Frontex, the EU border force, has been heavily criticized for holding an international “photo contest” to showcase the agency’s operations.
The agency had asked its staff to send pictures of Frontex operations to mark Europe Day on Sunday.
But the competition generated a huge reaction online, with many NGOs condemning the vote as a “competition of shame.”
Many used social media to share photos that they said “reflect the reality of the situation” of migrants trying to reach Europe.
The category of photographs “A helping hand at the border”, which included entries from Frontex rescue operations, was particularly criticized.
“Here are some real suggestions, straight from the world’s deadliest border that you have helped create,” Sea-Watch International said on Twitter.
The organization uploaded an image claiming to show a Frontex plane cooperating with the Libyan Coast Guard during an illegal rejection of two refugee ships.
“Frontex’s systematic illegal cooperation with Libya is proven, as are the deadly consequences,” Sea-Watch added.
“We consider this competition to be a complete joke,” said Jacob Warn, grassroots movement field coordinator, Europe Must Act.
Another photo posted by #LeaveNoOneBehind showed a refugee family spending “several nights outdoors” after being turned away by the Croatian border police in 2020.
In March, an investigation into allegations that Frontex participated in the illegal rejection of migrants found no evidence of their involvement. However, a full investigation into the claims was not completed. No further details have been provided.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Frontex said the investigation “misrepresents” the agency’s role in the central Mediterranean and that its priority in any possible search and rescue is saving lives.
“In the central Mediterranean region, this means that every time a Frontex plane detects a ship in distress, it immediately alerts the national rescue centers in the region: Italy, Malta, Libya and Tunisia,” the agency said.
“Frontex does not coordinate search and rescue operations,” he added.
Euronews has contacted Frontex to request a statement in response to criticism of its recent photo contest.
The agency had also asked its employees for other photos showing “cooperation with national authorities” and “border landscapes.” The winners of the contest were voted on via Facebook.
“Frontex should focus more on transparency, implementing a working complaints mechanism and independent human rights monitoring rather than wasting its resources and time with a photo contest trying to pretend that the situation at European borders is well managed. “Said Heike Gumz, Campaign The coordinator of Europe must act in a statement.
“We call on Europe, its citizens and leaders, to defend fundamental rights and the rule of law.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism