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Pushbacks Continues Unhindered in Greece Despite Warnings from Brussels

On May 19, only four days after the shocking video was published in The New York Times showing Greek authorities pushing back 12 people from Lesvos, 96 people was lefts drifting in 4 life rafts in the middle of the sea. No journalist or EU politician has mentioned them with a single word, no article, no request for investigation, it’s as if their rights have no value.

On Monday may 22, a sailboat carrying 96 people was in distress south west of Methoni, Pelopponese, Greece. Wetter was rough, in high waves and without a working engine they feared for their lives, and contaminated Aegean Boat Report for assistance.

We immediately informed the Greek coast guard, and learned that they already had received a distress call regarding this sailboat, and that a rescue operation had been launched.

People onboard the sailboat told us that they had spoken directly to the Greek coast guard, but no rescue boat had arrived. They feared that the Greek coast guard wouldn’t rescue them, so they contacted several organizations to try to get help, amongst them Aegean Boat Report and Alarmphone.

We lost contact with the group on the sailboat around midnight, Greek coast guard refused to give any further information, and we feared that they had no intention to rescue the passengers and take them to a port of safety, as they are required to do under international maritime law.

The following day Greek coast guard suddenly was keen on providing information, they told us that they had launched a rescue operation but not found any signs of the boat nor the people onboard, and that the boat most likely had traveled towards Italy.

We found this hard to believe since the people onboard had no prior experience in sailing a boat, and the engine on the boat had run out of fuel, so how could they have moved away from the are by themselves, especially as far as Italy. From previous experience we had a pretty good idea about what had happened, and now we only had to wait to confirm our suspicion.

Tuesday afternoon we were informed that the Turkish coast guard had picked up four life rafts in two different locations, a total of 96 people, all claiming to be from the same sailboat that had been in distress close to the greek mainland.

50 people was found drifting in two Greek manufacturer life rafts from Lalizas at 13.25 outside Datça, close to the Greek island of Simi.

Three hours later two other life rafts carrying 46 people was found drifting outside Dalaman, close to the greek island of Rhodes, these life rafts was also from the Greek manufacturer Lalizas from Piraeus.

People rescued by the Turkish coast guard told that they had finally been rescued by the Greek coast guard, everyone was so relieved, they were finally safe, or so they thought.

Greek coast guard didn’t waist any time, on the same day as the shocking report in The New York Times was published, they once again forced vulnerable people into life rafts and left them helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea. One might think that they would be a bit more careful after a shocking revelation in the international press, but in Greece it’s business as usual.

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis once again lied about his knowledge of the Greek pushback strategy, this time in an interview on CNN, claiming he did not approve of such actions. It’s actually not only hard, but impossible to believe that he don’t know what his own coast guard is doing, and has been doing for years, resources put in to this is enormous.

The rescued people was taken on a big coast guard vessel, transported over 450 miles before they were forced into these life rafts, it’s hard to believe that this was done without authorization from above.

This isn’t the first time people have magically disappeared from one area and suddenly reappeared very close to the Turkish mainland, hundreds of miles away from their original locationhun, not in boats but in life rafts without any engines, nobody ask anyone questions, especially not the EU Commission.

The pushback case published in The New York Times seems to have come as a shock for many, especially some EU politicians. Ylva Johansson went out on Twitter acting all shocked, and has requested Greek authorities to investigate this single case, not all the other 1.200 life raft cases but only this one, as if she haven’t been aware and fully informed on how border management has been carried out by Greek authorities.

So what made that case so special that she has to make a public announcement, telling everyone that this time, for these 12 people, she will actually make an effort and try to do her job, for once. What about the other 20.000 people who have been found drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea for the last 3 years? She has decided, all by herself, that for these 12, 0.02% of all found drifting in life rafts the last 3 years, she will request an independent investigation, If that’s not a total neglect of her duties as a Commissioner and as a human being I don’t know what is.

For the last three years 20.000 people, men, women and children, have been kidnapped, beaten, robbed, sexually abused, raped, tortured and in some cases killed by Greek authorities. They have been forced back to sea and dropped in 1.200 life rafts, and nobody has bothered to initiate any sort of investigation.

The EU Commission seems to have been particularly uninterested in doing anything, perhaps because they are knowingly financing violations of international laws and human rights in Greece.

So far, after over three years, overwhelming amounts of evidence of human rights violations performed by Greek authorities, no infringement procedures have been launched against Greece.

What started as a rescue operation outside Samos, ended up as a pushback

Just after midnight on Tuesday we reported about a boat in distress inside Greek waters east of Samos, Greek coast guard finally rescued the boat and towed it toward Samos, but her all trace of the people onboard and the boat ends, because they never arrived on Samos.

The boat we reported on had at the time an unknown number of passengers, and was in distress in the sea area between Samos, Greece and Kusadasi, Turkey.

We later was informed that there were approximately 15 people onboard, Palestinians, many of them small children. This number was as we now now not correct, total number was 21 people.

When the group in distress contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, we were told that the boat was taking in water, and that some people was already in the sea. From a video received we can actually see a person swimming in the sea in the dark, for what reason is difficult to say. From the short video we can hear several small children crying, and someone saying “people in the water please call someone”.

Both Greek and Turkish rescue services was informed, but since this was inside Greek territory waters, Turkish coast guard informed us that they couldn’t go into the area, but had a vessel on standby close to the location monitoring the situation.

