Never before have so many people been pushed back in the Aegean Sea

On average, 100 people have been found drifting, in life rafts and rubber boats, every single day in August, as a result of pushbacks performed by Greek authorities.

At a time when politicians and journalists have had a fixed focus on the war in Ukraine, energy crisis and Frontex, Greek authorities have taken the opportunity to increase aggression towards refugees at the country’s borders.

Six months ago, Greece was heavily criticized by the international community, for its violations of international laws and human rights, but when people’s attention was drawn elsewhere, and the government took the chance not only to continue, but to substantially increase their efforts. As a result, pushbacks have increased by more than 100 per cent in the Aegean Sea.
European politicians, especially from the European Parliament, seem totally incapable of or unwilling to take actions against a member state, even one which is systematically violating international laws and human rights on an industrial scale, unprecedented in Europe since the Second World War.

Instead of immediately acting on these atrocities, European politicians are acting deaf blind and dumb, pretending to know nothing and hoping it will blow over.

It won’t.

Since March 2020, more than 40,000 people have been pushed back in the Aegean Sea by Greek authorities, 850 life rafts have been found drifting, and numbers are rapidly increasing. So far this year, more than 300 rubber boats and close to 400 life rafts have been found drifting in the Aegean Sea, almost 15.000 people’s rights have been violated in just eight months.

If these boats and life rafts had been filled with white Christian people, there would have been an international outcry, headlines all over the world, and the country responsible would have been heavily sanctioned and forced to stop.

But since people in these boats and rafts are not European, mostly not white, with a different religious view, we don’t give a shit. Is that it? And if so, what does that say about us and our precious European values?
For these atrocities the Greek government are not condemned, actually quite the opposite.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, cheered them on, calling Greece “the shield of Europe”, EU funds have been pouring into Greece to support them to keep the borders closed, and Frontex, the European Border and coast guard agency, has the highest number of officers ever deployed, in Greece, supporting the Greek authorities in pushing back refugees.

If you say you want to fight crime, you don’t provide criminals with guns, for most people this is quite obvious. The European Commission is on one hand “criticizing” Greece for violating human rights and international laws, and on the other hand providing them with means to continue and escalate: money, personnel and equipment.

This year we have seen an increasing number of life rafts, magically appearing in the waters between Turkey and Greece. In 2020 187 life rafts was found drifting, in 2021 290. So far in 2022, 370 life rafts, carrying more than 6,000 men, women and children, have been picked up by the Turkish coast guard.

It’s quite obvious that someone is responsible, and some Greeks are still clinging to the idea that the refugees themselves deliberately did this, to be rescued in Greek waters and taken to land in Europe, or that Turkish authorities are responsible to make Greece look bad in the eyes of the world.

None of these explanations are very plausible, especially since it has been thoroughly documented and proven that most of the people in these rafts have already been on land on the Greek islands.

And the fact that these rafts don’t have an engine, makes them impossible to use as transportation against Mother Nature, winds and currents.

People arrive on Greek islands, after traveling from Turkey in rubber boats, an increasing number of them are then hunted down and rounded up like cattle, plundered of all their belongings, bags, papers, money and phones, before they are forced back to sea at gunpoint, and left drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea.

Only 10 per cent of all people trying to cross by boat towards the Greek islands actually succeeds and ends up in a Greek refugee camp.

We have documented numerous cases where people have been beaten, tortured and raped. Sexual abuse towards both men and women is not uncommon, they are often stripped naked in front of the entire group, the excuse is to search for hidden objects, money and phones.

The Greek officers usually do a particularly thorough job with the females. In front of everyone they are forced to undress, bend over and spread their legs, all cavities are examined with enthusiasm, usually accompanied by abusive language and laughter.

Any woman would find this extremely degrading, and trauma after such abuse will scar them for life. Why Greek officers are behaving like savages towards refugees is for most normal people difficult to understand.

We must emphasize that this behaviour is in most cases not, as far as we have seen, been performed by local police. Riot police and special forces from Athens and the border region in Evros are assigned to “special operations” on the Greek islands. Their main task is to hunt refugees who have just arrived and remove them from Greek territory, on direct orders from the Greek government.
Greek special forces and riot police are known for their brutality, even towards the Greek population. Within these ranks ultranationalism and right-wing ideology flourish, with close ties to Golden Dawn, this can somehow explain their extreme behaviour and brutality towards refugees.

We have seen Greek special forces used as security to Golden Dawn members, members of these elite units attending Neo-Nazi rallies, using ultranationalistic emblems on their uniforms and tattoos, a perfect tool for the current right-wing Greek government.

In some cases, refugees have been found drifting in life rafts without clothes, stripped down to their underwear. There is no sane logical reason to remove people clothes before leaving them drifting in the middle of the sea in a life raft, besides to torment and humiliate people.

We have seen the same being done on the land border in Evros: people are arrested by Greek special forces on Greek side, stripped naked, beaten and forced back over the river to Turkey.

The last time we saw “unwanted people” stripped naked and marched in line in Europe was from the Nazi concentration camps under the Second World War. Perhaps the Greek government is inspired by the past and white supremacy.

Nor are even children spared from their violence. Children are stripped and searched, yelled at, beaten, they are so scared that they can’t hold anything in, sitting in clothes soaked in their own excrement.

There have been cases where children have been too small or too scared to climb down the ladder from the Greek coast guard vessel to life rafts floating several meters below. The Coastguard responded to this fear by throwing them down, like a bag of garbage.

So what drives people to such extreme behaviour towards other human beings? Can it have something to do with the ultra-nationalist wind blowing through Greece, supported by the current right-wing government with close ties to the the neo-nazi organization Golden Dawn?

Life rafts drifting at sea is usually something we see after shipwrecks, and rescue services are then quickly on scene to rescue people in distress.

It’s unusual, in Europe at least, to see a coast guard – supposed to rescue people in distress – instead abandoning people in rescue equipment in the middle of the sea.

It’s a direct violation of international laws and human rights, and also against the laws of the sea. Any sailor knows this, including people in the Greek coast guard, but this is done every single day in the Aegean Sea, without any consequences.

It seems odd that the otherwise righteous European politicians, seem to be indifferent to refugees seeking help at our borders. Does it have something to do with race and religion?

In the normal world, any master of a ship is obliged to try to rescue people in distress at sea. If they don’t, they can be prosecuted and convicted.

But the Greek authorities instead arrest refugees on land, rob them of all their belongings, beat, rape, and otherwise sexually abuse some, before forcing them back to sea and abandoning them in life rafts.

For this, there is no punishment. Officers involved are decorated and promoted for their services to the Greek state, marked as heroes of Greece.

There is something very worrying about the situation in Greece these days. The fascistic tendencies in the current Greek government are impossible to miss.

It seems the Greek people have forgotten their resent history, racial nationalism is on the rise, following a dangerous and horribly familiar pattern.

Greek authorities are assuring everyone that they are following international laws, and not pushing back refugees in the Aegean Sea, when it’s obvious for anyone to see, that they are carrying out pushbacks every day.

And the EU is sitting its hands, letting this continue, even supporting Greece in its crimes.

European values and human rights seem only to apply for European, white Christian people, while the rest are expendable and no longer have any human value.

If the EU were serious about its values, it would immediately launch infringement proceedings against Greece. The fact it has done nothing at all makes it appear that those values mean nothing to it.

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