International News

78 Dead in Greek Shipwreck, Hundreds Still Missing

A wreath floats in the water after Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all of Greece threw wreaths into the sea during a service in memory of migrants who have died trying to reach Europe, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, April 16, 2016. (CNS photo)

By The Tablet Staff

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A boat carrying an unspecified number of migrants fleeing from several countries, overturned on Wednesday 14 June, killing at least 78 people, while hundreds more remain missing.

Over 100 migrants were successfully rescued from the wreckage. However, survivors have alleged the vessel was carrying roughly 750 people, among them numerous children, according to some accounts of the incident.

The vessel was initially spotted late Tuesday by the European Union border agency Frontex in international waters approximately 50 miles southwest of the southern Greek coastal town of Pylos, as per officials.

According to the Greek coast guard, numerous migrants on the outer deck declined assistance and expressed their intention to proceed with their journey. The coast guard further noted that none of the individuals on board were equipped with life jackets.

However, survivors are blaming the Greek Coast Guard ship for the wreckage and accusing them of causing the fishing boat, known as The Adriana, to capsize when it tried to tow the vessel with a rope, according to the New York Times.

Pope Francis spoke on the tragedy saying he was “deeply dismayed to learn of the shipwreck off the coast of Greece with its devastating loss of life.”

The pope offered prayers “for the many migrants who have died, for their loved ones and for all those traumatized by this tragedy.” He also wished survivors and the emergency personnel “strength, perseverance and hope.”

 Nine people were arrested in connection with the wreckage, according to Greek authorities. The group will be charged with offenses including negligent manslaughter, endangering lives, causing a shipwreck, and engaging in human trafficking.

Authorities reported that the boat carrying migrants was headed towards Italy from the Libyan town of Tobruk, located south of the Greek island of Crete.

The migrants came largely from middle eastern countries Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. Many of them were trying to escape war, famine or poverty. Their aspiration was to be included among the approximately 72,000 refugees and migrants who, according to authorities, have arrived in Europe’s frontline nations, namely Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus, thus far this year.

The International Organization for Migration, under the United Nations, emphasized on Wednesday that the unfortunate incident in the Aegean Sea highlights the urgent requirement for additional legal migration channels.

Conversely, the European Union’s Frontex agency cautioned that organized crime factions exploit the political instability in certain departure nations, thereby facilitating an upsurge in the smuggling of migrants across EU borders.