A search operation is underway following a devastating shipwreck off the coast of Pylos in southern Greece, likely to be one of the deadliest tragedies in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years. The boat reportedly left the Libyan port of Tobruk carrying hundreds of people. The Greek authorities have reportedly rescued 104 people, while at least 79 bodies have been recovered.

Eftychia Georgiadi, IRC’s Head of Programmes, Greece, says: 

“It’s simply heartbreaking that dozens of people have died, and hundreds more are still missing, following a devastating shipwreck in the Mediterranean. Our thoughts are with the survivors and the families of those who lost their lives, many of whom will already have faced immense suffering on their journeys through Libya and the region in search of safety.

Nobody embarks on these treacherous journeys unless they feel they have no other option. Yet, tragically, this is too often the case. The EU's failure to adequately scale up existing and create more safe pathways effectively slams the door on people seeking protection - leaving many stranded in countries where they are unsafe, and putting them at risk of poverty, abuse and exploitation. 

This horrifying shipwreck needs to be a call to action. EU leaders must urgently expand safe routes so people are not forced onto these deadly journeys. They need to show a far greater degree of willingness to share responsibility with countries of first arrival like Greece and Italy than we saw in the recent New Pact negotiations. It’s time to finally forge a coherent European approach to asylum and migration that puts the protection of its people at its heart. If they fail to do so, many in desperate need of protection will continue to perish in the Mediterranean.”

The IRC began operating in Greece in 2015, when Europe was experiencing a peak in new arrivals. What started as an emergency response on the island of Lesvos quickly expanded to Thessaloniki and then to camps on the mainland. Currently, the IRC operates in Lesvos and Athens, providing livelihoods, child protection, women’s protection and empowerment, mental health, and legal protection programming for asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and vulnerable host community members.