Speaking in Strasbourg ahead of a European Parliament debate later today on alleged pushbacks off the coast of Greece that resulted in refugee deaths, GUE/NGL MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat comments:

“On 21 January a boat sank off the Greek island of Farmakonisi killing 12 people, nine children and three women. The GUE/NGL insisted that this latest drama be subject to a European Parliament plenary debate. NGOs, the UNHCR, and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, have all questioned the behaviour of the Greek coastguard based on survivors' witness statements. But what do these witnesses tell us? They recount how the boat was full and the sea was rough, and how the Greek coastguard tied their boat to their own and dragged it at high speed so as to bring it towards the Turkish coast. The women and children took refuge in the cabin. The boat capsized. The women and children remained trapped.

“With this latest drama, following the events off Lampedusa last October that left nearly 400 people dead, we are once more sounding the alarm on the some 25,000 people who have lost their lives over the last 20 years in the Mediterranean. And since August 2012, when land borders between Greece and Turkey were closed, at least 150 refugees have died in the Aegean Sea, mainly Syrians and Afghans.”

The French MEP continued: “Greece currently holds the Presidency of the European Union, so it has a particular responsibility to ensure that EU countries end their double-speak and find some coherence between their values and their actions.

“A text on rescues at sea is being discussed within the European institutions, but six southern member states (Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, and France) are currently blocking the most progressive parts of the text which seek to ensure that the non-refoulement principle applies to all asylum seekers.”

GUE/NGL Press Contacts:
Emily Macintosh +32 470 85 05 08
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group

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