By Dave Sewell
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State murder: 400 feared drowned after EU and NATO close route to Greece

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Issue 2499
Thousands of refugees and migrants have been living in tents and shelters around the port of Piraeus in Athens following the closure of Greeces northern borders
Thousands of refugees and migrants have been living in tents and shelters around the port of Piraeus in Athens following the closure of Greece’s northern borders (Pic: John Psaropoulos/IRIN)

As many as 400 people are feared to have drowned today, Monday, in the worst disaster of the refugee crisis this year.

Their boats were on the way from Egypt to Italy. Most of the passengers were fleeing East African states including war-torn Somalia and the brutal Eritrean dictatorship.

The Somali ambassador to Egypt reported a death toll of 400.

“2016, the Mediterranean is a mass grave,” Médecins Sans Frontières tweeted in response to the news.

Only 29 people were rescued from the wrecks, according to rescue workers quoted in the Somali media. A handwritten list, apparently of victims’ names, was uploaded to social media.

This massacre is a direct result of the European Union (EU) and Nato clampdown on refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece.

More than 7,000 people are now penned into detention camps on Greek islands, including many young children and pregnant women.

Nato boats, some sent from Britain, patrol the sea—along with border cops from all over the EU.

Khadija’s house was destroyed and her husband killed by a barrel bomb is Syria. From an EU jail on Samos she asked charity Doctors Without Borders, “What is going to happen next? Will they kill us here in Europe?”

Fellow Syrian Waleed added, “I’m doing my best, but is this a way to treat human beings? They are supposed to protect us, not put us in a big cage like animals.”

Politicians including David Cameron claimed stopping refugees risking their lives at sea would save lives. They lied.

As activists warned all along, this is only driving people onto more dangerous routes.


Last week the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) recorded that the number of refugees arriving in Greece had dropped by two thirds from 1,529 to 487.

But the number arriving in Italy has more than quadrupled—from 859 to 4,448. Another 6,000 people were rescued in the waters between Libya and Italy.

It is around 2,000 km from Egyptian ports to the Italian island of Lampedusa—compared to just 8km from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek island of Lesvos.

Politicians pushed on with their clampdown in full knowledge of the consequences.

It is a year to the day since 850 people, mostly Africans, drowned in one shipwreck trying to reach Italy. Commenting on the anniversary yesterday, the IOM’s Rome director warned, “There could be a shipwreck tomorrow.” He was right.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) is calling vigils in protest at the drownings. SUTR joint secretary Weyman Bennett from told Socialist Worker, “These lives have been lost not by accident, not by the weather, but by European governments’ wilful neglect of refugees and migrants. They are responsible for these deaths—and we have to do everything we can to save these people’s lives.”

Politicians knew what the consequences of their clampdown would be. They also knew the consequences of cutting back search and rescue operations last year.

An internal report of EU border force Frontex in 2014 said the withdrawal “would likely result in higher number of fatalities”, it was revealed on Monday.

The researchers who unearthed the report said, “EU agencies and policy makers knowingly created the conditions that led to massive loss of life.”

Mulugeta Asgedom is an Eritrean community activist in Glasgow. He told Socialist Worker, “In Eritrea there is no hope, no future, only fear and terror. People fleeing this situation then face many crimes on the way.

“But instead of siding with the victims the EU is siding with the perpetrators. It needs to provide a sanctuary to asylum seekers.”

Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) has called vigils in London and other cities on Thursday of this week.

Vigil at Downing Street, Thursday 21 April, 6pm. Called by Stand up to Racism
Trade Unionists for Calais summit, Sunday 24 April, 11am-5pm (Registration from 10am), Student Central, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY. £5/£2. Register at Called by Stand Up To Racism


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