On June 14, a fishing trawler carrying hundreds of desperate migrants capsized in the Mediterranean off the coast of Greece. Of the approximately 750 people crammed onto the boat, almost six hundred died, including a hundred children.
The few survivors recount hellish conditions on the journey. The Adriana set out from Libya, where smugglers forced migrants into dangerously overcrowded conditions. On the second day, the ship’s engine began to malfunction. On the third, food and clean water ran out, and six people died. When the boat finally capsized on the fifth day, the majority of survivors were those who had a spot on the upper deck. According to the New York Times, the people forced to remain below deck “stood no chance” of survival.
The Greek coast guard sent a helicopter and a small patrol boat to observe the Adriana and enlisted the help of private vessels to bring drinking water to the ship, but they did not undertake a rescue mission. They also rejected repeated offers for assistance from Frontex, the European Union border agency. Greek coast guard officials insist that because the ship was on a steady route to Italy and did not want or require a rescue, they didn’t need to intervene. But a subsequent investigation by the Washington Post concluded that these claims do not hold up to scrutiny: “Maritime rescue and legal experts said that based on information it had early in the day, the coast guard should have initiated a full-scale rescue operation.” The New York Times also determined that lives were lost because “the Greek government treated the situation like a law enforcement operation, not a rescue.” A report by the Guardian found that the patrol boat attempted to tow the Adriana—a dangerous maneuver with such an overcrowded boat—and that this may have caused it to capsize. The Greek coast guard denies that it attempted a tow.