A boat carrying 27 people landed north west of Palios, Lesvos north east before first light on October 12. Immediately after arriving they split into several smaller groups, and fled to the woods, scared to be found by Greek police and illegally returned to Turkey.
Several of the groups contacted Aegean Boat Report after first light, and asked for assistance, they wanted to be taken to a camp and get the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece.
The weather this day was terrible, heavy rain and wind, it wasn’t a good time to be hiding in the woods, without shelter. UNHCR head office was informed on the situation, and as far as we know there were communication between UNHCR and the harbor master in Mytilíni, and also between UNHCR and the police. The official information from the police at the time was that nobody had been found.
Contact with the groups was lost and regained several times during the day, they sent pictures, videos, locations and sound messages, to document their presence on Lesvos. The groups was scattered in different locations on the north east of the island, hiding.
We struggle to find anyone on Lesvos that could come to their aid, on Lesvos, or any other island for that matter, there isn’t many that are willing to provide assistance, organization, NGOs, volunteers, journalists and lawyers, who dare to go to a location to help people who have just arrived, they face the risk of being arrested, charged with facilitating illegal entry to Greece, obstruction of police investigations and whatever other charges they might come up with, and this just because they are trying to help vulnerable people seeking safety in Europe.
No information on their whereabouts was given to the police by Aegean Boat Report, we will not contribute to the violations of international laws and human rights performed by the Greek authorities, systematically removing people from European soil, leaving them helplessly drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea. At the time we had no reports on any emergencies within the groups, that would indicate that they would need immediate medical attention.
In the afternoon Katinka Simonse, aka Tinkebell, contacted Aegean Boat Report, after reading our post on the new arrivals that needed assistance on the island. She and two others made plans to go to a location where at least six people was hiding on the north of Lesvos, to try to assist.
Before they went, she spoke to officers from Bulgarian Frontex to get advice on how to approach the situation, and if Frontex could help to bring these people to camp.
Around 21.00 the group of three was on the way towards a location south east of the village of Klio, where six people was hiding in the woods. One hour later they arrived and found six boys, minors, soaking wet, and tried their best to keep them warm.
At this point port police on Lesvos was informed, they received location and said they would come to the location, this didn’t happen. Several hours later no police had arrived, and k.Simonse and her group decided to drive back to Mytilini to try to get help.
On their way back, they stopped at a second location where a group of 8 people was supposedly hiding, from the same landing as the previous group. Unfortunately the group in this location had moved further up the mountain, and it was not possible to find them in the dark.
The Dutch crew headed back to Mytilíni, gathered blankets food and water, spoke to the police, who again promised to go to the location of the new arrivals in the north, before they hurried back to the minors in hiding.
Police eventually arrived around six in the morning, 8 hours after they had gotten information on the whereabouts of the minors, they didn’t seem too interested in getting these people to a camp, at least not in a hurry. The Dutch crew was told to follow the police back to Mytilíni, for a short statement at the police station, at this point things took a turn for the worse for the people who tried to help.
At the police station they were interrogated one by one, for hours, the woman was told to undress and had to go through an humiliating illegal search that included stripping naked, where the police officer also checked their cavities. This was of course totally illegal, since they hadn’t been arrested or charged with anything, meant for humiliation and intimidation, and a good example of how Greek police acts when they want to send a signal to others, to scare off anyone thinking of doing the same. Tinkebell press conference published on Instagram
After 7 hours the three arrested were let out of the police station, after lawyers had demanded their release, there was no charge made against them, but hopefully the officers involved will have to answer for their crimes in a court of law in the near future. The incident has not gone without attention in the Dutch press.
The following day, October 13, more people were located and taken to camp. A group of 8 people that had been given shelter by locals in a school in the village of Klio, amongst them a pregnant woman that was taken to hospital for a routine check after complaints of pain in her stomach. A total of 13 people were transported to the quarantine camp in Mavrovouni, Lesvos south, and one woman to hospital. Yes we are aware that only 13 people was registered as arrived in the Greek government statistics, why the woman in hospital is not registered we actually don’t know.
From the group of 27, only 14 people actually arrived in a camp, the rest, 13 people seemed to have magically disappeared, again. No new arrivals were registered as arrived on Lesvos this day, nor the following days.
The group of 8 people that was supposed to meet up with the Dutch crew suddenly went offline, last sign of life was at 03.06 when we received a location at a road south east of Mantamados. We didn’t hear anything from them before they again contacted Aegean Boat Report on October 17, from Izmir, Turkey.
The person we had contact with four days prior was 17 year old Hamza, he told us that police had found them around 02.30. They had been very scared, but police calmed them down by saying that there was nothing to be worried about, and that they would take them to camp. Unfortunately the police didn’t tell the truth, and they wouldn’t be taken to any camp, at least not a Greek one.
