Missing Titanic Submersible Is Not The Only At-Sea Crisis We Should Be Talking About Right Now

More than 500 refugees are presumed to have drowned last week off the Greek coast.
A boat carrying migrants before it sank, in Kalamata, Greece on June 15, 2023.
A boat carrying migrants before it sank, in Kalamata, Greece on June 15, 2023.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The news cycle is full of worry and concern over the missing Titanic Submersible right now, thought to be somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean right now.

Contact with the vessel was lost on its way to visit the Titanic wreckage, which is carrying five passengers, since Sunday. International rescue efforts are still ongoing amid worries about the dwindling oxygen supply onboard.

Sadly, this is not the only at-sea incident which warrants our attention at the moment – more than 500 refugees are presumed to have drowned last week off the coast of Greece.

What happened?

Between 400 and 750 men, women and children, from Syria, Egypt and Palestine were on board an overcrowded fishing trawler last week when it sank, according to the United Nations Migration Agency.

That makes it one of the worst tragedies of its kind in the Mediterranean Sea, according to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who also lashed out at the “smugglers” who condemned people seeking refuge to “death”.

Local media reported that at least 298 people from Pakistan died, with 104 survivors rescued and 78 bodies recovered.

What happens next?

On Monday, Pakistan’s prime minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a day of national mourning for people who died in the tragedy.

He also announced a “high-level inquiry” into the boat’s sinking, adding: “I assure the nation that those found negligent towards their duty will be held to account. Responsibility will be fixed after the inquiry and heads will roll.”

The chair of Pakistan’s Senate, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, also sent his condolences to the bereaved.

He said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and we pray that the detracted souls find eternal peace.

“This devastating incident underscores the urgent need to address and condemn the abhorrent act of illegal human trafficking.”

It comes as Pakistan is caught in a terrible economic crisis amid political instability in the country. With a population of 220 million, inflation has climbed, food imports have stalled and stampedes have started over distribution.

What does Greece say?

Nearly 500 people are missing and presumed dead, according to UN
Nearly 500 people are missing and presumed dead, according to UN
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Questions linger about what happened in the final hours before the boat sank.

The UN has called for an investigation into Greece’s handling of the incident amid worries more should have been done to rescue those onboard.

Greek authorities are yet to confirm the death toll from the tragedy. The country also initially denied that the boat had capsized last week, after attempts from the coastguard to tow it to shore.

The coastguard said it kept its distance initially, but claimed its assistance “had been declined” after they threw a rope to the vessel to “stabilise and check if it needed help”.

However, non-government organisations have said they received calls for assistance from the boat.

The coastguard’s representative Nikos Alexiou told local media: “When the boat capsized, we were not even next to the boat. How could we be towing it?”

“Regretfully there was movement of people, a shift in weight probably caused by panic and the boat capsized. As soon as we got there, we started our rescue operation to collect those who were in the water,” Alexiou added.

The Greek government spokesperson Ilias Siakanderis said that the coastguard arrived two hours before the boat capsized.

He spoke to the national broadcaster ERT: “The engine broke down at 1.40am and 2am it sank – therefore there can be no connection (between the coastguard approaching the boat and the time of its sinking).”

A BBC investigation also claims to have evidence casting doubt on the coastguard’s account of the migrant shipwreck, based on tracking data from MarineTraffic, a maritime analytics platform.

It shows hours of activity happened right next where the boat sank, suggesting the trawler did have problems with its navigation.

This is contrary to the coastguard’s claims that the boat did not help and was not in danger until just before the boat went under.


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