A boat that set off from Libya carrying 750 people, now lies deep in the Mediterranean Sea.

At least 78 people are dead and hundreds remain missing after the sinking of a boat off the Greek coast. 104 people have been rescued so far, while the search for survivors continues. The longer the search continues, the higher the death toll will be.

On 13 June the Greek coastguard was informed by both the NGO Alarm Phone and EU border agency Frontex that an overcrowded boat was in distress. According to its own log, the coastguard was in contact with the vessel from 14:00 but no search and rescue operation was launched until the boat capsized at 02:04 on 14 June.

As more details emerge, the Greek coastguard must answer questions about why it ignored a boat in distress. And their story keeps changing.

In its press release following the disaster, the Greek coastguard stated that the boat denied assistance, preferring to stay its course to Italy. However, rescue operations do not require consent. If a boat is in distress, the coastguard has a duty to render assistance.

Reports are also emerging that the coastguard attempted to tow the vessel. Any trained professional knows that such a dangerous manoeuvre, with an overcrowded and unseaworthy vessel, is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, the Greek Minister for Migration, Notis Mitarachi, said that the Greek authorities did not have the right to intervene in international waters. However, the Greek coastguard was responsible for the search and rescue region where the vessel was located. These regions often include water on the high seas. Frontex also nominated the Greek Coastguard as a “competent authority”.

Out of all the political spin, one thing is clear: the Greek coastguard had a duty to rescue. That duty was not upheld.

The full scale of the disaster is still unfolding, but it is likely to be the most devastating shipwreck of the past decade. And yet, instead of enacting a humane migration policy, the EU is doubling down on its Fortress Europe approach.

No state visit or show of solidarity. No “never again” or calls for policy change. Just a pithy tweet from Ursula von der Leyen and Ylva Johansson saying she was “deeply affected”.

As the Left, we demand: a full and independent investigation into the Pylos disaster; EU-funded search and rescue operations; and the introduction of safe and legal pathways for people to come to the EU.

Pylos, Cutro, Lampedusa, the EU’s migration policy is killing people. We must change course.

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