On Sunday, May 15, Aegean Boat Report published information in a sailboat drifting 9 miles west of Kythera in the Peloponnese, carrying approximately 62 people, amongst them 12 children.
“A group of 62 people, 40 men, 10 women and 12 children, are drifting in a sailboat west of Kithira, Peloponnese. The boat are drifting due to engine failure, Greek Coast Guard have been informed.
A vessel from the Greek coast guard arrived on location one hour ago, but did not approach the sailboat, they are just watching from a distance. From pictures and videos received it appear to be a Lambro 53 Guardian (LCS-53) patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard.
We believe that the patrol vessel is waiting for a bigger boat to arrive, so that people can be taken onboard. We fear that the Greek coast guard then will remove the group from Greek waters, and deploy them in life rafts closer to the Turkish border.
People onboard the sailboat should, according to international law, be taken to the closest port of safety, in Greece, unfortunately the Greek government don’t follow the law.
Aegean Boat Report will try to follow this group as long as it’s possible, to document how people are treated on the borders of Europe.”
Soon after this was posted, people onboard the sailboat got their engine working again, and started moving away from Kythera, direction west, while the vessel from the coast guard followed on a safe distance.
Last contact with the boat was at 18.00, in a location 17 miles west of Kythera, still heading west. People onboard were scared, the Smugler driving the boat didn’t want to be arrested, he refused to stop when ordered to do so by the Greek coast guard, of course he couldn’t outrun them, but he nevertheless tried.
At 21.00 we got informed that the sailboat had been stopped and boarded by commandos from a Greek coast guard, soon after all contact was lost.
At this point we couldn’t know what was going to happen, we suspected that the group would be removed from Greek waters, because this is the practice of the Hellenic coast guard when intercepting refugees in Greek waters, in direct violation of international laws, Law of the Sea and human rights.
On both Sunday night and Monday morning, Aegean Boat Report contacted the port authority on Kythera, trying to get information on if the people from the sailboat had been disembarked on the island. In both cases port police on Kythera told us that they had no knowledge on any incident in the area, and hang up the phone when we tried to confront them with these lies.
The boat we had seen in both videos and pictures sent by the people onboard the sailboat, was later confirmed to be a Lambro 53 Guardian (LCS-53) patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard. We also identified the identification number on the vessel from the footage, it was ΛΣ-123. The Lambro 53 Guardian with ID ΛΣ-123 is stationed on Kythera, her photographed in the port of Diakofti July 29, 2021.
On Monday morning, May 16, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 65 people from 3 life rafts drifting south west of Datcha, Turkey.
Pictures and videos received while they were on the sailboat outside Kythera, was compared to pictures and videos provided by the Turkish coast guard from when they found them drifting at sea. There is absolutely no doubt that this was the same group, nor any doubt on who was responsible for placing them in these life rafts.
Aegean Boat Report managed to get in touch with the people from the sailboat now incarcerated in Turkey.
They explained that a larger coast guard vessel stopped them, arrested the smugler and returned them to Turkey. “ they told us to leave everything in the sailboat, one by one we were brutally searched before climbing up the later to the big ship. They took my papers, money and phone, now I have nothing, they stole everything I had left. They destroyed the sailboat, it sank before we left” a man explained. The coast guard vessel he couldn’t remember that well, it was dark and the commandos ordered them to look down, it was gray, big and seemed old, something similar to the picture below.
The Greek coast guard efforts when following instructions from it’s government has no limits, the “wrong” refugees must be stopped by all means possible, in this case 65 men, women and children was transported over 270 miles across the Aegean Sea before left drifting in life rafts outside Datcha, Turkey.
The group started their trip outside Cesme on Saturday, their destination was originally Italy. After 260 miles the engine on the boat broke down, and they ended up drifting outside Kythera.
After arriving back in Turkey, the group was arrested and taken to a holding facility. Most of them are Kurds from northern Iraq, and will most likely be deported from Turkey.
The international community is officially condemning what we refer to as pushbacks, but on the other hand supporting countries performing these violations, funding their operations, supporting them with Frontex personnel and equipment, because they are doing the dirty work of Europe, keeping people out by all means possible.
From 1 March 2020 to 20 May 2022, the Greek government has pushed back 31.380 men, women and children in the Aegean Sea alone, 762 rubber boats and 607 life rafts have been picked up by the Turkis coast guard.
Greek uniformed officers beat these people. They rob them, strip them, in some cases sexually assault them. They ridicule them, injure them, and in some cases kill them. It is hard to imagine how any government could possibly behave worse to people seeking safety.
Frontex director Favrice Leggeri resigned after his involvement in covering up pushbacks performed by the Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea. When will Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, minister of migration and asylym, Notis Mitarakis and minister of shipping and island policy, Ioannis Plakiotakis, do the same?
These criminals needs to be brought to justice for their crimes against humanity!