On 14 June 2023, it is estimated that over 600 people drowned in one of the deadliest shipwrecks in recent history, when the fishing boat ‘Adriana’ carrying approximately 700 migrants attempting to reach Europe from Libya capsized about 80 km from the Greek port city of Pylos. Only 104 men survived the shipwreck and all women and children on board – many of whom were trapped inside the lower desks of the ship – lost their lives.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, Greek authorities have – to their habit – rushed to blame a handful of survivors of the shipwreck themselves, specifically nine men of Egyptian nationality. Evidence from survivors and civil society, however, implicate the Greek Coast Guard authorities and Frontex, who were aware of and monitored the distress situation of the Adriana ship for almost an entire day but did not carry out their rescue. Even more damning, testimonies from survivors indicate that the Adriana ship capsized after being towed by a Greek coastguard vessel. In parallel, official government accounts of what happened have been inconsistent and lacked credibility.
Once more, the criminalisation of migrants is used to shift attention and responsibility away from the authorities involved, in an intent to cover up their own systematic abuses and dangerous behaviour towards migrants. Based on LCL’s work and experience over the last four years documenting pushbacks and violence at sea, representing survivors of collective expulsions and migrants criminalised for driving a boat or simply crossing borders, it is apparent that the circumstances which led to the Pylos tragedy and the subsequent arrest of the nine accused men of the Pylos 9 are part of Greece’s systemic policy of state violence, non-rescue and refoulements at Greece’s borders.
In line with our work fighting unfair and systematic criminalisation of migrants in Greece, LCL lawyers, Vicky Aggelidou and Natasha Dailiani – in collaboration with other lawyers – took on the legal representation of two of the nine defendants, charged with causing the deadly shipwreck, facilitating unauthorised entry (or “smuggling”), and membership in a criminal organisation.
As LCL, we demand that the 9 accused of the Pylos shipwreck be immediately released and provided with appropriate psycho-social support as survivors of a deadly shipwreck. Charges against them should be dropped and an independent investigation should be carried out to investigate the circumstances of the shipwreck and determine the responsibilities and involvement of the Greek authorities and Frontex in the capsizing of the Adriana in light of their obligations to rescue and protect the lives of those on board.