The actions of the Greek coastguard led to the overcrowded fishing vessel sinking, according to four survivors of the migrant boat disaster off the coast of Greece.
On board when the boat capsized on June 14, there may have been up to 750 people, mostly from Pakistan, Syria, and Egypt. 104 people survived, and 82 bodies have been found, making it one of the worst recent humanitarian disasters in the Mediterranean.
We are not naming the four survivors out of respect for their privacy, but we have confirmed their identities with multiple sources. .
Some of the men who spoke on the phone with the BBC are still being held at the Malakasa refugee reception center, which is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Athens, the capital of Greece. However, other men have already left the facility.
The reception center is surrounded by barbed wire and is off-limits to the media.
A survivor from Egypt said, "We thought they [the Greek coastguard] would save us, but they sank the boat.".
He claimed that the Greek coastguard was towing the ship when it went down in one of the Mediterranean Sea's deepest areas, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the coast of Greece.
The Greek government has previously refuted this, asserting that when they attempted to attach a rope to the boat to board and assess the situation, those on board instead attempted to pull it free, claiming they wanted to continue their journey to Italy. .
A Syrian survivor, however, remarked: "They towed the boat from the side and moved quickly. This is consistent with the account of the Egyptian man, who claimed that the coast guard "forcibly pulled us, causing the trawler to capsize.".
Some of the survivors we spoke with claimed that the Greek government told them not to talk to the media about how the Greek coastguard attempted to "rescue the boat" and that if they did, they "shouldn't blame the Greek coastguard" if they did.
One claimed that he was under pressure from Greek officials to alter his story so that he would "earn some money" and have his application for refugee status expedited.
When we presented the survivors' accounts to the Greek authorities and requested a response, they said they were unable to do so because any information they may have is already part of the official investigation into the sinking.
They also cited their prior statements, according to which they did not tow the trawler and declined our repeated offers of assistance.
In order to save migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean, the German nonprofit Sea-Watch charters boats. However, its head of operations told us that towing an old vessel with hundreds of people on board in rough seas is guaranteed to fail and be a disaster. The company claimed that it does not yet have enough information to assess exactly what happened.
"Based on what we know from the photographs and the eyewitness accounts, it's not a safe way to rescue the people on the sinking boat. " .
Towing, according to Mr. Hahn, is generally a risky maneuver but is possible under certain conditions.
Two of the survivors claimed that Greek authorities had contacted them via interpreters and attorneys to provide testimony against the nine Egyptians accused of people trafficking. .
However, all four of the survivors claimed that the nine Egyptians were travelers who were seated next to them. According to them, the ship's crew was disguised and spent the majority of their time in the cabin.
When the coast guard arrived, "the crew jumped in the water and some of these nine Egyptians tried to sail the boat," one of them told us. He continued, "It appears to me they are not involved in people smuggling.".
Egyptians paid $4,500 (£3,500) each for the trip, according to relatives who fear that their loved ones were on board.
A call for "urgent and decisive action to prevent further deaths at sea" has been made by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), who have welcomed inquiries into what occurred.
"Search and rescue at sea is a legal and humanitarian imperative," it proclaimed, pleading with the European Union to create "safe regular pathways" in the Mediterranean.
According to UNHCR statistics, 80,000 people have traveled across the Mediterranean to enter EU countries so far this year, and 1,200 of them are believed to have perished or vanished while doing so.