Members of the police force’s motorcycle-riding unit, DIAS, on Thursday detained 20 students who allegedly tried to stage a sit-in at the office of Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.
The detainees, who are members of the SYRIZA-affiliated Left Union student party, were protesting the death of immigrants in the sea close to Farmakonisi island in the southern Aegean Sea earlier this month. Twelve immigrants were lost at sea while their vessel was being towed by the Greek coast guard.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Varvitsiotis, who has come under fire over the incident, said that coast guard officers have orders to “guard the country’s sea borders and save the lives of those at risk at sea,” not to conduct “violent pushbacks and behave inhumanely.” The minister also accused leftist SYRIZA of seeking to exploit the incident for political gain.
Also on Wednesday, Greece’s Ombudsman called for an investigation into claims that coast guard officers abused the migrants. The circumstances of the incident are being probed by prosecutors following protests by human rights groups.