A rubber boat carrying 57 people contacted Aegean Boat Report at 2.30 this morning (Sunday 28 March 2021) for assistance. They reported that there were 28 children in the boat.
At 3.57am, they were stopped by a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, an orange boat, they explained, with SAR 511 written on the side, flying a Greek flag on top and the European Union flag underneath. The boat is a Lambro Halmatic 60 SAR vessel: the 511 is stationed in Mytilíni.
Soon, a second boat arrived, described as grey underneath and white on top. The people abord the rubber boat sent a video of this second vessel, which is a Lambro-57 Mk1 coastal patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard. All the men onboard this boat were wearing black balaclavas and dark uniforms.
All 57 people on board the rubber boat were transferred onto the coast guard vessel, where they were placed outside, in the front. They hoped that they were being rescued, but that hope disappeared quickly. Officers onboard shouted to them to “look down and shut up”, and any who didn’t obey were brutally beaten with batons. The people said the boat drove back and forth for hours, and many of the people were soaking wet, and freezing without cover in the front of the boat.
Aegean Boat Report received the last position from the refugees at 5.47am, north of Molivos, in the north of Lesvos. After that the people’s phones lost connection.
At first light, the coast guard vessel stopped in the middle of the sea, north west of Petra, in the north of Lesvos. The coastguard stripped the engine from the rubber boat from which the 57 people had been picked up, and ordered the men, women and children to get back into this boat. Those who resisted were beaten, children were screaming, terrified. This was another violent pushback by the Hellenic coast guard. The 57 people, who had hoped they were being rescued, were once again drifting in the Aegean Sea, in the same boat they had started out from Turkey with, but this time without an engine. No-one was given even a life vest, not even the children.
The Hellenic Coast Guard forced 57 people to drift helplessly, without life support, in a poorly made rubber boat that should never have been used at sea by anyone, and certainly not packed with 57 human beings.
After a few hours the group was found and rescued by the Turkish coast guard, back where they started, in Turkey.
This is not even a particularly unusual event on this stretch of water, carried out by a service which is supposed to save people’s lives. It took place on the day the European Union’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, arrived in Greece for a three-day visit. We wonder whether the details of this incident have been shared with her.