Political friction over shipwreck

Political friction over shipwreck

The tragic shipwreck off the southern coast of Greece on Wednesday, with dozens of deaths and hundreds missing, has become a source of confrontation between the country’s caretaker government and leftist SYRIZA, which referred to “unanswered questions” in relation to the management of one the Mediterranean’s worst tragedies of its kind.

The government has responded that it is down to the independent judiciary to make a final judgment on the issue.

In a statement, the caretaker government said that the establishment of the circumstances and causes of the capsizing and sinking of the fishing boat requires a thorough investigation of the actual facts.

“The government listens, records and carefully evaluates all relevant information, opinions and views, but its position is that it is up to the competent bodies within the rule of law and in particular the independent judiciary to make a final institutional judgment,” the statement read. This was preceded by a statement by SYRIZA, which asked whether or not there was a rescue operation for the vessel, whether the captain had left, why it was not possible to provide life jackets, and why Frontex assistance was not requested. 

For his part, former migration minister Notis Mitarakis stressed to state broadcaster ERT that, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “the coast guard has the right to stop a vessel, to check it for illegal activity, within territorial waters.”

“The territorial waters of Greece at that point are 12 nautical miles. Under certain conditions there can be an additional 12-mile zone, the border zone, which does not exist in the Ionian Sea, and bring the jurisdiction of the coast guard to 24 miles. In any case, we are talking here about 49 miles off the coastline of Greece. There the coast guard has no right to intervene in international waters,” he said. 

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