Coast guard re­jects blame for mi­grant sea tragedy

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The coast guard yes­ter­day re­buffed re­ports that one of its ves­sels had been tow­ing a boat full of would-be im­mi­grants back to Tur­key when a num­ber of the pas­sen­gers fell into the sea, re­sult­ing in sev­eral drown­ings, fol­low­ing crit­i­cism from in­ter­na­tional bod­ies over the in­ci­dent.

The bod­ies of a woman and a child aged around 5 were found near the Turk­ish coast early yes­ter­day, two days af­ter their smug­gling boat was spot­ted close to the Greek islet of Far­makon­isi. Another nine mi­grants, all women and chil­dren, were miss­ing last night while 16 oth­ers had been res­cued.

In a state­ment yes­ter­day, the Hel­lenic Coast Guard said it had been tow­ing the ves­sel to­ward Far­makon­isi, not to­ward the Turk­ish coast, when some of the mi­grants fell over­board. The state­ment came in the wake of crit­i­cism by the United Na­tions Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which quoted sur­vivors as say­ing that sev­eral mi­grants fell off the boat as it was be­ing towed, at high speed, to­ward the Turk­ish coast. The UNHCR called for an in­quiry into the cir­cum­stances of the tragedy. Mean­while the Coun­cil of Europe’s com­mis­sioner for hu­man rights, Nils Muiznieks, said he was “shocked and dis­tressed” and called on Greek au­thor­i­ties to “put an end to the il­le­gal prac­tice of col­lec­tive ex­pul­sions and ef­fec­tively in­ves­ti­gate all such cases.”

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