Greek coast guard refused to provide any information, what their actions would be, if any, was unknown. We could only hope that they would provide all and any necessary assistance for people in distress in their waters, according to international law.

From the people onboard we were informed that the Greek coast guard was close by but refused to initiate rescue, despite the fact that there were reports of people in the sea.

Later, Turkish coast guard informed us that at 04.00 the Greek coast guard finally rescued the boat in distress and started towing it towards Samos, at the same time we lost contact with the people on the boat, all phones went offline.

Yes we assumed that the rescued people would be taken to safety on Samos, and eventually be taken to a camp, that they were finally safe, unfortunately we were gravely mistaken.

Greek officials refused to comment on the rescue operation outside Samos, and acted as if they even didn’t know about it at all. The following day now new arrivals was registered on Samos, no organization had heard of any new arrivals, it was as if the rescue operation never took place, as if these people didn’t exist.

So what really happened in the cover of darkness in the sea area outside Samos, and why were Greek officials so reluctant to comment, or even admit that a rescue operation took place. Well the answer is quite simple, Greek coast guard had no intention of taking the rescued people to land on Samos, they followed the orders from the Greek government to stop people, by any means possible, to get the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, they pushed them back.

At 13.25 Tuesday may 16, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 21 people from a boat drifting outside Cesme, Turkey, 20 Palestinians and 1 Syrian.

When comparing pictures and videos taken onboard the boat in the early hours of Tuesday outside Samos, with pictures and videos provided by the Turkish coast guard from the time of rescue outside Cesme, there is absolutely no doubt, it’s the same group.

So how did the boat, that was without a doubt inside Greek territory waters east of Samos at 04.00, end up outside Cesme, over 90km away, 9 hours later at 13.25.

The answer is also quite simple, they were towed there by the Greek coast guard, and left helplessly drifting, they were illegally pushed back by the Greek authorities.

The Greek authorities explanation will most likely be that they had no knowledge of this boat, and that the boat most likely drifted from Samos to Cesme outside Chios, and nobody would ask any further questions, case closed.

But since I’m not Greek, and I don’t have a perception that Greek authorities tells the truth all the time, quite the opposite I would say, I took the opportunity to look into the matter. It actually didn’t take long to realize that the boat couldn’t have drifted from Samos to Chios this day, it basically would have been impossible.

To have achieved this, the rubber boat carrying 21 people, without an engine, would have had to defy the forces of nature, drifting toward the wind, waves and current in the area at the time, anyone understands that this is just not possible, so there must be a more plausible explanation, and there is.

The Greek coast guard vessel, on direct orders from Greek authorities, towed a boat carrying 21 people, many of them small children, from Samos towards Chios, and left them helplessly drifting outside Cesme.

And not only that, before they started towing them, they took all phones from them, to make sure that this ordeal wasn’t captured on video. It would have been bad PR just before the election if something that cruel and definitely illegal had been published. When taking all their phones away, they also took from them the possibility to call for help, they just left them drifting in the sea without any regards to their safety, all in the name of Greek border protection.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to seek asylum, the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits collective expulsions, the Geneva Convention ensures that no person should be criminalized for crossing a border irregularly with the aim of seeking asylum, and international maritime conventions require the search and rescue of those at risk at sea.

On May 16 outside Samos all the above was broken, 21 people lost all rights of being human being’s by the hand of Greek authorities, they decided that these people had no rights, no value. And what are the guardians of the rule of law in Europe doing to stop this, the European Parliament, absolute nothing, or even worse, they are supporting this cruel and inhumane practice, funding the Greek authorities campaign against vulnerable people on the move.

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is the most visible part of this support, supporting Greek authorities violate international laws and human rights in the Aegean Sea. In this video, that was taken outside Lesvos Saturday 22 April 2023, involving a boat carrying 17 Afghans and a vessel from Portuguese Frontex ID number UAM 651 stationed on Lesvos. Frontex stoped the boat, and handed them over to the Greek coast guard, who then forced the boat back to Turkish waters.

The boat was later this day picked up by Turkish coast guard and taken back to Turkey.

Portuguese Frontex didn’t file a report on this incident, as they are required to do, why they didn’t report this incident we can only speculate, but that Frontex still is deeply involved in Pushbacks, and are doing everything they can to cover it up, I have no doubt.

Since March 2020 Greek authorities, supported by Frontex, have violated the rights of almost 60.000 men, women and children in the Aegean Sea, in over 2.200 registered pushback cases. It’s time to stop this madness, it’s time to restore human dignity and the rule of law in Greece.

59 People Pushed Back From Crete

On Saturday March 25, we published about a sailboat south of Crete in distress, Greek coast guard refused to comment on the incident, now we know why.

Earlier the same day, Alarm Phone published about the same sailboat in distress, together with a video showing that the Greek coast guard was on location.

According to the people onboard a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard towed the sailboat towards the southern part of Crete, but did not take the boat to land. The sailboat was left at sea east of the village of Kaloi Limenes, while a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard was observing from a distance.

From videos taken onboard the sailboat we can clearly see the towing vessel, a Lambro Halmatic 60 lifeboat, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard stationed on Crete, again no question about the fact that the Greek coast guard was aware of the situation and present on location.

Non of the passengers onboard the sailboat was taken to safety on land, nor had they received food, water or medical attention. Why the coast guard didn’t taken them to port was unknown, people onboard was worried that they would be pushed back to Turkey.

