September 21, 2011


To the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council

  • Amend the Frontex Regulation to make explicit, and thereby reinforce, the obligation not to expose migrants and asylum seekers to inhuman and degrading detention conditions.
  • Amend proposed Frontex Regulation Art. 26a to empower the Fundamental Rights Officer to refer Frontex to the Commission for investigation and where appropriate infringement proceedings in the event that the Frontex executive director fails to suspend operations despite persistent and serious violations of the Charter and/or in the event that members states and their agents persistently violate the Charter during Frontex operations.
  • Oblige Frontex to include: a human rights assessment prior to engaging in future operations, including “joint operations” and RABIT deployments; a mechanism for reporting on human rights abuses during operations; and a mandatory human rights review at the close of each operation.
  • Demand Frontex set up investigating and reporting mechanisms for human rights violations during the course of its operations.
  • Determine whether Frontex’s involvement in Evros during the RABIT deployment and continuing with the Poseidon land operation has been compatible with its obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

To Participating European States 

  • Suspend any participation in Frontex operations that fail to adhere to binding international human rights standards.
  • Instruct border guards deployed on Frontex missions on the obligations under international law. Ensure that border guards are trained and conversant regarding all rules and standards pertaining to the transfer and treatment of detainees.
  • Set up an anonymous whistle-blower protection system to facilitate self-reporting of Frontex rights violations by member states’ border guards participating in European Border Guard Teams.
  • Do not participate in Frontex or other migration control operations without first independently assessing the human rights record of the EU host country and, where applicable, the human rights records of neighboring states outside the EU that are partners in the operation.

To the Frontex Management Board

Ensuring that Operations are Consistent with Human Rights Obligations

  • Suspend the deployment of EU border guards to Greece unless migrant detainees can be transferred to facilities elsewhere in Greece (or outside of Greece) that meet EU and international standards or until the conditions of detention in the Evros region where migrants are currently detained are improved and no longer violate European and international standards.


  • Lay out reporting guidelines for border guards in future Frontex deployments on how they should act and report when confronted with or observing human rights violations, including ill-treatment of detainees.
  • Investigate how many migrants detained by Frontex patrols were transferred to detention centers with inhuman and degrading conditions and what has happened to these transferees.
  • Intervene with Greek officials and monitor compliance to ensure that migrants apprehended by guest guards are transferred to detention facilities that comply with European and international standards.

Risk Analysis

  • Conduct thorough assessments of the risk of human rights violations occurring before engaging in joint operations or deploying RABIT forces. Such assessments should take into consideration independent assessments by governmental and non-governmental rights monitors.
  • Develop an action plan in consultation with the Consultative Forum to mitigate any risk identified.
  • Refrain from operations if risk assessments show they are likely to expose migrants to human rights violations and if the risk cannot be averted.  

Training in Human Rights

  • In cooperation with FRA and UNHCR, provide human rights training to guest officers both on the principle of nonrefoulement and on minimal standards of detention. Clarify that guest officers must not, under any circumstances, take action that would expose migrants to inhuman and degrading detention conditions or that would subject refugees and asylum seekers to refoulement.

To Greece

Human Rights Watch has made extensive and detailed recommendations for improving Greece’s asylum and migration enforcement systems in three other major reports. Most closely related to this report, Human Rights Watch recommends that Greece:

  • Implement the recently adopted asylum reform package as fully and as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure access to asylum procedures at the border and in the border region.
  • Reduce overcrowding by using alternative facilities and alternatives to detention as much as possible.
  • Immediately improve detention conditions, and immediately create open reception centers for asylum seekers and members of vulnerable groups, such as children.
  • Provide protection and safe accommodation for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups.
  • Prosecute police and coast guard officials who abuse their authority.

To the Fundamental Rights Agency

  • Clarify that the scope of the Cooperation Arrangement with Frontex explicitly includes the human rights of migrants, including protection from inhuman and degrading treatment.
  • Seek amendment of Article 3 of the Cooperation Arrangement that only grants FRA access to Frontex Joint Operations “upon request.”

To the European Asylum Support Office (EASO)

  • Develop training in asylum processing specifically designed for Greek personnel posted in Evros (according to Article 6 of EASO’s mandate).
  • Work to improve access to asylum for migrant detainees in the Evros region and the Greek islands by, among other steps, ensuring that trained asylum officers will also be available to interview asylum seekers in locations where Frontex officials are conducting nationality-determination interviews. 
  • Assess the impact of inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees on access to asylum in Greece.
  • Report publicly on any violations of the rights of asylum seekers by Greek or Frontex personnel in detention centers in Greece.