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Greece boat disaster: Up to 500 people still missing says UN


1 years ago
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Up to 500 people are still missing from a packed migrant boat that sunk off Greece, the UN refugee agency says.

Large numbers of women and children were among those missing in the “horrific tragedy” that left 78 people dead, said spokesman Jeremy Laurence.

The appalling loss of life underscored the need to bring people smugglers to justice, he added.

But it also made clear that search and rescue at sea was a “legal and humanitarian imperative”.

In a joint statement with the International Organization for Migration, the refugee agency said any search and rescue action had to be conducted to prevent loss of life..

Since the fishing boat carrying up to 750 people went down 50 nautical miles of Pylos in southern Greece, the role of the coastguard has come under increasing scrutiny.

Greece’s caretaker prime minister, Ioannis Sarmas, said a “thorough investigation of the real facts and technical judgements” will take place to determine what had caused the boat to sink.

Greek officials have denied a series of reports that suggest it went down after 02:00 on Wednesday because a rope was attached by coastguards. Two of the 104 survivors of the wreck have described how the highly crowded boat had veered from side to side.

Initially the coastguard said it had kept a “discreet distance” from the boat. But then Greek newspaper Kathimerini quoted a source saying members of the coastguard had tied a rope to the boat so its crew could check on conditions, and those on board and then untied it to continue heading for Italy.

That incident is understood to have taken place at around 23:00, three hours before the boat went down.

Government spokesman Ilias Siakantaris confirmed on Friday that the coastguard had “used a rope to steady themselves, to approach, to see if they wanted any help”.

But he stressed: “There was no mooring rope,” suggesting that there was no attempt to tow the boat or tether it for any length of time.

“They refused it, they said ‘no help, we go to Italy’ and continued on their way.”

source: BBC