JRCC Piraeus refused to confirm that there were any operation ongoing in the area, but it seemed local press had gotten information that an operation was ongoing, and that a sailboat carrying refugees was involved, even taking picktures of it from land.

Since the sailboat wasn’t taken directly to port, and people were left out in the sea until nightfall guarded by several vessels from the Greek coast guard, we realized that another pushback was imminent.

We feared that the people onboard was about to become victims of yet another pushback. The last we heard was that they could see lights from several larger vessels approaching in the dark, most likely coast guard vessels but impossible to tell in the dark.

We tried to follow the case through the night, but contact on the phones used was soon lost, we didn’t hear from them again.

There was no doubt that the Greek authorities was on location, and was aware of the people in distress in Greek waters. They are obligated by international maritime law, refugee law and human rights law, to bring the people in distress to the nearest port of safety, from previous similar cases this seems to be of no concern to the Greek authorities.

The following day the sailboat was nowhere to be seen, and the people onboard had evaporated into thin air, so what really happened? Greek authorities will say, if asked, that they sent vessels to the area but did not locate anyone, despite the fact that we have videos of them in close proximity of the sailboat in brought daylight. These constant lies seems to bother nobody, when officials lies about this, despite the overwhelming evidence provided to the contrary, what else are they lying about, and on whose orders?

Sunday night at 22.20 Turkish coast guard found 3 life rafts drifting outside Datça, Turkey, onboard 59 people, men, women and small children, they told they had been left helplessly drifting by the Greek coast guard.

Onboard the 3 life rafts there were 19 people from Afghanistan, 18 from Iraq, 12 from Palestine, 9 from Iran and 1 from Syria.

So far Turkish coast guard has only released one picture and one video from the incident outside Datça, but from this we have no problem identifying several people from the sailboat outside Crete.

TCG Video resuing 59 people outside Datcha

Anyone looking at the pictures and videos taken onboard the sailboat, can easily see that this is the same group that one day later was found drifting outside Datça in 3 life rafts, it’s actually not rocket science, it’s clear as day.

After towing the sailboat towards land on Crete, the Greek authorities transferred 59 people onto a Greek coast guard vessel, most likely telling them that they would take them to land, this would have been a lie, but would make the transfer so much smoother. Then they transported them away from Crete towards Turkish waters, 362km, before they forced them into life rafts and abandoned them helplessly drifting in the middle of the sea.

Greek authorities are trying to silence Aegean Boat Report, threatening the organization from publishing these cases by judicial harassment. Let me assure you that this is not working, we will continue exposing these criminals as long as it’s necessary, protecting human rights is not a crime, we will not be silenced.

The case will be updated when we receive more information and footage.

Boat In Distress Called 112, After Arriving On Land Greek Authorities Pushed Them Back

On February 9, at 21.42(EET), Aegean Boat Report was contacted by a person claiming to be in distress at sea in a rubber boat with a malfunctioning engine, drifting outside the Greek island of Lesvos in bad weather conditions together with 44 other people.

At first this person was, due to bad cell phone reception in the area, not able to send out a proper location that could be verified. In such cases we try to log as much information as possible regarding the situation onboard, so that we when receiving verified location data can inform local authorities immediately to try to prevent loss of life.

At 22.07 we finally received a location 2 km east of Palios, Lesvos north east, and immediately tried to reach the port authority in Mytilíni, but for some unexplained reason there was no reply, the phone was ringing for 1 minute before it was disconnected. We tried different numbers, all with the same results, ringing for one minute afterwards disconnected.

We was in constant contact with people onboard, while at the same time trying to reach the authorities on Lesvos. We also informed local assets on the island, so that organizations could be informed on the ongoing emergency situation. We also informed the people in distress to try to reach the international emergency number 112 and the Greek coast guard on 108, as far as we know they managed to reach 112 but was after giving location data told that they could not help them.

We finally established contact with the port police in Mólivos, but at first, even do we thoroughly explained the emergency situation, they were not willing to take the information we had. After some persuasion they finally agreed to write down the necessary information and inform port police in Mytilini. While talking to the port police officer on duty this night, he informed us that they already had received a call from someone in this area, and that vessels was sent to a location not far from the location we provided.

The boat in distress contained to drift south west, parallel to land, only 4-500 meters from land, but due to heavy winds people onboard was not able to maneuver the boat without a working engine. We received a video showing people in a boat, some wearing life jackets, and they clearly asked for help and that they feared that they would drown.

Contact with the group was lost several times over the next hour, but since the person contacting us had activated and sent a live location on WhatsApp, whenever they came online we could follow their movements, and with this information predict due to wind direction where they most likely would hit land.

At 23.14 the group contacted us by sending location and a voice message, confirming that they had managed to reach land, all safe but that they needed assistance from local organizations. A few minutes later the phone went offline, and never came online again.

The group sent out location data over WhatsApp that confirmed that they were on Lesvos, and that they finally had made it safely to land on a small beach north of Ag. Stefanos, Lesvos north east. The entire group, 45 people, men, women and children suddenly magically disappeared, and was according to port authorities on Lesvos never located.

Two hours after the group had landed on the shore, locals and local organizations arrived on location, there were no people to be found, but there were definite proof that people had just arrived and was hastily removed. A boat was found on the beach and bags, clothes, ID documents and other personal belongings was scattered all over the place.

