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Frontex Under Scrutiny, Pushbacks Continue In Greece

On May 25, Aegean Boat Report was contacted by people onboard a Greek coast guard vessel outside Samos, close to the island of Samiopoula, heading towards the Turkish sea border, begging for help.

People onboard asked for help, they believed that the Greek coast guard was pushing them back to Turkey, later their suspicion would be confirmed.

“They arrested us from a sailboat heading to Italy yesterday, Organization… please help us, please send someone to help us, they are going to throw us to the water, they want to kill us, there are 105 of us, we were beaten, please help us…”

From videos received, we can clearly see that some of the men have injuries, after, according to people onboard, being beaten by officers of the Greek coast guard.

People onboard told Aegean Boat Report that they had been heading towards Italy in a sailboat, when the Greek coast guard stopped them last night. Everyone was taken onboard the coast guard vessel, they destroyed the sailboat that sank shortly after.

From live location on Whatsapp, we could track the boat heading south east towards Turkey, after 30 minutes the connection was lost, most likely phone was taken by officers onboard.

From the videos we have identified the boat to be a P355 GR / Class Marinos Zampatis, either ΛΣ-900 or ΛΣ-910, belonging to the Greek coast guard.

After analyzing the footage taken by the refugees onboard, compared to known pictures of the two vessels, we have determined that the boat in these videos is the ΛΣ-910 and not the ΛΣ-900, small details give away its identity.

The boat was built in Italy, bought in 2020 financed under the FRONTEX Special Equipment Action of the Internal Security Fund, 90% funded by EU money.

Naval Analyses: CNV P355GR, the new coastal patrol vessels of the Hellenic Coast Guard

The faith of 105 people, men, women and children was unknown, we suspected that they would be forced into life rafts and left drifting in the Aegean Sea. Aegean Boat Report published the incident while it was ongoing on May 25. We didn’t believe it would make any difference for the people involved, nevertheless, it’s important to document these atrocities.

The Greek government is systematically and illegally pushing back people on a daily basis, with no condemnation from Europe, quite the opposite, EU is funding these operations and Frontex is assisting.

So, what really happened to this group? Contact was lost and there was no way to be 100% sure what would happen, we had our suspicions but no proof at the time. There was no information from any of the islands in the area that people had been brought in and registered, another magic trick by the Greek government.

On Wednesday night, May 25, at 22.18, the Turkish coast guard reported that they had found and rescued 26 people from two life rafts drifting outside Bodrum, Turkey.

TCG Report May 25 2022

The Turkish coast guard had received an email from the Greek coast guard, informing them about people drifting in the area. First, they illegally forced people into life rafts at sea, then they informed Turkish authorities to get them rescued.

By comparing pictures and videos received from the people while onboard the Greek Coast Guard vessel, with the footage from the time they were found and rescued by the Turkish coast guard, we can confirm that it’s the same people. The two rafts consisted of only single men, no families, women and children.

The following morning, May 26 at 05.10, Turkish coast guard reported to have found and rescued 81 people from four life rafts drifting outside Datcha, Turkey, also this time after being informed by email from the Greek Coast Guard.

TCG Report May 26 2022

881 people were found drifting in four life rafts, many of them small children, nobody is spared, everyone is treated in the same inhuman brutal way. The four rafts consisted of families, men, women and children, all single men was placed in the two rafts outside Bodrum.

107 people were stopped by the Greek coast guard close to mainland Greece, their boat destroyed, transported hundreds of miles and left drifting in a total of six life rafts.

So why push them back in two separate groups 60 miles apart, from the same coast guard vessel? Did they honestly believe that they could disguise this as two separate incidents? That it would be difficult to link it to the case already published from outside Samos on May 25?

Without pictures and videos, it would of course be difficult to prove, but unfortunately for the Greek Authorities we are not easily misled, and the evidence speaks for itself.

Greek authorities are used to being in control of what is published by Greek press. This case, no matter how outrageous it is, would never be published by mainstream media in Greece, if anyone did, they would no longer receive funding from the government, so it’s better to not publish anything that could upset the ruling party. One thing I can ensure you, Aegean Boat Report cannot be bought nor threatened to silence, we will continue to investigate and publish violations of international laws and human rights performed by the Greek authorities as long as it is necessary.

This is the brutal reality for refugees on the border of Europe, how long can we continue to look away as if nothing is happening? Greece is acting in direct violation of international laws and human rights, funded by the EU, pushing back refugees in the Aegean Sea by any means possible.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

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.

As long as human rights abuse by Greek authorities continues, all funding from the EU should and must stop, on all projects. Funding already received should be thoroughly investigated to determine if funds are used as intended. End all Frontex operations and remove all Frontex presence currently deployed in Greece, until violations of international laws and human rights are brought to an end.

The European Union border guard agency’s oversight mechanisms have failed to safeguard people against serious human rights violations at the EU’s external borders. The actions of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), shows a pattern of failure to credibly investigate or take steps to mitigate abuses against migrants at EU external borders, even in the face of clear evidence of rights violations.

Frontex has repeatedly failed to take effective action when allegations of human rights violations are brought to its attention. Frontex has seven oversight, reporting, and monitoring mechanisms with the stated purpose of ensuring that its officers do not engage in abuse, are held accountable if they do, and are not complicit in abuse by EU member states. They include a system to report serious incidents that has recorded only a few incidents but failed to prevent abuse, and failed to hold those responsible accountable.

Under Article 46 of the Frontex Regulation, the agency also has a duty to suspend or terminate operations in case of serious abuses, Greece is a textbook example of such abuse.

Since March 2020, Greek authorities have illegal pushed back 32.600 people in 1240 cases, left 800 boats and 630 life rafts helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea, in many cases assisted by Frontex.

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