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The Farmakonisi Tragedy Sparks a Legal Conflict

31 July 2014 / 20:07:10  GRReporter
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The prosecutor of the Naval Court of Piraeus archived documentation on the case of the capsized boat carrying migrants in the region of Farmakonisi in January this year. During the incident, 11 people died: 8 children and 3 women from Afghanistan.

The Greek Council for Refugees warned about the decision of the prosecutor. According to activists, it puts an end to the judicial investigation of possible liability of the Coast Guard members concerning the tragedy. In his arguments, the prosecutor determined the documentation as "manifestly unfounded in nature" regarding the investigation of the following crimes: exposure to danger, causing a shipwreck and injuries.

The lawyers of the victims’ families from the Group for Protecting the Rights of Refugees and Immigrants share a different opinion. They opposed this decision and held a press conference to put forward their arguments. According to them, the prosecutor has considered only the testimony of the Coast Guard members involved in the operation, the military personnel and their commanders.

"The prosecutor accepted as indisputable two things: first, Greece does not expel immigrants and second, the Coast Guard ordered the ship to safely transport the shipwrecked to land. But what we should note is that the first order of intervention was not addressed to the United Centre for Coordination of Investigations and Rescue Operations, which is in charge of accidents in the open sea, but to the Office for the Protection of Maritime Borders whose main task is to protect the maritime borders of the country and prevent illegal immigration," pointed out the activist lawyers.

According to them, there are reasonable doubts that the operation of the Coast Guard had been planned from the very beginning to push the migrants’ boat outside Greek territorial waters. "It became evident from the testimony of survivors, which the prosecutor did not take into account. The only testimony he considers legal is that taken immediately after the migrants’ transportation to the island of Leros. For this purpose, two interpreters were called, but none of them knew the Afghan dialect they spoke”. In addition, the lawyers accused the investigating authorities of manipulating the witnesses, for, in their words, many of the questions were asked in a way convenient for the investigators.

The lawyers identified as further important and irrefutable evidence the message containing the case description sent by the port authorities in Leros to the headquarters in Athens. "Initially, it was stated that the migrants were found at 12:15 a.m. and at 12:50 a.m., they were transported to Farmakonisi. Later, the message was corrected and according to it, the boat was found at 2 a.m. This is an outrageous concealment of the truth, " said lawyer Joanna Kurtovik.

She and her colleagues said that the case is representative of how migrants are expulsed in the Aegean Sea, "which is the purpose of the Greek migration policy and not only". "We will continue to work to uncover those who gave orders to the Coast Guard and all those responsible for the deaths of 11 people", underlined the lawyers, demanding that the judicial inquiry be renewed.

In turn, an immigrant who has lost his entire family in the tragedy said that the families of all who died want justice for the innocent victims.

According to the lawyers, he and the other survivors were issued extradition orders, as is the practice for all migrants, "no matter if they have the right to request asylum. At the moment, a 6-month extension is in effect regarding the implementation of the orders, and the procedures for another extension have already been initiated”, they explained. Meanwhile, the human rights activists have initiated procedures for connecting the migrants with relatives of theirs living in other European countries.

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