There are usually belongings left behind whenever people arrive, especially wet clothes, life jackets, garbage from food and water bottles. In this location it seemed everything was left behind, very unusual and unlikely that people would leave things they would need in this extent. Later in daylight locals found a total of 22 bags, huge amounts of dry clothes and new shoes, ID documents, credit cards, fresh food, makeup etc. someone was in a hurry to remove this group, no question about it, they knew that organization was on their way, so they removed the people but didn’t have the time to clean up and remove the evidence of their presence.

No new arrivals was registered on Lesvos this day, nor the following days, and port authorities on Lesvos claims that they found no people on land or sea this night.

Another mystery in a long string of mysteries on the Greek island, where people magically disappears on a daily basis, just evaporates into the air, and later are found drifting in Greek manufactured life rafts in the Aegean Sea. Greek authorities have so far categorically detained any involvement. So far over 1100 life rafts have been found drifting in the Aegean Sea, carrying almost 19.000 people, all manufactured by the Greek company Lalizas from Pireus, and who has a contract providing rescue equipment to the Greek coast guard. A short investigation into the companies deliveries will most likely show that they have delivered far more life rafts to the Greek coast guard than they would ever need to equip their vessels, but who cares, it’s business as usual, these rings will never be investigated.

On February 10, at 07.25, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 45 people drifting outside Dikili, Turkey, both life rafts was manufactured by the Greek company Lalizas from Pireus.

From pictures, videos from and ID documents found on Lesvos, we have been able to confirm that they were the same people who the following morning was found drifting in the life rafts outside Dikili. There is no doubt about who is responsible, not in this case, nor thousands of similar cases over the last three years, all done in the name of border management and protection of our precious “ fortress Europe”.

Europeans are always eager to point fingers towards anyone outside Europe not following the rule of law, violating human rights, treating people badly, but in regards to our own actions, we seems not only blind, but also deaf, dumb and stupid.

European politicians is unable, or rather unwilling, to do anything to stop these crimes against humanity committed by European authorities on European soil, it’s as if human rights is only for “our people”, anyone else is of less importance and value, that they are killed on our borders is of no concern, all in the name of border management.

European values was ones something we could be proud of, something others could be inspired by, look up to. Today the guardians of these values, European politicians and the European Parliament, have failed miserably, what we once was so proud of has been ruined, it will forever be a stain, a dark chapter, of our history.

Pushed Back Under Extreme Weather Conditions

The tragic shipwreck on Lesvos on the morning of Tuesday February 7 claimed three lives, two women and one man.

A boat, reported to be carrying 41 people, ran into cliffs on their way in towards shore on Lesvos, 39 people was eventually rescued and 3 people died.

According to survivors, the smugglers told them that the boat would only have 10 passengers, when the boat left Turkey in bad weather conditions, there were 41 passengers onboard, none of them used life jackets.

This boat should under no circumstances have left Turkish shores, not even in good weather conditions. These boats are death traps, overloaded rubber boats, poorly made, that the smugglers have bought cheap from China, to maximize their profit, without any concern for the safety of the people who are placed in these boats.

These boats are of such poor quality that it must be understood that when at sea, people onboard these dangerous boats are already in distress, and needs to be rescued even do they haven’t asked to be rescued.

According to The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Rescue of people in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality or status, is an unconditional obligation for all ships in vicinity and coastal state authorities.

In this aspect both Turkish and Greek coast guard are obligated to rescue people in these boats, and transport them to the nearest port of safety. Under no circumstances should people in these boats face further endangerment by the actions taken by the coast guard based on political motives.

In the Aegean Sea these people have over several years been used as political pawns between Turkey and Greece, as a result people are drowning at the border, nobody is held accountable for this power game, and The European Parliament is avoiding the issue at all cost, looking the other way as if nothing is going on.

After the shipwreck on Lesvos we could read statements in the Greek press and on social media, from Greek politicians, especially the minister of migration and asylum, Notis Mitarachi, that this was Turkish fault, that they should have stoped these dangerous boats from starting out from Turkish shores.

The portraits of Greece as the hero saving thousands of lives at sea, and Turkey as the villain killing people is not unfamiliar, this is what the greek authorities want the public to read, downplaying their role and responsibility, covering up what is really going on.

Anyone who would take the time to talk to refugees, both in Turkey and Greece, will quickly learn that what Greek authorities want you to believe, is as far from the truth as it could possibly be, and that refugees are put in further danger by the actions taken by Greek authorities to prevent people from applying for asylum in Greece.

While the rescue operation on Lesvos was ongoing on February 7, another boat carrying 50 people was heading toward Lesvos south. Wetter conditions in the area was as we know not good, high waves and wind up to 7 Beaufort.

The boat was stoped by a vessel from the Greek coast guard, petrol hose on the boat was cut and they were left drifting in bad weather conditions in the middle of the sea. Non of the passengers was wearing life jackets, if they had ended up in the sea this would have been the second disaster this day.

People onboard contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they were scared of drowning, begging to be rescued. Turkish coast guard was alerted but due to difficult weather conditions it took time to locate the drifting rubble boat.

The rubble boat drifter for six hours in the sea area between Lesvos south and Turkey, when the Turkish coast guard finally found them they had drifted 14 nautical miles(26km) in heavy winds and waves.

At 16.25 Turkish coast guard found and rescued 50 people from a rubber boat drifting outside Foça, Turkey, 39 people from Kongo, 5 from Somalia, 4 from Yemen and 2 from Angola.

