AGATHONISI TRAGEDY: INVESTIGATION MUST SHED LIGHT ON CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATHS OF REFUGEES LAST MARCH  

PRO-ASYL and Refugee Support Aegean wish to express once more their profound concerns over the loss of sixteen lives following the capsizing of a refugee boat near the island of Agathonisi on 16 March 2018 and evidence pointing to Greek coastguard’s failure to conduct a prompt search and rescue operation. Voice and text messages and testimonies by survivors and relatives show that the authorities had been informed about the refugee boat being at risk shortly after it capsized.

The two organizations urge the Greek authorities to ensure that the criminal and disciplinary investigations into the possible liability of the Greek coastguard are thorough and impartial and will ensure that any person responsible for the loss of lives is brought to justice.

“It is important that the Greek authorities shed light into the circumstances of this tragedy and ensure the accountability of any one responsible for the failure to save lives” said Karl Kopp, PRO-ASYL’s Director of European Affairs.

“Those who lost their lives are not just a number but someone’s daughter, son, spouse or sibling.  A thorough and impartial investigation and the swift reunification of the survivors and victims’ relatives with their families in Germany is the minimum that can be done in these tragic circumstances”, said Natassa Strahini, RSA lawyer.

PRO-ASYL and Refugee Support Aegean have been providing legal and psycho-social support to the sole three survivors and relatives of those who perished since the early days of the tragedy. 

BACKGROUND 

On 16 March 2018, a refugee boat sank near the Greek island of Agathonisi. Sixteen persons perished including seven children and two babies and at least three are missing. Only three refugees survived and have lost all their loved ones. In their harrowing testimonies, the survivors say that they remained from early morning until before it got dark into the sea and no one came to rescue them. Meanwhile, one of the deceased refugee’s relatives had notified the Greek authorities about the boat in distress in the morning of 16 March. The young refugee who was in Samos hotspot had called the authorities immediately after he received a message with the coordinates of the boat from his sister who was in the boat. Still, the Greek coastguard denies that the day of the incident was 16 March, and claims that it happened one day later (17 March).

The three survivors and a relative have filed a criminal complaint against the Greek coastguard for failure to conduct a prompt search and rescue operation. At the same time, a preliminary criminal investigation into the circumstances of the shipwreck was initially conducted by the Kos Public Prosecutor and currently by the Samos Public Prosecutor. Meanwhile, the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Greek Coastguard has started a disciplinary investigation on the possible liability of the coastguard following an order by the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Island Policy.  All investigations are on-going.

Read the case file of Agathonisi shipwreck here: http://rsaegean.org/agathonisishipwreck-the-case-file/