Fundamental Rights

The Regulation (EU) 2019/1896, under Article 110, foresees the establishment of the fundamental rights monitors as statutory staff of Frontex. Deployed to the operational areas on behalf of the Fundamental Rights Officer, they monitor and assess the fundamental rights compliance of Frontex activities, provide advice and assist in this regard, while contributing to the promotion of fundamental rights as part of European integrated border management. Through their work, the monitors are a prominent element of Frontex’s fundamental rights monitoring system. As the ‘extension’ of the FRO in the field, they support the agency in upholding its fundamental rights obligations.

The monitors observe the activities undertaken by Frontex, documenting their compliance with applicable fundamental rights standards. They also monitor the procedures related to border management and returns  and the environment in which those are implemented. They not only assess compliance with fundamental rights, but also play an important role in flagging challenges and risks as well as opportunities for the promotion of EU and international law. In this context, the monitors cooperate with Frontex coordinating officers, advise and assist on matters related to fundamental rights, and report to the Fundamental Rights Officer on potential concerns. They also contribute to the training on fundamental rights and assist the FRO in ensuring that Frontex operational documents align with international and European fundamental rights standards.

Frontex launched a pilot project (November 2019 – June 2021) in cooperation with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) to establish the function of the fundamental rights monitors. Within this framework, the FRO and FRA conducted pilot monitoring visits to operational areas to test the most effective means for monitoring and tailor the modalities of deployment, conduct and tasks of the monitors.

The recruitment process of the Fundamental Rights Monitors started in the fourth quarter of 2020 and was also conducted with the support of FRA. The first group of monitors started their activities in the second quarter of 2021.

The Pool of Forced-Return Monitors and the Forced-Return Monitoring Projects

Forced return monitors observe and report on return operations coordinated or supported by Frontex, from the pre-departure phase until the handover of returnee(s) in the country of return. The pool of monitors was established as a subsidiary mechanism to the national monitoring mechanisms. It was a requirement that was included in the Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard (Article 8(6) of Directive 2008/115/EC).

As of May 2021, the pool of forced return monitors counted 73 monitors from 24 EU Member States. Additionally, five of the 40 fundamental rights monitors recruited by Frontex Fundamental Rights Office were nominated as forced-return monitors to the pool. The fundamental rights monitors, who will work independently on behalf of the Fundamental Rights Officer, will support monitors from the Member States.

The day-to-day management and the deployment of monitors to specific forced-return operations is largely handled to varying degrees by Frontex’s Capability Programming Office (CAP), European Centre for Returns (ECRET) and Fundamental Rights Office. In addition, the Fundamental Rights Officer drafts bi-annual observations to return operations based on its analysis of the monitoring reports and reports to the Frontex Management Board. The Training Unit is responsible for all training-related activities organised for the pool of forced-return monitors.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Forced-Return Monitoring (FReM) II and III projects supported Frontex in establishing the pool of forced-return monitors. The projects were implemented jointly with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights as well as several EU Member States. The FReM II and III projects were co-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union. The aim of the most-recent FReM III project, running until December 2021, is to ensure and protect the fundamental rights of returnees, while increasing the independence and transparency of a forced-return monitoring based on a common and harmonised European framework. The FReM projects also provide support to the EU Member States in increasing the implementation of the EU Return Directive (2008/115/EC) and improving their monitoring capacity.

For more information, visit the dedicated website.

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