“They tied us with just one rope.. They set off quickly… then the boat lost its balance.. And then it turned over. The immigrants fell into the sea. I fell 10 meters from the boat.. We are convinced that the Greek coastguard drowned us, but we do not know if it was intentional or if it was just a mistake.”
This is the testimony from one of the survivors of the Pylos shipwreck.
According to their statement, the coastguard informed that they would lead the overcrowded boat to Italian waters. When the boat broke down, they allegedly tied the overcrowded fishing vessel to their ship causing the boat to sink.
The survivor went on to say: “A lot [of] screams started and I was watching people drowning. I swam for about half an hour near the ship. I stayed in the vicinity of the ship and was watching the Greek coastguard. They were watching and did not move.”
Mounting evidence is casting doubt on the Greek coastguard’s version of events that led to the deadliest shipwreck in the past decade. About 750 people were crammed onto the unseaworthy vessel; only 104 people have been rescued so far. 81 bodies were recovered. For seven hours the boat drifted 47 nautical miles off the coast of Pylos, Greece.
How can human suffering be met with such a tide of indifference?
This year marks 10 years since the Lampedusa shipwreck where 300 people lost their lives. It was a collective “never-again” moment where politicians delivered emotional speeches, promising strengthened search and rescue.
Nothing of the sort is being discussed now as a response to the Pylos catastrophe.
Since 2014, more than 27,000 people are estimated to have perished in the Mediterranean, the most dangerous migration route in the world. In this time, almost daily reports of human rights violations, illegal push-backs, violence and death at EU borders barely register in the public consciousness, let alone the political agenda.
The EU hasn’t simply failed to fulfill its duties, it has allowed and facilitated attacks on human rights, built walls, financed fences, undermined search and rescue operations, criminalised NGOs and activists and has turned first-entry member states into detention centres.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The EU welcomed an unprecedented number of people fleeing Russia’s war against Ukraine with humanity and compassion. This is what is possible when we leave behind the politics of hate.
It can never be that one human life is worth more than another. We must turn this tide of indifference.
This starts with accountability. No ifs or buts, search and rescue is a legal obligation.
We demand an independent investigation into the action and inaction of the Greek coastguard and Frontex. We demand that the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen address this issue in the European Parliament.
The EU must end its Fortress Europe approach, stop criminalising search and rescue and create safe and legal pathways to the EU.