EU watchdog opens probe into role of Frontex in boat sinking off Greece

EU watchdog opens probe into role of Frontex in boat sinking off Greece

Early in July, EU lawmakers urged Greece, European Commission to launch international, independent probe into last month's deadly migrant boat shipwreck

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) - The EU's watchdog said Wednesday that it had opened a probe in the role of the bloc's border agency Frontex in last month's capsizing of a migrant boat off Greece, with hundreds likely drowned.

"While we understand the role of the Greek authorities is under investigation at the national level, Frontex role in search and rescue operations also needs to be clarified," said the EU watchdog in a statement.

EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said they will inspect a wide range of documents concerning Frontex’s responsibilities and reports of other recent incidents with loss of life in the Mediterranean as well as last month's incident, which sent shockwaves through the bloc.

"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," added O’Reilly, who is set to coordinate her inquiry with Greek Ombudsman Andreas Pottaki.

The Greek Coast Guard reportedly either ignored the overcrowded boat or tried to tow it out from Greek territorial waters, possibly triggering its capsizing.

The EU watchdog also asked for details about how information is shared between the border agency and national authorities.

Earlier this month, EU lawmakers urged Greece and the European Commission to launch an international and independent probe into last month's deadly migrant boat shipwreck off the coast of Greece.

The 30-meter-long fishing boat capsized and sank early on June 14 about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Greece’s southern coastal town of Pylos, with around 700 people on board, including Pakistanis, Syrians, and Libyans.

There were 104 survivors, with 82 bodies recovered out of 400-700 migrants on board. The rest are missing or considered dead or both.

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