Wednesday August 20, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
29o C
23o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Varvitsiotis reacts to criticism following deadly boat incident in eastern Aegean [Update]

 Amnesty International calls for 'thorough, transparent and independent investigation'
File photo.

Merchant Marine Minister Militadis Varvitsiotis on Thursday responded to international criticism of Greek authorities following a deadly boat accident involving immigrants in the east Aegean Sea earlier in the week.

The immigrant boat capsized off the island of Farmakonisi on Monday while being towed by a Greek coastguard vessel. The bodies of a woman and a child aged around 5 were found near the Turkish coast early Wednesday, but another 10 people were missing. Sixteen people were rescued and were transferred to Piraeus.

One of the survivors was on Thursday reported as saying that members of the coast guard pushed people back into water as they tried to climb aboard. The report could not be independently verified.

The incident has prompted criticism from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which quoted survivors as saying that several migrants fell off the boat as it was being towed, at high speed, toward the Turkish coast. The UNHCR has called for an inquiry into the circumstances of the tragedy.

On Thursday, Amnesty International also urged the Greek government to conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances which led to deaths in the Aegean Sea.

"Amnesty International calls on the Greek authorities to initiate a thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the incident... bring to light the circumstances which led to loss of life and prosecute those who are responsible," the organization said in a statement on its website.

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, said Wednesday he was “shocked and distressed” and called on Greek authorities to “put an end to the illegal practice of collective expulsions and effectively investigate all such cases.”

Speaking to Skai on Thursday, Varvitsiotis rejected allegations that the Greek coast guard was towing the boat toward the Turkish coast. He said panicking migrants caused the boat to capsize themselves.

“Muiznieks and several others want to create a political issue in Greece,” the conservative minister said.

“Such issues should not become the subject of petty [political] exploitation,” said Varvitsiotis adding that neither PASOK nor SYRIZA have so far asked to be briefed on the incident.

“No one really wants to open up the gates and grant asylum to every immigrant in this country,” said Varvitisotis adding that Greek coast guard officials have so far rescued 3,500 people at sea.

Greece is a major gateway for immigrants trying to make their way illegally from Africa and the Middle East into the European Union. Since August 2012, at least 136 refugees, the majority of whom were Syrian and Afghan, lost their lives in at least twelve known incidents attempting to reach Greece by boat from Turkey, according to Amnesty International.

'Collective expulsions'

Muiznieks has in the past asked Greek authorities to end the 'collective expulsions' of immigrants.

According to a press release published on the Council of Europe website January 14, the commissioner in December sent a letter to Varvitsiotis as well as Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias urging Greece “to radically change its migration policy and practice.”

“The large number of reported collective expulsions by Greece of migrants, including a large number of Syrians fleeing war violence, and allegations of ill-treatment of migrants by members of the coast guard and of the border police raise serious human rights concerns,” Muiznieks wrote.

According to an Amnesty International report published in December, Greek police and coast guard officers are systematically ill-treating would-be refugees from Syria. The report documented firsthand accounts of pushbacks after violent beatings and confiscations of personal belongings without any due process.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday Jan 23, 2014 (13:54)  
Syrian chemicals were safely destroyed off Crete, says OPCW
Greece to give children at primary school road safety lessons
Two missing men found shot dead near Kalamata
Dendias talks tax, funds in Germany
Greek firms see 30 pct rise in PayPal payments from abroad in 2014
The payments that Greek firms received via PayPal increased by 30 percent in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2013, according to new data from the online payment com...
Greek current account surplus widens in June
Greece's current account surplus widened in June compared to the same month last year, according to balance of payments figures released by the central bank on Wednesday. The surplus stood a...
Inside Business
ATHLETICS
Long jumper Tsatoumas takes Greece´s second silver at European Championships
Greece won its second medal at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, Switzerland, on Sunday with Louis Tsatoumas coming second in the long jump. Briton Greg Rutherford won the even...
SWIMMING
Silver for Greece in 5k team event at European Swimming Championships
Greece claimed the silver in the team 5 kilometer event at the 32nd European Swimming Championships in Berlin on Saturday. The Greek team of Spyros Gianniotis, Antonis Fokaidis and Kalliopi ...
Inside Sports
COMMENTARY
Logged out of reality
It is a global phenomenon, and we have yet to fully grasp its implications for democracy and the functionality of Western states. The Internet is a bottomless well of information and a vast ...
EDITORIAL
Manipulated institutions
Greece’s leftist opposition must not manipulate an institution as important as the President of the Republic for the sake of political ends. Regrettably, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras appears...
Inside Comment
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Syrian chemicals were safely destroyed off Crete, says OPCW
2. Greek firms see 30 pct rise in PayPal payments from abroad in 2014
3. Greece to give children at primary school road safety lessons
4. Greek current account surplus widens in June
5. Two missing men found shot dead near Kalamata
6. ECB in policy limbo, boxed in by its own plans
more news
Today
This Week
1. Two missing men found shot dead near Kalamata
2. ECB in policy limbo, boxed in by its own plans
3. Logged out of reality
4. Greek current account surplus widens in June
5. Greece to give children at primary school road safety lessons
6. Greek firms see 30 pct rise in PayPal payments from abroad in 2014
Today
This Week
1. Carved sphinxes at Ancient Amphipolis tomb will not be removed
2. Samaras expects 'exceptionally important find' at Ancient Amphipolis
3. Rhodes villa built for Mussolini among properties Greek privatization fund is selling
4. Canada’s fiscal adjustment has lessons for Greece
5. Treating Amphipolis with care
6. Greece to offer law on restructuring bad loans next month
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.