Survivors of sea tragedy say were kicked, threatened

Survivors of a tragic incident involving a boat carrying undocumented migrants in the Aegean, which resulted in several drownings, were on Thursday transferred to Piraeus where they told reporters that coast guard officers had pushed and threatened them.

The 16 migrants who arrived in Piraeus on Thursday had been on the smuggling boat that was spotted by a coast guard vessel on Monday. Another 12 people – three women and nine children – had been on the boat, two of whom were found drowned on Wednesday.

One survivor claimed that coast guard officers kicked his wife as she tried to climb back into the boat after falling into the sea. Another claimed that migrants were threatened with guns and that officers “stood by and watched women and children drown.”

The incident prompted the United Nations refugee agency, Amnesty International and the European Council’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, to call for an inquiry. Reacting on Thursday, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis insisted that the coast guard officers had tried to save the migrants and accused “Muiznieks and others” of wanting to create “a political issue in Greece.”

He noted that neither PASOK, which shares power with New Democracy in the coalition, nor the leftist SYRIZA had sought a briefing on the incident.

“I don’t think anyone wants us to open the gates and allow all immigrants to enjoy asylum in this country,” he said.