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Proposals to improve the monitoring of Frontex Joint Return Operations

Summary of the decision on own-initiative inquiry OI/9/2014/MHZ concerning the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex)

EU migration policy includes the voluntary or forced return of irregular third-country migrants (rejected asylum seekers and persons without a valid residence permit) to their countries of origin. By their very nature, forced return operations have the potential to involve serious violations of fundamental rights. This own-initiative inquiry sought to clarify how Frontex, as a coordinator of Joint Return Operations (JROs), ensures respect for the fundamental rights and human dignity of the individuals being returned.

The Ombudsman obtained the views of Frontex and its Fundamental Rights Officer, inspected Frontex files and received contributions from members of the European Network of Ombudsmen, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the UN Refugee Agency and a number of NGOs. She found that, although much has been done, Frontex needs to enhance the transparency of its JRO work, amend its Code of Conduct in areas such as medical examinations and the use of force, and engage more with the Member States. Frontex must do all in its power to promote independent and effective monitoring of JROs.

The Ombudsman closes her inquiry with a series of proposals to Frontex on how it can further improve its operations in this area.