The European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who was on an official visit to Athens on Friday, described the drownings of immigrants off the coast of Farmakonisi earlier this week as “a terrible loss of life” and said she was keen to see the results of an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
Earlier in the day Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said that a judicial probe had been launched into the incident after some witnesses accused Greek Coast Guard officials of trying to tow the migrant vessel back to Turkey and even kicking and threatening migrants. Varvitsiotis countered that other witnesses claimed that the coast guard’s intervention was the only thing that saved them and said that the coast guard vessel’s coordinates, as recorded by radar, showed that it towed the migrant vessel toward Farmakonisi, not Turkey.
Malmstrom told reporters that the EU was continuing to help Greece handle immigration flows, by trying to set up “functional” asylum system while also help to manage the country’s borders with the support of Frontex. “There is progress but there are also a lot of things to do,” Malmstrom told reporters. She also rebuffed claims that the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe is “enormous,” noting that only a few Syrians come to Greece with most seeking, and receiving asylum, in Germany and Sweden.