Shipwreck off Agathonisi, Greece: Survivors are raising serious allegations against Greek Coast Guards

Via Spiegel Online (Link in German) – 16 refugees died in the Aegean sea one week ago when their boat was sinking in front of the Greek island Agathonisi, in the largest shipwreck in the Aegean this year so far. On board were two families from Afghanistan and Iraq, many children, including a few months old baby, a total of 21 people. But only three adults made it ashore – all children drowned. Two people are still missing.

Spiegel Online reports in German that now the only three survivors are raising serious allegations, claiming that their families could have been saved. They explained that the coast guard had been contacted several times in early stage throughout calls and text messages. Also a ship had been on site for hours but did not respond to the waving and calling of the people in distress.

The Greek government seems to take these allegations seriously: Two ministers have travelled to Samos and met the survivors, promised to investigate on the case and make the responsible accountable.

The survivors report that they had sent WhatsApp distress messages to a relative who was on Samos. Apparently the police told him that his family was fine. He did not believe them and contacted the police of the refugee camp and the regional police office several times. It is completely unclear whether the authorities reacted at all. What is clear is that the large-scale rescue operation by the coastguards was only launched more than 24 hours after the first emergency call. When residents of Agathonisi island discovered the first bodies, the coastguards sent out 13 vessels, 2 helicopters and 1 aircraft – but they could only recover the dead and bring the survivors, who managed to swam to shore by themselves, to the hospital on Samos, a larger island nearby.

The survivors also told of a boat that was near their boat for several hours – but that did not respond to their calls and waving. Only when many of the people had died of exhaustion did the boat disappear. It is unclear what boat this was. About the accusation of the relative, the coastguard said that they had tried to call him back but had been unable to get through to him. However, following the investigation of Spiegel, the relative had been in contact with police and coastguard repeatedly, from the early morning until mid-day and afterwards, he says, he went to the different police authorities to ask them to look for his family.

This article was originally published by Spiegel Online in German