Amnesty International calls on the Greek government to investigate all allegations of mistreatment and collective repulsions at the Greek-Turkish borders in the Aegean and to prosecute the officials involved in such practices. At the same time, Varvitsiotis [Shipping Minister] washes his hands of the incident while hurling racist comments.
23 January 2014
Amnesty International requests a thorough, transparent, and independent investigation into the death of immigrants in the sea close to Farmakonisi island, as well as the prosecution of those who are responsible.
In the meantime, Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis appeared responded in an arrogant way to the international and local reactions triggered by the drowning of immigrants on Monday in the sea close to Farmakonisi:
“Such things should not become the subject of petty political political exploitation. I do not believe that there is anyone that really wants us to open our borders and let all immigrants enjoy asylum in our country”, he said in one of his racist comments, following the A. Georgiadis’s [Minister of Health] far-right delirium.
“Muiznieks [Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights] and several others want to create a political issue in Greece. Neither PASOK nor SYRIZA have so far asked to be briefed on the incident”.
THE VIDEO SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
Migrants said, when they arrived to Piraeus, that the coast guard officers did not throw any lifejackets to those who had fallen into the sea and prevented a father from trying to save his wife and child by pointing a gun at him. No state or other institutional official was present when the immigrants were taken to Piraeus.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Greek government to put an end to the illegal practice of mass expulsions and said that this incident is the result of a “failed pushback attempt” which took place only one day after the allegations from UN High Commission for Refugees.
“According to survivors’ testimonies to UNHCR, the coast guard’s vessel was pulling their boat while moving towards the Turkish coast at high speed amid rough seas when the tragic incident took place. The testimonies also mention that the immigrants were crying for help, as there was a large number of children on the boat”, says the statement of UNHCR.
Pro Asyl organisation also intevened, just a short period after denouncing the Greek government, the border guard, and the coast guard as responsible for the torture and death of refugees.
In the meantime, the coast guard denies the immigrants’ allegations that appeared in the UNHCR’s announcement, according to which the immigrants’ boat was capsized.
The government’s denial of all responsibility makes the outcry even stronger.
“The recent deaths in the Aegean constitute another reminder of the dangerous journeys that immigrants and refugees have to make in order to reach Europe. Since August 2012 at least 136 refugees, most of them Syrians and Afghanis, have lost their lives in at least twelve incidents while trying to reach Greece by boat from Turkey The EU and the member states have to ensure there is effective seach and rescue in the sea and focus their efforts on the saving of lives rather than on the protection of borders”, says Amnesty International’s announcement.
The EU states’ unwillingness to put an end to the tragedy of drowned immigrants in the waters of Mediterranean (from Lampedusa and Sicily to the Aegean and Evros river) seems to be endless. EU summits from Rome to Brussels to Athens only suggest more ‘Frontex style’ patrolling.
Antiracist and humanitarian organisations claim that the crime in the Mediterranean is being perpetuated.
The governments of Letta, Samaras, and Erdogan, and the EU in its entirety are trying to deal with such tragedies by perpetuating the absurdity of the closed borders and by calling immigrants ‘illegal’, while tragedies like the ones of Lampedusa and Farmakonisi are multiplied.
These conditions nourish the creation of groups of traffickers that take advantage of the ‘illegal’ status of immigrants. Immigrants, being ‘illegal’, try to evade Frontex’s patrolling by resorting to traffickers. This makes things even worse.
SYRIZA’s Rights Committee issued an announcement for the tragedy.
“They drown the refugees in Farmakonisi, just like they do in Lampedusa, while the EU ministers are continuing their racist criminal policy”, KEERFA says, while announcing a series of international antiracist initiatives and events and a European day of action on the 22nd of March.
SYRIZA’s announcement requests a thorough investigation to determine whether the coast guard has any responsibility for the overturning of the boat carrying the immigrants. According to the opposition party, the survivors’ testimonies raise questions about the actions of the coast guard in this incident that cost the lives of 12 refugees, including 9 children.
Unfortunately, SYRIZA says, Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis does not seem to take the events seriously, something evident in his recent statements about the tragedy. His statements demonstrated profound political insensitivity and disrespect for human life. It is time for the government to listen to the Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muizniek and to stop the “informal” pushbacks that put lives under threat and violate international law, SYRIZA says.
Translated from ‘Eleftherotypia’ newspaper