Last Wednesday it was revealed death of a four year old girl when he was aboard a boat in distress in which around 63 migrants were traveling in waters of the Aegean Sea, in the eastern Mediterranean. According to the available information, the boat had set sail from the coast of Lebanon headed for Italy ten days ago and spent several days in danger, awaiting rescue from the Maltese and Greek coastguardswho did not respond to requests for help for several days.
The case has been denounced by the NGO Alarm Phonemade up of activists who are in charge of monitoring, receiving alerts and notifying the authorities and the rescue ships of humanitarian organizations in the Mediterranean when a ship is in danger of sinking.
According to this NGO, the boat had given several warnings asking for help after more than a week of navigation. As reported to the Alarm Phone by both the migrants themselves and their families, on board already they did not have water or food and several small children were travelling. They had already spent time bailing out the water that seeped into the boat and they feared sinking in Aegean waters, between the islands of Crete (Greece) and Malta.
Without help from merchant ships
The NGO notified the rescue services of Malta, in whose SAR (search and rescue) area the ship began to capsize, but according to the complaint, no measures were taken and the different merchant ships with which that the migrants who helped them crossed.
The girl died of hunger and dehydration after being taken by helicopter to a Cretan hospital.
It was September 4 when the Alarm Phone gave the first warning to the Maltese authorities. Since then, the distressed vessel has been closely followed by two vessels, one Maltese flagged and the other Singaporean, but they just watched her for a few stretches and then retreated. As confirmed by the NGO, the Maltese authorities did not give permission or order to the merchant ships to assist the vessel, which continued to drift for at least 30 hours after the first warning.
They were eventually assisted by the BBC Pearl merchant ship while still in Maltese waters. As notified by the ship’s skipper to the Maltese search and rescue coordination center, 63 people were on board and two of them were unconscious, so he requested their disembarkation, as published by the Greek newspaper Efsyn.
It was not until then that Malta requested the intervention of a Greek navy helicopter to finally evacuate the four-year-old girl and her mother. The BBC Pearl had to divert its course to the Greek area of responsibility for the operation, but when the minor arrived at the hospital in Chania, on the Greek island of Crete, the doctors could only confirm her death from hunger and dehydration. According to the NGO, the lack of response from the rescue services ended with this tragic outcome.
This is not the first time that an NGO has accused the Maltese authorities and the European border control agency (Frontex) of ignoring warnings of boats in distress. According to Alarm Phone, this attitude is a constant on the small island, but also among the rescue services of Greece and, to a lesser extent, Italy.
In recent weeks, the Alarm Phone has requested the intervention of the Greek coastguard on several occasions to help boats leaving Lebanon, adrift and in danger of sinking, which, finally, have had to be assisted by merchant ships or have ended up rescued by Turkish troops.
The NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also warned last August of violent practices against migrants and asylum seekers by the Greek authorities. The teams of this organization on the Hellenic island of Samos attended to more than 570 migrants who had just arrived from the nearby coast of Turkey, and most claimed to be victims of hot returns in the middle of the sea and physical violence by the security forces. Greek.
According to their own accounts, they suffered inhuman and degrading treatment such as “beatings, searches, genital examinations forced, theft of belongings and drifting in boats without motor at sea“, according to the statement.
It is not the first time that this type of action by the Greek authorities has been reported. And, according to investigations by the German weekly Der Spiegel or from the French newspaper Le Monde, this attitude would have the collusion of Frontex, the European agency for border control, which not only allowed them but also helped to cover them up and finance them, according to both media, who had access to a report by the European Office for the Fight against El Fraud (OLAF). It was before the imminent publication of this report that the director of Frontex, Frenchman Fabrice Leggeri, resigned after a year of scandals over investigations into the violation of the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers protected by his organization.