Survivors of a deadly migrant shipwreck reunite with relatives and friends in Malakasa camp Survivors of a deadly migrant shipwreck reunite with relatives and friends in Malakasa camp 

Greek coastguard account of migrant sinking in doubt

Nine men have pleaded not guilty in a Greek court in connection with the sinking of a boat last week carrying hundreds of migrants. Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his closeness to those affected and called for political action to protect migrants and refugees.

By Nathan Morley

In a swift court session, the nine men pleaded not guilty to charges of people smuggling.  The suspects - all Egyptians - were arrested after survivors identified them as steering the vessel, issuing orders on-board and communicating with Greek coastguard officials.

It is now thought that seventy-eight people died in the sinking but hundreds more are feared to have drowned.

Earlier, the United Nation’s said up to 500 people are still missing. Most of the 750 passengers were from Egypt, Syria and Pakistan.

As more information becomes available, more questions are being asked as to whether the Greek coastguard should have intervened earlier to help get the migrants on-board rescue vessels to safety.

Some observers say the Greek coastguard and Frontex should have been quicker to act.

Focusing on the issue, a BBC report analyzing the movement of other ships in the area suggests the vessel was not moving for at least seven hours before it capsized.

However, it adds the Greek coastguard continued to claim that during these hours the boat was on a course to Italy and not in need of rescue.

Russian rescue

In a separate incident, the Defence Ministry in Moscow says a Russian warship and cargo ship rescued 68 people on Sunday evening from a boat in the Mediterranean.

The United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR say that so far this year, 72,778 refugees have arrived in Europe from the south, including 71,136 arrivals by sea to Italy, Greece, Spain, Malta and Cyprus.

The agency presents an even more grim statistic when it asserted that a least 1,037 people have died or been reported missing in the region since the start of 2023.

Listen to the report by Nathan Morley

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19 June 2023, 15:47