Hopes are fading that survivors will be found after the tragic shipwreck in the Ionian Sea, in which at least 79 immigrants died, making it one of the deadliest accidents in European history and the largest shipwreck in the Mediterranean in the last decade.
Information about the number of immigrants on the boat varied. According to eyewitnesses, between 400 and 750 people, including 120 Syrians, as well as Palestinians, Egyptians, Pakistanis and others, were in a fishing boat that sank off the coast of southwestern Greece, about 80 kilometers from the coastal town of Pilos.
According to investigations, the boat left Egypt empty and headed to Libya, where a number of immigrants boarded it and their supposed destination was Italy. The boat sank in international water near the coastal city of Pilos, after being held for 48 hours between Italy, Malta and Greece.
104 people, including 47 Syrians, were rescued from this tragic accident. Among the victims are people who fled from the reconciliation areas under the control of the Syrian regime in Daraa and Homs, as well as from the countryside of Damascus.
This disaster is a painful reminder of the plight of immigrants who risk their lives trying to reach safe countries and seek better opportunities. It is important for the international community to find ways to address this humanitarian crisis and provide the necessary support and protection to immigrants.
In the aftermath of the disaster in the territorial waters off the Greek Mora peninsula, the United Nations has called for safe and orderly routes for refugees forced to flee. Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General in New York, noted the importance of Member States coming together and providing safe routes to save lives at sea.
The High Commissioner for Refugees expressed its deep concern about the incident, considering the situation “really horrible.” The condition of the survivors was described as “psychologically very dire”, with many of them overcoming a state of shock and lack of freedom.
In the same context, UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh stressed the importance of investigating accusations of suspected negligence by the Greek authorities and the coast guard. He explained that they do not currently have confirmed information and that it is necessary to reveal the facts through investigation.
For his part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk announced that the accident has killed 78 people so far, while searching for about 500 people, including women and children, who were lost at sea.
Türk called on the international community to take strict measures against human smugglers and human traffickers, in an effort to prevent the recurrence of such tragic disasters.
We in the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity received with great sorrow and sadness the news of the drowning of hundreds of Syrians in Greek territorial waters, and after revealing the causes of this terrible disaster, we would like to emphasize the following points:
- The Syrians still insist on refusing to return to Syria under the authority of the Assad regime, and instead find themselves forced to take decisions that threaten their lives, and their innocent bodies become food for the fish of the sea. We must shed light on this shocking incident and work to protect the rights and safety of Syrians.
- We noticed that the vast majority of the victims had left the reconciliation area in Daraa, and this indicates the failure of Russia and the regime to achieve any security or stability for the citizens. Those responsible for this failure must be held accountable, and on the other side a safe environment and decent living for Syrians, wherever they may be, must be ensured.
- We demand that the Greeks responsible for this heinous crime be held accountable and brought to justice. This disaster must be seriously investigated and all those responsible for it must be held accountable.
- We demand that the bodies of all the victims be recovered and that their families be given the right to a dignified burial for their children. They should have a last farewell.
- We must realize that these tragedies and disasters will not stop unless a comprehensive political solution is achieved, a solution that includes providing a safe environment that guarantees a decent life for the Syrians and the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of all the displaced. The international community must work seriously and gather its efforts to reach this desired solution.
- The existence of this criminal regime and its continuous violations must not be overlooked, as it is one of the most important reasons that lead to the recurrence of these horrific humanitarian disasters. We must work together to end the existence of this regime and restore justice and security to the Syrian people.
We offer condolences to the families of the victims and express our full solidarity with them in these critical times. We strongly condemn this heinous catastrophe and call on the international community and human rights organizations to act immediately and take urgent measures to prevent the recurrence of such tragic humanitarian disasters in the future, to stop human suffering, and to protect human rights in Syria. We demand a comprehensive and fair investigation into this tragic incident and that those responsible be held accountable. We cannot allow these crimes to go unpunished.
In the past, many boats sank in the Aegean Sea, and NGOs and the media often accuse the Greek authorities of turning away migrants at sea to prevent them from reaching land and submitting asylum applications.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 44 people have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean since the beginning of this year, while the number of drowned migrants last year reached 372. In a related incident, a sailboat carrying 80 migrants was rescued off the island of Crete, and it was towed by Coast Guards patrol boats to Kaloi Limenes in the south of the island, according to the Greek Port Police.
The United Nations has reported more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances since 2014. According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of deaths in the Middle East and North Africa reached nearly 3,800 last year, the highest number recorded since 2017.
Challenges and risks related to the crossing of migrants across the Mediterranean continue, prompting the concerned authorities to strengthen international efforts to reduce human losses and provide safe and legal mechanisms for migration.