Exclusive: Egyptian man who survived shipwreck claims he did not cause Greece boat tragedy

ATHENS, Greece – Ahmed Alkwrab believed his ordeal had ended last June after he survived the most deadly shipwreck ever recorded in Mediterranean Sea. He finally set foot on European land.

The Greek authorities interrogated the Egyptian housepainter after the capsized fishing trawler that was carrying hundreds of migrants. They then accused him and eight other people of smuggling, and for causing the accident.

He would have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

When they locked me up in a small room, I began to feel fear. What’s wrong? What’s happened? “Have I done anything?” He told Reuters.

They’re saying that we are smugglers. Traffickers? “No, no, and no. That’s not the way it works at all.”

International rights groups were outraged by their arrests, claiming that migrants were being made scapegoats to cover up coastguard mistakes and the evidence against them was weak.

Alkwrab, along with the other accused, spent 11 months in detention awaiting a chance for them to prove their innocence. Last month, when the opportunity arose, the judge dismissed the case in a matter of hours.

Alkwrab’s emotional account was shared exclusively with Reuters and is the first public statement made by any of the accused.

They accused him and his co-workers of being part the crew of the ship, distributing water and fixing things. He denies it.

“I didn’t do it. “I didn’t do it.”

The overcrowded Adriana carried up to 750 Pakistani migrants, Syrians and Egyptians before it capsized on the Greek coast on June 14. It was one of worst disasters during a decade long Mediterranean migrant crises. The incident raised concerns about how the EU treats migrants who risk their lives to live a better life in Europe.

Only 104 bodies and 82 survivors were discovered.

The cause of this shipwreck has been disputed. The survivors claim that the coastguard capsized the boat during an unsuccessful attempt to tow the vessel. The coastguard, however, denies that this is true and claims that it was the migrant’s movements aboard which caused the boat to capsize.

Not Quite Free

Alkwrab claimed that poverty forced him to leave Sadat City in Egypt.

The youngest child of his three was born with a lung disorder that required expensive treatments that two jobs could not pay for.

To pay for his journey, he borrowed 2954 Egyptian pounds (140,000 Egyptian pounds) from friends. He wanted to find work in Italy with his brother.

Alkwrab began to cry as he recalled his time in jail, and how he missed his children’s growing up. He also missed his son Omar saying his first words. He didn’t interact with prison guards. They were told by other inmates that they would never be released.

Short calls to his family kept him going. He was told to take care himself and God wouldn’t forget him.

Alkwrab: “The worst thing for me was Omar calling my ‘Dad,’ while I was in jail.”

“I was innocent on the day that I had the most joyous day in 11 months. “One day in eleven months,” he said.

Alkwrab has moved to Athens, where he is waiting for a response on his asylum application. He still doesn’t feel free.

Alkwrab stated, “I would like to be legalized in this country.” “To show everyone that we have a reason for being here, and to make a difference in our lives.”

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