Shipwrecked refugee is rescued after mile-long swim to shore

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The Independent Online

A survivor from the wrecked cargo ship Pati was rescued yesterday, more than 24 hours after the vessel went down off the Turkish coast with up to 50 refugees locked in her hold.

A survivor from the wrecked cargo ship Pati was rescued yesterday, more than 24 hours after the vessel went down off the Turkish coast with up to 50 refugees locked in her hold.

Abukalam Ajad broke free of the ship and swam a mile through 15ft waves in icy temperatures to a deserted bay near Kemer on the south coast of Turkey. He was spotted waving from the rocks by a Turkish naval helicopter, and rushed to hospital where he was reported to be exhausted, but in good condition.

His survival is testament to the determination of the tens of thousands of refugees who try to get into Europe each year. A Bangladeshi national, Mr Ajad had already travelled more than 3,000 miles from his native country to Turkey. He is believed to be one of about 73 refugees who were being smuggled to Greece, a favourite transit country, on board the Pati.

There were plenty of reminders yesterday that not all of the ship's passengers were as lucky. Two more bodies were recovered, adding to six found on Monday. Severed body parts were being washed up on beaches around the Turkish resort of Antalya.

The Pati broke in two when she ran aground on rocks in the early hours of Monday. According to one survivor, a Pakistani, 50 passengers were locked in the hold. Of the 83 people believed to have been on board - 73 refugees and 10 crew - eight are known to be dead and 42 are missing.

The Greek captain, Polizios Galanis, was among six crew-members who survived and were in police custody yesterday. A criminal investigation is under way.

Captain Galanis may be prosecuted for smuggling the refugees. Veli Ciftci, a local prosecutor, told the semi-official Anatolia News Agency: "These refugees have been abused, someone has tricked them."

It is unlikely that Captain Galanis alone arranged to carry the refugees. As more of the world's desperate try to find a way into "fortress Europe" people-smuggling has become a lucrative business. The chances are that there are plenty of people in the shadows, afraid that the investigation will uncover their involvement in the deal that led the refugees to the hold of the Pati.

Turkish officials say it is still unclear where and when the refugees boarded the ship, which was officially registered as empty when it left Antalya on its final voyage.

So far there has been no talk of prosecution in connection with the sinking, which has been blamed on a combination of the bad weather and mechanical problems. An SOS message was sent out before the ship ran aground, reporting mechanical failure. Rescuers could not reach her before she struck the rocks. Mr Ajad is likely to be the last survivor. The rescue operation was called off because of high seas for the second day running. Can Karaca, the coastguard heading the rescue operation, said: "Divers have found there is no air left in the holds of the ship. That means sea water has filled the area, leaving no chance of survival."

The divers said it was too dangerous to go into the sunken part of the ship.

Twenty-seven of the refugees, including Mr Ajad, have been rescued. They are being held in police custody, and have 10 days to apply for asylum in Turkey. If it is granted, they will have no right to enter Europe. If it is refused, they should, in theory, be deported - but Turkey often turns a blind eye to refugees from non-European countries. They tend to live a wretched life, only able to get illegal casual work.