Does UNHCR enable the torture of refugees by Greek police?

UNHCR has consistently and strongly criticised the Greek government and its uniformed officers for their barbaric, illegal, pushbacks against people who arrive in Greece.

So why does UNHCR Greece hand the same authorities details about the locations of those men, women and children?

A boat carrying 38 people, amongst them at least 17 children and two pregnant women people landed west of the village of Skala Sikaminea on Lesvos north, on Sunday 1 May, at 21.30. Immediately after arriving they fled to the woods to hide, scared that if found by Greek police, they would be pushed back to Turkey.

The group, mostly families, all Afghans, stayed together. They contacted Aegean Boat Report at 21.45, and asked for assistance. We gathered necessary information from the group: pictures, videos and location data, and there was no doubt, the group was on Lesvos.

We do not usually give advice on where people should go, but since they were only 4km from the quarantine camp in Megala Therma, we advised them to move towards it.

It was dark, not many people use the dirt track at night, and it would have taken them about one hour to walk. Considering the alternatives, which were to stay outside in the woods all night, and most likely be found by police the following day, we firmly believed that this was their best option.

Unfortunately, they were reluctant to walk in the dark, and decided to wait until daylight, try to find a better solution. Perhaps they thought the walk would be difficult in the dark, especially for the children. Little did they know about the dangers ahead.

Aegean Boat Report maintained contact with the group throughout the night. They had stayed in the same place all night, and in the morning, they reached out to the UNHCR through their shoreline duty phone, and asked for help.

The duty phone operates 8.00-20.00 seven days a week, to receive information about new arrivals. What assistance – if any at all – UNHCR actually can give to new arrivals contacting this number is difficult to say, especially since most of those who have tried asking UNHCR for help, have ended up drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea.

Some may see this as a coincidence, I beg to differ.

A member of this group told us that a UNHCR representative had been in contact, asking for permission to give their location to the Greek authorities.

At first they refused, but after several calls and messages on WhatsApp, in which UNHCR had insisted this was the only option available, the person told us they had agreed. This approach raises a lot of questions regarding UNHCR’s standard operating procedures in Greece.

Do they actually provide the location of new arrivals to the Greek authorities?

What measures have UNHCR taken to ensure the safety of new arrivals , after they give information to the Greek authorities? Do UNHCR staff go to these locations to protect people, to make sure that legal procedures are followed in accordance with international law?

UNHCR criticised Greece for brutality pushing back people on land and sea several times in the last two years.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke out against “the increasing number of incidents of violence and serious human rights violations against refugees and migrants at various European borders,” and the multiple deaths they have caused.

UNHCR’s new High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, speaks at his first press conferance as head of the agency.

Gandi also called out Greece directly. “We are alarmed by recurrent and consistent reports coming from Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where UNHCR has recorded almost 540 reported incidents of informal returns by Greece since the beginning of 2020.”

So why, after all this, would UNHCR Greece, whose core mandate is to “ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide”, which claims to promote the basic human rights of refugees and ensure they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution, give information to Greek authorities on the whereabouts of new arrivals? This, surely, just assists them to push back refugees?

The communication between UNHCR and the 38 refugees on Lesvos would have been stored on the phones used, but this information was lost to everyone after the police found them and confiscated those phones.

We believe UNHCR procedures are the same every time refugees contact them after arriving, at least on Lesvos.

Just a few days after this incident another group of new arrivals contacted UNHCR on Lesvos and asked for assistance.

In this case, the refugees took screenshots of the conversation, and provided them to Aegean Boat Report. They said: “We don’t trust that UNHCR are giving us good information and advice.”

They were correct, 18 people ended up floating in a life raft outside Ayvalik, Turkey.

Aegean Boat Report lost contact with the group of 38 Afghans on Lesvos north at 13.00 on Monday 2 May. We hoped they had been found and taken to camp, but when we received information that no Afghans had been registered that day, this hope vanished.

At 19.30 on 2 May, the Turkish coast guard reported they had found and rescued 38 people, all Afghans, from two life rafts drifting outside Karaburun, Turkey, just south of Lesvos.

We compared the pictures and videos received while they were on land on Lesvos, with those provided by the Turkish coast guard when they found them drifting at sea. There is absolutely no doubt that this was the same group, nor any doubt on who was responsible for placing them in these life rafts.

So why would UNHCR Greece provide information to a government which repeatedly and systematically violates international laws and human rights? A government UNHCR has criticised over and over again for pushbacks in the Aegean Sea?

We asked UNHCR Greece for a statement on this issue. Their answers didn’t come as a huge surprise, or shed any light or provide any information other than that UNHCR Greece believes it has done nothing wrong while dealing with new arrivals.

They basically state that they take no responsibility for any harm to vulnerable people who call on them for help, nor do they provide any protection for people who they turn over to the Greek authorities.

So why should anyone arriving in Greece contact UNHCR, when they facilitate pushbacks for Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea? A few days ago, Aegean Boat Report managed to reconnect with members of the group, who are now in Turkey.

The group confirmed they gave permission for UNHCR to inform authorities on their location, and that UNHCR promised to come to their aid to protect them.

UNHCR, on the other hand, claims to have made no such promises.

UNHCR Greece says that they inform authorities in cases where people are in distress to prevent loss of life.

In this case, the group was on land and there were no known medical cases that would suggest that there were any threats to their lives.

The only known threat to their life at that point was the Greek authorities, to which UNHCR turned them over without any consideration for their safety.

At 13.00 the group agreed that UNHCR should provide information to the Greek authorities on their whereabouts. At 15.00 their hideout deep in the woods was stormed by 10 masked men in dark uniforms carrying guns.

UNHCR promised to come to us”, the man said from Turkey. “They told us we just had to be patient, they said they would be there before five, but they lied, the only one who came for us was the police, they came and tortured us and threw us back in the sea. Why would UNHCR do that?”

That’s actually a very good question. Why would UNHCR turn people over to the Greek authorities to be tortured? It’s not as if they don’t know how Greek authorities treats refugees after they arrive: this is well documented in several statements by UNHCR over the last two years.

Perhaps UNHCR Greece didn’t ‘get the memo’.

When police arrived at the location all hell broke loose, they were shouting and shooting in the air, forcing everyone to lie face down on the ground, even the children.

One man wasn’t quick enough to do as he was told, they beat him severely and broke his leg.

Another disabled man didn’t understand what was going on, they hit him several times in the face with the back of a rifle and broke his nose. There was blood everywhere, the witness explained.

