22 January 2014

Eight children and three women from Afghanistan died on 20 January 2014 when their vessel sank off the Greek island of Farmakonisi. Although, according to the survivors, a Greek coast guard vessel was towing the boat toward the Turkish coast at high speed when the boat capsized, the authorities dropped the investigation in August 2014 stating that the testimonies from the survivors were unfounded.  One year later, on 20 January 2015 the survivors filed a complaint against the Greek authorities to the European Court of Human Rights, citing violations of the right to life, freedom from torture and the right to an effective remedy, as laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

According to Pro Asyl, which has supported the survivors with legal and humanitarian aid since January 2014, the files of inquiry of the Prosecutor of Piraeus’ Marine Court and the report of an independent shipping expert demonstrate that, contrary to the claims of the Greek authorities, no rescue at sea operation was attempted. “There had been plenty of opportunities to rescue the protection seekers, but no rescue at sea was initiated. The refugees were not taken on board the Coast Guard vessel and not even handed life vests”, Pro Asyl stated.

“It is an outrage that, in the face of all the survivors’ testimonies and the inconsistencies in the evidence provided by the coastguard, the Greek authorities have failed to conduct an adequate investigation into this tragedy. Vulnerable people forced to flee their own country have been left mourning their loved ones with little hope for justice and reparation,” says John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

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