At least 79 migrants died on Wednesday in the terrible shipwreck of a boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece. The tragedy took place in the Ionian Sea, south of the Peloponnese peninsula. The shipwreck is the deadliest so far in 2023.
According to the Greek Coast Guard, 106 people have been brought to safety since rescue operations began. Greek authorities believe there may be more missing to add to the list of casualties in the accident.
Shipwreck off the Greek coast. This boat was unseaworthy & no matter what some people on board may have said, the notion of distress cannot be discussed. A robust & predictable SAR regime led by States is needed in the Central Med if we want to avoid such tragedies to repeat. pic.twitter.com/SLrlY2wgNH
— vincent cochetel (@cochetel) June 14, 2023
According to several organizations that work with migrants, the boat departed from the coast of Libya, in Africa, loaded with about 750 migrants on board. Reuters claims there were only 400 aboard. The Alarm Phone organization, which monitors alarm signals in the Mediterranean, said it received the first SOS on Tuesday night.
According to Greek authorities, the boat was bound for the Italian coast. The European border agency, Frontex, spotted the boat a few miles south of Greek territorial waters. Subsequently, the Hellenic Coast Guard approached to offer assistance, but the crew declined and decided to continue their route westward.
A few hours after contact with the Coast Guard, the boat reportedly capsized over the area known as the Calypso Trench, a deep sea abyss.
We are deeply moved by the tragic events that are unfolding off the coast of Greece. The search & rescue operation coordinated by Greek authorities is ongoing.
Frontex surveillance aircraft detected the boat on Tuesday, 13 June at 09:47 and immediately informed the competent…
— Frontex (@Frontex) June 14, 2023
European leaders and politicians have spoken out about this tragedy. Many accuse the European Union's migration policy of fostering this type of situation by encouraging them to take in migrants, creating a domino effect. Others believe that policies to protect and welcome immigrants should be expanded.
The Mediterranean Sea is known for frequent migratory movements. Driven by human smuggling networks, a large number of boats leave the coasts of Africa and Turkey for Europe. There are significantly more trips in the summer due to the calm waters.
The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said she was deeply affected by the tragedy and promised to step up the fight against migrant smuggling mafias. The search will continue for a few more days, according to Greek authorities.