Protests erupted on Thursday against the Greek Government for failing to rescue hundreds of migrants off the coast of Pylos in a tragic shipwreck on the Peloponnese Coast which took the lives of at least 79 migrants, with hundreds still missing. In response, anti-racist organizations, unions, and other groups demonstrated in cities across the country, including in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Kardista, and Kalamata. Signs included slogans such as “They turned the Mediterranean into a watery grave” and “We will never get used to the slaughter,” condemning both Greek and European migration and refugee policy.
More than 100 survivors were rescued from a capsized fishing trawler, but hope is fading for those still missing. A large search and rescue operation has recovered 79 bodies so far, but authorities estimate that the overcrowded ship could have been carrying as many as 750 passengers, each of whom paid thousands of dollars for passage on the battered boat. Authorities arrested nine Egyptian nationals on Thursday on suspicion of human smuggling, including the captain of the ship.
The ship sank in international waters in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean. The International Organization for Migrants, the UN’s migration agency, estimated the number of passengers based on interviews with survivors, which included at least 40 children.
Acting Minister of Migration, Daniel Esdras, said that the survivors would be taken to a refugee camp in Malakasa, near Athens, on Friday. The Greek government would examine their asylum applications, but those not eligible for asylum would be deported, he added.
Protests Throughout Greece
Thousands protested on Thursday in cities all over Greece against the government’s handling of the shipwreck, criticizing the authorities as they did not act to rescue the migrants, as well as the EU’s murderous migration policies.
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In addition to the government failing to rescue the migrants, a coast guard boat followed the vessel for hours and watched as the boat sank. Greek officials argued that passengers repeatedly refused offers for rescue and insisted on continuing on to Italy, and that the boat appeared to sail normally until right before it sank. However, Alarm Phone, a self-organized direct line for refugees and migrants in distress in the Mediterranean sea, said that they received repeated calls from the ship during that time.
Greek Supreme Court prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos appointed a deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Criminal Court to oversee the investigation of the incident.
Most of the survivors were from Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan, and are currently housed in Kalamata. Greece, Italy, and Spain are the main countries where tens of thousands of migrants per year travel to Europe to flee conflict and poverty — caused by imperialism — in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Tragedies like this are nothing new, as seen in 2021 when both Britain and France refused to rescue migrants in the English Channel, leading to 27 deaths. These tragedies are a result of increasing border militarization and repression of migrants, both in “Fortress Europe” and the U.S.-Mexico border. We must fight for migrants’ rights. Open the borders! Full rights to all undocumented migrants!
First published in Spanish on June 16 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translated and Adapted by Molly Rosenzweig.