Frontex, the European Union’s powerful border agency, is considering temporarily suspending its activity in Greece over the capsizing of an overcrowded vessel off the coast of the country earlier this month, one of the biggest tragedies in the Mediterranean in years.
The idea was suggested by Frontex’s fundamental rights officer, Jonas Grimheden, during the agency’s management board meeting between 20 and 21 June, as first reported by the French newspaper Le Monde.
The recommendation by the fundamental rights officer follows the capsizing of an overcrowded fishing boat on 14 June, which is likely to have caused the death of hundreds of people who were aboard. Officials have retrieved the bodies of 82 people, while hundreds are still considered missing. Of the estimated 750 people aboard the vessel, only 104 were rescued and survived the tragedy.
The Greek authorities were highly criticised over the tragedy, with many saying that they could — and should — have acted faster to help the migrants aboard the clearly dangerous vessel. Testimonies from survivors said the Greek Coast Guard had tied up the vessel and tried to pull it before it capsized — a move that’s highly unusual in these cases and which witnesses said caused the boat to sway.
Greek authorities denied this happened.
But Frontex has been among the most sceptical critics of the Greek authorities’ role in the tragedy. The agency said it has initiated a “serious incident report” looking into recording potential human right violations in Greece’s response to the emergency.
What would happen if Frontex decides to leave?
There are currently 518 standing corps officers and Frontex staff working in Greece’s mainland and islands,