At least 78 people are dead and hundreds more are feared missing after a trawler packed with migrants sank in Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula on Wednesday. The Greek coastguard and government were reportedly monitoring the boat after it was spotted by a Frontex surveillance plane on Tuesday. While a Maltese-flagged ship briefly gave food and drink to those onboard the trawler, according to the coastguard, an English speaker onboard insisted that no further assistance was needed. The boat subsequently developed an engine fault and began to sink about 15 minutes after the Greek coastguard attempted to approach it.
Greece has declared three days of mourning due to this disaster. However, questions are being asked if the Greek coastguard could have done more to prevent this tragedy from happening. Some have even suggested that the coastguard should have intervened earlier. It remains unclear exactly how many people were on the trawler, but some estimates are as high as 750.
Vincent Cochetel, the special envoy of the UNHCR for the central and western Mediterranean, said that “Greek authorities should have organised this rescue operation sooner, as soon as Frontex spotted the boat in distress… The boat was full to bursting… and the photos taken by Frontex leave no doubt that it was adrift and that people were objectively in a distress situation.” Meanwhile, UN rights office spokesperson Jeremy Laurence has called for “thorough” investigations into the “horrific tragedy” and has insisted that there is a need to investigate “people smugglers and human traffickers and ensure they are brought to justice.”