50 human beings was set adrift by the Greek coast guard in bad weather conditions in the middle of the sea. At the same time a rescue operation was ongoing only a few miles away, to rescue people from a shipwreck after a boat had hit the rocks on Lesvos, three people drowned.

Pushbacks in the Aegean Sea is a daily occurrence, over the last three years 54.000 people, men, women and children, have been pushed back by Greek authorities in over 2.000 cases. People are left helplessly drifting at sea in unseaworthy boats and life raft, their lives put at risk by the Greek coast guard.

Greek authorities are still denying that they perform pushbacks, evidence that say otherwise is overwhelming. These violations of international laws and human rights have over many years been documented and proven by journalists, researchers, EU institutions and organizations, even EUs own Anti-Fraud Office(OLAF) investigated Frontex involvement in these pushbacks in Greece, their conclusions was clear as day, but still Greece denies any involvement.

The latest revelation was a confidential report by Jonas Grimheden, the top rights officer at Europe’s border agency, to the management board of Frontex, saying that Frontex should stop working with Greece because border guards there were mistreating asylum seekers.

From an article recently published in The New York Times, we could read, “The human rights chief of the European Union border agency said last year that it should stop operating in Greece because of serial abuses by Greek border guards, including violently pushing asylum seekers back to Turkey and separating migrant children from their parents”.

The recommendation to suspend Frontex operations in Greece came from Frontex own top human rights officer, and was based on internal reports in the situation in Greece from frontex own human rights officers on the ground. Instead of following the recommendation, and take legal action against Greece, EU decided to set up a “working group” to make further enquirers, avoiding taking any responsibility. Frontex management board replied to the The Times that “we don’t see a reason to pull out from one of the most challenging border areas of the whole E.U”, human rights violations and breach of the rule of law seems to be of little concern for the European Parliament, no infringement procedures have been launched against Greece, and is not very likely to happen anytime soon.

“The officer wrote that he had gathered continued “credible reports” of the Greek authorities systematically expelling migrants at both sea and land borders.”

If reports from EUs own agencies isn’t enough, what is? What will it take for EU to follow their own laws, and if they are not willing to do so, why should anyone else?

36 Life Rafts In January

Over the last three years 54.000 people have been pushed back in the Aegean Sea in over 2.000 cases by Greek authorities, despite the mounting evidence against them, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, continue to deny Greek involvement in these atrocities.

Evidence is recorded by UN bodies, NGOs and investigative journalists. However, Mitsotakis refuted the ever mounting evidence of systematic pushbacks, saying Greece fully respects fundamental rights and doubling down on often repeated claims that such allegations are orchestrated by Turkey.

UN bodies and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back refugees, saying it violates human rights and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable people, including women and children.

Pushbacks are contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality, or membership in a social or political group.

A concerning trend in Greece of criminalisation of civil society organizations, who continue to expose Greek authorities, and the use of smear campaigns to restrict migrant rights defenders from operating.

So far almost 1.100 life rafts has been picked up by Turkish coast guard in the Aegean Sea, carrying 18.500 men, women and children, who have been illegally removed from Greek islands by authorities.

In January 2023 Aegean Boat Report have registered 66 illegal pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, performed by the Hellenic coast guard, 1.881 people, children, women and men, have been denied their right to seek asylum, their human rights have been violated by the Greek government.

25 of these pushback cases was performed by using rescue equipment, where 583 people, children, women and men was placed in a total of 36 life rafts, and left helplessly drifting at sea.

We have put together a video showing the 36 life rafts that was found drifting in the Aegean Sea in January, carrying almost 600 people.

How this have been allowed to continue for all these years, still ongoing every single day, supported by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX, funded by the European Commission, is reprehensible, these are the “European values” we are trying to protect.

European politicians have for far to long been looking the other way, while these crimes against humanity have been performed in our name, at our borders. They are even to this day, still debating “if” this is actually taking place, and if so, who is responsible.

The “if” and “who” has already been documented and proven without a doubt, the evidence is overwhelming, now it’s time to put the people responsible on trial for crimes against humanity, and restore our good name and reputation, our values.

It’s time to take out the trash

For three years, the Greek government has, in place of a refugee policy, deliberately broken international law, carrying out acts of violence, torture, and sometimes murder against men, women and children who have done nothing wrong.

It’s time for this outrage to end. Whether the trash is the despicable policy and activity of the Greek Nea Dimokratia government, or the government itself, it’s time we took it out, and disposed of it. That’s what we do with trash..

Over the last three years, thousands of people have contact Aegean Boat Report for assistance, either from the Greek islands after arriving,

or in distress at sea.

In recent months we have seen a decrease of people making contact after arriving on the Greek islands. This is happening at a time when the number of people trying to cross, and the number of pushbacks, is rapidly increasing, which gives real cause for concern.

Greek Aegean Islands

If more people were instead making direct contact with local organisations for assistance when they arrive, this would make the reduced number of calls to us an improvement, and hopefully would have resulted in fewer people being violently removed from the islands. This is unfortunately not the case.

When I’m looking at statistics on the number of people being registered as new arrivals compared to people being pushed back in life rafts, I’m concerned that most of us are not seeing the full picture.

Arrivals on the Greek islands have increased throughout 2022, so from that we can assume that more people have made contact with someone after arriving to try to get assistance. Aegean Boat Report have had a steady increase in people asking for assistance last year, apart from in December: the last month of 2022 was unusually quiet compared to previous months.

