On October 6th , two fatal boat accidents involving refugees occurred within a few hours of each other in the Aegean Sea. At least 23 people lost their lives, dozens are still missing. Due to the increasing pushbacks by the Greek coast guard, the risks for refugees during their journey to Europe are ever higher
Once again, the dangerous passage to Europe is claiming many lives. On the eastern side of Lesbos, 18 out of about 40 people drowned at the beginning of October when their rubber dinghy capsized due to the oncoming strong wind.
Only a few hours earlier, a sailboat wrecked on the rocky coast of the island of Kythira, endangering the 95 refugees on board. Just five minutes after the impact, the ship sank and was "completely destroyed", according to a coast guard spokesperson. At least seven people lost their lives in the tragedy, eight people are still missing. Thanks to the courageous intervention of more than 50 locals, the remaining passengers were saved, as people descended the edge of the cliff and supported the rescue operations.
In total, more than 50 people are believed to have died in the two accidents that day. In addition to the more than 20 bodies recovered, more than 30 people are still missing.
Dangerous routes due to pushbacks
It is striking that at least the second boat was on its way to Italy, although both started their journey in Turkey. This a reflection of a widespread trend of smugglers choosing longer and riskier routes, brought to effect by the increasing securitization of the Aegean Sea. And time and again this leads to tragic accidents with many deaths. Presumably, this was the reason for one of the deadliest shipwrecks between Syria and Lebanon in recent years, which happened on September 24th. That day, a ship sank off the coast of Syria while on its way to Italy, leading to the tragic deaths of almost 100 people.
The rubber dinghy that sank off Lesbos on October 6th would probably not have set sail in a wind force of 7 on the Beaufort scale, had it not been for the hope that it would be able to avoid the Greek coast guard in strong winds.
In a tweet that is beyond hypocritical, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced his "sadness at the tragic loss of life."
This statement is a bare mockery in view of the fact that the Greek coast guard has already carried out almost 700 documented pushbacks this year alone, leading to refugees taking on ever greater dangers.
Turkey and Greece blame each other
Greece and Turkey are blaming each other for the serious incidents in the Aegean Sea. For example, the Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis sent out a tweet on October 8th calling on Turkey to "take immediate measures to prevent all irregular departures due to harsh weather conditions." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the other hand, accuses Greece of turning the Aegean into a graveyard with their repressive policies. These exchanges merely highlight the instrumentalization of the massive losses of human lives in the Aegean Sea for the sake of electoral campaigns or other political purposes.
These accidents and the countless deaths that the dangerous routes have already claimed reveal the policies of Turkey, Greece and the EU that are contemptuous of human rights. We demand safe routes for all refugees and an immediate stop to the pushbacks!