Please remember that these people aren’t criminals, just normal families with small children fleeing for their lives, and this is how Greek authorities treat them.

They were all searched, the men had to take off all their clothes in front of the women, “we had to lay down on the ground, naked, face down with our hands on our heads, I feared they would shoot us, Taliban in Afghanistan treated people like this, I didn’t expect to experience this in Europe.

“They were shouting and screaming, shooting in the air, everyone was terrified, children and women were crying, some so terrified that they wet their pants. That seemed to amuse some of the masked men, who laughed and called them names.”

The women were sexually abused.

The masked men searched them for hidden phones and money, especially thoroughly on their breast and between their legs, while speaking in Greek between themselves, laughing.

“It seemed to amuse them to torture us,” the witness explained.

When the police were satisfied with their search, the group had to pick up everything that had been thrown around, clothes, personal belongings and garbage from the ground, and carry it to the police car.

“They took everything from us, our bags, papers, money and phones, nothing was given back, they even took the clothes from our backs, especially jackets, it was cold and people were freezing.”

The police had arrived in five cars: an official white and blue police car, two vans – one black and one blue – and two private cars, both silver. They also had three motorcycles.

The group was split, 19 people were forced into the back of each of the vans.

There were no seats, they had to sit on the floor in the dark. The windows were painted black and they couldn’t see out.

They drove for a very long time, about two hours, and when they stopped, they were in some kind of port. They could see some fishing boats close by.

Everyone was ordered to look down, if they didn’t the police would beat them, so they did not see much of their surroundings.

“If you come back to Greece we will kill you, we will rape your women in front of you and then kill them,” the men in balaclavas said, before they turned them over to the Greek Coastguard.

A white two engine boat took them out to a bigger ship in two groups.

The ship was marked with the ID ΛΣ 090, a Stan Patrol 5509 vessel belonging to the Hellenic Coast Guard.

“We were placed outside in the back of the vessel, they pulled a big black plastic tarpaulin over us, and we had to sit on our knees with our heads down, like when we are praying. If we moved or spoke they would beat down on the tarpaulin with sticks.”

After one hour the coast guard vessel stopped, people were forced into two life rafts floating in the sea behind the vessel, the smallest children were thrown down from the vessel into the life rafts, because they were too small to go down themselves. When everyone was onboard, the coast guard vessel turned on the engine, making waves behind the vessel, and the life rafts drifted away.

“They left us in the middle of the sea in these rubber tents, they left us to die”.

Usually, we do not get much footage of these events at sea, because Greek authorities are very thorough when searching people, removing especially phones because this can document their crimes.

In this case they had overlooked one phone, and when the Greek Coastguard vessel moved away to a safe distance, they filmed to document what had happened to them, and who was responsible.

The man filming wasn’t sure if people onboard the Greek Coast Guard vessel could see him filming in their binoculars, so he tried to hide the phone between his fingers, but the footage leaves no doubt on what happened and who is responsible. The Gavdos (ΛΣ 090) can be clearly seen in the video.

The international community is officially condemning what we refer to as pushbacks, but on the other hand supporting countries performing these violations, funding their operations, supporting them with Frontex personnel and equipment, because they are doing the dirty work of Europe, keeping people out by all means possible.

Many believe that humanitarian organisations, especially the biggest and most powerful of them all, the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR), would refrain from assisting governments in such crimes against humanity, but we can only wonder if UNHCR Greece has lost its way, blinded by money and greed, or been heavily influenced by the right-wing government’s propaganda machinery.

At the end of 2021, Maria Clara Martin took office as UNHCR’s new Representative in Greece, and she praised the efforts and compassion of the Greek authorities in dealing with refugees, as if they actually were doing a great job.

She said: ““Greece has been receiving refugees and asylum-seekers for many years, showing solidarity and compassion to the most vulnerable. I look forward to working together with the Greek authorities, partners, municipalities, civil society, and local and refugee communities towards protecting, supporting and finding long-term solutions for the men, women and children who are forced to flee their homes and seek sanctuary in Greece”.

The Greek authorities are definitely not doing a great job.

From 1 March 2020 to 30 April 2022, the Greek government has pushed back 37,571 men, women and children. In fact, the number is probably far greater. In the same period, it has registered as new arrivals just 7,264 people. That is, the Greek government, in direct breach of international law, has pushed back 83.8 per cent, more than four in every five, people who have arrived in Greece via the Aegean Sea.

Nor is this some kind of ‘standard’ breaking of the law: Greek uniformed officers beat these people. They rob them, strip them, in some cases sexually assault them. They ridicule them, injure them, and in some cases kill them. It is hard to imagine how any government could possibly behave worse to people seeking safe places to live, learn and work.  

We can only wonder how an organisation whose core mandate is to ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide, promote the basic human rights of refugees and ensure they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution, could assist the Greek authorities to do this.

Even if people in positions like Ms Martin’s are forced to be ‘diplomatic’ in their public statements, we must ask: why is UNHCR helping the Greek government to carry out pushbacks?

⚠️Urgent Appeal, 90 People In Imminent Danger Of Being Pushed Back From Kos⚠️

Earlier today, Saturday May 7th, a sailboat carrying approximately 90 people, amongst them 30 children, was forced to go towards land on Kos due to engine problems.

They arrived in a remote area on kos, south west of Limnionas beach, in a rocky area, luckily everyone made it ashore with only minor casualties.

A child, a little girl, was wounded in the head when they tried to get ashore.

The group contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they provide pictures, videos and geolocations, to document their presence on Kos. They fear that when Greek authorities finds them, they will be illegal returned to Turkey.

The boat was smacked against the cliffs and sank within one hour after arriving, a small boy is asking for someone to come and help them.

They have asked the international community for protection, but fear that their prayers will be in vain., her they ask the United Nations for help.

The group have made several fires to try to stay warm during the night, and we assume that the authorities have been informed on the activities in the area, especially from fishermen fishing close to shore this night, their boats are visible from land.

Aegean Boat Report will try to stay in contact with the group throughout the night, any change in location will be registered on WhatsApp live location, as long as we are connected.

The group have a long night ahead, hopefully parents will manage to at least keep their children warm, and hopefully they will eventually find a safe place when the new day begins.

In the morning authorities will get an email where all information necessary to find and rescue this group is provided, also including their names, date of birth, nationality and birth place.