Only 18 per cent of people who started their trip towards the Greek Aegean islands in 2022 managed to arrive and were given the opportunity to apply for asylum – their legal right.

Arrivals Greek Aegean Islands 2022

This means 82 per cent ended up back in Turkey, due to pushbacks (41 per cent), engine problems, or being stopped by the Turkish coast guard (TCG)(41 per cent).

Turkish Coast Guard (TCG) – Greek Coast Guard (HCG)

What we don’t see is the high number of people who reach the Greek islands, only to be arrested, taken back out to sea, and are left drifting in life rafts by Greek authorities.

A total of 21,152 people actually arrived on the Greek islands in 2022. Of those, 11.496 (54 per cent) people were registered and given the opportunity to apply for asylum, while 9.656 (46 per cent) were forcibly removed by Greek authorities and left helplessly drifting in 575 life rafts in the Aegean Sea.

Greek Aegean Islands

Aegean Boat Report has documented and published hundreds of pushback cases, which has been possible because after arriving, people arriving have contacted us, providing important documentation in form of pictures, videos and location data.

When fewer people make contact, our ability to document and publish is affected, and important documentation is lost.

We must assume that local organisations have had contact with many of the people who have later been pushed back, but unfortunately this information is not made available to the public.

What information these local organisations receive, and how this information is preserved, is unknown. As far as we know, this information is not used or shared as documentation on how people on the move are treated in Greece.

We understand that organisations on the ground can’t use the information they have as we do, because they will be criminalized, targeted, intimidated and eventually charged, as I have, by a government which is abusing its position and its power to target and attack organisations with false claims and threats of jail and other punishments, despite those organisations – including ABR – doing nothing other than protecting the legal and human rights of men, women and children, highlighting the incidences in which those rights are being ignored or denied, and assisting the government to fulfil its moral and legal duties to people on the move.

We are determined to continue to protect people’s inalienable legal and human rights, by revealing the true face of the Greek authorities. But we can’t do it without information, and we can’t do it alone.

In December, 14 groups that arrived on Lesvos – more than 400 men, women and children – were found by Greek authorities, arrested, forced back to sea, and left drifting in life rafts. Similar cases take place every week – in many cases every day – on each of the Greek Aegean islands. There is no exception.

This is a systematic approach to so-called ‘migration management’, the Greek authorities, backed and protected by the European Commission, violating international laws and human rights.

Almost 10.000 people, half of everyone who managed to reach the Greek Aegean islands in 2022, were arrested, robbed, threatened, beaten and forcibly removed by Greek police and coast guard, with the help of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX, in the name of border management and protection.

This was paid for by European taxpayers’ money, and blessed by the European Commission. The Commission has the mandate, authority and opportunity to stop these atrocities, to ensure the rule of law in Europe is upheld, human rights are defended, and that our common European values are protected.

European Values Neglected and Forgotten By European Politicians

Instead, after more three years, it has done nothing.

The question everyone should ask themselves is why, why has nothing been done?

The Commission can’t hide behind claims of a lack of evidence: even their own OLAF report concluded the Greek authorities, with help from FRONTEX, violate international laws and human rights, so why has absolutely nothing been done?

There are thousands of witness statements, hundreds of reports and investigations, overwhelming amounts of evidence from EU bodies, NGO’s, journalists and researchers, all proving that Greek authorities are violating international laws and human rights on an industrial scale, activity that can only be seen as crimes against humanity.

Over 3,000 pages with testimonies impacting more than 25,000 people on the move by BVMN

It’s time to remove the cancer before it’s to late, before it infects everything we hold dearly.

It’s time to pull up our sleeves and take out the trash.

Government’s efforts to intimidate humanitarians unfounded, and must not be allowed to succeed

We at Aegean Boat Report are saddened, weary, and sadly not at all surprised to once again have been targeted by the Greek government with yet another mischievous, baseless and transparent attempt to prevent us from carrying out our – unfortunately necessary – work.

Anyone who has followed us or our experiences in recent years will be aware that we are the leading observer and reporter of illegal pushbacks of men, women and children from the Greek Aegean Sea, and that as a result of this work, we have been repeatedly targeted and  threatened by the Greek government, which carries out these illegal, brutal and in many cases fatal pushbacks – despite their absolute illegality – as its main ‘response’ to people seeking safety in the EU.

And once again, the government has, through the Greek Coastguard which has leaned upon the Kos Prosecutor’s Office, issued a transparent attack on us and the Greek branch of the international Helsinki Monitor, in the form of a lawsuit which can only be described as frivolous, if not an aggressive effort to intimidate us.

In this latest abuse of its power, the Greek government has used its operational arms to allege that we and the Greek Helsinki Monitor have: ‘formed a criminal organisation with the purpose of receiving information from citizens of third countries, who attempt illegal entry into Greece, in order to facilitate their illegal entry and stay, by sending the authorities their complete information and their exact location in the country, in order for the latter to be subject to asylum procedures.’

We were not specifically named in the government’s original release announcing this astonishing charge, but we and the ‘… Monitor’ have been named in a letter of complaint about it, signed by 14 Greek humanitarian organisations who, correctly, call the charges a ‘witch-hunt’.

