IONIAN SEA – In a devastating incident that unfolded in international waters off the southern coast of Greece, a fishing boat carrying refugees and migrants sank, resulting in the loss of at least 78 lives. The accident occurred in the Ionian Sea, approximately 47 nautical miles southwest of Pylos, near the Peloponnese coast.
According to the Greek coastguard, the rescue operation faced significant challenges due to strong winds. However, their efforts managed to save over 100 individuals from the perilous waters. Among the survivors, four were rushed to the city of Kalamata for treatment of hypothermia. Tragically, none of the rescued individuals possessed any safety equipment, such as life jackets.
The exact number of passengers on the ill-fated boat remains uncertain. Alarm Phone, a support service, received an alert from a distressed vessel on Tuesday, claiming that there were approximately 750 people on board. The authorities were notified, but contact with the boat was lost shortly after midnight.
To aid in the search for those still missing, six coastguard vessels, a navy frigate, a military transport, an air force helicopter, and multiple private vessels have been deployed. The boat was reportedly en route to Italy from the Tobruk area in eastern Libya.
Although the Greek authorities have yet to confirm the departure port, a shipping ministry official disclosed that most of the individuals onboard hailed from Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan. The Italian coastguard initially alerted Greek authorities and the European Union border protection agency, Frontex, about the approaching vessel on Tuesday.
Four survivors were hospitalised in the city of Kalamata with symptoms of hypothermia
Coincidentally, another distress call was received on Sunday, leading to the rescue of 90 migrants and refugees aboard a United States-flagged yacht in the same area. Furthermore, on Wednesday, authorities responded to yet another distress call, towing a yacht carrying over 70 people to a port on the south coast of Crete.
Unfortunately, such rescue operations have become commonplace, shedding light on the dangers faced by migrants and refugees seeking safer lives. Last month, the Greek government faced international scrutiny following the release of video footage allegedly depicting the forceful expulsion of migrants and refugees, who were abandoned at sea.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), last year witnessed a distressing loss of life on migration routes within and from the Middle East and North Africa. The data, published on Tuesday by the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, revealed a record high of 3,789 deaths in 2022 along sea and land routes in the region, including perilous crossings of the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea. As the global community grapples with this ongoing crisis, urgent action is required to prevent further loss of life and address the underlying causes driving these perilous journeys.