European Ombudsman probes Frontex

European Ombudsman probes Frontex

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on Wednesday opened an own-initiative inquiry aimed at clarifying the role of Frontex, the European border control agency, in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea following the drowning of hundreds of people in international waters off the coast of Greece on June 14. 

Specifically, the inquiry will focus on Frontex’s cooperation with national agencies in search and rescue operations and, at the same time, the ways fundamental rights of the rescued persons are upheld.

In a letter to Frontex’s executive director, Hans Leijtens, O’Reilly notes that “there is scope for greater clarity in relation to Frontex’s role in such operations,” adding that “while I understand that investigations are taking place at the national level, it is clear that Frontex had an important role in the search and rescue mission from a coordination perspective.”

“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,” said O’Reilly.

In a recent testimony before the European Parliament, Leijtens had said that Frontex had twice recommended the deployment of drones, but received no response from Greek authorities.

“The Ombudsman is coordinating her inquiry with Greek Ombudsman Andreas Pottakis, who has the power to look into how the Greek authorities dealt with the Adriana boat,” the announcement added.

EU permanent representatives failed to agree Wednesday on whether members to the north should stop sending back migrants to “frontline states” such as Greece when they face “extreme” conditions of mass migrant arrivals. 

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