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Greece’s migrant boat disaster

Greece’s migrant boat disaster


Hundreds are still missing a week after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Greece.

Hundreds of men, women and children are either dead or missing after a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Greece.

In the week since one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean Greek authorities have come under mounting pressure to explain what role they played.

The coastguard first made contact with the overpacked fishing vessel at around 11am last Tuesday and said those on board “declined” their assistance. 

By early afternoon, Alarm Phone – an emergency hotline for migrants in trouble at sea – received its first distress call from a passenger. 

Another call to the hotline a few hours later gave the boat’s coordinates. They were passed on to Frontex – the EU’s border force – and Greek authorities.

Minutes after that call, another came through saying the vessel was not moving and the captain had “left in a small boat”.

Greece’s coastguard claimed the boat carrying the migrants was still on course for Italy and wasn’t in need of rescue but tracking data from other ships in the area show that it did not move for at least seven hours before it capsized.  

The coastguard arrived on the scene at 10.40pm where it observed the boat from a distance. 

It capsized and sank a few hours later.

At first the Greek authorities said they did not throw a rope to the boat but now admit they did.

Survivors said they were tied in the “wrong places” and when the coastguard began towing the overcrowded boat it caused it to capsize, something Greek authorities deny. 

The UN has called for an investigation into Greece’s handling of the disaster. Jeremy Laurence, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said he “reiterated his call to states to open up more regular migration channels” to enhance responsibility sharing, and “ensure arrangements for the safe and timely disembarkation of all people rescued at sea.”

Since the boat capsized, nine Egyptian nationals have been arrested for people smuggling on charges including provoking a shipwreck and negligent mass murder.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, since 2014, more than 27,000 migrants are either dead or missing in the Mediterranean.

This most recent disaster shows that the forces driving the mass movement of people will remain deadly unless there are safe and legal routes to a better life elsewhere.

This episode was written and mixed by Imy Harper.