian opposition channel Nexta. He explained that the Belarusian services are conducting the “Sluice” operation invented 10 years ago. Under the guise of trips to Minsk, promising to transfer them to the EU, the Lukashenko regime brought thousands of migrants to Belarus. He then transported them to the borders of EU countries, where Belarusian services forced them to cross them illegally. As Giczan described, the action began shortly after the arrest of oppositionist Raman Pratasiewicz at the airport in Minsk in May 2021.

At the beginning of August 2021, at the peak of the crisis, over 200 people a day tried to get from Belarus to Poland illegally. This operation is still ongoing.

Read more: What is Operation Lock?

Main photo source: Radek Pietruszka/PAP

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