Justice for the victims and survivors of the Pylos state crime

A joint declaration by attending organizations of the Defence of Migrant Rights Across Borders Conference in Mytilene, Lesvos, 12-14 June 2024
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In the early morning hours of 14 June 2023, the overcrowded fishing boat “Adriana” sank in international waters around 50 miles from the port of Pylos, Greece. Hundreds of people, including all women and children on board, drowned under the watch of the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG). Only 104 people who were on board survived, while more than 600 people, from the believed 750 passengers of Adriana died: either their bodies were recovered or they remain missing.

The Adriana departed from Tobruk, Libya on the 9th of June, 2023, in a clearly unseaworthy condition. It had already sailed hundreds of miles in the Central Mediterranean by the 13th of June, when passengers on board started asking for help. All the responsible European and national authorities were immediately informed; however they failed to start a search and rescue operation, wasting crucial time. Indeed, the Hellenic Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (HJRCC), which was the main responsible body for an operation like this, instead of sending rescue vessels, deployed the patrol vessel PPLS-920. The HJRCC obstructed potential rescue activities by other vessels for several hours. In the early hours of the 14th of June, once the Adriana engine had failed, vessel 920 tried to tow it, resulting in its capsizing, and killing most of the people on board.

In an attempt to conceal all evidence of its actions, the Greek authorities tried to shift responsibility to nine of the survivors (‘Pylos 9’), accusing them of being part of smuggling organisations and of being responsible for the shipwreck. While the pro-government media built up a narrative portraying the Pylos 9 as vicious smugglers, the nine accused men were put in pre-trial detention, depriving them of liberty and from all the necessary support they needed as victims of such a horrific tragedy. It was only 11 months later, after the endless efforts of their defence team and the solidarity groups that supported them, all charges against the nine survivors were finally dropped, and the nine gained back their right to freedom. Yet, instead of releasing them, in a vengeful move that also implies their contempt for the law, Greek police ordered their administrative detention, prolonging their torture. Today eight of the ‘Pylos 9’ have finally been released, and are back to their friends and family, waiting for their asylum applications to be examined. However, the 9th of them, a young 20 year old man, is still being arbitrarily detained, and faces the risk of deportation. At the same time, the survivors and the friends and relatives of the shipwreck’s victims, are still looking for justice. To date, 53 survivors of the deadly shipwreck in Pylos filed a criminal complaint against all responsible parties before the Naval Court of Piraeus. In an unacceptable delay of procedure, the preliminary investigation is yet to be completed!

The ‘Pylos Shipwreck’ was not an accident! It consists of the deadliest tragedy that comes as a direct result of a state’s actions in the contemporary history of Europe. However, it is not the only one. The actions of the Hellenic Coast Guard in towing the Adriana boat, were in fact consistent with the Greek state’s policy of systematically attacking migrant boats and removing them from Greek territorial waters in what are usually ‘pushback’ operations.  Additionally, the continuing militarisation of the European borders drives people on the move to even more dangerous routes. Since 2014, the systematic border violence of the EU and its partnering countries, has resulted in over 30.000 people losing their lives in the Mediterranean in their effort to reach safety. The new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, adopted by the Council of the EU on 14 May 2024, will only increase the vulnerability of people on the move. The likely consequences of the agreement include the expansion of arbitrary detention across Europe, increased pressure on border states, and more frequent use of emergency measures that undermine human rights. At the same time, EU funds will continue to be provided to the authoritarian regimes of the EU’s partnering and neighbouring countries, further externalising migration management.  

The co-signing organisations, have repeatedly documented and addressed the continuous securitization of the European Union, its Member States and international partners at the expense of human rights. Human rights should always be secured and provided for everyone, independently their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. We will continue our struggle towards the right of everyone to move and/or seek protection.

We demand  

  • The immediate release of the 9th defendant from the ‘Pylos 9’ case.
  • Investigate and hold European and Greek authorities accountable for their responsibility in the Pylos shipwreck and for crimes against humanity at its borders
  • Justice for the Pylos victims and survivors
  • Safe passages for people on the move
  • An immediate end to the systematic and deadly border violence
  • Stop the criminalisation of migration and the incarceration of people on the move
  • Freedom of movement for all

Signatories

#FreePylos9 Campaign
CPT – Aegean Migrant Solidarity
Legal Centre Lesvos
Feminist Autonomous Centre 
Progressive Lawyers Association
La Garriga Societat Civil
Lawyers for Justice
WISH Lesvos 
Adalet İçin Hukukçular
Welcome Office Lesvos 
Mültecilerle dayanışma derneği –  Association of solidarity with refugees
Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Özgürlük Hukukçular Derneği

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