We do not wish to prejudice any trial which may take place, but we must note the following:

·     Neither we, nor as far as we know the Greek Helsinki Monitor have ever formed a criminal organisation. Indeed, we will go further. If the government is seriously suggesting that the Helsinki Monitor, renowned across the world as a guardian of human rights, is in fact carrying out criminal activity, we must advise it to step back and think much more sensibly about what it is alleging, and advise anyone else to treat such claims with the extreme scepticism they deserve

·         The activities alleged in the ‘charge’ are in fact not at all criminal

It is the human and legal right of any and all human beings on Earth to travel to any country they choose to seek safe places to live, learn and work, and enter the asylum system where their claims to such safety must be considered by the government of that country. They have broken no laws by entering Greece.  

The ‘charge’ is that we actually are informing the Greek authorities of the location of people who have entered Greece in the hope of finding safety, both assisting the legal rights of those people, and assisting the Greek authorities to carry out their own legal duties.

That is, we are being ‘charged’ with the promotion and protection of the law, a law being broken by the Greek government, as if us doing so were in some way a crime. It is the opposite.

We feel at this stage it is pointless to say very much more on this matter. We very much hope the Greek courts can save the government the embarrassment of either having their most recent attack on us either dismissed by the court or shown to be the aggressive effort to deter us from doing our jobs that it in fact is.

But we also note that we will be very happy to point out in court that we are not even accused of, and never have we carried out, any illegal activity.

We also feel we must ask: why would it be that the Greek government, which has illegally pushed-back tens of thousands of men, women and children, killing some, beating many and robbing almost all, in the process, should wish to take us to court for ensuring the law is upheld and people are able to enter the asylum system as is their right?

Tommy Olsen, Aegean Boat Report

Baby Boy Drowned on Lesvos, Mother Pushed Back by Greek Authorities

On Friday December 16 a boat carrying 35 people crashed into rocks of the coast in the Fara area west of the entrance to the gulf of Sheraton Lesvos south, according to the information published by the Hellenic coast guard.

During the rescue operation 34 people was recovered alive, including two people who was injured and taken to hospital, a two month old boy was found dead, reportedly drowned caused by the shipwreck.

According to a statement published by the police, the information regarding arrivals in the area of Gera initially came from an email from the organization Alarmphone, and that they had received another email at 10.13 from UNHCR informing them of a dead baby.

A statement was published by MSF on Saturday where they informed that they had been stopped by officers from the local police and port authorities and held back, for almost two hours, not allowed to go into the area to attend shipwreck victims before after 12 pm. “On our way to the site, the Hellenic Police stopped us for almost 2 hours, delaying the possibility of timely medical care. Another group was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard. We will never know if these two hours would allow us to save the baby’s life,” the MSF statement reads.

Due to the email sent by Alarmphone, an organization authorized previously has accused of espionage, police claimed to have sealed off the area for investigation purposes, and that this was the reason for holding medical staff from MSF back.

Alarmphone has published a statement saying Greek authorities are trying yet again to cover up their own crimes.

Several versions have been published by port authorities, their statements seems to change from time to time to better fit information published by MSF and press articles, especially on when they were informed and what time they went to the area.

In one of the versions port authorities claimed that the Port Authority of Mytilene was informed of the arrival of the refugees at “noon” and “immediate officials of the Port Authority of Plomari went to the area with a patrol vehicle of the Hellenic Coast Guard”. In a more recent update, the Coast Guard stated that the information it had was from the High Commission at the same time as the police had received this information. Alarmphone, according to EFSYN, sent out the email to inform authorities at 08.43, and not at “noon”.

So when did authorities actually intervene, and what was the real reason for blocking medical personnel from entering the area? According to reports, the time the two units of MSF arrived in the area was around 09.45 in the morning, they first unite was blocked for two hours by police forces, and the second by the port police! Which means quite simply that the Coast Guard, which according to the police also had jurisdiction over the operation, was in the area early on.

According to information published by Thrasos Avraám, several vehicles without license plates had been observed in the area by locals this morning. Normally road blocks are put up by authorities to give these groups time to remove people without witnesses, pushing people back to Turkey. This information indicates that MSF was blocked so that they would not interfere with authorities illegal activities, and had little to do with who informed authorities on this arrival.

Information from the refuges themselves stated that they had been 50 people on the boat, not 34 as authorities claimed, and that 16 people was missing, one of them the mother of the dead baby boy, according to the boy’s father. In authorities statements noting was published on missing people nor any actions taken to try to locate them. What could possibly be the reason for leaving such important information out of their official statements?

Press statement

“In the early hours of today, the Port Authority of Mytilene received the results of the autopsy – autopsy carried out by the Forensic Service of the North Aegean, according to which the infant’s death occurred “as a result of drowning in sea water”.

The results are consistent with an email sent by UNHCR, around 10:13 on 16/12/2022, informing both the Port Authority of Mytilene and the competent authorities about the incident in question, stating the existence of the dead infant, who according to information he had fallen into the sea upon the arrival of the foreigners on the island and his death had been noticed by them foreigners arriving after disembarkation on land.

The aforementioned briefing was followed by investigations to identify the foreigners from L.S. – EL.AKT patrol boats. and L.S.-EL.AKT patrol vehicles and around 15:00 a total of thirty-four (34) foreigners and the infant, unconscious, were found in the land area “FARA” n. Lesvos.

Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, Office of Communication and Information”

Information published by authorities on this case has been confusing, since they change their statements to better fit information published by organizations and journalists. What we are about to reveal next will drastically change how this case is perceived, and raise many questions on what authorities actually did and the reason for doing so.

