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Greece shipwreck: Coastguard 'watched' as boat sank, say survivors

Passengers share testimonies and claim that traffickers put Pakistanis, women and children at risk by forcing them below deck
Survivors arrive to the port of Kalamata, after a boat carrying dozens of migrants sank in international waters in the Ionian Sea on 14 June 2023 (AFP)
Survivors arrive to the port of Kalamata, after a boat carrying dozens of migrants sank in international waters in the Ionian Sea on 14 June 2023 (AFP)

Survivors of a shipwreck carrying hundreds of people continue to blame the Greek coastguard for causing the rusty trawler to capsize, as scores remain missing. 

Greek officials said authorities recovered at least 75 dead bodies after a rusty trawler sank off Greece's Peloponnese peninsula in the deepest part of the Mediterranean on Wednesday night. Since then, no other bodies have been found. 

Around 104 survivors - all men and primarily SyrianEgyptian and Pakistani - were rescued after the incident, though as many as 500 more people are missing and feared dead.

Survivors said at least 100 children were onboard the vessel before it sank. But as rescue efforts end, those on board are blaming the Greek coastguard for failing to save them sooner. 

Five survivors who spoke to the Times said the Greek coastguard did not send help for at least three hours after the boat capsized. 

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Ayad from Syria said that Greek authorities "just watched... [and] could have saved so many more people".

Greece denies causing shipwreck

Survivors, who also spoke to La Republica and the Guardian, blamed the coastguard for causing the boat to capsize after it threw a rope on the overcrowded boat to tow it back to shore. 

They said that the rope broke, so the coastguard tied another one onto the vessel, which then began moving forward before turning abruptly left and right. 

Greece shipwreck explained: The claims and counterclaims
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Nikos Alexiou, a spokesperson for the Greek coastguard, vehemently denied it had made "any move" that could have endangered people onboard the boat.  

"I don't know who these people are and what they are alleging, but even after the boat sank, they were not in the sea for three hours. We acted immediately. This is bullshit," said Alexiou. 

Moroccan-Italian activist Nawal Soufi said passengers who spoke to her said they "were asking to be saved by any authority".

These reports contradict claims by Greek officials, who claimed passengers requested no help from the coastguard. 

On Friday, the United Nations called for an urgent investigation into the incident.

Pakistan arrests suspected smugglers 

Earlier on Sunday, Pakistani authorities arrested 10 alleged human traffickers as local media estimate dozens of its nationals had been onboard. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered a crackdown on agents working with smugglers and called for them to be "severely punished". 

Pakistani media reported that at least 298 Pakistanis had died, 135 of whom were from the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

Survivors speaking to the coastguard said smugglers forced Pakistanis below deck, according to leaked testimonies given to the Guardian. People from other nationalities were allowed on the top deck where they had a greater chance of surviving a capsize, according to the report.

Survivors said crew members mistreated Pakistani nationals when they tried to search for freshwater or tried to escape. The testimonies also claimed that women and children had been "locked up" below deck.

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