Ju­di­cial probe into im­mi­grant drown­ings

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Faced with mount­ing crit­i­cism over the mi­grant boat tragedy that left two peo­ple dead and 10 miss­ing in the east­ern Aegean on Mon­day, Mer­chant Ma­rine Min­is­ter Mil­tiadis Varvit­si­o­tis yes­ter­day or­dered a ju­di­cial probe into the in­ci­dent.

Dur­ing an of­fi­cial visit to Athens yes­ter­day, Euro­pean Home Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Ce­cilia Malm­strom de­scribed the drown­ings off the coast of Far­makon­isi as “a ter­ri­ble loss of life” and said she was keen to see the re­sults of an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry.

Her com­ments came on the back of strong­worded state­ments by the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, the Coun­cil of Europe and po­lit­i­cal par­ties. An in­quiry was also re­quested by ju­nior coali­tion part­ner PASOK.

Sur­vivors, who on Thurs­day were trans­ported to Athens, have sug­gested that coast guard of­fi­cers tried to tow the ves­sel back to Tur­key – which is il­le­gal un­der EU law. Some wit­nesses also ac­cused of­fi­cers of kick­ing and threat­en­ing mi­grants. SYRIZA called for Varvit­si­o­tis to re­sign.

The min­is­ter re­jected al­le­ga­tions of a push­back. Varvit­si­o­tis said that the coast guard ves­sel’s co­or­di­nates, as recorded by radar, showed that it towed the mi­grant ship to­ward Far­makon­isi, not Tur­key. He also quoted tes­ti­monies by other wit­nesses who claim that the coast guard’s in­ter­ven­tion was the only thing that saved them. Rights ac­tivists said that at least some of the sur­vivors had no knowl­edge of th­ese tes­ti­monies.

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