We request that the appropriate authorities immediately transfer all members of this group to the nearest reception centre and allow them to register for asylum.

These men, women and children are asking for nothing illegal, and nothing more than everyone else – including everyone reading this and the person who wrote it – is entitled to.

They are asking for a chance. A chance to show that they have good reason to be in the EU, searching for a place to live, learn and work. A chance to remain in a safe space for long enough to apply for asylum. A chance, of course, to be allowed to become part of a community in which they can thrive and to which they can contribute, rather than facing the real risk of death in their homeland.

It is their legal right, to come here and to apply for asylum. It is your legal right, you father’s, your mother’s, your children’s and their children’s. You would not remove it from them, or yourself. And it must not be removed from them.

These people deserve at least the chance to apply for somewhere decent to live. They probably deserve more than that. We all do. It is their – and your – right. And by standing to protect their right, we also stand to protect our own.

The group has given Aegean Boat Report permission to publish all information, pictures, videos and location data, to the general public, in a desperate effort to prevent Greek authorities from illegal deported this group back to Turkey.

Update 08.05.2022

The group has been found and taken to camp on Kos, from news reports we can read that The Hellenic coast guard stated that they were found in the “evening hours of yesterday”, that`s from what we know wrong, nobody had arrived on location last night. A total of 106 peopl , 72 men, 14 women and 20 children was found this morning, and have been taken to R.I.C. on Kos.

Who Will Take The Fall?

Over the last two years Aegean Boat Report have been documenting, investigating and publishing information on pushbacks performed by the Greek authorities, assisted by Frontex, in the Aegean Sea.

On April 28 the head of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), Mr Leggeri, resigned, in the shadow of the revealing evidence of the involvement of the European coast guard and border guard service in illegal refoulement or pushback operations of hundreds of refugees in the Aegean and of the methodical attempt to mislead and cover up violations of international law.

According to the findings of a joint investigation carried out by France’s Le Monde newspaper, German weekly Der Spiegel, Swiss news outlets SRF Rundschau and Republik, and Netherlands-based Lighthouse Reports, Frontex was involved in 22 pushbacks between March 2020 and September 2021, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Since March 2020, over 30.000 refugees have been pushed back in the Aegean Sea by the Greek coast guard, in many of these cases most likely assisted by Frontex.

Mr Leggeri abandoned ship, but what about his Greek counterparts, his partners in crime, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Ministry of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi, and the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy Ioannis Plakiotakis, will they also resign or face charges for their crimes against humanity?

We can read in some Greek papers, the once not paid off by the Greek authorities, the call for the immediate resignation of Mr Mitarakis, and a thorough independent investigation into all documented claims of pushback against Greece. This is of course not going to happen as long as the right wing ruling government, Néa Dimokratía, is in power, but would, if investigated, tie up not only the Greek legal system but also the European court, for years if not decades.

The call for the resignation of Mitarakis is a joke, everyone knows that he’s not the mastermind behind this, he honestly isn’t clever enough to even be considered as the one behind these devious plans, he’s basically just a scapegoat, someone to take the fall when “the shit hits the fan”, and now it has, again.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

The one responsible is of course the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but he has been clever enough to try to stay out of anything related to pushback, so that he can claim to have no knowledge of what has been going on. Mostly this has been a good plan, but not executed well enough. Several times he has been asked direct questions regarding allegations of performing pushbacks in the Aegean Sea on international tv, both by CNN and BBC, both times he blatantly lied and said that the Greek authorities had nothing to do with pushbacks. Also on a press conference in November last year, he showed his true nature, when he “blew a fuse” shouting at the Dutch journalists Ingebor Beugel, when asked why he was lying about the pushbacks.

Of course Notis Mitarachi should resign, but he should also be investigated and face charges for his involvement in these crimes against humanity by the European court.

Mitarachi awarded the director of Frontex, Mr Leggeri, with the “Commendation of Migration Assistance of the Second Class – Commendation of Merit” under a special event in Lithuania in January, a similar award, “Commendation of Migration Assistance of the First Class – Commendation of Merit” was given to the Vice President of the European Commission Mr. Margaritis Schoinas in February. It seem that this “criminal network” reaches further than the Greek border, and deep into the leadership of the European Union.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, sent a strong message of support to Greece in its attempts to stop asylum seekers crossing its border from Turkey in March 2020, calling Greece the “shield of Europe”. I wonder if she still support and praise these violations of international laws and human rights.

We welcome the idea to start an independent international investigation into documented and previously proven pushbacks performed by the Greek authorities. Aegean Boat report, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greek Council for Refugees, BVMN and other independent bodies have published hundreds of well documented reports on pushbacks. The independent international press have also published hundreds of well researched articles on the topic.

You can start by scroll down and read on this page, there is no doubt on who is responsible.

Our Precious “European Values”

Wednesday April 6, at 15.00, a boat carrying 31 people arrived south of the airport on Lesvos south.

After arriving they quickly ran into the woods, hid in several groups in the surrounding area, scared to be found by authorities and illegal sent back to Turkey.

In a normal world this would not have been a big issue, local organizations together with authorities would have assisted the new arrivals, made sure that they were taken to a safe place, medical check, provided them with food and water, asylum applications processed.

Unfortunately what we considered “normal” just a few years ago, has now been drastically changed, especially in Greece. People arriving on Greek borders seeking safety from war and persecution, men, women and children, are now being violently removed by Greek authorities.

Greek government has decided that these people, these unwanted ones, do not deserve to be treated as human beings, stripped of all rights, due to their religion and color of their skin.

While Greece are welcoming the “real” refugees with open arms from Ukraine, they are forcing refugees who enters Greece “illegally”, back over the border at gunpoint every single day, killing people in the process.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

Since 2020, 30.000 people have been pushed back by Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea, vulnerable people are being beaten, robbed and threatened at gunpoint, forced back in direct violation of international laws and human rights. This has been going on for years, in full knowledge of the European Parliament, assisted by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

The group that arrived on Lesvos south on Wednesday, arrived in brought daylight, and was observed by locals, one even filmed the arrival on his phone, and later published it on social media. Strangely enough, when local law enforcement is asked about this incident, they say there was no arrivals in this area that they had been made aware of.

This is of course not true, just 30 minutes after the group had arrived, local police, port police and civilian police was observed searching the area south of the airport, several cars, some without license plates participated, the boat was also removed from the beach.

