Coast guard chief apol­ogy in Parl’t

Min­is­ter re­buffs claims of push­backs in brief­ing over Far­makon­isi tragedy

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion politi­cians clashed in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day dur­ing a heated de­bate that ac­com­pa­nied a brief­ing by coast guard of­fi­cers on the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing an in­ci­dent in the Aegean last week that re­sulted in 12 im­mi­grants be­ing lost at sea.

The ses­sion cul­mi­nated in the head of the coast guard, Vice Ad­mi­ral Dim­itris Ban­dias, apol­o­giz­ing to the fam­i­lies of the mi­grants who drowned off the coast of Far­makon­isi. “We apol­o­gize to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims but to all Greeks too for the sit­u­a­tion that we put them in,” he said. “We did what we could.”

Of­fi­cers who had been on the coast guard ves­sel which towed the mi­grants’ boat told a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee that the boat cap­sized when the pas­sen­gers moved to one side.

Mer­chant Ma­rine Min­is­ter Mil- tiadis Varvit­si­o­tis told the House that coast guard of­fi­cers have or­ders to “guard the coun­try’s sea bor­ders and save the lives of those at risk at sea,” not to con­duct “vi­o­lent push­backs and be­have in­hu­manely.” The min­is­ter also ac­cused left­ist SYRIZA of seek­ing to ex­ploit the in­ci­dent for po­lit­i­cal gain.

Ear­lier, Varvit­si­o­tis clashed so ve­he­mently with SYRIZA MP Theodoros Drit­sas over the gov- ern­ment’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that the com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Gior­gos Vla­chos re­peat­edly turned off their mi­cro­phones.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, the Om­buds­man called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into claims that coast guard of­fi­cers abused the mi­grants. The cir­cum­stances of the in­ci­dent are be­ing probed by pros­e­cu­tors fol­low­ing protests by hu­man rights groups.

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