Voices from the depths: Surviving the Adriana shipwreck and the forgotten grief

“Dear Madam, my name is “Alex”. I am from Syria and one of the survivors of the Adriana shipwreck”
The message came into my WhatsApp one evening, while watching a program on TV.

It had been about a month since that horrific tragedy, causing hundreds of drownings in the international waters west of the Greek coast. The vessel, Adriana, was carrying hundreds of desperate souls when it capsized near Pylos, Greece, turning their hopes of freedom and protection into a nightmare.

Soon after, another message appeared on my WhatsApp from another survivor. Both of these individuals were living in refugee camps in Greece. Their situations were unbearable. They were suffering with deep trauma, and fear for what would come next, and with no help in sight. One of them had even lost a beloved family member in the tragedy. Despite their suffering, we stayed in touch. 

Risking a life inprisonment

The tragedy was very soon “old news”, as another marine tragedy caught the media`s attention only a few days after the sinking of Adriana. A submarine, carrying 5 persons, including them a British billionaire, was missing after an expedition to dive down to the wreck of Titanic. The search for the submarine and the five persons onboard were massive, including divers from the American coastguard. 

Who were diving for the passengers on Adriana? Who were announcing the drowned children`s names in the media? 

104 people survived the Adriana tragedy. 9 of the survivors, all of them Egyptian men, were accused of people smuggling and for having caused the ship wreck. They were facing a life imprisonment, despite the fact that the accusations were contradicted by other survivors. In May, the court in Kalamata dropped the charges against the men, concluding that the incident occurred in international waters and therefore was not within the jurisdiction of the Greek court.

Final resting place; The Calypso Deep

On June 14th it is one year since Adriana sank. Over 600 lives, many of them innocent children, were lost. They found their final resting place at the Calypso Deep, the deepest point in the Mediterranean, at 5000 meters depth. The overcrowded vessel, which left from Libya 6 days earlier was heading towards Italy. Testimonies from survivors say that after 6 days without food and water situation on the boat was getting critical and that people drank sea water to survive. They further say that two men had already passed away before the capsize on the night between 13th and 14th of June.    

The last years the Mediterranean has witnessed an alarming number of refugee drownings. Nearly 30,000 people have lost their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean since 2014. 

The Human Rights – our common responsibility

Protecting the lives and dignity of refugees crossing the Mediterranean should require urgent action. Governments, NGOs, and civil society must work together to ensure that the Mediterranean is a route to safety, not a death trap as we have seen in a steadily increasing way the past years. 

The international community has a moral and legal obligation to protect those fleeing wars and conflicts. The 1951 Refugee Convention clearly states the protection of refugees, including ensuring safe routes to asylum. European nations, must follow their commitments by providing safe and legal passage, enhancing search and rescue operations, and ensuring humane treatment and conditions upon arrival.

We fear there will be many more “Adriana” tragedies in the future, unless urgent actions are taken. 

It is the responsibility of all of us to advocate for SAFE PASSAGE for those in desperate need for protection, safeguarding the values of compassion and human rights.

I still communicate with “Alex”, who has managed to reach another European country. The living conditions are better he says and he receives professional treatment for his traumas. However, their grief is overwhelming and his loss immeasurable. As he wrote to me yesterday; “I go to a psychiatrist. I suffer from shock, and at night while sleeping I clench my teeth. I lost one of my molars because of this problem as well. I always hear the voice of the girl who was drowning close to me. She is screaming and I cannot save her»