Towed by a vessel of the Greek coastguard, a refugee boat with 27 people on board sank near the island of Farmakonisi on January 20th 2014. Three women and eight children died. Archive picture of a vessel of the Greek coastguard: PRO ASYL.

According to the Court’s reasoning that will be published soon, the deaths in the Farmakonisi case were caused due to the intervention of the Greek coastguard authorities as the boat carrying the refugees was towed by the coastguard vessel. A young Syrian refugee and the 16th survivor of the deadly boat accident was acquitted of any responsibility.

The Fel­o­ny Appeal Court of Dode­ca­ne­se in Rho­des deci­ded yes­ter­day that the young Syri­an initi­al­ly sen­ten­ced to 25 years impri­son­ment in the Farm­a­ko­ni­si case was not guil­ty of the deaths of the refu­gees as he initi­al­ly was char­ged of having been in com­mand of the boat sai­ling towards Greece.

Refugee discharged from accussal

The Court came to the con­clu­si­on that the deaths were cau­sed after the inter­ven­ti­on of the Greek coast­guard aut­ho­ri­ties while the boat car­ry­ing the refu­gees was towed by the coast­guard ves­sel. Con­se­quent­ly, no per­son on the boat could have pre­ven­ted the dead­ly out­co­me. The Court adapt­ed the sen­tence of the young Syri­an to ten years of impri­son­ment and accor­ding to the Code of Penal Pro­ce­du­re he will be released soon.

Court overrules first-instance judgement

The first judgment for the then 21-year-old refu­gee from Syria found him guil­ty being the cap­tain of the boat and sen­ten­ced him to 145 years and 3 months as well as to a fine of 570.500 euro. He has been impri­so­ned ever since.

He has repea­ted­ly rejec­ted the char­ge that he was stee­ring the migrant-car­ry­ing ves­sel, clai­ming to have been a refu­gee hims­elf but his cla­im has been rejec­ted from the Court.

The Farmakonisi Case

On 20th of Janu­ary 2014, eight child­ren and three women from Afgha­ni­stan lost their lives when their ves­sel sank near the Greek island of Farm­a­ko­ni­si. The six­teen sur­vi­vors cla­im they were impro­per­ly towed at gre­at speed by the Greek Coast Guard back towards Tur­key when their ves­sel cap­si­zed, lea­ding to death ele­ven peo­p­le during an ille­gal push-back operation.

The sur­vi­vors filed a com­plaint against the Greek aut­ho­ri­ties to the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights, citing vio­la­ti­ons of the Right to Life (Artic­le 2 ECHR), Free­dom from Tor­tu­re (Artic­le 3 ECHR) and the Right to an Effec­ti­ve Reme­dy (Artic­le 13 ECHR). The case is still pen­ding befo­re ECtHR (Safi and others v. Greece, 5418/15).

PRO ASYL provides support

PRO ASYL sup­port­ed this case sin­ce the begin­ning of the tra­gic inci­dent pro­vi­ding exclu­si­ve­ly the cost for both legal and huma­ni­ta­ri­an aid. Also, seve­ral actions were taken in coope­ra­ti­on with other Greek human rights orga­niza­ti­ons (Greek Coun­cil for Refu­gees, the Lawy­ers’ Group for the rights of Refu­gees and Immi­grants, the Greek Uni­on of Human Rights and the Net­work of Social Sup­port of Refu­gees and Immigrants).