Observatory News Bulletin: Refugee boat sinks in Agathonisi (updated 26/3/2018)

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Thursday, April 5, 2018
Observatory News Bulletin: Refugee boat sinks in Agathonisi (updated 26/3/2018)

Read the following press accounts on the refugee boat that sank on Saturday in Greek island of Agathonisi:

UPDATE: According to German Spiegel there are serious accusations ,made by relatives of the dead, that the Greek Authorities while they had known about the accident, they did not act quickly but only after 24hours and at that time they were unable to save lives.

Note by Aegean Boat Report on Facebook:

Survivors are making serious allegations against the Coast Guard
A refugee boat sinks in front of a greek island. 16 people die, only three save themselves on land. Now the survivors complain: The Coast Guard had known about the disaster - but did nothing.

From Samos report Giorgos Christides and Nicolai Kwasniewski

It was a shattering news that came from Greece just over a week ago: A refugee boat capsized in front of the small island Agathonisi , a few nautical miles off the Turkish coast. On board were two families from Afghanistan and Iraq, many children and adolescents, including a few months old baby, a total of 21 people. But only three adults made it ashore - all children drowned. Two people are still missing, it should be the smugglers act. These are the first refugees to have died in the Aegean this year. According to the survivors, they could have been saved. The allegations of the refugees are heavy - and they are well founded. This seems to have arrived at the highest political level in Greece. Two ministers, possibly with political responsibility for the disaster, flew to the island of Samos on the weekend to meet the survivors. First, the new Greek Minister of Migration Dimitris Vitsas came to the island on Friday and met the survivors at the local hospital. The two women and one man and their relatives blame the authorities for their suffering. Those responsible did not act, even though they knew about the shipwreck, they told a SPIEGEL team researching on Samos.

"The boat is sinking! We sink!"

The story that the minister heard is disturbing: the Afghan family was on their way to their relatives. One of the family had landed on Samos two months ago and is currently living in the crowded refugee camp on the island. His family informed him about WhatsApp early Friday morning that they were on their way. The refugees came quickly from the Turkish coast towards Agathonisi. The distance: almost 20 kilometers as the crow flies. But just before the rescue island capsized the boat. The cause of the accident is unclear. In the early morning they sent - also via WhatsApp - a call for help to their relatives. A voice message, full of panic. "The boat is sinking! We sink!" After that silence. The Afghan relatives on Samos immediately called the SPIEGEL information police and Coast Guard. He telephoned several people in Athens and Samos, sending text messages and talking to the police. They all reassured him: your family is safe. He did not want to believe it and he did it, again and again, at the police station in the refugee camp, at the local police station on Samos.

What the authorities did, who they alerted and if anything is unclear. More than 24 hours later. One thing is certain: The only large-scale rescue operation announced by the Coast Guard did not start until Saturday, more than 24 hours after the first emergency call. The announcement of early Saturday afternoon states that "a comprehensive search and rescue operation for missing foreigners has been going on since the early hours of the morning." A resident of the island Agathonisi had discovered the survivors. He then alerted the Coast Guard, which came out with 13 ships, two helicopters and an airplane. But all the rescuers could do at the time was to recover the dead and take the three survivors to the hospital on the larger island of Samos. Did a ship's crew watch the dying man?

In the hospital, the survivors - an Afghani, an Iraqi and an Iraqi - confronted the Minister of Migration with further allegations. They said that the Coast Guard had not only needed to know about phone calls and text messages. Also, a ship had been on site for hours - in sight, it had been waiting and not on the calls, the waving responded. Only when almost all shipwrecked drowned from exhaustion or hypothermia, the ship was turned off. It is not clear what kind of boat it was.

The three survivors saw their children die. With the last of their strength and without being able to keep the little ones afloat, they saved themselves to the shore. Now they are asking for an explanation why no timely relief action was started. The politician did not have an answer, he just said that everything was done to save lives. Two days after the Minister of Migration, the Greek Minister of Shipping and Islands, Panagiotis Kouroumblis, arrived in Samos and also sought to talk to the survivors. Obviously, the Minister had asked the Coast Guard if there had been an emergency call on Friday morning. The answer: Yes, but several attempts have been made to recall the caller, but no one has answered. The SPIEGEL, however, have evidence that the member of the in distress Geratenen on Friday several times in contact with the relevant police and coast guard departments, from early morning until at least noon. After that he went by his own statement until the evening several times to various police posts and asked to search for his family. The survivors now called on the minister to hold those responsible to account. Kouroumblis promised that and more, "That's why I'm here," he said in the hospital room, "to investigate what happened, and if someone is responsible, I'll be very tough."

See the article by Spiegel in German Here >>>

At least 15 dead as migrant boat sinks off Greek island | Kathimerini | 17 Mar. 2018

Fifteen people, including at least five children, drowned on Saturday when the small boat they were travelling on capsized in the Aegean Sea, Greek coast guard officials said. The incident occurred off Greece’s Agathonisi island, which is close to the Turkish coast. The identity and nationality of the victims was not immediately known. "At least four more [migrants] were unaccounted [for]," a coast guard official told Reuters. Three others were rescued.

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At Least 16 Dead After Migrant Boat Capsizes Off Greek Coast | Huffingtonpost | 17 Mar. 2018

ATHENS, March 17 (Reuters) - Sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned on Saturday when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea, Greek coast guard officials said. The incident occurred off Greece’s Agathonisi island, which is close to the Turkish coast. The nationality of the victims was not immediately known. Saturday’s incident was thought to be the highest death toll of migrants trying to reach outlyingGreek islands for months.

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Shocking testimonies: “I was breastfeeding my baby and it was gone…” | Keeptalkinggreece | 18 Mar. 2018

Four boys, two girls and one baby girl; seven men and two women… the bodies of 16 people have been recovered from the sea or from the shore where they were washed out in the south of the island of Agathonisi where a wooden migrant boat capsized in the early morning hours of Saturday.

“Some bodies were washed out ashore, had injuries from crashing on the rocks,” a fisherman told media. He is one of the many rescuers who rushed south of the island of Agathonisi upon hearing the news that a boat carrying migrants and refugees had capsized approximately one nautical miles off Agathonisi in the early morning hours on Saturday.

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