Watchdog Finds E.U. Border Agency Too Weak to Prevent Migrant Disasters at Sea

Eight months after hundreds of migrants died in a capsizing on the Mediterranean, investigators said Wednesday that the European Union’s border agency lacks the ability to prevent future maritime disasters.

The investigation by a E.U. watchdog office into the border agency, Frontex, was prompted by the deaths of more than 600 men, women and children who drowned off the coast of Greece last June under the eyes of dozens of officials and coast guard crews.

“Frontex includes ‘coast guard’ in its name, but its current mandate and mission clearly fall short of that,” the head of the E.U. watchdog agency, Emily O’Reilly, said on Wednesday. “If Frontex has a duty to help save lives at sea, but the tools for it are lacking, then this is clearly a matter for E.U. legislators.”

After the capsizing of the Adriana, a severely overcrowded fishing vessel, both Frontex and the Hellenic Coast Guard came under fire for not aiding the passengers of the ship, which had been slowly sinking for hours as terrified migrants on board called for help.

The scale of loss — it was the deadliest shipwreck in the Mediterranean in years — prompted several investigations, including the one by the office of the European Ombudsman that released its report on Wednesday.

In the report, investigators said that with member states failing to act to protect migrants, more legislative authority was needed for search-and-rescue missions to be conducted at an E.U. level.

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