In the early hours of Tuesday, 30 March, 37 people started out from Ayvalik, Turkey, in a rubber boat and headed towards Lesvos north east. The wind and current in the area pushed them due south west.
After two hours the boat’s engine stopped and they called for help, still in Turkish waters, drifting slowly into Greek waters. The Turkish coast guard was informed, but by the time their vessel reached the location, the rubber boat had drifted into Greek waters, and detected and stopped by a boat belonging to the Hellenic coast guard (later in interview identified as a Lambro-57 coastal patrol vessel). The Time was 5.30am.
According to their testimony, while onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel, they were beaten by men wearing black balaclavas and dark uniforms. Everyone, including the children, was placed at the front of the vessel, outside in the cold winds.
A second vessel was also on location, a larger military vessel (later in interview identified as a Vosper Europatrol 250 MK1 offshore patrol vessel identification mark ΛΣ 050, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, and stationed in Petra, Lesvos).
After a while, everyone was transferred to this larger vessel. They were not allowed to take any of their belongings with them: what little they had, they were forced to leave behind.
One by one they were searched when taken onboard, and their phones, papers and money were confiscated. One girl managed to hide her phone, which she later used to again call for rescue and to document their situation. They were placed again at the front of the vessel, ordered to look down and be quiet.
For five hours, they were held captive on the vessel, and offered no support like food, water or blankets, even for the children.
The young woman I spoke with, still in shock after this traumatic experience, asked me “why Europe treat us like this, is it because you hate black people?” the question went unanswered. She told me she felt like an animal on the way to slaughter, horrible words to hear from a 15 year-old girl.
At 10.30am, Aegean Boat Report received a second emergency call, still from the same number. The men, women and children were now drifting in two life rafts, one of which was punctured and taking in water: everyone had to climb into one raft.
From the new location the girl sent, they were north east of Karaada island, Cesme, 63 nautical miles from the first location received south west of Ayvalik. There is no possible way they could manage this trip by themselves, not in a rubber dinghy, nor in a engineless life raft, there is no doubt who is responsible for this.
Aegean Boat Report again informed the Turkish coast guard, and shortly after they were found and rescued, 37 people picked up from a life raft in the Aegean Sea.
Why people trying to seek safety in Europe are tortured this way I can’t even begin to understand. What is driving humans to inflict so much suffering and pain upon others? It is beyond my comprehension.
If this had been done to Europeans anywhere in the world, lawyers would have lined up, and lawsuits against the people responsible would have tied them up in court for years, but it seems as if in cases like this one, no-one even blinks: not one single word is mentioned in any newspaper, it’s as if these people do not exist.
Watching the news conference the other day from Lesvos with the Greek minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson made me physically sick.
Again, Mr. Mitarachi denied any involvement or wrongdoing by the Greek government or the Hellenic coast guard, using the same phrase he has so many times before, calling it fake news and propaganda to influence international public opinion, this time adding a new scenario, that it was manufactured by smugglers and organizations losing money when arrival numbers decreased.
Mr. Mitarachi can only be seen as a pathological liar, a puppet acting on behalf of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the political agenda of the right-wing party New Democracy. Mr. Mitarachi is obviously not the brain behind this, he’s merely a tool, and someone who will take the fall for this when it goes sideways, which it will.
Any person of intelligence would see this coming and dodge the bullet, but Mr. Mitarachi is heading towards the inevitable with a smile, like a lamb to the slaughter.
And in a meeting yesterday in Athens, the Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Mr. Ioannis Plakiotakis said that “on the basis of unsubstantiated complaints” he has already initiated the process of updating the internal mechanism in order to fully investigate each incident and to “put an end to the propaganda efforts against Greece.”
He added: “The European Union must take all necessary steps to ensure that the attempt to manipulate international public opinion, which results from specific centres and interest groups, fails.”
This is the same man who in in September last year, bragged in an international news conference. “Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented.” In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”
Plakiotakis said nothing about how the boats were stopped from entering Greek waters, which also is the south-eastern border of the EU. But he stressed that the 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.”