Posted on July 17, 2023

Greece to the EU: Come Help Stop Migrant Boats Before They Get Here

Gregorio Sorgi and Jacopo Barigazzi, Politico, July 16, 2023

Greece wants the EU to stop migrant boats before they even get to Europe.

In an interview with POLITICO, newly appointed Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis called on the EU to resume an operation that aims to halt migrants before leaving Libya, a common departure point for asylum seekers coming to Europe.

The appeal comes as the Greek government fights off allegations of negligence after a shipwreck killed hundreds of migrants heading for Europe from Libya. Survivors have claimed the Greek coast guard’s attempt to tow the vessel caused it to capsize, and various media accounts have shown the boat was stalled for hours before the coast guard intervened.

“These tragedies will continue to happen unless we stop departures from Libya and other places on ships that are unseaworthy,” Kairidis said. {snip}

One solution to avoid other tragedies, Kairidis argued, is for the EU to resume “Operation Sophia,” an EU-led naval mission designed to break up smuggling routes in the Mediterranean that was officially shelved in 2020.


The EU has not settled on how it should respond to the Adriana shipwreck. The European Parliament on Thursday backed a non-binding resolution urging the EU to establish a Europe-wide search-and-rescue operation for migrants. But some diplomats fear this would only encourage migrant departures from North Africa and feed the business model of people smugglers.


The Greek proposal is slightly different than the Parliament proposal, however. It would essentially be aimed at blocking boats from leaving in the first place, breaking up smuggling routes through the Mediterranean in the process. But critics point out that Libya has traditionally been reluctant to let EU vessels enter its territorial waters for such efforts, and that its detention centers violate migrants’ rights.


The tragedy has increased pressure on Frontex chief Hans Leijtens to end the agency’s operations in Greece due to the country’s lack of cooperation.