On June 14, 2023, a major shipping accident occurred off the Greek coast: A fishing boat that had left Libya for Italy five days earlier capsized and sank in international waters southwest of the coast of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, near the town of Pylos. The exact number of passengers remains unknown, but according to reports, more than 700 people seeking protection were on board.
One hundred four people – all men –from Syria, Egypt and Pakistan, among other countries, were rescued after the accident, and 82 deceased people have been recovered so far. Most of those rescued were taken to the refugee camp “Malakasa” (approximately 45 km northeast of Athens) a few days after the accident. The recovered bodies were transferred to the forensic medical services in Athens and Piraeus for forensic examination.
With the support of the Hellenic Red Cross (HRC) Tracing Service, around half of the survivors were able to re-establish contact with their families immediately after the accident, e.g. by phone or via social media. Following additional efforts by the HRC, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum confirmed that phones and tablets had been provided to the rescued in the refugee camp “Malakasa” and SIM cards had been distributed to all survivors to contact their relatives.
Given the state’s obligation to clarify identities, the Greek authorities activated a special unit for identifying disaster victims (Disaster Victim Identification/DVI unit) with the Hellenic Police immediately after the disaster. This unit is entrusted with clarifying enquiries from affected relatives. A telephone hotline has been set up, providing interpreting services in English, Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu. An e-mail contact address to which affected persons can send enquiries to the DVI unit has also been published:
The DVI unit holds all the essential information known so far regarding the identification of the shipwreck victims (e.g. list of survivors or post-mortem data of the deceased for comparison with the ante-mortem data provided by the families). Since the relatives of the shipwreck victims are presumed to be mostly outside of Greece, the missing persons’ offices of the authorities in other countries were informed about how they can transmit information from searching families to the DVI unit in Greece to clarify the fate of the victims.
Searching for family members in Germany
The GRC Tracing Service advises searching family members in Germany who have not yet been in contact with the Greek authorities or the Greek DVI unit to contact their local police station to report a missing person, stating that they are missing a family member in connection with the shipwreck of June 14, 2023. As part of the missing person report, they will be asked to provide detailed information and a physical description of the missing family member. Finally, they should be prepared to have a DNA sample taken for comparison purposes as part of this process, as they are closely related to the person they are looking for.
Subsequently, the information collected will be forwarded to the Missing Persons Unit of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) via the competent Land Criminal Police Office, which will finally forward the case to the Greek DVI unit.
Where can I turn for help?
The GRC Tracing Service is there to help the relatives affected by the shipwreck: It supports them in determining the right course of action and establishing contact with the responsible police service. On request, members of the GRC Tracing Service can also accompany searching families personally if they wish to file a missing person’s report with the police.
If they do not wish to contact the police, the GRC Tracing Service also advises them on the possibility of filing a tracing request through the International Tracing Service Network of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.