Also local online news on Lesvos, Lesvos Post and Lesvos Voice published about the new arrivals south of the airport. Unfortunately they never bothered following up on the story, no question was raised on what happened to these people, since they didn’t arrive in the camp, Investigative journalism at its best.

In todays efsyn they also write abouth yet another disappearance og refugees on Lesvos

So why would local authorities deny any knowledge of the arrival of these people, especially since it happened in brought daylight, in front of everyone? They are obviously lying, no question about it, the people who suppose to enforce the law has turned into criminals, using mafia methods, beating, robbing and threaten people, on direct orders from the Greek government.

So the question is, why is nobody trying to stop this inhumane and illegal practice? If tourists in Greece had been treated in similar ways, it would have been on the front page on every newspaper, it would have been internationally condemned. Instead of condemning it we are actually supporting it, funding Greece to continue, and using Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to assist the Greek authorities.

Would we have done the same if the people arriving in flimsy rubber boats to the Greek Aegean islands have been white, Christian’s similar to us, not carrying names like Ahram, Inaya, Muhammad and Hiba, I highly doubt it. What does that say about us and our so called “European values”?

The new arrivals contacted organizations and relatives in the camp on Lesvos, to try to find help, unfortunately no such help was given, and at 18.00 all contact was lost. The last information sent out was that they had been found and arrested by police, and taken to some kind of storage area close to the airport, locked up in a room. Police was searching everyone, taking away all their belongings, phones, papers, money and bags.

At 23.15 Turkish coast guard (TCG) found and rescued 25 people from two life rafts drifting outside Cesme, Turkey. The Greek police even took the clothes they were wearing, most of their jackets, leaving them outisde in the middle of the sea freezing, that’s just cruel.

When comparing pictures and videos from when TCG found them drifting at sea, there is no doubt, it’s the same people who earlier this day had been on Lesvos.

Six people from this group, four of them minors, were missing. They had quickly moved away from the area and was not arrested by police on Wednesday. During the night they managed to hide, and in the following morning, Thursday 7, 5 arrived by themselves at the RIC in Maurovouni, the last one the following day.

What happened to the rest of the group, and who is responsible is quiet obvious. 25 people was arrested, kept locked up until nightfall and then taken back out to sea on a Greek coast guard vessel. 25 people, men, women and children was forced into two life rafts and left drifting in the Aegean Sea.

Another “successful” illegal operation performed by the Greek coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek authorities, to protect Europe from these unwanted people.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

In these difficult times it’s easy to see that we do not value life equally, we differentiate between people who are more “similar” to us, the right skin color and religion, and we open our doors, the rest, those unlucky ones, who comes from the wrong place, we beat, torture and mutilate, even kill to keep them out of our precious Europe.

To call refugees from Ukraine “the real refugees”, and people from other “unwanted” parts of the world “illegal immigrant’s”, just based of the color on their skin and their religion, comes from the same dangerous ideology that was used by Nazi Germany under Hitler. We seem to have forgotten our recent dark history, both in Greece and in Europe.

Six years of failure. Time to ditch the Deal

The EU-Turkey Deal was signed six years ago today (it came into effect two days later, on 20 March 2016).

As we and many others advised at the time, the Deal was a poor idea, written in a moment of panic by EU staff who had watched as, in their desperation to prevent refugees entering their countries, EU member states sent armed officers to, and built walls along, their borders with other EU member states: in short, the EU really ceased to exist or several months in 2015-16.

The Deal breaks international law: it demands that Turkey prevents people from leaving, which is a fundamental human right, and that anyone who does leave Turkey will be immediately sent back, which not only breaks international law on refoulement, but also on the fact that every person who arrives in a country and asks to apply for asylum must be allowed to do so, and that every application must be considered on its own individual merits – it is illegal to deny someone asylum automatically because of which country they are from or have travelled from.

And of course, it was never likely to work. First of all because it was clear the EU would not fulfil the promises it made to the Turkish government (that it would accelerate Turkey’s EU membership process, and provide visa-free travel in the EU to all Turkish people – there are good reasons why these promises have not been kept, but the EU made them – and would give Turkey €6bn by 31 December 2018. In fact, by March 2021, it had paid it just €4.7bn), secondly because it is – as has been proven – literally impossible to prevent people leaving one country for another (since the Statement was signed, at the very least 213,558 people have arrived in Greece. The number is likely to be far higher because it includes zero of those illegally pushed back at the Evros border, and because the Greek government itself has issued figures showing at least 25,000 more people have arrived than appear in its own publicly-released documents).

These broken promises have, predictably, led to the Turkish government refusing to accept Syrian ‘returnees’.

Finally, it was never likely to work because it showed so clearly how frightened the EU was of people seeking asylum, a fear which could easily be used by the Turkish government to make demands upon the EU. Not only does it break international law, and not only has the EU broken every promise it made within it, it has also significantly weakened the EU and the international legal system in which the EU exists and claims to stand for.

As we have noted (Thursday 10 March 2022 ‘Safe third countries’ list resulted in almost doubling of asylum application rejections) Greece’s own new law, naming Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Pakistan, made on 8 June 2021, quite aside from being used illegally to deny people asylum, and ludicrous because Turkey does not even meet its own criteria as a ‘safe state’ and indeed the concept does not exist in international law and should not be used when making an asylum decision, has resulted in the rate of rejections of asylum in Greece almost doubling.

Greece, and Turkey as a ‘safe state’ – hollow, illegal and dangerous

The (I)NGOs International Rescue Committee, Danish Refugee Council, Refugees International, Save the Children, the Greek Council for Refugees, HumanRights360, Terre des hommes, and the Greek Forum of Refugees have noted that 60 per cent of all asylum applications made in Greece last year came from nationals of these five states, and the number of rejections for asylum as ‘inadmissible’ rose from 2,839 in 2020, to 6,424 in 2021.

Their research also notes that in 2020, before the Greek government’s illegal new law came into effect, 92 per cent of Syrian applicants for asylum, 94 per cent of Somalians and 66 per cent of Afghans were recognised as refugees.

We say this almost every year at this time. But it is beyond time for the EU and Greece to ditch its illegal, immoral and failed ‘Deal’ with Turkey, and for the Greek government to end its illegal misuse of the term ‘safe third state’.

© Rory O’Keeffe, Koraki

Groundbreaking decision in our first pushback case before the European Court of Human Rights

Last week, we asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to prevent the pushback of four asylum-seekers from Greek territory (Aegean islands).

