Migrants saved in Greek boat accident mourn relatives – and dispute claims

Survivors say coastguards refused to help them as vessel sank and stamped on hands of those clinging to Greek boat

Helena Smith in Athens
The Guardian, Monday 27 January 2014 20.14 GMT

Afghan migrant Fadi Mohamed, who lost his wife and children when the boat sank off Farmakonisi

Fadi Mohamed, an Afghan who lost his family when the boat sank, describes seeing coastguards kicking a refugee. Photo: Nikolas Georgiou/Demotix/Corbis

Even now, eight days later, they can both still taste the sea. Just as they can still feel the water slipping through their fingers as they desperately tried to bail out the boat.

And the cries: “help me, help me, help me,” the only words the Afghan and Syrian migrants knew how to say as the vessel went down. “We were so afraid,” said Abdul Sabur Azizi, recalling the moments before he lost his wife and 10-year-old son to the sea.

“At some point we took the babies and held them up high, above our heads, to show that there were children on board,” the 30-year-old murmured, his eyes fixed firmly on the floor. “The Greek coastguard didn’t care. They had guns, they were shooting in the air. We told them the boat had broken down, its engine didn’t work but all they wanted was to take us back to Turkey.”

And that, he says, is when the Greek officials got the rope, tied it to the bow of the ship and began towing it “so fast that the boat began bouncing this way and that, like a snake, across the water.”

It didn’t last long – maybe 10 minutes at most. “The waters were very calm but we were going so fast, we were flying high,” said Ehsanula Safi, his Afghan compatriot still too visibly distressed to make mention of his dead wife and four children. “When the rope snapped the first time it made a hole in the side of the boat. The hole got bigger and bigger, and as the water gushed in we tried to get it out, first with a bucket and then with our hands.”

Read the rest of the story on The Guardian’s website