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Showing 1 - 20 of 88 results

Decision in case 2067/2020/MIG on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s (Frontex) handling of multiple requests for public access to documents made by a single applicant

Wednesday | 16 June 2021

The case concerned how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) handled multiple requests for public access to documents made by a single applicant. Frontex considered that the scope of the complainant’s multiple requests, which had been made in close temporal proximity, was too extensive to be processed in parallel. It therefore proposed, as a fair solution, to put them in a queue and process them in turn. The complainant did not agree to this approach.

The Ombudsman noted that it was not clear how extensive the scope of the complainant’s requests was and how much work it would entail to assess whether the documents concerned can be released. She proposed that Frontex should immediately recommence processing the complainant’s access requests, beginning with the most urgent one, as indicated by the complainant during the inquiry. She also proposed that Frontex provide the complainant with a list of all documents at issue to enable him to determine the priority of each request.

Frontex accepted the Ombudsman’s proposal and provided the complainant with a reply to the indicated access request shortly thereafter.

The Ombudsman welcomed Frontex’s response to her proposal for a solution and closed the case, calling on Frontex to make every effort to ensure that the complainant’s access requests are now dealt with quickly. The Ombudsman also encourages Frontex, in an effort to avoid delays, to improve its communication with applicants when attempting to find a fair solution on how to process extensive requests.

Decision in OI/5/2020/MHZ on the functioning of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency's (Frontex) complaints mechanism for alleged breaches of fundamental rights and the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer

Tuesday | 15 June 2021

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry on her own initiative to look into how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) deals with alleged breaches of fundamental rights through its ‘complaints mechanism’, and to address the role and independence of Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Officer in this regard.

In the context of a previous inquiry, the Ombudsman recommended the creation of an independent mechanism for handling complaints about Frontex operations. The complaints mechanism was approved by the EU legislators, and became operational in 2016.

Through the complaints mechanism, Frontex deals with complaints from individuals who believe their fundamental rights have been violated in the context of Frontex operations. The Fundamental Rights Officer’s role is to deal directly with complaints about the actions of Frontex staff members, as well as to ensure that complaints about the staff of national authorities involved in Frontex operations are dealt with properly by the relevant authorities. 

This inquiry aimed to assess how Frontex has implemented new rules concerning the complaints mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer, which came into force in November 2019. It also sought to assess the overall effectiveness of the complaints mechanism, against a background of public concerns about fundamental rights violations in the context of Frontex operations.

Since its creation, the complaints mechanism has dealt with a very low number of complaints, with no complaints as yet concerning the actions of Frontex staff members. Between 2016 and January 2021, the Fundamental Rights Officer had received 69 complaints of which 22 were admissible. With operations made up of staff members from different bodies, who are responsible to different authorities, it may be difficult for potential complainants to identify the alleged perpetrators and to understand how and to whom they can report alleged violations, and seek redress through the appropriate channels.

In this inquiry, the Ombudsman also reviewed complaints dealt with by the complaints mechanism and identified various potential shortcomings that may make it more difficult for individuals to report alleged fundamental rights violations and seek redress. The Ombudsman’s inquiry also identified delays by Frontex in implementing its new obligations concerning the complaints mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer.

Based on the inquiry, the Ombudsman sets out a series of suggestions for improvement to Frontex, with a view to improving the accessibility of the complaints mechanism for potential victims of fundamental rights violations and strengthening the accountability of Frontex operations and all those involved therein. These include suggestions on how to make it easier for potential victims of fundamental rights violations to be aware of redress possibilities and to report incidents, as well as suggestions to improve how complaints are handled and followed up on.