A considerable number of individuals remain unaccounted for, with a minimum of 79 individuals confirmed deceased, following the overturning of a migrant vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. The boat was making an attempt to reach Italy but tragically sank in waters of significant depth. The survivors and deceased have been transported to Greece; however, it is highly unlikely that the majority of the victims will ever be located or retrieved.
During June 14, a fishing boat in a severely deteriorated state, estimated to be between 80 and 100 feet in length, was spotted by a Greek coastguard vessel while crossing through Greek waters. The vessel was overcrowded with undocumented immigrants who had embarked from Tobruk, Libya, with the intention of reaching Italy. Captain Nikos Alexiou of the Hellenic Coast Guard informed the media that their patrol boat had closely followed the migrant vessel for several hours, consistently offering assistance through radio communication and loudspeakers.
Unfortunately, the migrants declined the aid, likely due to their apprehension of being repatriated to Libya upon rescue by Greece. Tragically, later that same day, the boat unexpectedly capsized and sank approximately 50 miles away from the port of Pylos.
According to a local councilor from Kalamata, a Greek port, there is an assertion that the Coast Guard was responsible for the boat’s capsizing as they tried to tow it. This claim is supported by a survivor who shares the same account, alleging that the guard lacked the proficiency to handle the rope properly, despite towing being a fundamental skill for coastguards.
However, Captain Alexiou refutes these allegations, stating that neither his team nor any other vessel attempted to secure the boat using a rope. The Coast Guard’s belief is that the boat’s engine malfunctioned, leading to panicked passengers moving around the decks, ultimately causing the capsizing. The sinking of the boat occurred rapidly, with the vessel submerging in just 15 minutes.
Up to this point, 104 individuals who managed to survive have been rescued, while 79 deceased bodies have been retrieved. However, rescue teams suspect that the fishing boat, which would typically accommodate a crew of six to eight people, was crammed with as many as 750 individuals. Disturbingly, survivors have recounted that approximately 100 children were confined to the boat’s hold. The vessel sank in one of the deepest sections of the Mediterranean, where the water reaches depths of nearly 17,000 feet. Regrettably, it is highly unlikely that the wreckage or the bodies trapped within it will ever be recovered.
Over the past few years, thousands of migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean as they pay unethical traffickers for passage on overcrowded and hazardous boats. In connection with last Wednesday’s tragic sinking, nine survivors have been apprehended on suspicion of involvement in people trafficking.