More than two months after the tragic Pylos shipwreck off the Greek coast, carrying approximately 750 migrants – amidst allegations against the Greek coast guard for its involvement in the incident – only 104 people survived. The search operation led to the recovery of 82 bodies until it was halted on July 7, 2023. Among the migrants of the boat, according to the testimonies of the families, were about 250 Egyptians, of whom only 43 survived. 14 bodies of Egyptian migrants have been identified. However, justice remains elusive, and reparation for the families of the victims has yet to be realized.
According to the testimonies of the families, the ill-fated boat was carrying between 200-250 Egyptian immigrants from different governorates, among its passengers. Despite this, the Egyptian response was delayed. The first official statement issued by Cairo three days after the incident, on June 17, was issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then followed by the statement of the Ministry of Immigration. Both statements expressed condolences and clarified the role of Egyptian authorities in combating migrant smuggling but lacked any information that could assist the families of the victims.
Then, on June 19, 2023, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the first clarification regarding the passengers and the procedures that the families of the victims must follow. They formed a specialized committee to monitor the aftermath of the shipwreck and receive requests from the families while communicating with them. This came after a campaign of pleas and appeals launched by the families of the missing and the victims. The committee requested the families to travel to Cairo only for DNA testing, and it had no declared or undisclosed role in terms of legal or financial support for the victims and their families. The scope of this committee has not been announced yet, which is peculiar and incomprehensible, especially after the issuance of Prime Ministerial Decree No. 369 of 2023 regarding the establishment and organization of the ‘Illegal Migration Protection and Combat Fund’ responsible for assisting victims among migrants and protecting witnesses in”’crimes” related to irregular migration.
As per Article 32 of the law, the fund is tasked with providing financial assistance and coordinating with relevant authorities to provide medical and legal aid, compensating smuggled migrants and witnesses, and coordinating with specialized entities to provide medical and psychological care, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and children.
Despite the formation of the committee by Decree No. 369 of 2023 on June 19, 2023, as well as the establishment of the “Fund for the Protection of Victims of Illegal Immigration,” no subsequent statements were issued after the incident or the results of the samples announced or providing reparation to the victims and their families, or ways to provide psychological or legal support or anything for which the fund and the committee are formed.
Then, Athens accused 9 Egyptian survivors from the shipwreck of “smuggling people illegally and causing the death of immigrants as a result of negligence.” Investigations with them are still ongoing, and reports were issued by several human rights organizations and media outlets stating that the Greek authorities pressured other survivors to testify against them in order to evade the Greek government’s responsibility for the incident. Although with this, the Egyptian government has not clarified its position on providing legal support to the Egyptian defendants or the surviving migrants.
In a previous statement, Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE) called on the Egyptian government to abide by the obligations imposed by Egyptian law to provide support to the survivors, families of the victims and the missing, and therefore we call on all concerned parties:
The Egyptian government:
- Providing legal and material support to the families of the Egyptian victims of the Pylos shipwreck, in accordance with duties stipulated in the Constitution and Law No. 82 of 2016, and expediting procedures for reparation for the victims and their families and providing them with assistance.
- Clarify the role of Egyptian authorities in providing support and assistance to migrants, their families, and survivors of the accident, as well as elucidate the responsibilities of the specialized committee and the fund in monitoring the aftermath of the accident and providing the necessary support and assistance for affected families.
- Collaborate with human rights organizations and international bodies to ensure justice is served and reparation is provided to victims.
- Provide guidance and assistance to affected families regarding procedures related to identifying bodies, autopsies, and repatriation procedures.
The Greek government:
- Conduct a transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances of the Pylos shipwreck and disclose its findings publicly.
- Support and assist survivors of the accident, and collaborate with humanitarian organizations to ensure the care and respect for their rights.
- Attest to allegations of negligence and the governmental pressure on survivors and witnesses, and work to achieve justice and accountability when violations are confirmed.
- Provide medical and psychological assistance to survivors and those affected by the accident.
The European Union and international institutions:
- Pressure the Greek government to ensure a fair and transparent investigation into the Pylos shipwreck and hold those responsible accountable.
- Encouraging the implementation of structural reforms to ensure the protection of the rights of people on the move and ensuring their safety during migration, working to enhance global awareness of irregular migration issues and the human rights of people on the move, and pressuring states to respect international obligations in this regard.
- Cooperate with civil society organizations to work with the two governments to guarantee the rights of victims and survivors.