This morning at 05.30 a group of 17 people contacted Aegean Boat Report from the small Greek island of Marmaras, west of Simi.
They had arrived on the island before first light, in the dark they believed that they had arrived on Simi. After first light they understood that they had landed on a small cliff island 5 km from Simi. Their rubber boat was torn when they hit the rocks, and they could not get off the island without help.
We gave them the only advice we could under the circumstances, to call 112 and inform Greek authorities. Greek coast guard is the only rescue service in Greek waters, there is no other alternative. We of course knew that this most likely would lead to another pushback, but as mentioned, there are no other alternative when they have arrived on an inhabited island.
The group consisted of 17 people, 15 men and two women, Palestinians and Syrians.
While on Marmaras, the group provided pictures, videos and geolocations, there was absolutely no doubt that they were on the island.
They listened to our advice and called 112, hours passed and nothing happened. At 08.30 the group reported that a Greek coast guard vessel was approaching. From videos we can clearly see a Lambro 57 Coastal Patrol vessel. The number on the vessel seems to be ΛΣ-143, but there is no doubt that the vessel belongs to the Hellenic Coast Guard. People said the Greek Coast Guard was there, but they are only watching and taking pictures.
One hour later, at 09.30 all contact with the group was lost, we assumed that the coast guard had arrived, and that their phones had been taken away from them as they usually do before a pushback.
We contacted the Joint Rescue and Coordination Center in Piraeus, to try to get any information from the Hellenic coast guard on the whereabouts of the 17 people from Marmaras, strangely enough they said that they had no information on any activities in this area. This was of course a lie, they had a vessel in the area, we could see it clearly in the videos sent by the refugees on Marmaras, and JRCC Piraeus knows the exact location on all their vessels at any given time.
At this point we were certain that this group would not be taken to the nearest port of safety, but find themselves drifting in a life raft in the Aegean Sea in a few hours.
After four hours we regained contact with the group on two different phone numbers, they were again asking for help, this time not from a Greek island, but from a life raft drifting north of Simi, deep inside Turkish waters.
The pictures and videos we received clearly showed that the group was inside a orange life raft, and the people in the videos was without a doubt the same people we spoke to while on Marmaras, only four hours ago.
Aegean Boat Report contacted the Turkish coast guards Maritime Rescue Sub Centre, to inform, so that people could be saved as quickly as possible, without loss of life. They could inform us that they already had been informed, by an email from the Greek coast guard. One hour later Turkish coast guard confirmed finding and rescuing 17 people from a life raft drifting outside Datça, Turkey.
In this case it seems the coast guard was in a hurry, or they hadn’t read the memo from the government, because they didn’t steal their belongings, and everyone had their phones so that they could call for help. In this case we asked them to film from inside the life raft, something that is usually not possible because the coast guard removes all their belongings.
If this had been an isolated incident, it perhaps had been due to some kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding, but unfortunately this is far from isolated.
Since March 2020 44.000 people have been pushed back in the Aegean Sea by Greek authorities, 920 life rafts have been found drifting, carrying over 16.000 people, and numbers are rapidly increasing. So far this year 380 rubber boats and 440 life rafts have been found drifting, over 18.000 people’s rights have been violated in just nine months.
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 responsible. But still EU is sitting on their hands, letting this continue, even supporting Greece in their crimes. European values and human rights seems only to apply for European, white Christian people, the rest are expendable, and have no longer any human value.
Push-backs are happening every single day in the Aegean Sea, and Greece will continue this inhuman practice, systematically violate people’s human rights, until Europe once again decides to put human rights back on the agenda. At the moment everyone is looking the other way, hoping that things will change, without their involvement, it won’t.. At the moment Europe is a disgrace, and embarrassment, against everything we once held highly, we seems to have lost our way, it will forever be a stain on history..