UN refugee and migration agencies criticize Greece response to 2023 shipwreck News
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UN refugee and migration agencies criticize Greece response to 2023 shipwreck

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a statement Friday criticising Greece’s response to the shipwreck off the coast of Pylos, Greece in 2023. The statement was released exactly one year after the “tragic” shipwreck which resulted in the loss of hundreds of people on the overcrowded vessel.

The joint statement highlighted the “critical importance of comprehensive and conclusive investigations to shed light on the circumstances of this tragedy and ensure accountability.” The organizations further stated that they were both willing to collaborate with Greek authorities in order to achieve this. The UNHRC believe that a “thorough investigation is essential to secure justice for the survivors and the families of the victims.” However, investigations in Greece have yet to establish concrete facts of the incident, and a court case investigating the coast guard’s liability remains in preliminary stages.

The vessel, the Adriana, was reportedly carrying 750 individuals, primarily from Syria, Pakistan, and Egypt, when it capsized on June 14, 2023. Authorities were alerted to the vessel 15 hours prior. According to research by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, allegations were made that a Hellenic Coast Guard patrol boat caused the vessel to capsize when they attempted to tow it. Of those on the boat, 104 survived, 82 bodies were recovered, and over 500 remain missing.

On behalf of 53 survivors of the shipwreck, non governmental organizations (NGOs) have claimed before the Greek Naval Court that the Greek authorities are responsible for the tragedy. Currently, the Naval Court prosecutor’s request for forensic analysis of the phones belonging to the coast guard officers is still pending.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticised the Greek response to the tragedy. Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch stated:

It is unconscionable that one year since this horrific tragedy, the investigation into the potential liability of the Hellenic Coast Guard has barely progressed . . .We need to see a credible process for accountability and an end to the cycle of violence and impunity at Greece’s borders

The Mediterranean Sea remains dangerous territory for those attempting to cross. The IOM stated that since the shipwreck, “at least 1,516 deaths and disappearances on the Central Mediterranean Route” have been recorded, “with 175 recorded on the Eastern Med.” Further, “3,155 people lost their lives or went missing trying to cross the Mediterranean,” in 2023. The UNHRC and IOM highlighted that “[t]hese deaths are stark reminders of the urgent need for a principled and predictable approach to search-and-rescue based on international law.”