A white van arrived, they had to go in the back of the van, there were no windows or seats, scared, wet and freezing after a long day out in the storm, they huddled together in the back of the van to try to stay warm. They explain that it seemed like they were driving for 30-40 minutes, but it was difficult to tell time.
When the van stopped 8-10 men in balaclavas, carrying guns and batons was waiting outside. “There was a lot of shouting and screaming, they wanted us to give our bags, phones, papers and money to them, those who didn’t do what they were told was beaten with batons and kicked. Even dose who did do everything they asked for got beaten just for looking up, it was crazy, they called us names, insulting things, I don’t know why they treated us like this” said Hamza. They even had to take off their shoes and jackets, it was could, windy and raining.
Five unaccompanied minors and one adult were stripped of the few belongings they had left in life, brutally beaten and insulted by representatives of the Greek government, members of the heroic and proud Greek armed forces.
Hamza said they were taken to a port, with a concrete pier and som building, when showing him pictures of the Schengen port in Petra, Lesvos north, he instantly recognized it. This is the same port that has been used in many similar cases on Lesvos, illegally deporting people from Greece.
They were taken onboard a Greek coast guard vessel at first light, under guard by masked men with guns, wearing balaclavas, constantly reminded of “look down and shut up”, those not doing what they told, was again beaten. They were placed outside on deck, on the left side of the vessel, the only things they had on was a t-shirt and jeans, their jackets, shoes and all other belongings had been taken from them. Five other people were also taken onboard, four of them Hamza immediately recognized, they had arrived on the same boat on Lesvos the previous day. 13 people, mostly unaccompanied minors, forced back to see by the Hellenic coast guard.
The vessel taking them out was identified as a Vosper Europatrol 250 MK1, most likely the ΛΣ 050 belonging to the Hellenic coast guard and stationed in Petra.
How long they stayed on the boat was difficult to say, watches and phones were stolen from them, outside, without proper clothes, freezing, it felt like hours, and it most likely was.
The vessel stopped and there was a lot of activity on the middle deck behind them. A gray rib was hoisted with a crane off the vessel, while several masked men in dark uniforms inflated a small raft. The minors was told to get in the life raft, those who tried to resist were treated roughly. The gray rib towed the life raft away from the HCG vessel, after five minutes the rope was cut and the rib returned to the HCG vessel.
13 people, mostly unaccompanied minors age 14 to 17, were left helplessly drifting in a life raft in the Aegean Sea, without life vests and any possibility to call for help, because the Greek Coast Guard had stolen their phones.
Turkish coast guard reported to have picked up a life raft carrying 13 people on October 13, at 14.25 close to the Turkish coast, most of them unaccompanied minors.
From pictures taken on Lesvos we have been able to identify several people from pictures and videos published by the Turkish coast guard. There is no doubt that it’s the same people who arrived north of Palios, Lesvos north the previous day.
Hamza is sitting on the right side of the raft, his jacket and hat was taken by the Greek police, but his blue ribbon on his right wrist is visible on both pictures from the life raft and from pictures on Lesvos. The blue ribbon symbolizes the Somalian flag, it’s him remembering that his home is in Somalia, no matter where he is in the world.
Hamza was interviewed on TV by a journalist from the Dutch RTL Nieuws, her you can hear him tell what happened in his own words.(starts at 3.20)
There is absolutely no doubt who is responsible for these illegal pushbacks, and it’s also no doubt that the EU Commission and it’s representatives won’t lift a finger to try to stop these violations, it’s an embarrassment, not only for the EU commission, but for the whole of Europe.
This has been going on for over 18 months, over 20.000 people have been illegally pushed back in the Aegean Sea, 400 life rafts found drifting carrying 7000 people, all by the hands of the Greek government, blessed by the EU Commission. Violations of international laws and human rights financed by EU taxpayers money.
Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson is using fancy words in a speech at the plenary debate on pushbacks at the EU external border, “Pushbacks should never be normalised, pushbacks should never be legalized”, unfortunately, both are lies.
Pushbacks are indeed normalized, the results we can see in Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, actually the whole Balkan route and the EU`s external border.
To say that pushbacks never should be legalized on one side, and finance it on the other side seems strangely contradictory. Frontex presence at the borders of the EU is massive, never before in the history of Frontex, have as many troops, state of the art technology and surveillance systems, been deployed at the EU external border, but despite all this, they haven’t reported one single pushback, no violations of human rights, nothing, doesn’t anyone find that a bit odd?
Perhaps it’s difficult to report on something that they are a part of, but for EU politicians to try to say this is not their policy, not their responsibility, lying and trying to disguise the truth, it’s an embarrassment.