The Folegandros “Mystery”

On September 5 Aegean Boat Report reported on a sailboat carrying 84 people, drifting outside Agkali, Folegandros.

“A sailboat reported to be carrying 84 people have arrived outside Agkali on the island of Folegandros. The people onboard have informed Aegean Boat Report that the boat has engine problems and they need rescue.”

For a week the whereabouts of the people on this sailboat, that was towed away, according to locals and journalists, by a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, has been a mystery, nobody seems to know, or care where these people went. The silence from the Hellenic coast guard, when asked questions from journalists on this incident, seems also a mystery, they have given no information, on orders from the ministry.

On the day of the incident the Mayor of Folegandros, Efthalia Papadopoulou, told journalists from Protothema that there was a rescue operation ongoing by the Hellenic coast guard.

A journalist on site from EFSYN tried to find out where the boat was towed, without success. He was by coast guard officials told they knew nothing about the incident, and after continuing asking questions they replied that they could not give information on orders from above.

Also a concerned citizen on Folegandros, who was taking pictures of the incident, was approached by port authority officials, not only was she told to stop filming, but also to hand over her camera. When she asked why this was done, she was told by orders from the ministry.

In front of dozens of locals and Greek tourists, a case like this can not go unnoticed. Several Greek news sites wrote about the incident, it seemed like an open and shut case, people would be taken to a quarantine facility for due process. This did unfortunately not happen, and according to Greek officials, there was no incident on Folegandros.

The next day the local coast guard told a shocked SYRIZA MP, Nikos Syrmalenios, who arrived on the island, that they had no knowledge of any incident on Folegandros, also migration ministry told that they had no knowledge of an incident of arrivals of refugees and migrants in Folegandros, referring to the coast guard.

It seems like 84 people just magically disappeared, so what really happened to these vulnerable people?

On the day of the incident first on scene was a Lambro 57 patrol vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, we have pictures of the vessel together with the sailboat in questioning, published in Protothema. Also a helicopter was reported by locals to be in the area.

Also a privat Yacht, the Greek registered Christal Mio, was in the area, the yacht moved on, but have definitely witnessed the sailboat and the Greek coast guard vessel outside Agkali.

A bigger vessel arrived, identification number ΛΣ 090 Gavdos, a Stan Patrol 5509 offshore patrol vessel of the Hellenic coast guard.

The sailboat was, according to locals, towed away from the area, to an unknown and inaccessible part of the island, the passengers were transferred to the offshore vessel, it remained unknown where they would be transferred. The offshore vessel was observed leaving the area later this day, destination unknown.

No new arrivals was registered by the Ministry Of Citizen Protection, not this day nor the following days.

Also two Ukrainian human traffickers was supposedly arrested, but to this day no investigator or prosecutor has received any case file for these arrested traffickers, yet another mystery. The sailboat allegedly “sank” somewhere outside Folegandros, no answers are given by the ministry or coast guard headquarters, who denies any knowledge of this incident.

The following day, September 6, Turkish coast guard (TCG) found and rescued 84 people from four life rafts drifting outside Kusadasi, Turkey. From two pictures published by TCG we suspected that this was the same people who the day before was apprehended outside Folegandros by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

Today the Turkish coast guard was “kind enough” to provide additional footage from this rescue operation, where we not only can see the people rescued, but also the vessel who placed them there. Yes, it’s not without questions we use this footage, both Greece and Turkey would use any opportunity, in the ongoing propaganda war, to make the other side look bad. But when that is said, we can’t ignore the footage published by TCG, it’s just to many things that false into place, it all fits together.

In the video we can see a vessel deploying life rafts, and smaller RIBs towing them away.

HCG Vessel 090 deporting peopla outside Kusadasi, Turkey

When comparing existing published pictures and videos of the ΛΣ 090, there is no doubt, it’s the same vessel, and there are not many of these vessels or similar in the Aegean Sea, it’s in fact only one, the Gavdos, Belonging to the Hellenic coast guard.

Yet another proven pushback, this time not in the border area where it usually takes place, but in the Cyclades, over 130 miles from the Turkish border. The Greek government is no longer doing their dirty work in the cover of darkness, away from witnesses, but in brought daylight in front of everyone to see. They have become confident that nobody will try to stop them, that these systematic violations of international law and human rights will go unchallenged by the rest of Europe.

Greece has recently requested additional funds for border protection, especially in the Aegean, The European Commission asks Greece for transparency on pushbacks to release these funds. The Commission has asked Greece to set up an and credible “independent” mechanism to monitor and avoid pushbacks of migrants at its border as a condition to release an additional €15.83 million in migration funding requested by Athens.

It’s a small step in the right direction, but not by far the reaction on these authorities that would be appropriate for crimes against humanity. They need to do better, we need to do better to stop this European nightmare, that has been allowed to continue for far to long.

We are long past the question “who is behind these pushbacks”, we have seen to many videos of Greek coast guard vessels towing rubber dinghies and inflatable life rafts, testimonies from victims and investigations to be fooled by the continues denials by the Greek government, but still they deny it.

Pushbacks is no longer headlines in the international press, it has become the new “normal”, it’s performed in brought daylight, and even if we can see it happening, every single day, for some strange reason we can still hear Greek officials continue to deny any involvement.

Hundreds of pushback reports have been published by Aegean Boat Report over the last 19 months. Since March 2020 we have documented 637 pushback cases involving 17.775 people. In the same period 332 life rafts has been found drifting in the Aegean Sea, carrying 5700 people.

332 life rafts found drifting in the Aegean see, carrying 5700 vulnerable people, and nobody is asking questions. It’s time for the European Commision to take of their blindfolds and open their eyes, we can no longer tolerate these authorities to continue on European soil.

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