On December 16, at 14.55, a life raft carrying 16 people (Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia), was found drifting outside Dikili by Turkish coast guard.

The rescued claimed to have been part of a larger group, approximately 50 people, that arrived on Lesvos south earlier this morning. One of the people found in this life raft was a woman who claimed she had been separated from her two months old boy and her husband, they, according to her, was left behind on Lesvos.

We won’t speculate in what really happened on Lesvos this morning, because so far we have not been able to confirm all of the information. One thing is clear, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy has published a statement that is far from the truth, deliberately lying to the public on an incident where a two month old baby boy died, this is extremely worrying and shows the lengths the Greek authorities are willing to go to cover up their illegal practice.

We are informed that legal actors are in contact with the victims in Turkey, and specifically the alleged mother of the dead baby boy, hopefully more information will be published by the parties involved when the time is right. It will also be interesting to see how the Ministry will react, and if they once again will change their statement to better fit the narrative.

This case that resulted in the death of a two month old baby boy, and similar cases in Greece, should be thoroughly investigated by an independent EU body, and not by Greek authorities, whose only interest is to cover up their own crimes.

26 People Pushed Back From The Greek Island Of Lipsi

On Thursday December 15, 26 people, 25 Palestinians and one Yemeni, was found on the Aegean island of Lipsi in northern Dodecanese. The group claimed to have been hiding on a remote beach on the island , to avoid being found by Greek authorities and illegally returned to Turkey.

The group consisted of Palestinian families fleeing from Turkey, amongst them 4 children, 3 pregnant women and a man with a serious case of diabetes that needed medical attention, and was provided by the local ambulance on the island.

The group was eventually brought to the port police office in Lipsi by local police, located in the port across from Lipsi Park.

Locals on the island once again showed solidarity, provided food, clothes, hygiene/sanitary products and toys for the children, even local police provided water and oranges.

Around 15.00 local police started escorting the group down to the port and out to the pier, information from port police on Lipsi was that the group was going to be transported to camp on Leros. Later we will see that this information was not correct.

At 16.00 a coast guard vessel arrived in Port, there are no coast guard vessels stationed on Lipsi.

The boat was, as we can see from pictures and videos, a Lambro Halmatic 60 SAR vessel, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, carrying identification number 514. The SAR-514 is one out of 10 vessels in this class in the Greek coast guard fleet, this one is stationed on Leros.

Onboard the SAR vessel we can clearly see 8 men, five of these men uses balaclavas to cover their faces, two are without masks and one uses a regular face mask. According to Greek officials balaclavas is not used by coast guard performing their regular duties, but in this case most actually did.

Locals were not allowed to go out on the pier, but from a distance they observed the group being slowly taken onboard and placed outside in the back of the vessel. The ambulance drove out to the coast guard vessel with the diabetic patient who also was transferred to the coast guard ship.

There were many witnesses on Lipsi who can confirm that this group of 26 people, mostly Palestinian families, men, woman and children, was on the island of Lipsi, and in the custody of the Hellenic coast guard, even a local priest from the Greek Orthodox Church was there to give support. Little did they know then of what would happen to these families, their faith was already set.

Shortly after 17 pm, while the sun was going down, the coast guard vessel left port in Lipsi and headed out to sea carrying 26 refugees that locals was told by local port police would be taken to Leros. In pictures and videos we can see the vessel leaving port, all 26 refugees was sitting outside in the back of the vessel, while these masked officers was guarding them on deck.

What we can confirm is that this group never arrived on Leros as locals was told. As we can see from the official registration data provided by Greek authorities only one person arrived on Leros on December 15, no arrivals the following day was registered.

Some might think that this could be an error in the registration, and that the group was taken to Leros on the evening of December 15. Unfortunately this is not the case, first reception on Leros will confirm that only one person arrived on the island during these two days, and this person did not arrive on the SAR-514, so what really happened to this group?

For people working in documenting the situation in the Aegean Sea, these cases are not rare nor unusual, it’s actually more the rule than the exception. Refugees, men, women and children are removed from Greek islands and forced into life rafts in the middle of the sea by the Greek coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek government. In this case the surprising part was that it was done so openly, in front of everyone in bright daylight, as if this was totally legal, it’s not, it’s actually a violation of international law and human rights law.

On December 16, at 04.15, 26 people, men, women and children, was found drifting in a life raft outside Menderes by the Turkish coast guard.

When comparing pictures and videos taken by locals on Lipsi, with pictures and videos taken by the Turkish coast guard when the group was found, there is absolutely no doubt, it’s the same group that was taken onboard the coast guard vessel in Lipsi. Also any local who was involved can easily identify this group as the people they helped on the island, if anyone would care to investigate.

Unfortunately these cases are never investigated, not by Greek authorities nor by the EU Commission. Instead Greek authorities are targeting people and organizations, who on a daily basis are documenting, investigating and publishing these crimes committed by Greek authorities, in an ongoing witch hunt to criminalize frontline defenders.

We who are trying to protect the rights of others, have become the target of ridicules and unfounded investigations, and are facing criminal charges for doing our job protecting refugees at the border of Europe.

Aegean Boat Report have systematically documented, investigated and published hundreds of cases of pushbacks performed by Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea over the last three years. This has not gone unnoticed, and we have frequently been the target of the Greek authorities systematic disinformation and propaganda campaigns, meant to slander and criminalize anyone who reveals their true nature.

Defending human rights is a human right!