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Dangerous Migration Routes

In mid-June 2023, some 500 migrants – including women and children – lost their lives when their fishing boat capsized off the coast of southern Greece, prompting Jonas Grimheden, Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Officer, to call for a suspension of the European Union external border agency’s activities in Greece. Although Article 46 of Frontex’s regulations allow room for suspending and even terminating the agency’s activities in a country should there be “violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations that are of a serious nature or are likely to persist,” withdrawing Frontex from Greece would certainly restrict the agency’s “capabilities to save lives,” as per Hans Leijtens, executive director of Frontex [1]. The ill-response of the Greek authorities, according to BBC’s investigations [2], was one the reasons that caused the tragedy, with Frontex responding by launching “a serious incident report (SIR) to identify potential human rights violations, but the report does not amount to a formal investigation” and the Greek government opening an investigation into the same matter [1].

Despite the fact that the European Union has agreed with several North African countries on the need to control irregular migration into its own territory, the phenomenon persists. In Tunisia, hundreds of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were recently pushed away from the port city of Sfax to the southern part of the country and into a militarised buffer zone at the border between Tunisia and Libya. The port of Sfax is one of the main points of departure for migrants aiming to reach the European Union by sea, since the Italian island of Lampedusa is only some 130 kilometres away [3]. Likewise, on the border between Poland and Belarus in northern Europe, hundreds of migrants hope to cross into European Union territory. The Polish NGO Grupa Granica has reported that some 50 bodies have been discovered over the past two years in the Bialowieza forest separating the two European countries. According to Polish legislation, it is legal to push back migrants, even though border guards and their spokeswoman deny any such accusations. In an attempt to curb irregular migration, last year “Poland built a 186 km steel wall to prevent migrants from crossing the 416 km long border. But its effectiveness is being questioned.” [4]

The 2022 report of the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project documented that more than 25,000 lives “occurred on routes to and within Europe.” [5]
As the number of migrant deaths continues to rise, the significance of reducing irregular migration and better monitoring the European Union’s external borders while protecting the fundamental human rights remains.

Christos Kassimeris, PhD

Christos Kassimeris, PhD

Professor Christos Kassimeris heads the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at European University Cyprus and is coordinator of the BA in European Politics and Communication. Before joining European University Cyprus, he was teaching European Integration Politics and International Relations of the Mediterranean for three years at the University of Reading. He is the author of European Football in Black and White: Tackling Racism in Football (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), Greece and the American Embrace: Greek Foreign Policy Towards Turkey, the US and the Western Alliance (I.B. Tauris Academic Studies, 2009) and Football Comes Home: Symbolic Identities in European Football (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2010), editor of Anti-racism in European Football: Fair Play for All (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009), The Marketing of War in the Age of Neo-Militarism (Routledge, 2011) and The Politics of Education: Challenging Multiculturalism (Routledge, 2011), and has several publications in political science journals. He is also Visiting Research Fellow at the University of De Montfort.

Banner image by Jim Black from Pixaby.