New revelations by collaborative investigation have contradicted Greece’s claims on last month’s deadly shipwreck off the country's southwestern coast.
A report by the British daily Guardian, German public broadcaster ARD, We are Solomon, and Forensis, revealed that the Greek Coast Guard’s boat on the incident scene on the night of June 13-14 switched off its cameras, a violation of the country’s commitment to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) that financed the 90% of the boat’s cost.
A Frontex document, dated March 2021, stated that “if feasible, all actions taken by Frontex assets or Frontex co-financed assets … should be documented by video consistently,” the report underscored.
“If the cameras were on, today there would be answers to the questions that the victims’ families are still asking,” it added.
The report remarked that Nikos Alexiou, a Greek Coast Guard spokesman, on June 15 tried to justify the situation by arguing that cameras were not operational because the boat crew’s attention was focused on rescue efforts.
“However, one of the three former and current Coast Guard officers who spoke to us during our investigation, said that these cameras do not require constant manual operation and they exist exactly for this reason – to record such incidents,” it said.
According to the report, Frontex offered to help three times. A Frontex source stated that the Greek Coast Guard did not respond to any of the requests for assistance.
Survivor testimonies also maintain that the coast guard wanted to direct the migrant boat to Italian waters.
The towing attempts by the coast guard boat have led to the capsize and eventual sinking of the migrant boat, the report said.
“Survivors claim that their phones (which were protected in plastic cases) contain visual material from the incident. Immediately after the rescue, according to the same testimonies, Coast Guard officers confiscated their phones, which have not been returned to them,” it added.
After the June 14 sinking of the migrant boat, 104 people were rescued and 82 bodies were found but, according to the survivors’ testimonies, the vessel was carrying over 750 migrants, mainly from Pakistan, Egypt and Syria.
The Greek Coast Guard had attributed the failure to rescue the migrants to the migrant boat’s repeated “refusal to receive assistance.”
It also initially rejected that the coast guard boat attempted to tow the migrant boat.