Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri held talks in Lesbos with top Greek state officials in the wake of the deaths of 16 migrants who drowned off the cost of the Eastern Aegean Island last week.
In the past days Leggeri met with Greece's Migration Minister Giannis Mouzalas, Shipping Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis, Citizens' Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and the chiefs of the Hellenic Police and Coast Guard. The discussions focused on the ongoing efforts by Frontex officers and the Greek coast guard to crack down on human smuggling across the Aegean.
Greece's Syriza-lead government was urged to "assume its responsibilities" by opposition party New Democracy after Monday's accident. The boat, carrying a reported 25 refugees mainly of African descent, sank in the early hours of Monday morning close to the Mithymna area of the Northern coast of Lesbos. A mass search and rescue operation was carried out involving the Greek and Turkish coast guard, as well as vessels from Frontex and NGO crafts.
According to local authorities, among the dead were two children, while two women were rescued and several other people are believed to be missing. However, no other survivors were found up to the early hours of Thursday.
Incidents of this type involving multiple fatalities have been rare since the implementation of the Turkey-EU deal from March 2016. It accounts for those arriving on Greek islands to being deported immediately back to Turkey. The latest tragedy brings back painful memories of 2015 for Greeks who had become accustomed to seeing reports of bodies of refugees being washed ashore in the region almost every week.
Piraeus mayor rejects hot spot claims
In related developments in Athens, Piraeus mayor Giannis Moralis rebuffed reports that local authorities are planning to create a 'hot spot' reception facility for migrants in the area. "Such reports belong only in realms of fantasy; these speculative reports about supposed collaborations with NGOs and the creation of a hotspot in the city of Piraeus are simply false”, he said. “All they serve to do is to create a climate of fear and turmoil in the city which we will not allow," Moralis said in a media statement.
The reports of the proposed hot spot come in the wake of Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis stating last week that refugees should be more fairly distributed around other parts of the country in order to ease pressure on the Aegean islands. According to official figures, a total of 62,204 migrants and refugees are currently stranded in mainland Greece and its islands.
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