The fundamental rights officer of the EU's border force Frontex suggested that the agency should reinforce its presence in Greece due to reports of abuse against asylum seekers.
"Yes, that still makes sense in my view, in all places where we see fundamental rights issues," said Jonas Grimheden, the agency's fundamental rights officer on Monday when asked about Greece, reported EU Observer.
The comment appears to stand in contrast to a recent article in the New York Times. The Times story, citing confidential documents, said Grimheden had in fact recommended the agency withdraw its operations from Greece.
Asked to comment on the veracity of the article, Grimheden remained elusive.
"The story is rather an oversimplification of things, but I don't want to go into the details since that relates to the leverage that I have on seeing change," he said instead.
"I am using the tools at my disposal to the full extent where needed, but my main interlocutor is the Agency and the Management Board — and through that, national authorities. So I prefer to keep the discussion in that context," he added.
The documents cited by the Times says he had recommended the agency suspend operations given "credible reports" of abuse and violations by the Greek authorities against asylum seekers over the course of 2022.
Greece continues to deny any wrongdoing.
It is the executive director who can suspend or terminate operations where violations of fundamental rights are taking place in an EU member state by triggering an internal rule known as article 46.
Reversed article 46
The agency had triggered it for the first time in Hungary early 2021 following an European court judgement.
Hans Leijtens, the agency's new executive director, told MEPs last November that he would "have absolutely no constraints in applying article 46 if we arrive at that point."
The Dutchman, who also sat on the Frontex management board before becoming its executive director, said one of his primacy tasks was to ensure the legality of the agency's operations.
But last summer, Grimheden had also made the case of a so-called "reversed article 46", whereby more Frontex guards would be deployed in case of violations committed in the host member state.
"Reversed article 46 would be much better from the fundamental rights perspective," said Grimheden, at the time. "The more Frontex I see the more the information I have and the better picture I have," he said.
It is a position he maintains still today.
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