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Letters from Workers.

  • Letter
  • Jul 10 2023
  • Luisa Izuzquiza
    works at FragDenStaat, an organization that is part of the Abolish Frontex network. She is a freedom of information activist based in Brussels, Belgium. Luisa does research, campaigns, and litigates for access to information with a special focus on the European Union’s border control policies, and Frontex in particular.

In 2018, my colleague Arne Semsrott and I took Frontex, the European Union’s border police, to court. Our lawsuit was the first of its kind: we wanted to force the border agency to disclose information about their operations in the Central Mediterranean where, up until then, over 13,700 people had drowned while trying to reach Europe by boat. We lost the case. 

Frontex, however, wanted more than a victory: the agency wasn’t happy our lawsuit had been a first, so it was keen to make it the last of its kind, too. In order to achieve this, they needed to make an example out of us. On a Friday morning in January 2020, Arne and I received a letter from Frontex demanding €23,700.81 in legal fees. We refused to pay and, for as long as we could—almost two years—we stood our ground, campaigning for Frontex to drop its claim. But Frontex was relentless in its pursuit. The agency even dragged us to court, where the judges set a final amount for us to pay: €10,520.76. 

By October 2021, payment became inevitable. But a bank transfer didn’t feel like a worthy ending for this battle: it would have been too silent, too discrete… too comfortable. Instead, we decided that we would make Frontex take the money from our own hands, while they looked us in the eyes.

In the morning of October 4, 2021, Arne and I stood before the Frontex offices in Brussels. We were accompanied by a group of fellow activists, friends, and journalists. With us, we carried a black briefcase containing the exact sum of €10,520.76 in cash. At 11:00 am sharp, we crossed the street and headed towards the Frontex building. There, we rang the doorbell—but no one answered. We rang again; we knocked on the door; we rang once more. No one ever came to the door. For over 20 minutes, we stood at the border agency’s doorstep, demanding to be let in while holding a briefcase with the payment they had harassed us about for 22 months. We were there, but Frontex was not.

We eventually learned that, in anticipation of our visit, Frontex had instructed its staff not to come to the office that morning. The building had been evacuated. Unable to bear being confronted with the consequences of its actions, Frontex, the almighty billion-euro border force, had gone into hiding.

There’s a saying in Spanish that I often think of in the context of Frontex. It goes, Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. Distance and negation—Ojos que no venlay the ground for heartless beings—corazón que no siente. Violence, cruelty, and abuse thrive in the perpetrator’s ability to look away. To curtail this ability in Frontex is, therefore, a step taken towards the agency’s demise.




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