Frontex human rights official says Greece ‘needs enhanced monitoring’ after claims asylum seekers being illegally expelled.

Greek authorities should face more checks over how they manage asylum seekers trying to reach Europe, the lead official in charge of human rights at the EU’s border agency has said.

Jonas Grimheden, fundamental rights officer at the European Border and Coastguard Agency, known as Frontex, was speaking in a rare interview following numerous allegations that asylum seekers are being illegally expelled from Greece.

“It has been clear to me that Greece is one of the countries that needs enhanced monitoring,” he told the Guardian. “I think that what is missing now from my side, is increasing the pressure, increasing the concreteness of what I think should be done in order to prevent violations.”

He was reluctant to go into details, but suggested Frontex “could be present in more locations, involved in more activities” at Greece’s external border.

“On countries that are not performing according to EU law it would make more sense to have more Frontex rather than less,” he said adding that the agency’s presence put “clear reporting obligations” on member states.

While human rights groups, who have long reported alleged pushbacks by Greek authorities, are likely to welcome the increased attention on the EU’s south-eastern frontier, Frontex itself has been accused of complicity in human rights violations.

Grimheden, a former human rights lecturer, joined Frontex in June 2021 tasked with ensuring that EU border management is compliant with international law and the EU charter of fundamental rights.

His early days in the job coincided with dozens of NGOs and sea rescue captains launching a campaign to abolish Frontex, with the claim the EU agency was enforcing a deadly border control policy against migrants.

“It is maybe a logical reaction,” Grimheden said when asked about the campaign. “But I don’t think it’s the solution. On the contrary, I think Frontex is needed.”

Much of his tenure has coincided with criticism against the Warsaw-based agency that culminated in April with the resignation of Frontex’s executive director, Fabrice Leggeri.

Grimheden declined to comment on Leggeri’s record and stressed his independence from the management board.

The Swedish human rights expert, however, suggested the agency’s problems stemmed from past practice and were being resolved with the recruitment of dozens of fundamental rights officers. These staff, tasked to uphold human rights, may work at the EU border or on return flights of people denied asylum in Europe.

The agency was last year reprimanded by the European parliament for failure to recruit “at least” 40 fundamental rights officers as required under EU law.

As of 1 July the agency had 31 monitors, and Grimheden hopes 46 will be in post by October 2022.