A Syrian teenager who survived a tragic shipwreck off the coast of Greece, resulting in the loss of at least 78 lives, experienced a deeply emotional moment on Friday as he was reunited with his elder brother. However, the search for other missing relatives continued without any news or developments.
Eyewitness testimonies suggest that the ill-fated fishing boat, measuring between 20 to 30 meters in length, was crammed with 400 to 750 individuals when it capsized and sank early Wednesday morning, approximately 80 kilometers off the southern coastal town of Pylos.
Following the incident, Greek authorities rescued 104 survivors and recovered the bodies of 78 victims. However, no additional survivors or casualties have been found since then. Despite ongoing efforts in a large-scale search and rescue operation, hopes for locating more survivors among the hundreds believed to have been on board are fading, given the vessel’s sinking in the Mediterranean’s deepest waters.
Most of the passengers hailed from Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan, as confirmed by government officials. While some fortunate survivors were able to reunite with their loved ones, many anxious relatives anxiously awaited news outside a shelter in Kalamata, clutching photos on their mobile phones.
On Friday, a group of 71 survivors was transported by bus to the Malakasa migrant camp, a secured facility with barbed wire fencing located 40 km outside Athens. These individuals were expected to commence the process of seeking asylum. Among those still searching for their missing family members was Adil Hussain, inquiring about his brother, who had lived undocumented in Greece for 12 to 14 years before returning to Pakistan. After two years of struggling in poverty there, he had decided to embark on the journey to Italy.
Anwar Bakri, the Secretary General of the Syrian Association of Greece, stood outside the camp, having received numerous distress calls from individuals in Germany, Turkey, and other countries concerned about their Syrian relatives who might have been on the sunken boat. He described the situation as a tragedy, sharing that he possessed multiple photos of missing people, including young children, teenagers, and young adults, whose desperate parents were searching for them. Heartbreakingly, he mentioned that no women survived the incident, as they had drowned while holding their children in their arms.
The vessel, an aging fishing boat, was believed to have departed from Egypt and subsequently picked up passengers in Tobruk, a coastal city in Libya, on June 10. Survivors have informed Greek authorities that they paid $4,500 each for transportation to Italy. The exact circumstances surrounding the sinking, which occurred while the boat was being monitored by the Greek coastguard, remain unclear. Authorities stated that occupants of the vessel repeatedly declined Greek assistance, insisting on continuing their journey to Italy.
An advocacy group called Alarm Phone, which had been in communication with the boat, reported that individuals on board had pleaded for help on at least two occasions. They claimed to have alerted Greek authorities and aid agencies hours before the tragic events unfolded.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) condemned the recent Mediterranean tragedy, calling it the deadliest in several years. They urged nations to address the gaps in search and rescue protocols, highlighting the unsustainability of the current approach to migration in the Mediterranean. Federico Soda, Director of IOM, emphasized that year after year, this route remains the most perilous with the highest fatality rate.
Greek authorities refuted late Thursday’s accounts suggesting the boat capsized due to an attempted tow by the coastguard. Coastguard spokesman Nikos Alexiou firmly denied any such effort to tug the vessel.
On Thursday evening, nine Egyptians between the ages of 20 and 40 were arrested in connection with the shipwreck. They face charges of