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Pylos Shipwreck Survivors Still Waiting for Answers

One Year On, Little Progress towards Accountability

Hamza’s three childhood friends from Pakistan who were on the boat that sank off Pylos, Greece, on June 14, 2023. They have been missing ever since ©

On June 14, 2023, an overcrowded, unseaworthy boat capsized off the coast of Pylos, Greece. Only 104 of the estimated 750 passengers survived. A year later, despite many independent reports and investigations revealing the failings of Greek authorities, the nightmare for survivors continues.

I recently spoke to Hamza, a 25-year-old survivor from Pakistan who first shared his story with me a few weeks after the shipwreck. He told me he is still haunted by what happened: “I can’t forget … At night, when I sleep, I can only think of when I fell into the water and sank.”

A year on, Hamza’s world has stopped. He is still living in Greece’s Malakasa camp, where he and other survivors were taken after the shipwreck, and he is still waiting for a decision on his asylum application. He also awaits accountability. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others, documented numerous failures by the Greek authorities leading up to the shipwreck as well as credible allegations that the Hellenic Coast Guard tied a rope to the boat and pulled, causing it to capsize.

A Greek Naval Court investigation into the Hellenic Coast Guard’s actions is still at the preliminary stage. With the support of Greek legal organizations, Hamza and 52 other survivors filed a complaint to the court alleging that Greek authorities were responsible for the shipwreck. Meanwhile, in May, a criminal court acquitted nine survivors of charges of people smuggling and unlawful entry.

Three of Hamza’s childhood friends are among the hundreds of Pakistanis who went missing in the shipwreck last June. He carries the burden of their families’ grief and need for answers. Hamza said relatives call him every day hoping for news. “I can’t talk more to the families – sometimes you can’t help the family. They contact me all the time … I can’t change my number and let them down … [but] I can’t give these people hope.” Only 82 bodies were recovered after the shipwreck. At least 15 were identified as Pakistanis and repatriated there.

On this horrible anniversary, Hamza is again asking the Greek authorities for an effective and impartial accounting of what happened last June. It may be the only way to stop his nightmares. 

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