Greece shipwreck: European and Greek immigration policy kills hundreds!

Nikos Anastasiadis

The shipwreck that took place on June 14 in the Ionian Sea, 50 miles off the Greek coast, is one of the worst disasters caused by the EU and Greek immigration policy, up until now.

To date, it is still unclear how many people have died. Only 104 people were rescued, while 78 corpses were found. According to reports from survivors however, between 500 and 750 people were on board, including up to 100 children, who were kept in the lower decks of the ship. 

Deadly policies

This is a clear manifestation of the inhumane and deadly character of the “closed borders” policy of “Fortress Europe”. Desperate people trying to escape from the horrors of war, civil war, poverty, hunger, religious fanaticism and state repression, are pushed into the hands of cruel smugglers, who stuff them in unseaworthy vessels and leave them to their fate when things get complicated for them.

The Mediterranean has become a watery grave for refugees. During the last decade, more than 27,000 refugees have died at sea trying to cross over to Europe. This number makes the Mediterranean the deadliest migratory route worldwide. The number is actually much higher, as a lot of shipwrecks go unreported.

The Pylos shipwreck cannot be characterised as “an accident”, as most mainstream media try to portray it. It is a crime and the political responsibility for it lies in the hands of the European ruling classes and their policing mechanisms (coastal guards, Frontex, ect). 

The EU presents itself as a “humane”, “kind” and “gentle” institution regarding immigration. It wants to wash its hands off the dirty work of keeping its borders essentially closed. So, it pays neighboring states to play that role. The deals it struck with Turkey, Libya and now probably Tunisia, mean that these countries act as watchdogs to keep migrants out of Europe. The same role applies to Greece and Italy, which are provided with funds and support (naval and military) in order to keep the flows to the real “destination countries” (i.e., the rich North European states) manageable. European commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, did not accidentally say that Greece is Europe’s “shield” in deterring immigrants.

Blood on the hands of the Greek government

It is very difficult to find out what exactly happened during the capsizing of the fishing boat “Andrianna” as the Greek state is actually hiding the truth. The Greek coastal guard claims that everything was done properly. They claim that they offered to rescue the boat but the immigrants on board refused, insisting that they sail to Italy. 

But there are several elements which don’t add up. First of all, there were people on the boat who called Alarmphone (an organisation helping people on the move) and asked for rescue. Alarmphone contacted the Greek authorities which initially were reluctant to intervene. Second, although the Greek coastal guard initially claimed that they did not approach the ship, it was later revealed that they actually tried to tug the fishing boat and failed. Third, the weather was not so bad as to cause the ship to capsize. 

It is a well documented fact that the Greek (but also other countries’) coastal guard ships repeatedly try to change the course of migrant vessels by maneuvering around them at high speeds, causing big waves. Could this have happened that night? 

The problem is that the investigation for the incident is done by the coastal guard itself, so it has no real credibility! In fact, the Supreme Court Prosecutor, Isidoros Doyakos, issued a formal circular demanding that the inquiry takes place in total secrecy! 

Greece is involved in hundreds of illegal (by Greek and international law standards) pushbacks. Greek authorities either try, with the use of force, to repeal immigrant boats without letting them touch Greek soil, or, if they do, they pack them in life rafts and leave them alone and helpless at sea. It is estimated that this way about 10,000 immigrants were forcibly denied the right to ask for asylum by the Greek government.

Some of those operations are done by men without uniforms wearing balaclavas, in a Latin American paramilitary style way. 

For those that did manage at some stage to enter, Greece has built hellish, prison-like refugee-camps, while it is constantly restricting their rights in the most notorious, kafkaesque ways.

Make Greece look like hell to them!

Some years ago, the current New Democracy vice-president, Adonis Georgiadis, talking about immigrants, said 

“One of the objectives [of the government’s migration policy] is to make them understand that they are not wanted in Greece. One of the ways to convince them that they are no longer desired is to arrest them frequently […] Make life as difficult as possible for them to realize that it’s time to get on a plane and leave“. (Our emphasis). 

The current health minister, Thanos Plevris, went further speaking as part of a racist panel some years ago:

“Border security cannot exist if there are no casualties and to be clear, if there are no dead! […] For those of you who come here, there will be no social services, you will not be able to eat, drink, you will not be able to go to the hospital. […] They have to have it worse than their countries. Hell must look like heaven to what they will go through here!(Our emphasis).

These statements reveal the true policy of the New Democracy government. They are shedding crocodile tears now, and trying to appear “tough but fair”. They declared a 3-day national mourning, but the policies they implement have this as a clear goal: “make their life hell”.

SYRIZA, on the other hand, is, as always, having its feet on two boats. Tsipras protests against the inhumane migration policies of the ND government, but offers no alternative to them. Actually, SYRIZA implemented more or less the same policies. This is what he stated just before the recent May 21 elections:

“Border protection is something that goes without saying. And I must tell you that when we were in government the wall was there ⦏he refers to the Evros river wall, the land border with Turkey⦐, we did not tear it down, nor will we go against the recommendations of the people who know. There must be control at the border. But we will not fool citizens. Migration and refugees will not be solved by fences. Where they exist, let them exist, they are good.” (Our emphasis)

For a world without border violence

The discussion that needs to take place between all those shocked, saddened and enraged by the recent disaster is: what can we do to prevent this from happening again?

We say:

Demand an independent open investigation, with the participation of unions, antiracist and other social organisations, in full transparency, to reveal what really happened in Pylos.

Migration is primarily due to wars, hunger, poverty, and political violence. Noone risks their life for no reason. We need to put an end to imperialist and ethnic wars, to fight for the cancellation of the debt for third world countries. We need to stop the blood-sucking of wealth from the Global South to the big imperialist countries.

Police/military measures cannot stop migration, they only make it deadlier. Stop push-backs, bring down border walls, deplete the special coast guard units and Frontex. Close all refugee camps. Abolish the EU agreements with border countries.

Racism is fed by the isolation and the immiseration of migrants. Locals and immigrants should fight together for better living conditions for all. We need common unions and neighborhood organisations. 

Grant asylum to refugees and the right to move freely within the country, or provide travel documents to leave the country if they want to. Create humane reception centers that will receive the refugees and help them become integrated into local communities. Proportional distribution of refugees in the European Union (based on each state’s population and economy) in small, decent housing structures. 

Fight against Fortress Europe! For a united socialist Europe, on a voluntary and democratic basis. As long as the capitalist system exists, the rights of refugees and actually everyone will constantly be under threat.

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