The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has invited individuals, NGOs, and other organisations active in the area of fundamental rights protection to submit comments in his ongoing inquiry concerning the EU Borders Agency, Frontex.
Frontex coordinates the operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security. In March 2012, the Ombudsman asked Frontex a number of questions about the implementation of its fundamental rights obligations. Frontex replied in May 2012. Comments on Frontex's response can be submitted to the Ombudsman until 30 September 2012.
In 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding on Frontex, which is based in Warsaw. Since then, a number of civil society organisations have questioned whether Frontex is doing enough to comply with the Charter, for example, in its deployment of EU border guards to Greece where migrant detainees were kept in detention centres under conditions which have been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2010, Malta had stopped taking part in the Frontex missions because of a provision that all irregular migrants saved on the high seas should be disembarked in the host country of the mission instead of the closest safe port, in line with international rules.
In October 2011, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a Regulation setting out additional specific fundamental rights obligations for Frontex. In March 2012, the Ombudsman asked Frontex a number of questions about how it is fulfilling these obligations, including the obligation to draw up a fundamental rights strategy, as well as codes of conduct applicable to its operations.
Frontex submitted its opinion in May 2012. It explained that, since 2010, it has developed a fundamental rights strategy, as well as a binding code of conduct for those participating in its activities. Frontex also listed other measures it is currently taking to ensure full respect for fundamental rights.
The Ombudsman considers that, before proceeding further, it would be useful to seek information and views from NGOs and other organisations active in the area of fundamental rights protection. He therefore invites interested parties to make observations on Frontex's opinion. The Ombudsman has also invited the EU Fundamental Rights Agency to give its views.
Malta has been criticised over the years for its detention policy on irregular migrants coming to Malta on their way to Europe.
All documents related to the inquiry, including Frontex's opinion, are available here .