Initially, the Court issued a provisional decision, asking to the Greek Government information about the steps that had been taken on the allegation of pushback. The decision also imposed that first-aid assistance be provided to the asylum-seekers, who had been forced to live for three days without access to food, water, shelter, nor medical assistance.

Sadly, by the time the Court reached such a decision, three out of four asylum-seekers had been already subjected to a violent and life-threatening pushback. However, the proceedings continued in respect of the fourth asylum-seekers, and the results so achieved are important.

After having received further information on the case by us and by the Greek Government, the European Court has concluded that the asylum-seeker who is still in Greek territory cannot be subjected to a removal.

In our knowledge, this is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights issues a decision ordering that a pushback from the Greek islands should not take place.

Such decision reminds of those issued against Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in the context of the Belarusian crisis, thus representing a key element in the widening of the protection afforded by the European Court of Human Rights to asylum seekers throughout Europe.

Human rights belongs to everyone, or do they?

On Tuesday March 8, a boat carrying 20 Palestinians from Gaza, 10 men, 3 women and 7 children, landed on the south east shores of Chios, not far from Nenita.

After arriving they fled to the woods in the surrounding areas, in fear of being found and arrested by Greek police. The group remained in the area for a while, the feet of the small children couldn’t move very fast, the dark made it even more challenging.

At 05.00 people from the group made contact with Aegean Boat Report, they asked for assistance., “hello, we are on the island of Chios, we want to apply for asylum, we are all Palestinians from Gaza, we have many children, please help us”.

Filmed after arriving on Chios, while hiding

In the next hours we received pictures, videos and location data, documenting their presence on Chios, small children, tiered and soaking wet from the rain, shivering from the cold, sitting straight on the ground.

We followed the group´s movements on Live location on whatsapp, slowly moving north. At 07.30 we received a message from the group, “police are chasing us, please help us, we have small children, we are afraid”.

Their location showed that they were in the outskirts of Nenita, a short message was sent, “ police caught us, we are afraid”.

Location arrested by police

People were rounded up, but a group of six young men managed to get away, and moved quickly from the area, heading west. Police were chasing them, but gave up after a short while. Aegean Boat Report got a short message from them 07.40, “many of us were arrested, all the children, we managed to run away, they will be returned, please help”. 20 minutes later we lost contact with the group of six, and didn’t hear from them anymore, perhaps they ran out of power on their phone.

The six that manage to run away

14 people were arrested by police south of Nenita, police told them to wait, and they would be transported to the camp for registration and asylum procedures, this would later prove to not be the case.

The six that managed to get away from the police, later arrived by their own means at the refugee camp in Halkios, and transported to the quarantine facility in Lefkonia.

For some reason police didn’t take their phones away, perhaps the officers arresting them indeed believed that they actually would be taken to camp, especially considering the many small children, and that the order later was changed by their commander.

Aegean Boat Report received a new message on whatsapp, “we are now with the police, they caught us, we hope they will not return us again, we are so afraid, we are now in a bus, we do not know where they will take us, perhaps return us, they have done that four times before”. We received a picture from inside the bus, all we could recognize was the clothes of one of the children.

Picture from inside the bus

Aegean Boat Report followed their movement on whatsapp Live location, while the bus moved through Nenita and Kallimasia towards Chios city center, the bus eventually stoped at an industrial site at the seafront close to city of Chios.

At 09.00 we received two videos, one showing the inside of the bus, the second perhaps a bit more interesting, we can clearly see the outside of the bus, but perhaps even more interesting, a man in dark clothes can be seen standing outside the bus, talking with the bus driver, while wearing a balaclava. This indicates that the man with the face covered knows the bus driver, and is indeed from local police. Locals on Chios can easily identify the area where these videos were taken.

Video inside the bus

What can be heard on the video from the conversation seems trivial enough, “longline prepared and you can pull it the shore.. you need a strong hand..”, this could of course be about fishing, but could also be related to what happened later on, most of the conversation was not caught on film.

Police brought an additional 12 people onboard the bus in handcuffs, all with African descent. We later learned that these 12 were a part of a boat arriving the day before, Monday March 7 on Chios south east, close to Nenita, carrying at least 25 people. The remaining 13 from this arrival was, according to sources, registered in the quarantine facility in Lefkonia.

Aegean Boat Report later received three voice messages that was recorded on a phone inside the bus. There was a lot of shouting, but some can be clearly heard from the sound files, a man telling people to sit down in their set’s in English, he’s counting up to 32 in Greek, and callling another man by the name Chrisstos, last message “look at that look at that, right next to the car/phone, under our ?- malaka” it’s actually very difficult to understand what he is talking about, perhaps it’s about a phone, difficult to say. But one word is very easy to understand, “malaka”, in this setting and tone it’s most likely used as an insult towards one of the refugees, “asshole”, “wanker“, “impotent“, “stupid‘, “idiot‘, “sucker“, nothing nice at least, and show what this man thinks of these people.

At least 45 people arrived on Chios between March 7-8 on two landings, 19 of those were registered in the quarantine facility in Lefkonia, 26 was illegally deported by the Greek authorities in a rubber boat without an engine, helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea, another illegal refoulement performed by the Greek coast guard.

This case has also been featured in Astraparis, the local online news on Chios the last three days. Todays article sends a direct question to the Greek minister of imigration and asylum, Notis Mitarakis, “Where are these children?

The Greek newspaper EFSYN have been in contact with one of the Palestinian families, now in Turkey, who fell victim to this illigal refoulement performed by the Greek authorities, and published an article today.

At 13.15, March 8, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 26 people from a rubber boat drifting outside Cesme, Turkey.

Registration in Turkey shows that 14 Palestinians, 10 Liberians, 1 Yemenis and 1 Gambian was rescued in this incident.

From pictures and videos received while this group was on Chios, we can easily identify the same people, especially the Palestinian children, from the footage provided by the Turkish coast guard. There is absolutely no doubt what happened here, and who is responsible.

Picture taken on Chios 08.03.2022
26 people rescued outside Cesme by Turkish coast guard

This isn’t the first time this Palestinian family have tried to cross into Greece, they have tried five times, three times they have actualy managed to reache land, every single time they have been removed. Their last attempt was on February 17, they were arrested by Greek police after their arrival and removed from Chios, forced into two life raft and left drifting in the Aegean Sea in the middle of the night.

18 February 05.30 Cesme

And on December 23, 2021, they managed to reach land on Chios, police arrested them, forced them back to sea and left them drifting in a life raft outside Cesme, Tyrkey.

