Greece imposes silence around the shipwreck of the Ionian Sea | International
The silence imposed around the shipwreck on June 13 of the Adriana, a fishing boat loaded with more than 700 migrants, fuels doubts about the role of the Greek authorities in the terrible event that occurred in the Ionian Sea, in the waters of southern Greece. Since the tragedy became known, one of the worst shipwrecks on record in the Mediterranean, the Coast Guard and the Ministry for Migration have tried to prevent the hundreds of survivors who have been identified from telling what happened.
After the ship sank, only 104 people - 47 Syrians, 43 Egyptians, 12 Pakistanis and two Palestinians, all of them men - have been rescued. The search teams found two bodies in an advanced state of decomposition on Monday, bringing the number of bodies recovered to 80. Of the rest, including a hundred women and children, all traces have been lost. Quite possibly forever.
During their stay in the port of Kalamata, the hundred rescued had limited both their mobility and their communications. The Coast Guard confined them in a fenced compound from which they could not leave. Later, screens were installed next to the portable toilets located at the side of the compound to prevent journalists from asking questions of the survivors through the fences. Some relatives managed to greet and hug their relatives through the double fence. But Coast Guard agents, as well as the special police unit OPKE (equivalent to GEO in Spain), surrounded the perimeter and kept the press away.
The commander of the Coast Guard Sotiris Tsoulos did not clarify, when asked by EL PAÍS, why in the port the rescued were imposed limitations more typical of a prison regime than of an aid post for shipwreck victims. Movement restrictions on economic migrants and asylum seekers for days or weeks are common in Greece. Complaints from humanitarian organizations, who denounce that there is no legal basis for it, fall on deaf ears.
Since Friday, the survivors have been in Malakasa, a refugee camp near Athens. They are no longer in custody of the Coast Guard, but of the Ministry for Migration and Asylum. Its interim incumbent, in office until the elections to be held next Sunday, is Daniel Esdras, former special envoy to Greece for the International Organization for Migration. Under the command of Esdras, restrictions on journalists and migrants have continued.
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Ahmed is a Syrian living in the UK who, after hearing about the shipwreck, traveled first to Kalamata and then to Malakasa to meet his cousin. From this center near Athens, he explains by phone to this newspaper the limitations imposed on his relative. “On the field he is fine, he is in good condition. But they don't allow them to go out and they watch them all day, ”he says. “They can use phones to communicate with the families, the camp management allows it,” he adds.
The Greek authorities maintain that the occupants of the fishing boat refused at all times to be helped. According to this version, they only asked for food, because their goal was to reach Italy. The coast guards assure that two oil tankers, two frigates and two patrol boats approached to observe the ship at a safe distance, but the few testimonies that have emerged question the way in which the coast guard vessels approached the ship. Adriana. "The Greek coast guard threw a line at us and that's when the boat began to sink," a survivor told the German outlet. Syrian Direct in the Malakasa refugee camp, located 50 kilometers from Athens. Last Thursday, several migrants took advantage of the visits to the castaways by Alexis Tsipras, former prime minister and leader of the leftist Syriza party, and Krypton Arsenis, former MEP from the Mera25 party, to mention to the press, for the first time, that the coast guard launched a rope to the fishing boat before it sank.
Investigator BrirmI Jihed, dedicated to documenting violence at the Greek borders, traveled from the French city of Marseille to Greece after learning of the shipwreck. Jihed published an interview with a survivor on his Twitter on Monday. According to his translation, the interviewee assured: “The Greek Coast Guard arrived and said that they would take us to Italian waters. But the ship's engine broke." This is what, according to Jihed, the survivor described: “They were dressed in black and they were masked. They tied up our boat with a blue rope. Then they left quickly. While we were on the ship, we felt that something was not right. [...] We were in front of them and they were pushing us from the right and left. Our ship capsized. I spoke to other survivors and we are 100% convinced that the Coast Guard sank us, but we don't know if it was intentional or a mistake."
Although in a first version the coastguards did not speak of any mooring in their approach to the Adriana, they later acknowledged the launch of "a beacon." The spokesman for the Coast Guard, Nikos Alexiou, in statements to the public television ERT affirmed: "This maneuver lasted just a few minutes and after the rope was untied by the migrants themselves, the patrol boat moved away and observed the boat from up close." . Alexiou added: "There was no attempt to tow the boat."
The survivor assured Jihed that he saw hooded men dressed in black aboard the Greek ships. The clothing that he describes has already been documented by victims of hot expulsions practiced by Greece. The conservative government of New Democracy officially denies the existence of this type of returns at sea, but during the electoral campaign it has constantly winked at the Coast Guard, convinced that its electorate applauds the strong hand against immigrants.
Despite coming slowly, the statements of the survivors raise even more questions about an incident that reveals the lack of transparency of the Greek authorities. What did they intend with that maneuver? Were they trying to move the fishing vessel away from the maritime search and rescue area of responsibility (SAR zone) assigned to Greece? Did they intend to take it to the coast? What happened to make the old ship capsize and sink in just 15 minutes?
According to the Coast Guard version, the fishing boat refused their help and was heading towards Italy. Why did they need to moor him if he was really sailing his way? And there is more. After the shipwreck, it was the crew of a luxury yacht that ended up getting the survivors on board, why wasn't the Greek coast guard present on the scene doing this?
Meanwhile, in Kalamata, the nine Egyptian migrants accused of illegal human smuggling have defended their innocence this Monday in a hearing before a court, reports the daily Kathimerini. Sources close to the defense have revealed that one of their arguments is that they paid to travel on the Adriana. One of them planned to argue before the judge that he was identified after a fight that arose in the old fishing boat when, from one of the nearby oil tankers, bottles of water were thrown at them, upon which dozens of thirsty and desperate people pounced.
The Greek authorities have not yet made public the list with the names of the 104 survivors, nor have they identified the 80 bodies recovered from the water. Hundreds of families, almost a week later, still do not know if theirs are alive.
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