Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Pylos Boat: Hundreds of Migrants Dead in another Greek Tragedy

The Pylos boat tragedy made headlines around the world, especially in Europe. There were protests in Greece in solidarity with the migrants including children who crossed the sea to end up dead in the seabed in some Greek tragedy.

In case you do not know, on Tuesday, June 13th a fishing boat carrying an estimated 750 refugees and migrants capsized off the coast of Pylos, Greece.

Pylos ship
The ship was filmed by Greek authorities hours before it was capsized 

At least 78 people died while 104 people were rescued. Hundreds including over 100 children and minors are still missing. It is considered the deadliest migrant sunken boat incident in recent years in the Mediterranean. “It is the most polluted and deadliest sea for real."

The Greek Hellenic coastguard has not been accused only of failing to rescue the passengers promptly but also of deliberately ignoring the pleas of the ship and its SOS many hours before it capsized according to journalists and activists. It won’t be the first.

The boat was reportedly carrying people from Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Palestine. According to the survivors, there were at least 200 Egyptians on its board.

On Thursday, sources told AFP that nine Egyptians were arrested in the Peloponnese port of Kalamata on suspicion of illegal trafficking of human beings. Kalamata is where survivors of the disaster are detained in some hangar. Kalamata for Egyptians is the land of the best black olives. Now, it is associated with something else for me. 

Among the nine Egyptians, the captain of that fishing ship turned into a migrants’ ship who survived. According to sources that spoke to the media the fishing ship allegedly came sailed empty from Port Said and headed to Libya where it loaded hundreds of migrants.

On Friday, in a very rare occurrence if I may say the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement mourning the victims

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry added that the Egyptian Embassy in Athens was following up with the Greek authorities around the clock to confirm the identity and number of Egyptians.

The Egyptian government reaffirmed its condemnation “in the strongest terms, of the continued exploitation by organized gangs of those who are looking for better lives and work opportunities, exposing them to the risk of death.”

The statement pointed to Egypt’s decisive measures over the past years to put in place laws deterring the crime of irregular migration and anyone involved in organizing or facilitating it.

The Egyptian administration has been taking pride that no illegal migrant boat came out of Egypt since 2016.

Earlier on Friday, the EU announced that its high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell was set to embark on a two-day visit to Cairo starting on Saturday. Borrell is going to meet Egyptian officials above them President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

I do not need to bet that the file on illegal migration from Egypt will be a top topic in Borrell’s talks in Cairo.

According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), Egyptian nationals were the second-largest nationality to cross the sea from the Central Mediterranean region between January and May 2023.

That statement was issued three days after the Pylos tragedy.

One would think that the Pylos boat tragedy would have made headlines in Egypt considering the number of Egyptians on its board and the fact that the Greek authorities arrested 9 Egyptians accusing them of running the boat.

Also, according to the Greek authorities, the boat left Egypt’s Port Said.

But it did not. The mainstream media did not cover the tragedy as it should. Even after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs obituary. There is no mourning or sadness of any kind. I know that there are some rural villages in complete mourning now !! 

Very few websites covered it, and they are the usual names like Mada Masr.

This photo of Egyptian migrant Mahmoud, who lives in Italy, standing outside a hangar at Kalamata Port in Greece, asking about ten Egyptians he knew to be among the passengers of the ill-fated boat speaks volumes. 

Mahmoud outside Kalamata's hangar by AFP

I have no doubt that those ten young men were encouraged to cross the sea after seeing how Mahmoud made it to Italy.

They were not alone. I am reading that the smugglers took from the Egyptian migrants about USD 3,000 each. The Egyptian migrants are from the countryside whose families paid all their savings for the sake of a better life in the Eurozone. It is the usual sad story.

The social media spoke about the matter but modestly. On Saturday, I found “The Sunken Boat” and “Greece” hashtags in Arabic appearing on Twitter’s trends in Egypt but it is not what the people really speak about it.

The Pylos boat is like an elephant in the room in Egypt I believe. It came right two weeks after the decision of the Libyan authorities in the East to deport thousands of Egyptian migrants back to Egypt.

Egyptian mainstream media did not provide proper coverage of the exodus of Egyptian migrants from Libya too.

While searching for more information about Pylos, the Greek city that is currently making headlines, I found that it played an ironic role in modern Egyptian history, just as it did in modern Greek history.

Here is a summary of that role from Wikipedia.

Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt recovered it for the Ottomans in 1825, but the defeat of the Turco-Egyptian fleet in the 1827 Battle of Navarino and the French military intervention of the 1828 Morea expedition forced Ibrahim to withdraw from the Peloponnese and confirmed Greek independence.”

Likely, the Egyptians who died on the shores of Pylos were not the first to die there, and they will not be the last as long as the economic crisis in Egypt continues to worsen.

Updated: Mahmoud, who appeared in that AFP photo accused the Greek coastguards of drowning the ship themselves on video. He is not alone. Other survivors say that too. FYI, it turned out that his brother was among the victims and he is demanding his body. 

1 comment:

  1. Very tragic. Thank you for reporting on it. Your article is very educating, and in good format, as well. I hope the world will seek more solutions to these issues, and be more open and caring towards each other.


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