Frontex – how the EU funds human rights violations


The consequences of Europe’s border policies make it to the headlines almost daily: migrants drowning in the Aegean, being tortured by the Libyan coast guard or living in refugee camps for months under inhumane conditions. The European Union claims that “Human rights are at the heart of EU relations with other countries and regions” and yet refugees are denied their basic human rights at the EU external borders. According to the Missing Migrants project at least 22 748 people have died in the Mediterranean region since 2014. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, plays a key role in carrying out this violence.


Frontex is the EU’s best funded agency. Since its establishment in 2005, its budget continues to increase – it will be provided with €5.6 billion from 2021-2027, a 194% increase compared to the previous budgetary cycle. By 2027, Frontex aims to increase its guards to 10 000.

Human rights violations

Abandoning refugees in the middle of the sea on rubber life drafts without motor, shooting at boats or throwing people in the ocean – Frontex is directly and indirectly involved in pushbacks. Pushbacks are an illegal measure where refugees or migrants are forced back over a border, most times shortly after they crossed it.

Additionally, Frontex coordinates and enables deportations from EU territory. Alone in 2022 Frontex aided the deportation of 25 000 people. And not only did it send them back forcibly to countries engulfed in war, Frontex staff also exercises physical violence during deportation flights. One of many examples is a suicidal man who on his deportation flight to Afghanistan was physically abused by Frontex guards in order to calm him down. Furthermore, Frontex cooperates with the Libyan coast guard, which is involved in human trafficking, enslavement, torture and various other human rights violations – and has received $455 million in funding from the EU since 2015.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex’ director from 2015 to 2022 has said in April 2015 that Frontex has no mandate for “proactive search-and-rescue actions” and that saving lives should not be a priority.



The enormous budget of Frontex doesn’t mean that the agency is using its power responsibly and transparently. As the so called “Frontex Files” show, which were published in 2021 by a research team of scientists and an NGO that worked together with German TV show ZDF Magazin Royale, Frontex held 16 meetings with lobbyists from 2017 to 2019, with numerous arms lobbyists included. Frontex met with 138 private bodies, 108 of them were companies. The defence companies Airbus and Leonardo were given the most access, with 5 meetings each. Airbus is also among the top European arm traders, actively selling weapons to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, fueling conflicts that are causes of many of the refugees. The industry that helped create the “migration crisis” is now profiting off it, by selling their technologies to agencies like Frontex. Frontex not only enables heavily militarized border controls in member states, but also benefits from them, since it facilitates its own operations.

Another world is possible


The EU institutions and states not only fail to save migrants lives, but actively increase violence against and risk for people who are forced to move. Frontex enables the EU’s inherently racist border policies and profits off it. But it doesn’t have to be like this – another world is possible. A world where the Mediterranean is not a mass grave and no one is forced to move is possible. However, there is no possibility in reforming an agency that is inherently unjust. The only solution is to abolish Frontex and the system it represents.

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