Six months after the «Adriana» sank off the Greek coastal town of Pylos, killing over 600 people, any sense of ‘justice’ feels far away. Still, we will not rest and continue to fight against the normalization of death and violence at Europe’s borders.
At least 600 people were killed in the Mediterranean Sea six months ago today. On 14 June 2023, they drowned off the Greek coastal town of Pylos – while the Hellenic Coast Guard was watching. Numerous maritime rescue coordination centres, different coast guards and the EU border agency Frontex had been informed about the boat in distress many hours earlier. A vessel of the Hellenic Coast Guard had even been at the scene of distress for hours. But the completely overcrowded «Adriana», carrying around 750 people, was not rescued. According to reports from survivors, it sank when the Hellenic Coast Guard tried to pull the boat with a rope. Was this an unsuccessful attempt to tow the boat out of the Greek rescue zone and towards Italian waters, as some survivors believed? There are many factors that speak for this scenario. One thing is clear: Pylos was not an accident, it was another massacre at sea. It was the consequence of EU migration policy and escalating brutalisation of border enforcement at sea, on land, and in the public discourse.
After a brief public outcry, the Pylos massacre has disappeared from public debates and reporting. Six months after the Adriana sank, justice remains a distant prospect. The role of the Greek authorities is not being seriously scrutinised by the Greek justice system, and certainly not by politicians: the Greek Prime Minister defends the (in-)actions on television and instead blames the passengers. For hundreds, even thousands of relatives and survivors, what remains is pain. Meanwhile, nine of the survivors are on trial, accused of being smugglers. They face potential prison sentences of hundreds of years for causing a shipwreck, negligent homicide in several hundred cases, and for facilitating illegal entry. This is yet another clear example of the escalating criminalisation of migration and migrants. In Greece alone, over 2,000 people are imprisoned for driving a boat or cars, for taking over coordination in moments of distress, for helping out with language skills or for trying to provide some safety in moments of severe insecurity.
The Greek state and its EU partners are shirking all responsibility. Not only are they preventing a thorough investigation of the events, they are actively covering up their shared responsibility for this massacre. Europe is making it clear that the dead and the survivors should be forgotten. Meanwhile, the deaths in the Mediterranean and at the European borders continue.
Solidarity must win!
We are fighting back against this cruel injustice. United in solidarity, we are trying to contest the normalization of the deadly consequences of EU migration policy. In the days and months following the massacre in Pylos, we joined forces with relatives and together with numerous other organisations we tried to organise mutual aid, struggling against the bureaucratic hurdles in the search for the missing. We built space for emotional exchange and all kinds of practical support in the fight against the injustice.
Hundreds of people died off Pylos – all of them had relatives, friends and family who were looking for them and still miss them today. And every single person who disappeared had a story, like Nabeel from Pakistan. A relative of Nabeel sent us these words a few days ago:
“I hail from an unfortunate valley which lost more than 20 young boys in that tragic shipwreck at Pylos. […] Among others the shipwreck took away my 26-year-old brother-in-law, Nabeel, who was the youngest of three brothers. Nabeel was very dear to everyone who knew him. This is because he was a political worker, was sociable, very kind and ready to help everyone in need. Everybody acquainted with Nabeel still misses him badly and bursts into tears while recalling his conduct. Unfortunately, our youngsters including Nabeel were trapped by human-smugglers. I admit that we, the people of third world and our governments are responsible for that tragic incident in the first place. But we feel that the treatment being meted out to the poor refugees by the European governments is unjust and violates fundamental human rights. The stories we have heard about how that unfortunate ship was left stranded under supervision of Greek authorities and more than 700 humans were let to sink without any significant effort to save them are very painful and heart-wrenching for us!!! But the way you people have highlighted the criminal negligence of Greek Coast Guards is highly commendable! We know that you can’t bring back our beloved ones but we are hopeful that your sincere efforts will be effective in ensuring safety of precious lives in future and in safeguarding fundamental rights of poor refugees.”
The fight against oblivion and the Greek authorities’ cover-up efforts led to different initiatives. 40 lawyers and numerous relatives have rallied behind the «Justice 4 Pylos» campaign and filed a criminal complaint with the Maritime Court in Piraeus in September. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are presenting their investigation into the case today. And this week saw the launch of the campaign for the «Pylos9», the nine survivors who have been charged by the Greek authorities.
We must not rest in the struggle against the deadly isolationist regime and its consequences, the criminalisation of migration and the crimes committed by the European authorities against migrants. Today, we commemorate the hundreds of people who died off Pylos. We stand in solidarity with all their relatives. We also stand with all those who had to leave their homes and are on the move – wherever they are and for whatever reason they had to leave. We will continue to stand by your side and oppose the regime of migration control and border violence.
We’ll never forgive, we’ll never forget: We build a collective memory from our pain and continue to fight for the freedom of movement for all – for a society based on solidarity and the freedom for all to make their own decisions about their lives.
United in Solidarity – Freedom of movement and equal rights for all!