In a shocking revelation, accounts of Pakistanis who survived the tragic migrant boat shipwreck off the Greece coast incriminate Greek coastguards for the incident, saying the ship — carrying hundreds of people — was "deliberately sunk" and no rescue was provided.
The video account of the victims that surfaced days after the incident exposed the inhuman attitude of Greece authorities in the hours leading to the tragedy.
"They have done this [on purpose]. They have sunk it themselves," one of the survivors said, while the other added that they had been still for five days and six nights before the ship sunk "in a minute".
"We did not sink for five days […] so why would we sink now?"
They recounted that the ship's engine had broken down, leaving them still for almost a week.
"We did not drown even though our engine had [completely] shut down. On the sixth night, around 2:30am [… ] I checked the time; it was 2:15am. Around 10 minutes later, this incident occurred," one of them said, adding, "It [the boat] sunk because of the one-maund-rope they threw into the boat."
They further alleged that they did not help despite the presence of two-speed boats, one cargo boat and one receiving ship at the location.
This statement endorsed an independent investigation reported by BBC that poked holes in the Greece authorities' account of the incident.
An analysis of the movement of other ships in the area suggests that the boat remained stationary for at least seven hours before drowning.
Although the Greek authorities did not respond to BBC's findings, they have insisted that the boat was on course to Italy and did not need rescuing.
EU's border force Frontex said it first spotted the ship at around 8GMT and informed Greek authorities.
Alarm Phone, an emergency hotline for migrants in trouble at sea, said they received a call at 12:17 GMT saying the boat was in distress.
Authorities in Europe still have no clear idea how many people were aboard the boat when it sank — estimates range from 400 to over 700 — but likely hundreds came from Pakistan, and many from Azad Jammu Kashmir.
On Sunday, Pakistan officials said 10 suspected human traffickers had been arrested, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif vowed "severe punishment" for those involved in the trade.
Pakistan is in economic freefall. A dire downturn — caused by decades of mismanagement and political instability — has drained dollar reserves, spurred runaway inflation and caused widespread factory closures.
The desperate situation is creating an incentive for Pakistanis to take perilous, illegal routes to Europe.
Prime Minister Sharif announced a national day of mourning for those who perished — local media say as many as 300 Pakistanis could have been aboard.
A report in a UK-based newspaper claimed the ship's crew forced Pakistani nationals to remain below the deck, where the chances of survival were less.
"The testimonies suggest women and children were effectively 'locked up' in the hold, ostensibly to be 'protected' by men on the overcrowded vessel," the Guardian report said.
The report mentioned that the Pakistanis were maltreated "when they appeared in search of freshwater or tried to escape" from the hold.
The Guardian report claimed that the situation on the vessel was so "bleak that even before it sank there had already been six deaths after it ran out of fresh water".
The publication, quoting a Moroccan-Italian activist, said the people onboard the vessel cried out for help.
"I can testify that these people were asking to be saved by any authority," she said.
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