European Ombudsman investigating EU coast guard role in Greece migrant tragedy News
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European Ombudsman investigating EU coast guard role in Greece migrant tragedy

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has launched an investigation into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in connection with the June 14 sinking of a migrant boat in the Mediterranean that took more than 80 lives. Frontex was coordinating three maritime operations in the Mediterranean at the time. The ombudsman’s office is seeking to clarify the roles and practices of Frontex in fulfilling its responsibilities provided by EU regulations.

O’Reilly served a list of inquiries to the executive director of Frontex on Monday. In particular, O’Reilly asked Frontex to disclose:

  1. the serious incident report concerning the Adriana shipwreck of June 14;
  2. serious incident reports relating to other recent incidents involving considerable loss of life of migrants;
  3. measures that Frontex implemented to ensure its compliance with its fundamental rights obligations under EU and international law;
  4. the role of Frontex and its coordinating officer in search and rescue (SAR) operations;
  5. whether a SAR component is consistently included in its operational plans for joint operations signed with the EU Member States, and if yes, what this component is comprised of;
  6. whether there is anything in writing that provides for the use of cameras to monitor Frontex’s compliance with fundamental rights obligations;
  7. reports concerning individuals’ delayed response or refused disembarkation at EU ports during SAR operations;
  8. reports of situations where captains of NGO vessels are required to hand over rescued individuals to the coast guards of non-EU countries;
  9. Frontex’s protocol on its communications with NGOs that operate in support of SAR operations;
  10. the details of Frontex’s targets in its multiannual programming 2023-2025.

The ombudsman has also been coordinating an inquiry into the responsibilities of Greek authorities in the incident. In a press release issued Wednesday, O’Reilly explained:

“While the Greek authorities’ role is being investigated at the national level, Frontex’s role in search and rescue operation also needs to be clarified. It has been reported that in this instance Frontex alerted the Greek authorities to the ship’s presence and offered assistance but it is not clear what else it could or should have done.”

The ombudsman is planning to further its investigation into the role of EU institutions in upholding fundamental rights in border management activities. Frontex has been tasked with managing the EU’s external borders and fighting against cross-border crimes under Regulation 2019/1986 since 2019.