29th Sep 2023

Frontex set to reduce Greek presence amid abuse probe

  • Operation Poseidon in Greece is currently its third largest joint operation under Frontex (Photo: Frontex)
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The EU's border agency Frontex may shift some of its resources in Greece towards other regions more in demand.

Although not yet confirmed, EUobserver understands that this was discussed between the Warsaw-based agency and Greek authorities.

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Separately, it may also withdraw the use of EU-financed Frontex vessels by Greek authorities in response to alleged abuses following video evidence obtained by The New York Times.

Hans Leijtens, the agency's executive director, has spent the past two days in Athens where conversations centred around present and future operations.

"Any concerns or questions are being thoroughly investigated," he said, in a tweet on Tuesday (18 July).

The video published by the New York Times offers evidence of Greek authorities abandoning people at sea, including a six-month old baby.

This was followed by the 14 June mass drownings of the Adriana shipwreck in the Greek search-and-rescue zone, likely killing over 500 people.

An internal Greek investigation has yet to lead to any conclusions. But according to several media investigations, the shipwreck was provoked by an overly-aggressive Greek coast guard.

Joint Operation Poseidon

The possible partial shift of resources from its joint Operation Poseidon, first launched in 2011, comes as the intensity of arrivals from Turkey to Greece declines. It is currently composed of 260 officers, along with patrol vessels, aircraft and other specialised equipment.

Last month, the agency said half of arrivals to the EU came through the Central Mediterranean, totalling more than 50,000 detections from January to May.

In comparison, the route from Turkey towards Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria fell by 35 percent to just over 10,000, it said.

But this drop also comes with almost daily reports of illegal pushbacks in the Aegean Sea from the Greek side.

However, the intensity of those pushbacks also appears to be subsiding, according to Aegean Boat Report, an NGO.

The NGO said that so far this month, only one life raft had been found drifting in the Aegean Sea. This compares to 10 last month and 44 life rafts in July of last year.

"Due to pressure from the international community, and lately Frontex, it seems Greek authorities have been forced to change some of their inhumane and illegal practices against people arriving on Greek islands," it said, also on Tuesday.

Frontex chief ambivalent on pulling out of Greece

The head of the EU's border agency, Hans Leijtens, is making a case for Frontex to remain in Greece — after the agency's fundamental rights officer reportedly recommended suspending Frontex's operations there.

EU relying on 'ineffective' Greek body to probe pushback video

The European Commission says it cannot act on latest revelations by the New York Times of illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers until authorities in Greece first conduct a national investigation. Critics say those same authorities are politically compromised and ineffective.

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