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Another Proven Pushback!

On Saturday November 28th, at 22.00, a boat carrying 18 people landed in Ag. Kratigou, Lesvos south. The new arrivals fled to the woods, hiding from the police in fear of being deported in the cover of darkness. Aegean Boat Report was informed, pictures, video and geo location data was collected as documentation on their arrival on Lesvos.

At the same time several other boats arrived in other locations on Lesvos.The arrivals was split into two groups, 16 people went up the hill in the dark, above the main road, two women stayed behind, hiding close to the road, they didn’t have the strength to go any further, one was reported to have leg injuries, the other pregnant. Both groups had contact with Aegean Boat Report throughout the night.

The following morning, November 29th, Aegean Boat Report advised them to go to the main road, to make their presence known to locals in the area, and they walked down towards Katia. The two women who had been hiding closest to the road arrived there first, around 12.30, and soon after a teacher from the local university and his wife found the two women, and asked if they needed help, he also called the police so that someone could come to their aid, as it seemed that they needed medical attention. The second group arrived in Katia, and was observed by many people in the area, walking on the road towards Mytilíni.

Port Police arrived 13.10 and stopped them from walking further towards Mytilíni at a small marina referred to as “Limanaki Kratigou” (little port of kratigos) by locals. The car registered to the port authority in Mytilíni, who arrived on scene was a Nissan Navara 2015, license plate ΛΣ 5906, and both the car and the port police officer was filmed. Also video from Witnesses standing on the pier in the marina confirms the location and presence of the car from port police at 13.23. Everyone was taken behind a small chapel, searched, their money, papers and phones was confiscated. According to testimony from the new arrivals, they where abused, verbally and physically, before being transported from the area in a dark blue/black van.

After a while they where transferred to a white bus, officers told them that they were being taken to a camp, this was not the case, instead they drove for what seemed to be several hours, and finally arrived at a port. From video material filmed from inside the bus, one of the new arrivals managed to hid his phone, the port is identified as the Schengen port in Petra, Lesvos north. Also in the video material from Petra port, we can see another car, a Nissan Terrano ll 2001 modelwho, registered to the port police in Mólivos, license plate ΛΣ 3804. A local witness in Petra confirms that he observed a white bus escorted by a car from the port police driving down to Petra port in the afternoon of November 29th.

They where held in the bus in Petra port for hours, no food or water was provided. After dark, around 19.00 they where taken out of the bus, sprayed with water, and taken onboard a coast guard vessel soaking wet. They where placed on the deck, in the front on the vessel, outside, and told that they would freeze to death. Other people also arrived on the boat, 13 people from a different group, was placed in the back on the vessel. The vessel involved is identified from video material as a Vosper Europatrol 250 MK1 class offshore patrol vessel of the Hellenic coast guard visual ID number ΛΣ 050, currently stationed in Petra, Lesvos north.

What time they headed out is unknown, it was sometime after 19.00, and it was dark. People from the boat said the trip took several hours, and when they stopped they where forced into what they describe as small orange tent, and left drifting helpless in the dark. Luckily they had managed to hide one phone, and they called 158, the emergency number to the Turkish coast guard. After several hours they where rescued and taken to Çanakkale, Turkey.

Information from the Turkish coast guard, 13 people was found drifting in a life raft outside Kadirga cape, Ayvacik 02.40 on November 30th. Another group of 18 people was found drifting in the same day in the same area 05.00 also in a life raft. Pictures published of the people rescued by the Turkish coast guard, confirm that it is the same people who Aegean Boat Report received pictures and videos of on Lesvos the day before, it is without a doubt the same people.

It’s beyond any doubt that what is going on in the Aegean Sea is a crime against humanity, performed by the Hellenic coast guard, on orders from the Greek government. It’s proven without a doubt, in several investigations, that the Hellenic coast guard is behind these illegal pushbacks, but still the Greek government keeps denying any involvement in these atrocities.

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, has been denying any involvement in illegal deportation of asylum seekers on the Greek border, “The Hellenic coast guard operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and,.. with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life, We fully abide by international and European law”. Mr. Mitsotakis say, when asked directly about these allegations, “It has not happened, we’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign”, referring to articles and investigation in international press.

In September the Greek shipping minister, Giannis Plakiotakis, blows the “whistle”, most likely by mistake, bragging about their achievement, “Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented,” Plakiotakis said during a news conference. In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”

The Greek government is determined to prevent anyone to reach Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution. No measures have so far been taken by the EU to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even do they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.

Push-backs are happening every single day in the Aegean Sea, and Greece will continue practicing illegal pushbacks on an industrial scale, putting families and children in inflatable life rafts, drifting in the Aegean Sea, in direct violation of international laws and human, until Europe once again decides to put human rights back on the agenda. So far this year 296 pushback cases have been registered by Aegean Boat Report, involving 9012 people. 89 of these cases was performed by using life rafts (rescue equipment), 2753 people have so far been placed in a total of 163 life rafts, and left drifting by the Hellenic coast guard.

Following orders is for the officers involved not an excuse, they know they are committing a crime, and should be punished accordingly. All evidence obtained by Aegean Boat Report will be made available for those who want to file charges against the Hellenic coast guard, the Greek government or the officers involved. At some point we need to make a stand, we can no longer tolerate crimes against humanity performed on European soil, we once said “never again”, let’s honor that promise!

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