Rights watchdog probes Europe’s deadliest shipwreck in years
O’Reilly to also look into EU’s migration deal with Tunisia
Migration politically sensitive in EU ahead of 2024 election
By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS, July 26 (Reuters) – The EU rights watchdog on Wednesday announced a probe into Europe’s deadliest shipwreck in years and whether the bloc’s Frontex border agency fulfilled its rescue duties when the boat sank off Greece last month killing hundreds of migrants.
European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said her office would review Frontex’s internal rules, cooperation with Greek authorities and reports drawn up after the disaster, saying the deaths required close scrutiny.
“My office will focus on the role of Frontex as we try to piece together the events that led to the capsizing of the boat and the deaths of at least 500 people,” she said in announcing the inquiry into the sinking of the Adriana boat on June 14.
“Migration to Europe will continue and it is up to the EU to ensure that it acts in a way that maintains fundamental rights and does not lose sight of the human suffering.”
Survivors recounted the Greek coastguard’s doomed attempt to tow the overloaded trawler.Islamabad said the boat was carrying over 700 people, including at least 350 Pakistanis. The Greek coastguard rescued 104 people but hundreds drowned in one of Europe’s deadliest shipwrecks in recent years.
Frontex said it would cooperate with the probe.”Frontex sees the rescue of lives at sea as one of its essential roles and provides all the necessary support to national authorities when needed,” it said in a statement.
The 27-nation EU has turned increasingly restrictive on irregular immigration from the Middle East and Africa since more than a million people – mostly fleeing the war in Syria – arrived across the Mediterranean in 2015.
Frontex received more money and sexe essaouira powers as the bloc pushed to cut the sudden increase in sea arrivals of people fleeing wars and poverty in less well-off parts of the world.Climate change is also seen as increasingly driving global migration.
Irregular immigration all but stopped amid the COVID pandemic. Fewer than 160,000 people made it across the sea last year, according to U.N. data. More than 2,400 died along the way.
The issue remains highly sensitive across the bloc, especially ahead of a pan-EU election next June, with governments in countries including Italy, the Netherlands and Poland loudly calling for policies to keep people away.
O’Reilly also said she would look into a recent EU deal with Tunisia to stem migration to Europe.(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Nick Macfie)