Another “successful” illegal operation performed by the Greek coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek authorities, to protect Europe from these unwanted people. In these difficult times it’s easy to see that we do not value life equally, we differentiate between people who are more “similar” to us, the right skin color and religion, and we open our doors, the rest, those unlucky ones, who comes from the wrong place, we beat, torture and mutilate, even kill to keep them out of our precious Europe.

At a time when European countries opens their doors to millions of refugees fleeing war and terror in Ukraine, the Greek government is systematically breaking international laws and human rights, beating, robbing, and risking the lives of men, women and children from other parts of the world, who are searching for safety.

Human rights are everyone’s: they are the rights of every person on Earth, regardless of their race, their nationality, their colour or their beliefs.

The Refugee Lottery

On Monday Aegean Boat Report published an urgent appeal to prevent a pushback on Lesvos. This appeal was only partially successful, 14 people, amongst them 8 children, was prevented from being pushed back, 17 people from the same group was found drifting in a life raft hours later, amongst them 8 children and a pregnant woman.

At a time when European countries opens their doors to millions of refugees fleeing war and terror in Ukraine, the Greek government is systematically breaking international laws and human rights, beating, robbing, and risking the lives of men, women and children from other parts of the world, who are searching for safety.

Before first light a boat carrying at least 31 people landed on the north shores of Lesvos, west of the village of Skala Sikamineas. The place become famous under the refugee crisis in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of refugees was welcomed with open arms, the village was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in saving people crossing the waters from Turkey to Greece.

Things have changed drastically since then, now it’s actually considered a crime to assist any new arrivals on these beaches. If you assist without approval from the authorities, you most likely will be arrested and face charges, a result of the Greek government’s hostility against refugees coming from non-European countries, unlike refugees from Ukraine, “the real refugees” as they Greek government have chosen to call them.

Today anyone arriving on these shores must run for their lives and hid in the woods, if found by Greek police they face immediate deportation, usually left drifting at sea in a life raft by the Greek Coast Guard. The 31 afghans from the landing on Monday did just that, scattered around in the surrounding areas, groups of men women and children was hiding from the Greek police, amongst them 16 children.

Signs of people arriving could be found on the beach close to To Kyma, west of Skala Sikamineas the following day. Many things was left behind on the beach, maybe because they were in a hurry to leave the area before anyone found them.

Several groups contacted the Aegean Boat Report for assistance, and we tried our best, under the circumstances, to find someone who was willing and able to assist, these days this is often very difficult. Most organizations do not dare to assist, in fear of consequences from the Greek authorities.

At 09.18 Greek time, head of operation for UNHCR on Lesvos, Reyhaneh Shakibaie, was informed. She received detailed information on several of the groups hiding in the woods in Lesvos north, locations, number of people, number of children, nationalities and contact numbers. We had hoped that UNHCR would act swiftly, especially considering the number of children in imminent danger of being put in an life treating situation, if deported in life rafts, this did unfortunately not happen.

Instead UNHCR waited for consent from the people who was hiding in the woods, so that UNHCR could give their location to the authorities. Most of the groups didn’t want the police to have their location, so they refused.

Not a very strange decision, especially when everyone knows what happens when police get a location on new arrivals. They are arrested, many times beaten, stripped of their clothes, humiliated and threatened at gunpoint, their belongings stolen, especially money and phones, before removed from the island and forced into life rafts in the Aegean Sea.

The UNHCR is very aware of this, but nevertheless they continues to provide the Greek authorities with locations of new arrivals, putting vulnerable people in harms way, a practice that is very difficult to understand, and perhaps even more difficult to justify.

The practice of the Greek UNHCR is a direct contradiction to the mandate given to UNHCR based on the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. “UNHCR’s core mandate is to ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide”. The organization claims to promotes the basic human rights of refugees and ensures they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution, in Greece we unfortunately see the opposite.

Anyone contacting and trusting UNHCR in Greece when they arrive, puts themselves in a very dangerous situation, since they are all about “playing ball” with the fascistic Greek government, and seems to have a lost sight of their real purpose, their core mandate, protecting vulnerable people.

Aegean Boat Report maintained contact with several of the groups, they sent pictures, videos and locations to document their whereabouts.

One group of five people, two women and three men, had made it up to the small village of Sikaminea, where they took some pictures outside the local school. After they sent pictures and their location, we lost contact with the group, what happened to them we didn’t know at the time.

To prove that they actually had been at the local school in Sikaminea, we used google street view, witch prove this without any doubt.

Locals living in the area observed several cars, driving around in the area, both in the village of Sikaminea, Lepetimnos, Eftalu and skala Sikamineas. It was civilian cars, one dark green van, and two black Fiat Panda. Non of the cars had license plates and inside locals could observe men wearing black balaclavas, not the typical headgear in the middle of the day.

Contact with several groups was eventually lost, and we feared that local police had found them. Aegean Boat Report tried several times to get updates from UNHCR on what, if any, they had done in this case. Head of operation for UNHCR ignored this request, and refused to give any information, even do we had provided them with all necessary information from the beginning, to handle the case.

At 15.30 the three cars without license plates was observed traveling south in high speed, a local asset filmed two of them outside Pedi and then again in Paralia, the third car had gone ahead and was nowhere to be seen. These cars was the same cars seen in the villages in the north a few hours earlier.

UNHCR representatives was observed hanging around in Skaka Sikamineas around 16.00, when they got there and what they had done is not clear. What on the other hand is clear, is that the mysterious black cars arrived hours before the UNHCR, and they seemed to know exactly what areas to search, where they had gotten these locations from is unknown, but perhaps UNHCR can answer to that.

Most likely UNHCR provided locations to the authorities, and the authorities stalled UNHCR just long enough so that they could remove any new arrivals they could find, before UNHCR was given permission to go to the area. This is of course only speculations, but the masked men disappeared from the area and later UNHCR was observed in the same area, so we can only speculate what deal they had with the authorities.

In the afternoon 11 people was persuaded to come out of hiding in the woods, and down to Skala Sikamineas, later 3 more arrived. 8 children and 6 adults was taken to the Megala Therma quarantine camp east of Eftalu, Lesvos north.

Skala Sikamineas

At 23.30 on Monday March 7, 17 People was found and rescued from a life raft drifting outside Çeşme Turkey. Amongst the 17 there were 8 children and a pregnant woman.

