Greek government under pressure to call for inquiry into migrant boat tragedy

Greek government under pressure to call for inquiry into migrant boat tragedy

Greece is facing mounting calls to agree to a European investigation into the deaths of more than 500 migrants who were killed after a boat capsized.

The packed fishing vessel, which is believed to have set sail from Libya, overturned and sank last month in deep waters about 80km from the southern coastal town of Pylos in Greece.

About 100 children are feared to have been on board and trapped in the hold.

On Thursday, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) continued to put pressure on the EU to ensure a full, transparent investigation is carried out into the incident – one of the deadliest on record in the Mediterranean Sea.

So far, there have been no moves to launch such an inquiry.

Harlem Desir, IRC senior vice president in Europe, said accountability was needed.

“It’s deeply shameful that hundreds have perished in one of the deadliest ever shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, yet a month on we have yet to see a full, transparent investigation,” he said.

“It’s time for concrete steps towards accountability and to finally put an end to these needless and avoidable deaths.

“Rather than focusing on stopping people from reaching its territory, we urge the EU to shift its efforts towards improving rights and conditions for people on the move, better supporting state-led search and rescue operations and expanding safe routes to Europe so people are not forced to risk their lives on these treacherous journeys in the first place.”

‘EU approach not working’

There have been at least 22 other incidents in the Central Mediterranean killing at least 50 people this year, the International Organisation for Migration says.

The IRC has said new migration agreements with non-EU countries are disproportionately focused on deterring refugees and other migrants from Europe, rather than supporting vulnerable people on the move and addressing the root causes of their displacement.

“They risk further undermining people’s rights, exposing them to abuse and exploitation and driving them to risk their lives on even more dangerous routes,” the IRC said.

Tom Garofalo, IRC’s Libya director, said the EU’s approach was not working.

“The hundreds of people who perished in this shipwreck boarded the boat in Libya – a country they were desperate to leave, even if it meant risking their lives on an unseaworthy vessel. Libya is not a safe country for migrants and people seeking protection, who know each day they could be abducted, arbitrarily detained or subjected to violence and abuse,” he said.

“The EU’s approach, rooted in deterring people from reaching Europe at any cost, is not working – neither for states on the EU’s southern borders, nor for the thousands who have died or gone missing as a direct result of these cruel policies.

“Doubling down on this approach by making more deals with non-EU countries will only serve to put people at greater risk, driving them on to ever more dangerous routes in search of protection.

“The EU’s approach should be firmly rooted in upholding people’s fundamental rights. If it fails to achieve this, the Mediterranean will continue to be a graveyard for people seeking protection.”

Updated: July 13, 2023, 10:56 AM

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