Kyriakos Mitsotakis reelected as extreme far-right takes 13 per cent of vote. The Fundamental Rights Officer recommends a suspension of the Agency’s activities in Greece. The case against nine survivors of the Pylos shipwreck defined by fragile evidence and flawed procedures.
Following a second round of elections in Greece on 25 June, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was reappointed Prime Minister after his New Democracy (ND) party received more than 40 per cent of the votes. Beyond electing a PM notorious for his harsh asylum and migration policies, Greek voters also gave extreme far-right parties almost 13 per cent representation in the 300-seat parliament. Notably, the Spartans – after support from the imprisoned frontman of the now-banned Golden Dawn far-right party, Ilias Kasiadiaris – gained 12 seats in the new Parliament. Researcher, Lena K summarized the result, stating: “Nobody should be surprised at the Greek election result. When a society has reached a point where the majority of political elites, media & public blame shipwreck victims for drowning & think the defence of the border and nation justify the death of Others, fascism is already in”.
The controversy and outcry over the loss of hundreds of lives off Pylos on 14 June continue. Under the headline ‘Pylos shipwreck: European Council prepares to shed crocodile tears’, State Watch points to the hypocrisy and fundamental paradox of the EU’s approach, stating: “The European Council meeting later this week will express “its profound sorrow for the terrible loss of life as a result of the recent tragedy in the Mediterranean,” at the same time as reiterating, for the umpteenth time, its commitment to “breaking the business model of traffickers and smuggling networks and to tackling the root causes of irregular migration.” As a recent Europol report highlights, this model is in large part a creation of the EU and its member states. Meanwhile, a letter from Ursula von der Leyen demonstrates how much work is going in to expanding control, and how little to increasing the possibility of legal migration”. Meanwhile, Greece continues to face scrutiny and calls for an independent investigation over the severe loss of lives on 14 June including the direct responsibility and negligence of the Hellenic Coast Guard. On 29 June, the Lighthouse Reports published evidence of how the Greek authorities tried to cover up their role in the Pylos shipwreck massacre. Among other elements, the report shows that the testimonies given by four survivors just hours after the shipwreck are “word for word identical”, blaming the age of the vessel for its capsizing. A survivor told Lighthouse Reports: ‘They asked me what happened to the boat and how it sank. I told them the coast guard came & tied the rope to our boat and towed us and caused the capsizing of the boat. They didn’t type that in my testimony.” The report also discloses how Greece manipulated and pressured survivors into signing testimonies they did not give.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) – that initiated a “serious incident report” on 22 June – told media it had “offered additional aerial support to Greek authorities on 13 June but received no response”. As a result, “no Frontex plane or boat was present at the time of the tragedy,” the agency stressed in its statement. Reportedly, the agency’s fundamental rights officer (FRO), Jonas Grimheden, recommended temporarily suspending the agencys’ activities in Greece during a June 20-21 management board meeting where also persistent reports of pushbacks were reiterated. The New York Times refers to an assessment by the FRO – also turned into an internal report obtained by the outlet – pointing out that the agency: “could suspend operations in Greece over chronic rights abuses against migrants, potentially pulling out dozens of border guards, vessels and aircraft from a key gateway into Europe”. According to Article 46 (4) of Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 “The executive director shall, after consulting the fundamental rights officer and informing the Member State concerned, withdraw the financing for any activity by the Agency, or suspend or terminate any activity by the Agency, in whole or in part, if he or she considers that there are violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations related to the activity concerned that are of a serious nature or are likely to persist”. On 27 June, the EU Observer reported that Frontex refused to comment the discussions related to a potential suspension of its activities in Greece. Local Greek media however reads the FRO position as an ultimatum to the Greek government. El Pais published a letter by Frontex Director Hans Leijtens addressed to the Hellenic Police requesting clarification and information on two episodes in which fundamental rights of migrants have been violated according to the Spanish outlet revealing the growing mistrust between the Agency and Greek authorities. As speculations continue over a suspension of Frontex activities in Greece the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its implementing partner in Greece, the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), has published a vacancy for an Expert to work in support of, and within, the Office of the Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO) at the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum (MMA). There are 518 standing corps officers and Frontex staff working in Greece’s mainland and islands, according to the agency, which also deploys 11 boats and 30 patrol cars.
Meanwhile, the case against nine survivors of the shipwreck off Pylos facing charges including participation in a criminal organization, manslaughter and causing a shipwreck is, according to activists, defined by fragile evidence and flawed procedures. An activist writing under the name Jihed stated: “In a startling revelation, a court-appointed attorney, preferring anonymity due to ongoing summary procedure confidentiality, unequivocally expressed confidence in the imminent dismissal of charges against the nine Egyptian defendants” adding: “The fragility of the evidence presented leaves little room for any alternative outcome” and pointing to: “an alarming absence of medical examinations during their prolonged detention. Within the realm of migrant trials, grave concerns persist as interpreters are frequently absent, procedural flaws prevail, and conclusive evidence remains elusive”. According to Moataz Zaher, an activist who received a call from one of the men’s relatives, the detainees have been moved to Nafplio Prison where they have started a hunger strike.
For further information:
- ECRE, Greece: Shipwreck Leaving Hundreds Dead and Missing Sparks National and International Outcry, EU Denounced over Complicity, Conflicting Narratives Emerge as Nine Survivors Are Facing Charges, June 2023
- ECRE, Greece: MEPs Confront Commission Officials over Pushbacks, People on the Move Again Caught in the Stand-off with Turkiye in the Evros Region, June 2023