President of the Pakistani Community of Greece, Javed Aslam, chanting slogans during a demonstration in Athens, commemorating the one year since the shipwreck of Pylos, which took place on June 14, 2023 and officially killed 82 people, but left hundreds more missing to this day.

‘We want justice’: One Year Since the Pylos Shipwreck

Athens, Greece — Shortly before 7 p.m. on Friday, June 14, a few dozen people started to gather in the center of Athens. Holding banners and flags, they set up a small stage, while tourists from around the world strolling through the Greek capital passed among them. 

After a few minutes, as the crowd grew, a man in a black shirt came on stage and spoke. He was one of the survivors of the Pylos shipwreck, one of the deadliest ever in the Mediterranean Sea. It happened at dawn on June 14, 2023 in international waters about 75 kilometers (45 miles) off Pylos in southern Greece. 

‘We Want Justice’: One Year Since the Pylos Shipwreck [June 14, 2024 – Athens, Greece]

Officially, 82 people died, but hundreds of others remain missing to this day. Adriana, the wrecked fishing boat, had set off from Tobruk, Libya carrying an estimated 750 refugees and migrants from Egypt, Syria and Pakistan bound for Italy, including women and young children.

“We want all the guilty to be punished, and we want justice,” the man in the black shirt told the crowd.

Many of the survivors have reported that the sinking occurred when a Greek Coast Guard ship sent into the area attempted to tow the overloaded fishing boat to Italy. Both the Greek authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) appear to have been aware of the dangerous situation of the Adriana fishing vessel since the morning of June 13, but did not launch a rescue operation. 

Adriana in distress – photo released by Hellenic Coast Guard.

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According to reports, the vessel had been in distress, and effectively adrift, since the morning of the 13th due to overloading and lack of food and water. Its engine was malfunctioning and it remained idle in the sea off of Greece’s southern coast. Furthermore, the Greek Coast Guard vessel, which arrived in the area after a long delay, did not record its operation on video, despite the fact that it had state-of-the-art cameras.

The conclusion of a FRONTEX investigation blamed the Greek Coast Guard for delaying the rescue operation and starting it only after the ship capsized. FRONTEX had also sent three requests for assistance, which were ignored by the Greek side. 

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For its part, the Greek Coast Guard denies any involvement in the wreck. It is noted that the Greek authorities had a legal obligation to intervene to save the ship, as although in international waters, the Adrianna was within the Greek search and rescue area of responsibility.

The “Pylos Nine” Trial

After the man in the black shirt, a man from Egypt took the floor on the small stage. He was one of the nine survivors who were charged as traffickers and instigators of the shipwreck. 

A total of 104 people were rescued and nine of them, all of Egyptian origin, were arrested within 24 hours of the wreck and charged with forming a criminal organization, trafficking, illegal entry into the country and causing the wreck. 

After 11 months in custody, their trial took place on May 21 in Kalamata. The court ruled that the shipwreck took place in international waters and therefore it is not competent to judge the merits of the case, discharging the defendants from the charges of causing a shipwreck and criminal organization, and acquitting them of the other two charges. 

It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 people in Greek prisons serving long sentences after being charged as smugglers, many of whom were themselves being trafficked. 

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A second judicial investigation is pending in the Pylos case. 

Since September 2023, a total of 53 survivors of the shipwreck have filed a lawsuit against all those responsible at the Piraeus Maritime Court, in order to investigate any criminal acts and omissions of the Greek authorities. 

On June 7, the “Lawyers and Legal Initiative for the Pylos shipwreck” issued a statement which, in part, said that “Following the acquittal of the 9 Egyptian survivors and their due release, the judicial investigation must turn to where criminal acts were actually committed: The Piraeus Maritime Court […] must now investigate and prosecute those responsible in the Greek Coast Guard for causing the shipwreck, both through failure to carry out due legal rescue action and through the towing operation of the fishing vessel which had the direct consequence of capsizing and sinking, which the Coast Guard denies, but which dozens of the rescued people testify to.”  

Back in Athens, survivors of the shipwreck and relatives of the victims were in the front of the demonstration. They held a banner with photos of victims and missing persons, which read “The 600 drowned refugees of Pylos have a name. No cover-up of the crime. Open borders.”

The protesters moved through the city center and passed in front of the Greek Parliament.  They chanted slogans against the Greek state and its migration policies, the EU and Frontex, and in solidarity with refugees and migrants, demanding justice for one of the deadliest shipwrecks ever in the Mediterranean Sea.

George Schinas contributed to this reporting.

Related: ‘It was a crime, not an accident!’ – Deadly Greek Train Crash Sparks Justice Movement — One of the most deadly train collisions in a decade in the EU leaves 57 people dead and sparks a justice movement all over Greece.

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