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Talha Gunay speaks on the EU’s responsibility for Frontex’s surveillance activities in the Libyan context

Between 18 and 20 October, CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies) and the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute organized the ASILE training school for PhD researchers. The training focused on the concepts of responsibility attribution and accountability for fundamental rights violations in the context of migration control policies and practices. Talha presented his paper, which is based on his master thesis on the international responsibility of the EU in the context of Frontex joint operations.

Numerous reports have so far pointed out the humanitarian plight of migrants in the Libyan migrant detention centres, from exploitation and torture in unofficial and official facilities to human trafficking and slavery. Yet, the material support and funding of the EU and its Member States have focused on the externalization of migration management and the containment of migrants departing from Libya. The EU’s border agency, Frontex, plays a direct role in the joint border surveillance efforts to assist the Libyan coast guards’ interception operations to pull back migrants fleeing Libya.

In his presentation, Talha first elucidated the powers and mandate of Frontex in this regard and showed the nexus between Frontex’s surveillance activities and the pull-back of migrants by Libyan coast guards, based on a recent joint investigation by Lighthouse-Report, Der Spiegel, Libération, and ARD. Then, he evaluated this nexus in light of the rules of responsibility under international law. Consequently, he argued that while the EU’s direct responsibility cannot be established in the absence of a direct engagement with migrants on the ground, the EU might incur responsibility for complicity under Article 14 DARIO for its aid or assistance in the shape of surveillance support for the Libyan authorities. Importantly, citing the recently leaked OLAF report on Frontex, Talha also argued that the report presents a unique angle for the complicity of an assisting entity by omission.

The panel of discussants consisted of Sergio Carrera (CEPS), Prof. Andrew Geddes (Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute), Dr. Eleni Karageorgiou (Lund University and University of Gothenburg), and Nikolas Feith Tan (Danish Institute for Human Rights).

More information about the ASILE training school

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