Reacting to the tragic news that almost 80 people trying to reach Europe on Tuesday have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece, with hundreds more still missing at sea, Adriana Tidona, Amnesty International’s researcher on migration, said:
“This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions, all the more so because it was entirely preventable. We demand an urgent, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into what happened to cause this catastrophe, and that assistance and support be provided to the survivors. So many questions demand answers. Why was a search and rescue operation not launched much sooner? What caused the ship to capsize? Those who lost their lives, survivors and their families deserve transparency, truth and justice.
“As the world waits for survivors of this tragedy to have the opportunity to recount their experiences, Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the lack of clarity in the Greek authorities’ version of the incident.
“The Greek coast guard reported that unspecified people on the boat ‘refused’ Greece’s assistance and wished to continue to Italy. There were hundreds of people on the boat and it is not possible that they were all consulted on their wishes. The Greek government had specific responsibilities toward every passenger on the vessel, which was clearly in distress.
“While an investigation is urgently needed to clarify the circumstances of the incident, this tragedy is the latest in a long chain of shipwrecks in Greece and across Europe that were entirely preventable. Today, families are mourning loved ones, and more are searching for those they cannot reach. European politicians could have prevented this from happening by establishing safe and legal routes for people to arrive in Europe. These are the only way to avoid such frequently occurring tragedies.”
Amnesty International urges the Greek authorities to release more information about the circumstances leading to their decision not to rescue the vessel sooner. It also calls on Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard to release information and aerial imaging gathered as part of their observation of the events. Such information will be instrumental to reconstruct the incident, as their surveillance aircraft reported detecting the vessel on Tuesday morning.
For the people who have survived this traumatic event, Amnesty International calls on the authorities in Greece to ensure that survivors and affected families have access to proper psychological support, care and access to ways to communicate with their loved ones and report missing people. All survivors must be accommodated in an environment that is safe.