It is still unclear why the overcrowded migrant boat, that was reportedly carrying up to 700 people, sank in the Mediterranean. The Greek authorities have arrested nine alleged smugglers and have asked for assistance from the European policing agency, Europol, in their ongoing investigation.
The overcrowded fishing boat, with between 500 and 700 people onboard, sank on Wednesday in international waters southwest of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula. One hundred and four people have been rescued, and 78 bodies have been recovered so far. The search for survivors continued on Saturday. However, the heavy winds have made it difficult for the Greek Coast Guard to search. Greek media speculates that the search will be concluded gradually, as the chances of finding survivors are low.
Nine Smugglers Arrested
Among the survivors, there were reportedly nine alleged smugglers, who have been taken into custody by the Greek authorities. They are suspected of being the masterminds behind the operation that helped the migrants cross from Africa to Europe. The smugglers were identified by other survivors. According to reports, one of them admitted to receiving money for work on board. The rest denied all allegations.
The suspects are among a group of Egyptians aged 20 to 40 years old. They are accused of human trafficking, negligent homicide, and the formation of a criminal organization. According to the Greek state broadcaster ERT, they are part of a human smuggling network, responsible for up to 18 life-threatening voyages from Libya to Italy in recent months. The suspects will be presented to the prosecutor's office on Monday. Survivors reportedly paid between 5,000 and 6,000 euros per person for the crossing.
There are many rumors and different interpretations of who is responsible for this tragedy. Both the Greek Coast Guard and the border agency, Frontex, knew about the boat before it capsized. However, what happened exactly on that night is still unclear. According to an unconfirmed report, the crew of a Coast Guard ship threw a blue rope to the fishing boat, apparently intending to tow it. It was through this action that the boat capsized. The Coast Guard has strongly denied these allegations. Survivors accuse the Greek Coast Guard of towing the boat towards Italian waters, as reported by a WDR journalist.