From a video provided by the Turkish coast guard, we can clearly see people who we previously had seen in pictures from Lesvos north, there is absolutely no doubt, it’s the same group.

17 people rescued outside Cesme, Turkey

Pictures of the people being picked up by the Turkish coast guard was shown to the lucky ones that managed to remain on Lesvos, they confirmed their identity. They were shocked and devastated when they learned of their friends faith.

What had happened to this group was quite obvious: they had been found by police on Lesvos and removed from the island, pushed back as so many before them.

While the eyes and sympathy of the world is fixed on the situation in Ukraine, understandably of course, but nevertheless, people coming from other countries outside Europe, continues to suffer by the hands of cruelty, performed by the Greek authorities.

It is good to be reminded that the EU is capable of doing its duty by recognising and acting on those people’s rights as human beings. But even as it happens, EU states are still breaking the law, and acting against all human decency and civilisation, by pushing back other people – people who are just as likely to be refugees, including some like this Afghan families who certainly are – from their borders: not only denying them asylum, but their right even to apply for asylum.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

The law is not a lottery: one does not have human rights only if one is born in a particular part of the world.

To call refugees from Ukraine “the real refugees”, and people from other “unwanted” parts of the world “illegal immigrant’s”, just based of the color on their skin and their religion, comes from the same dangerous ideology that was used by Nazi Germany under Hitler. We seem to have forgotten our recent dark history, both in Greece and in Europe.

Beaten, robbed and forced to paddle themselves by hand back to Turkey: Greece’s government continues its barbaric pushbacks regime

Even as Greek politicians – and others from across Europe – said they would obey international law by welcoming people fleeing terror and chaos in Ukraine, the Greek government was beating, robbing, humiliating and risking the lives of men, women and children from other parts of the world, who are searching for safety.

On February 26-27, even as Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis was announcing that Greece would welcome Ukrainian people, who he described as ‘real refugees’ men following his orders were beating, stripping, abusing, and forcing innocent men, women and children into a life raft, which they had to paddle with their hands to guide to safe dry land.

The people, of 12 Palestinians from Gaza, arrived by boat to Livadaki, Samos north east before first light on Saturday February 26.

Their story is similar to thousands of other refugees arriving on Greek shores, when encountering Greek officials: they are met with violence.

This group, six men, three women and three children, was beaten, threatened at gunpoint, and strip-searched in public. Even the children and women had to remove all their clothes in front of everyone.

The five men from Samos’ port police who ordered this outrage seemed to enjoy it, laughing when the women stood naked in front of them, crying: this sadistic behaviour has no place in today’s Europe. It feels like a breath from the past when Nazis ruled.

After arriving, the group tried to contact several organisations for assistance, sending pictures and videos as proof of their whereabouts. Unfortunately, by the time these organisations replied, it was already too late: the group had been found by police on Samos, and were no longer able to reply.

The group also tried to contact Aegean Boat Report, but could not respond when we tried to speak to them.

When local residents who tried to find them came up empty, we suspected that they had been taken away by police, and we contacted port police on Samos to try to get some answers.

After several calls to the Samos port police, the answer was still the same, they had no information on any arrivals on Samos, and more specifically no “incidents” in Livadaki.

This was not an unusual answer: it’s what they always say when asked about arrivals, or the whereabouts of people who suddenly disappear.

Aegean Boat Report published a report about this incident on Facebook, asking people to contact port police on Samos and demand answers. We also hoped that locals from the area who had observed this, would step forward.

Instead, nothing happened. It didn’t even make headlines in the local newspapers.

It is perhaps not a big surprise that the local newspapers looked the other way, they usually do in cases involving inhuman treatment of refugees.

Journalists working for these papers are usually either too scared to take up these cases, or agree with the Right-wing policies of the sitting fascistic Greek government. Either way, many are a disgrace to, and others must ask themselves why they are in, the profession.

From pictures we received from the new arrivals in Livadaki, there was absolutely no doubt that they had arrived on Samos. Unfortunately, their whereabouts seemed to be a mystery.

Locals in the area must have observed unusual activity this morning, uniformed men in balaclavas, vans with dark windows, cars from port police.

Since this group of people was, according to the port authority on Samos, not taken to the quarantine camp, we assumed that they had already been removed from the island, or locked up somewhere pending removal from it.

No new arrivals were registered on Samos this day or the following days.

Two days later, on February 28, our assumption was proven correct, Turkish coast guard published a picture of 12 people who had been found on land in a remote area in Kusadasi, Turkey, in the early hours of February 27.

We recognised several people on this picture, as being the same people that had been on Samos two days prior.

The group of 12 had been placed on a life raft after dark, and paddled with their own hands to get ashore.

They managed to reach land and lit a fire to try to keep warm.

Eventually, they were spotted by the Turkish coast guard, and at 02.00, February 27, they were rescued.

What had happened to this group was quite obvious: they had been found by police on Samos and removed from the island, and pushed back as so many before them.

The details about how this happened were not clear, until the people in this group contacted Aegean Boat Report again, this time from Izmir, Turkey.

The group of 12 had arrived west of Livadaki around 4.30am on February 26. They started walking east towards Livadaki. At first light, the group arrived at a church, and they took several pictures of themselves. From pictures received from the group, we can see that they arrived at the Saint Patapios church in Livadaki.

Around 7.00am, the group started walking towards Agios Konstantinos, and an hour later, they took pictures at a road sign at the intersection to Agios Konstantinos beach in the outskirts of the village.

To establish definite proof that the pictures taken by the Palestinian refugees on Samos on the morning of February 26, actually were from Samos, we had a local representative go out to find the exact areas these pictures had been taken. The new pictures were taken on February 28, and left no doubt.

Soon after they had taken this picture, the group was stopped by two police officers in a white Nissan Frontier from the port police on Samos. Both officers had dark blue uniforms and were wearing COVID protection masks.

Ilustration picture, similar make and model as the care stopping them on Samos

The car had two white stripes and the logo of the port authorities. The men guided the group off the main road, behind some big trees, hidden from the eyes of the public, and told them to wait here.

After about an hour, a second car arrived, a civilian blue car carrying three men in civilian clothes all wearing balaclavas, it seemed as if the police took orders from these people.

Everyone was searched. The police were very brutal, and stripped us naked, hit us several times. Even the children and women had to take of all their clothes in front of these brutal savages. One victim explained: ‘We were stripped naked and treated in a filthy obscene manner. This was done at gunpoint. We didn’t understand what was going on. It seemed that they only had interest for our phones and money, everything else they didn’t care about. Why all this, why are we treated in all the dirt like this? Are we terrorists or what? We left our country because of the wars, leaving us nothing, no homeland, no life. We were subjected to injustice and insults.

