European Parliament, legislative body of the EU:
On April 7, the Parliament adopted by 509 votes in favour, 3 against and 47 abstentions, a resolution reiterating various measures necessary to protect children and young people fleeing violence and to facilitate their integration into the communities of the host countries. Among the main measures are the following:
- The need for humanitarian safe lanes for children and families in Ukraine
- Essential registration of children to prevent the risk of trafficking and illegal adoption
- Identification of vulnerable children at EU borders and prompt assignment of a guardian for unaccompanied children
- Access to education and health services equal to that of children in host countries
On April 25, the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality strongly condemned the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war in a resolution adopted by 29 votes to 2 with 3 abstentions. The MEPs expressed their deep concern about the increasing number of cases of human trafficking, sexual violence, exploitation, rape and abuse of women and children fleeing the war in Ukraine.
On May 4, MEPs approved (480 votes in favour, 143 against and 20 abstentions) an agreement reached last February by Parliament and Council negotiators on strengthening the mandate of Europol, the EU’s police cooperation agency. This agreement provides for the following measures:
- Europol will be able to conduct research projects and receive data from private companies
- The agency will create a new position of fundamental rights officer
- The European Data Protection Supervisor will monitor Europol’s data processing
The Parliament also approved on May 4 the clearance of accounts of most EU bodies by 2020, except for the Frontex agency, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Council. In a resolution adopted with 492 votes in favour, 145 against and 8 abstentions, MEPs highlighted the failure of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to meet the conditions set out in Parliament’s previous clearance of accounts report, as well as the ongoing investigations launched by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) into fundamental rights incidents, including the deportation of migrants. Furthermore, they pointed out that they had not been able to review the entire report, and were therefore not in a position to make an informed decision at this time. As a result, the decision has been postponed to autumn 2022.
On May 5, MEPs proposed in a resolution adopted with 462 votes in favour, 19 against and 89 abstentions, that access to sexual and reproductive health and rights be granted in all host and transit Member States. They pointed out that 90% of the refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine are women and children and that these women should be granted access to the labour market as soon as possible to facilitate their integration in the host countries.
Europol, European agency for police cooperation:
In late march, Europol issue an early warning regarding the risk of sexual and labour exploitation for the refugees arriving to the EU from Ukraine especially since most of the people fleeing the country are women, children and vulnerable persons wo are the ideal potential victims for criminal networks engaging in trafficking in human beings. The areas of most concern are therefore the border areas, the reception and accommodation centres as well as public transport hubs such as train and bus stations.
On April 11, Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) announced that it had initiated Operation Oscar jointly with EU member states and its agencies Eurojust and Frontex to « support member states’ financial investigations into assets held by individuals or legal entities sanctioned as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine ». This joint operation also aims to assist « criminal investigations conducted by Member States concerning the circumvention of trade and economic sanctions imposed by the EU ». Operation Oscar will therefore include a number of separate investigations and is expected to last for at least a year.
Eurojust, European agency for judicial cooperation:
On April 4, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced her willingness to assist in the collection of evidence in Ukraine: « The EU has set up a joint investigation team with Ukraine to collect evidence and investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity. She also said that the agencies Eurojust and Europol will assist. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was therefore set up by Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine with the support of the EU and its judicial cooperation agency.
On April 11, Eurojust jointly took part with Europol and Frontex in Operation Oscar.
On April 25, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s Office officially joined the European JIT.
Frontex, European border and coast guard agency:
On April 11, Frontex took part jointly with Europol and Eurojust in Operation Oscar.
On April 29, the resignation of the Director General of Frontex was accepted by the agency’s Board of Directors. Frenchman Fabrice Leggeri is accused of turning a blind eye to the illegal refoulement of migrants in the Aegean Sea, of colluding with the Greek authorities to provide a concordant version to the European Commission and of committing perjury before the European Parliament. This is what the newly appointed former director of Frontex had to say: “Over the past two years, quietly but effectively, a narrative has taken over [that] Frontex should be turned into some kind of fundamental rights body that controls what member states do at their external borders (…). My vision is and has always been that Frontex is, through its operational corps of border guards, an agency that supports the member states (…) This vision is no longer supported at the political level. That is why I took the decision yesterday to resign.”.