4 of June at 02.00 a boat carrying 44 people, many of them very small children, started out from Sazli, Turkey, heading towards Lesvos north.
The trip lasted for five hours, people onboard was afraid that the Greek coast guard would find them at sea and push them back, especially after first light, but luckily they managed to cross without being spotted.
At 07.00 they landed north west of Tsonia, Lesvos north east. They destroyed the rubber boat on the beach, before they split up in several smaller groups, and fled to the woods in the area, frightened that the greek police would find them and returner them to Turkey.
Aegean Boat Report had contact with people from several of these groups, hiding in different locations in the area. Between 08.30 and 10.40 we lost contact with all the groups, we feared that they had been found by police, and that they wouldn’t take them to any camp.
Aegean Boat Report received pictures, videos and location data, there was no doubt, they had arrived on Lesvos. From pictures and videos received we can clearly see the area, several locals who knows the area have confirmed that it’s no doubt that this was north west of Tsonia.
For several days we actually didn’t know exactly what happened to them, nobody was registered as arrived on Lesvos, once again large numbers of people, many of them children, had magically disappeared.
Pictures and videos published by the Turkish coast guard several days later solved the mystery. 44 people was picked up from a life raft, drifting north west of Dikili, on June 4 at 18.40. When comparing the people in the video’s, there is no doubt, the people filmed on the ground on Lesvos was identical with the people rescued from the life raft outside Dikili.
Some people argue that they most likely have returned themselves, without any assistance from the Greek authorities, not a very plausible explanation. First they needed to find a life raft, not easy in this area I guess, then paddle with their hands over 31 nautical miles, in head winds and against the current, ah, yes, and in brought daylight without anyone noticing them, to try to get back from where they were fleeing from in the first place… I guess we can rule that one out, this was another pushback by the Hellenic coast guard.
Information received from people in the group, was that they were beaten, robbed of all their belongings, bags, money, phones etc. by masked men in military uniforms, before forced on a Greek coast guard vessel.
How people, who most likely have their own family, children, could do this to people, and especially small children, is beyond me. How can they look themselves in the mirror knowing that they are torturing people on a daily basis.
It’s time for European politicians to take off their blindfolds, it’s time to see that what is going on on the borders of Europe is a crime against humanity, to say “we didn’t know” is no longer an option.We must stop pretending that this doesn’t concern us, that’s it’s “their” rights that are being violated, not ours.
It is an attack on us all: when a government strips a Somali teen, a Syrian child, an Iraqi man, an Afghan woman of their human rights, you have to know that they are reserving the right to do the same to you, to your son, daughter, brother, sister, parents, grandfather and grandmother.
Those rights belong to us all: once they are taken from one of us, they can be taken from us all. It must stop. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to this – the disgrace of Europe. Instead, we must stand, together, and demand better: from our governments, from the EU, from the international community.
The Greek government must stop pretending to ‘know nothing’ about a practice which is clearly its policy. It must stop pretending that every NGO operating in Greece, as well as the UN, international media and the European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, are in fact somehow ‘employees of’ or collaborators in, Turkish ‘propaganda’.
It must, immediately – as Greece’s Ombudsman has concluded and demands – open public and accessible investigations into the actions of its own uniformed officers in illegally expelling men, women and children seeking decent places to live.
It must end this shameful, illegal, dehumanising, embarrassing and unacceptable practice.