TCG Video

‘Why did the Greeks treat us this way? Before this, I had got to the Greek island of Chios, got to the beach, and they forced us back to Turkey. Why all this violence?’

After hours hidden among the trees, a dark blue van arrived. In the back there were no seats. Everyone was forced inside and had to sit on the dirty floor.

Ilustration picture

They drove for about one hour, perhaps more, followed by both the police car and the civilian car. At some point the civilian car stopped following them, and the van started to drive up towards the mountains.

The person explained: ‘They took us to an army base somewhere up in the mountains, the soldiers saw us, but they didn’t let us out of the van, we waited there for hours, with no food, or water, and they didn’t let us use the toilet, not even the women and children. They kept us there until they drove us down to the sea, where a boat was waiting.’

On Saturday February 26, at around noon, the van drove down towards the sea with the 12 arrested Palestinian refugees, 6 young men, 3 women and 3 children. They took them to a remote area, with no port, just a rocky area at the coast where a small vessel from the Hellenic coast guard was waiting.

(After looking at pictures of Greek vessels, the victims identified the vessel as a Ragnar 1100 Patrol RIB belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, one of these boats is stationed on Samos.)

Ilustration Picture

The patrol RIB took the group out to a larger vessel waiting out at sea, later identified as a Lambro 57 belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, which is also stationed on Samos.

Ilustration Picture

Onboard the vessel, people were again brutally searched, some who didn’t cooperate were beaten and threatened with guns. We asked the group to get them to identify numbers on their vehicles and vessels.

They replied ‘Unfortunately, it was impossible because our heads were on the ground and it was forbidden to raise them. Once you raised your head, they were beating violently.’

Please keep in mind that we are talking about officers from a “democratic” European country, and not the armed force of a military junta. Their status or nationality didn’t matter, the only thing that did were the orders from the Greek government: everyone must be stopped, everyone must be returned, by all means possible, no exceptions.

One of the victims tried to talk to the officers onboard, and showed him his family’s UNRWA registration papers. ‘They didn’t tell us anything. He was avoiding talking to us. I showed them my papers proving that I was Palestinian, and I had proof from UNRWA #that I was a refugee, but they didn’t care.’

In broad daylight, the Hellenic coast guard forced 12 defenceless men, women and children into a life raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea and left them drifting.

They couldn’t call for help because Greek police had taken all their phones away. They paddled with their hands to get to safety on land. After hours of this, they managed to get ashore in a remote area of Kussadasi, Turkey, where they were found by the Turkish coast guard the following night.

TCG Video

Now, we should note that in the last 11 days, more than 1.3m Ukrainian people have been forced from their country.

The EU has responded by offering them the chance to enter and to find safe places to live, learn and work. This is the EU following international law – in fact, going further by automatically offering these men, women and children protection.

It is good to be reminded that the EU is capable of doing its duty by recognising and acting on those people’s rights as human beings. But even as it happens, EU states are still breaking the law, and acting against all human decency and civilisation, by pushing back other people – people who are just as likely to be refugees, including some like this Palestinian family who certainly are – from their borders: not only denying them asylum, but their right even to apply for asylum.

Artwork By Yorgos Konstantinou

The law is not a lottery: one does not have human rights only if one is born in a particular part of the world.

Human rights are everyone’s: they are the rights of every person on Earth, regardless of their race, their nationality, their colour or their beliefs. The EU is now proving, as we always knew, that it CAN follow the law – and do more than it asks.

Now, it must do so for everyone. Ukrainian people require our help in these darkest of times. It is good that the EU is offering that. But so do many other people, and the bloc – every part of it – must stop denying those people their rights, and instead help them, too, find shelter and ways to start to rebuild their lives.

An Important Step Forward In Our Fight Against Pushbacks!

At the beginning of this week, we asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to prevent the pushback of four asylum-seekers from Greek territory (Aegean islands).

In reply to our request, the Court has issued a provisional decision asking the Greek Government for information about the allegations of pushback and imposing that first-aid assistance be immediately provided to the asylum-seekers.

Provisional decision from the Strasbourg Court.

In fact – as it often happens in such cases – the four persons had been forced to hide for three days without access to food, water and shelter, for fear of being subjected to a violent pushback.

Their fear was well-founded, as they have been subjected to pushback operations from Greek territory 22 times already,both via land and via sea, each time suffering violence and ill-treatments at the hands of Greek authorities. The experience of the four asylum-seekers is sadly consonant with that of Parvin, the Iranian refugee severely beaten, secretly detained and forcibly returned from Greece six times (both via land and sea) who recently filed a complaint against Greece before the UN Human Rights Committee (

On the same day, the European Court issued a decision with the same content in response to an emergency Rule 39 request filed in similar circumstances by the Legal Centre Lesvos.

11 people from a boat carrying 30 that arrived on Lesvos Monday, February 14. 22 people was eventualy registered on Lesvos from this landing, 8 people, amongst them 2 women and 5 children were missing.

We welcome the Court’s decisions as an important step forward; at the same time, we regret to report that during the time it took for the Court to issue the decisions, three of the four applicants represented by Aegean Boat Report have been subjected to a violent and life-threatening pushback, in the course of which they have also endured unlawful detention.

8 people picked up from a life raft outside Cesme, of which three were applicant in our request to the European Court Of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court

In the case followed by Legal Centre Lesvos, while those included in the request were eventually registered in Greece, an estimated 8 other people who arrived on the same boat still have not been registered as having arrived in Greece, and were likely subject to an illegal expulsion to Turkey.

8 people found and rescued outside Foca, Turkey by the Turkish coast guard, amongst them 2 women and 5 children.

For the applicants who have been pushed back before the European Court reached a decision, the option remains open to ask for compensation for the violation of human rights that they have suffered.

Three of the four applicants currently in a military facility in Cesme, Turkey.

It must not be forgotten that provisional measures adopted by the European Court of Human Rights under Rule39 of the Rules of Court are the only way for asylum-seekers and migrants to benefit from an effective protection of their rights against pushbacks perpetrated by Greek authorities.

We do hope that this decisions will be a first step on the path of a better protection of the right to life and dignity of all persons reaching the Aegean islands, and that in future cases the Court will be able to answer more swiftly to similar requests.