In the early hours of today, November 8, a boat carrying 31 people, 14 men, 14 women and 3 children, tried to cross from Ayvacik, Turkey to Lesvos north.
Aegean Boat Report received an emergency call at 05.13, from the Greek Turkish sea border, people onboard was under attack by a two engine RIB, five men in dark uniforms, carrying guns, faces covered with balaclavas.
On the phone people were screaming, and we could clearly hear a power engine in the background, not the small engine like these rubber boats are fitted with, but something significantly more powerful. The phone went dead, and connecting was lost.
Three hours later, at 08.00, the group came online again, they asked for help, they said that the soldiers had removed the engine on the boat, and that they were drifting. We received a location from whatsapp, that seemed to be inside Greek waters, but difficult to pinpoint the border exactly. From pictures received, taken early this day, we could clearly see that the engine was missing.
Aegean Boat Report contacted the Port Police on Lesvos, the call took over 9 minutes, because they were far more interested in who I was and how I knew, than in the people helplessly drifting inside their territory waters. The woman on the phone at the port police office in Mytilíni suddenly seemed to have lost most of her English skills, and mumbled something about checking the incident before she just hung up the phone.
As a routine, in all case where there can be doubts on where exactly a boat is located at the border, the Turkish coast guard was also called. This call took under one minute, all information was given, and the operator on the other end could inform me that the position given was inside Greek territory waters.
Another four hour passed, an at 11.50 the group was online again, this time from a different phone number. Aegean Boat Report received pictures and videos from a life raft, we could clearly see two rafts filled with people, the same people who was drifting in a rubber dinghy without an engine four hours prior.
A new location was sent, and strangely enough this group had managed to not only move 44km, 24 nautical miles, in a boat without an engine, in four hours, but also magically managed to change transportation equipment from a rubber boat to two life rafts. How this magic act had been performed, well we don’t need to be rocket scientists to understand.
The two life rafts, carrying 31 people was drifting south west of Ayvalik, and again Aegean Boat Report called the Turkish coast guard. The operator on the other end told me that they know about the two rafts, and that a coast guard vessel was already on the way to the location, they had received a fax from the Greek Coast Guard, informing them about the two rafts drifting inside Turkish territory waters, and the operator said that this was standard procedure after a pushback by the Greek Coast Guard. After a pushback, the Hellenic Coast Guard is kind enough to inform their counterparts on the whereabouts of their pushback victims by fax, that’s just brilliant.
What happened would have been quite amusing, if it hadn’t been for the severity of the situation. The Hellenic Coast Guard had made one crucial mistake when they removed the engine of the rubber boat, and left people drift north of Lesvos. The boat didn’t drift towards Turkey, instead it drifted south east towards Lesvos, not exactly what they had in mind, and something they needed to correct.
31 people was picked up by the Hellenic Coast Guard, transported out of the area and forced into two life rafts. Onboard the Hellenic Coast Guard vessel they stripped them of what little they had, bags, money, papers and phones, but one phone they didn’t find, the one they used to contact Aegean Boat Report. Somewhere west of Ayvalik they had been left drifting, and the Hellenic Coast Guard had corrected their mistake.
We can easily conclude that they didn’t manage to move from a rubber dinghy to life rafts by themselves, and travel 44 km without an engine in four hours. Another example of the handiwork performed by the Hellenic Coast Guard, on behalf of the Greek government.