Ten men, women and children, including a new-born baby, were held at gunpoint and stripped of their possessions by Greek police, before being forced into an engineless rubber boat and set adrift on the Aegean Sea, in the Greek government’s latest clear violation of international law and decent human behaviour.
On 4 July, Aegean Boat Report published a report about a boat carrying 21 people that landed on Chios.
The boat’s arrival was reported by several Greek newspapers.
Four people were quickly found, but eventually nine people from the boat were registered in the Chios RIC: this means 12 people had ‘disappeared’.
Our report on the incident, on 4 July, read: ‘A boat carrying 21 people landed south of Vokaria, Chios south east before 06.00 this morning. The Hellenic coast guard tried to stop the boat from reaching land, but was not successful. They alerted police and 17 people, amongst them a newborn baby, was apprehended shortly after arrival. Four women managed to escape and contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, while they were hiding in the woods in the area. Port police on Chios denies that there have been any arrivals, even do locals have witnessed everything. Since this morning port police have searched the area by land and sea, even a helicopter have been used, but officially nothing has happened. Question is, where are the remaining 16 people, have they also, as many before them, magically disappeared, or is it more likely that the Hellenic coast guard have removed them from the island, and that they left them drifting in a life raft in the Aegean Sea? After Aegean Boat Report was contacted this morning, various steps was initiated to try to make sure the these four women’s rights was not violated by the Greek government, and that they could seek asylum in Greece, in accordance to international law and human rights.’ The rest of the report can be read at: https://www.facebook.com/285298881993223/posts/1116242815565488/?d=n
Many questions remained unanswered, especially regarding the fate of the missing 12 people from this landing.
Port police on Chios denied that there had been any arrivals, even though local residents had witnessed everything.
At 9pm, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 10 people, eight adults and two children, from an inflatable rubber boat without an engine, outside Cesme.
The people on the boat told Turkish authorities they had arrived on Chios, with 11 other people, were captured at gunpoint by Greek police, taken back out to sea by the Greek coast guard, and left drifting in a small rubber boat.
From pictures and videos received by Aegean Boat Report, it is clear that the people on the boat picked up by the Turkish coast guard, are the same people who were on Chios earlier that day.
So the question is, how did they end up on this engineless rubber boat, if they were not placed there by the Hellenic coast guard, and how could nine people from a boat the Greek authorities claim never arrived on Chios, be registered in the RIC on Chios?
There is no doubt what happened to this group, and who is responsible.
Aegean Boat Report have talked to several people from this pushback. Their story is similar to so many others that have encountered police, after arriving on a Greek island.
When the boat landed, police were already in the area, having been informed of its whereabouts by the Hellenic coast guard team which tried to stop them at sea.
The group were separated after arriving. Eleven people managed to hide in the surrounding areas, but 10 were caught.
The police arrested 10 people, including this new-born baby. The police officers searched them all, and took their phones, money and papers, though two people managed to hide their phones.
“We were handcuffed with plastic strips, and forced into a white bus” a young boy of 15 told Aegean Boat Report. “The police officers were very angry, pointed guns at us, shouting, I was so scared”.
Who pulls a gun on a defenceless child? It’s beyond cruel.
A woman carrying her new-born, didn’t manage to follow the other group up the hill. The police told her that they would be reunited at the quarantine camp, which was of course not true. The police had no intention of taking them to any camp, but straight back to sea.
Aegean Boat Report was informed about the alleged missing three-year-old child the following day, by his mother who had been pushed back to Turkey. She was desperately trying to find out what happened to her other child.
From this landing, two people seem to be unaccounted for: this three-year-old boy, and an adult. We hope and assume the boy is being cared for by this adult, but we do not know.
We immediately informed UNHCR about the alleged missing child, and provided them with the mother’s contact details in Turkey.
What steps have been taken by UNHCR, is somewhat unclear, but the appropriate authorities have been informed about the alleged missing boy. That authorities’ seeming reluctance to try to resolve this seems strange, especially since it involves a very small child.
The people in quarantine from this group might be able to shed light on the child’s situation, but the Greek government has as far as we know not allowed anyone, even UNHCR, to talk to the new arrivals, ‘due to COVID restrictions’.
Equally, the brutality of the Greek police, as is the case in so many pushbacks we have documented in the last 17 months, is difficult to understand: why would they need to threaten vulnerable men, women and children seeking safety in Europe, at gunpoint, use brutal force, handcuff them with plastic strips?
The 10 people the police arrested were detained on the island until the afternoon.
“They took us to a place where there was a small church, it looked like a military base,” one man said. “They kept us locked up all day, and in the afternoon they took us down to a Greek coast guard boat.”
He described the boat, as grey and white, with a Greek flag and ΛΣ-607 written on the side. The boat he described was a Lambro 57 patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard on Chios.
All the people onboard wore dark military uniforms, their faces were covered with balaclavas, and they had guns.
A second boat was also in use, smaller, with three engines, all black, with no identification markings, only a Greek flag on top, and a machine gun mounted in the front. After looking through pictures, the boat was identified as a Rafnar 1100 Tactical patrol RIB, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard Special Forces.
The ten men, women and children, including the small baby and its mother, were taken out to sea by the Hellenic coast guard, forced at gunpoint into a small, engineless, rubber boat and left drifting in the Aegean Sea.
An unusual cruel and inhuman treatment of vulnerable men, women and children seeking safety in Europe.
Nor did the Greek operatives even have the decency to provide them with life jackets: if the people they forced onto the boat had ended up in the sea, they would have drowned in a matter of minutes.
Once again, people have been forcibly and violently removed from Greece. In this instance, 10 people, among them a new-born baby, were taken back to sea and forced into a small rubber boat, left drifting in the Aegean Sea by the “heroes” of the proud Hellenic coast guard.
Violations of international laws and human rights unfortunately happens every day in Greece, on orders from the Greek government. And the rest of Europe looks the other way and pretends nothing is happening as the rights of men women and children, seeking protection are violated.
There is no longer any doubt on what’s going on in Greece, and who is responsible, this has been thoroughly documented and proven.
The people responsible for this and hundreds of other illegal pushbacks involving thousands of vulnerable men, women and children seeking decent, safe places to live and work – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi and Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy Ioannis Plakiotakis – should be removed from office and charged with crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, the unwillingness by European politicians to stop these atrocities is a mockery of the European Union, and its claims to stand for decency, law and decent human standards.