Investigations Begin into Responsibility for Deadly Boat Accident off Greek Coast

news 19-Jun-2023 Europe

Who is Responsible? Investigations have begun a few days after the devastating boat accident off the Greek coast: Who is to blame for the sinking of the boat? And who are the masterminds behind the smugglers?

Kassem and his friend Mahmoud came from Germany to Kalamata. Kassem is looking for his wife - she was on the sunken boat. Mahmoud supports him. "We have given our information about what we have in terms of photos and all other information," says Kassem. They were told that it will be cross-referenced with what is known about the living and the dead, but so far, no one has informed them.

The last message Kassem received from his wife was just before she boarded the boat in Libya. Since then, he has not heard anything from her.

Many missing may remain lost

While the Greek government has now set up a hotline for relatives to identify the recovered victims of the tragedy, many of the missing are likely never to be found. Only 104 people were rescued alive, and 78 were recovered dead.

Most of the 500 to 700 people believed to have been on the ship are likely to have gone down with it. Many women and children were said to have been below deck.

Contradictory statements about the coast guard

Meanwhile, the dispute continues about how the accident could have happened. Because it happened right in front of the eyes of potential rescuers. Above all, the role of the Greek coast guard is unclear.

Several rescued migrants have reported that the Greek coast guard tried to tow their boat. One survivor who doesn't want to give his name describes the situation: "The Greek coast guard came towards us, they threw a blue rope towards us. We secured the boat with it. They started towing our boat," causing the boat to sway and sink.

The Greek coast guard and authorities vehemently reject the accusations. "We didn't tow the boat," says government spokesman Ilias Siakantaris. "There was a rope to stabilize it, to get closer and see if they needed help. They said they didn't want help but wanted to go to Italy and continued."

At some point, the coast guard's version states that the boat stopped moving. The migrants on board allegedly spoke of an engine problem. Shortly after, the boat capsized and sank within a matter of moments. At the moment, it is thus a matter of one party's statement against the other. It remains unclear how the accident happened.

Alleged smugglers arrested

Nine men have been arrested so far: they were among those rescued from the accident and are believed to have acted as smugglers. They are now to be presented to the prosecutor's office. One has already admitted to receiving money to carry out work on the ship during the crossing.

It is suspected that the men are part of a large smuggling ring. In recent months, they have reportedly organized up to 18 such trips from Libya to Italy. A lucrative business: some rescued individuals have stated that they paid €5,000 to €6,000 per head for a place on the boat.

The Greek authorities have now asked the European police force Europol for help in finding the masterminds behind the smuggling ring. They are believed to be mainly located in Italy and Egypt.

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