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Human Rights Organizations Call for Independent Investigation into Contradictory Statements of the Greek Coast Guard

The testimonies of the survivors of the boat tragedy off the coast of Kalamata contradict the statements of the Greek coast guard DW Turkish reported. Human rights organizations are calling for an independent investigation to be conducted.

The surroundings of the Kalamata port authority building are quite calm. On the night of June 14, hundreds of irregular migrants on a boat carrying more than 700 people capsized off the coast of the southern Greek city, and hundreds of people from various European countries came to search for their family members and friends. Although search and rescue operations are still ongoing, there is little hope of finding survivors among the 104 people who have managed to survive.

A Syrian man in his forties sitting in a café next to the port authority takes out papers from his bag. Speaking with a slight Bavarian accent, the man says he has been living in Germany for many years but does not want his name to be published.

He holds the photocopy of his 16-year-old nephew’s ID: “We last spoke three weeks ago. I learned that he was on the boat through Facebook,” he says. He goes to the port authority every day to inquire about any updates regarding his nephew and his friend who was traveling with him. However, neither the names of these two individuals nor the survivors receiving treatment in the hospital or those transferred to a refugee camp near Athens appear on the lists. He says, “They didn’t provide me with any information at the hospital. They cited the obligation to protect personal data as the reason.”

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“The whole world is just watching” Coast guard teams have retrieved the bodies of more than 80 refugees from the sea so far. Now their identities need to be determined. Greek authorities are trying to reach a conclusion by collecting DNA samples from the relatives of the victims.

The man sitting in the café next to the port authority does not yet know for sure if his nephew is among the deceased. He points out that although Syria is no longer featured prominently in Western media, the situation there remains serious, saying, “So many people are dying, but the whole world is just watching.”

The video that sparked debates Following a video circulating on social media a few days ago, showing two Pakistani men making serious accusations against the Greek coast guard through wire fences, it is speculated that the survivors may have also been under pressure. A Syrian survivor, whom DW contacted over the phone with the help of an interpreter, confirms the account of the two Pakistanis: “We were towed by another ship and then capsized.”

The Greek coast guard denies these and similar allegations. They argue that their intention was only to provide assistance and that the people on the boat threw the rope into the water while they were trying to secure the boat with it. The Ministry of Naval Forces, responsible for the coast guard, declined DW’s interview request, referring to their press statements regarding the incident.

Thousands of people gathered in the Greek capital, Athens, to protest the refugee and migrant policies of the European Union and Greece on June 15, 2023.

Allegations against the coast guard A report published by the British broadcasting corporation BBC regarding the boat tragedy further raised questions. Journalists using data from a website tracking the movements of ships concluded that the boat carrying illegal migrants hardly moved for seven hours before the accident.

The Greek coast guard is accused of intentionally disabling boats carrying migrants and repeating this action multiple times. Despite the documentation of several cases, including videos, the Athens government insists that the existing laws were followed throughout the process of the recent tragedy.

The fact that the Greek prosecution has initiated an investigation in this regard is not sufficient for Chloe Powers from the Border Violence Monitoring Network. Powers believes that the Greek government’s interest and efforts regarding the clarification of the recent incident are inadequate. Pointing out that the tragedy is essentially a result of the EU’s deterrence policies towards refugees, Powers says, “To create more transparency, protect fundamental rights, and take action against systematic border violence, independent monitoring mechanisms involving the participation of civil society actors are needed. This is the only way to transparently investigate to what extent state institutions within the EU are involved in human rights violations.”

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