On Monday 31 October, Aegean Boat Report published about a boat carrying 110 people that ended up in disaster travelling from Turkey to Italy.
After hours drifting due to lack of fuel and engine failure, they were finally rescued by a vessel from the Greek coast guard. The Greek coast guard vessel, a Lambro Halmatic 60, started to tow the boat toward Kalamata, over 800 nautical miles away. This is well documented by videos and pictures taken by the refugees while being towed.
At this point, in any normal situation, one should assume that the people onboard were safe, and that they would be taken to the nearest port of safety in accordance to international laws and the law of the sea, but the situation in Greece these days is nothing but normal. After being towed for more than 20 hours, they closed in on the port in Foinikounta.
At this point this large vessel carrying 104 people (not 110 as we initially reported), a broken engine and without fuel, magically disappeared.
According to a statement from the Hellenic coast guard’s press office, people onboard cut the rope and ‘eloped’, ‘probably heading for Italy’. This was, of course, not their initial response when asked about this “rescue operation”. At that point, they said there was no incident in this area, a strange answer when asked about a rescue operation that had been going on for more than 20 hours, involving more than 100 people.
The following day, when we reported on this case, and it was obvious to everyone that it had in fact had been a rescue operation, their story changed.
When a journalist from Efsyn contacted them asking questions they cooked up an alternative explanation: the people had run away. This was not the brightest explanation but for some reason – maybe desperation or stupidity – the coast guard seemed to believe it was plausible.
I don’t know what is worse, that they were stupid enough to put out such ridiculous explanations, or that they thought people were so stupid that they would believe them.
Let us just say one more time: the boat had no more fuel. Its engine was broken. And the captain – the only one who knew how to drive the boat – had taken off the previous night.
They had willingly been towed for more than 20 hours, almost 70 nautical miles, but when they were nine km from safety of the port in Foinikounta, they magically fixed the engine, produced fuel from sea water, trained a new captain, and ran for Italy…
This is what we wrote on Monday 31 October:
“A boat carrying approximately 104 people, mostly Afghan families, on its way from Turkey to Italy, ended up in disaster in Ionian Sea, inside Greek waters, 80 nautical miles from Kalamata.
The group contacted the Italian coast guard, after giving them their location the group was told to contact Greek coast guard, since they were in Greek waters.
Saturday afternoon, 29 October at 18.00, they connected with Greek rescue services, and around midnight a vessel from the Greek coast guard, a Lambro Halmatic 60 N/Γ SAR-516 arrived at their location.
Shortly after the vessel from the Hellenic coast guard started towing the boat with all passengers onboard, towards Greek mainland, no food or water was provided, even though they asked since they had run out the previous day, and there were many small children onboard.
The boat was towed for more than 20 hours, people onboard was hungry and thirsty, nothing was provided from the coast guard, no food, no water and no information.
People onboard was very concerned on where the coast guard was towing them, scared that they would be pushed back to Turkey. No information was provided, but from locations received we reassured them that they were being towed towards mainland Greece.
At 20.00 the boat was closing in on the port of Foinikounta, and they told us that the rope had been cut, and that three boats were approaching. Through live location we could follow movement towards land, moving up from the port to the main road and moving west at the roundabout, after 550 metres, the movement stopped.
After this point all connection was lost with the group, from Google Maps we can see a building above the road, what structure this is we do not know. Last location received from the phone was from a small shed down from the road, a place that under no circumstances could house more than 100 people.
People rescued in this area are usually taken to Kalamata, why this group was not taken there and instead taken to port in Foinikounta, we don’t know.
We usually get a bit suspicious when all of a sudden connection is lost, and when we try to get information from the Hellenic Coast Guard, they say they have no information. This could of course only be a coincidence, lack of information sharing within HCG, we will try to follow up on this in the coming days.
Information received from the boat carrying more than 100 people can’t be mistaken. We can clearly see the vessel from HCG towing the boat, new locations received every 30 minutes from the boat shows without any doubt that they were in Greek waters, and they were taken to Foinikounta.
So far HCG haven’t confirmed any rescue operation in this area, and there is no information in Greek press, even do this rescue operation has been ongoing for over 20 hours.”
This was all we knew at this point, and yes we were worried. Several things didn’t add up, so what really happened to this large group of people, men, women and children, who had by all accounts been rescued by the Greek coast guard?
On Tuesday 1 November, the Greek newspaper Efsyn published an article about the disappearance of this boat. In their article they cover many questions related to this case.
One of the stranger things in this case is the movement of the mobile phone sending out live location on WhatsApp to Aegean Boat Report.
This phone sent out location data over one hour after last communication with its owner, and the last thing he said was ‘three boats are here, they cut the rope that connected with our boat’. The time was 20.05(EET) and there have been no more messages sent from this phone since then.
According to the press office of the Hellenic coast guard there was no contact between the coast guard and the people onboard before they allegedly cut the rope and drove off.
So how can we explain that the location signal, sending out relatively accurate location data, moved towards land? We follow the movement over approximately 30 minutes, while the phone moved 9km towards land, someone had to have taken this phone to the port, but who, if not the owner himself?
Let’s just pretend, for argument’s sake, that the geolocation signal sent from the phone was corrupted somehow, bad reception or disturbance of some kind sending out wrong location data. it’s then strange that this corrupted location signal would move through the streets of Foinikounta like it was driving a car, not jumping all over the place but only exactly where the streets were, and ending up in an old shed close to the main road.
We could suggest that someone, not the owner himself, took the phone from the owner, 10km from land, transported the phone to land and hid it in this old shed, but why? Why would anyone do such a thing?
What really happened is actually quite obvious, especially when we have proof that without a doubt shows that the Hellenic coast guard press office deliberately lied to a member of the Greek press, in an futile attempt to cover up crimes committed by the coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek authorities.
The Greek coast guard vessel, a Lambro Halmatic 60, N/Γ SAR-516, which had towed the rescued boat carrying 104 people for more than 20 hours, 70 nautical miles, stopped towing 9km from port in Foinikounta, between the islands of Sapientza and Schiza, at 19.49 on Sunday 31 October.
This location was not an accident. It’s a perfect location, protected by the elements between the islands, hidden from the eyes of the public behind the island of Ag.Marina. From land, people couldn’t see anything, even lights.
This operation was well planned, they had more than 20 hours to set everything in motion, a large coast guard vessel was sent to the area to execute orders from the authorities: remove everyone by all means possible.
From information provided by the refugees, we know that three boats approached them after they had stopped 9km from port in Foinikounta, from pictures taken by the refugees onboard, we can see headlights from the boats approaching in the dark.
At this point masked men entered the boat, people onboard were told they would be transported to port by smaller vessels in groups. The refugees understood what was going to happen, some of the men resisted, and were severely beaten. At this point all hell broke loose. The masked men were screaming and shouting, children were crying out of fear, seeing their parents being beaten by commandos in front of them, threatened at gunpoint. No-one was spared, even elderly women were beaten.
Everyone was forced to give up all their belongings, also money and phones, before they were forced onto the smaller boats, the only thing they had left in life were the clothes on their backs.
Their belongings were taken to port by a boat from the local coast guard, and this is why the phones geolocation data showed the phone moving towards port: the phones were not turned off. The phone we received data from continued to send out information until it was turned off, or destroyed, in a small shed on land.
The group of 104 people, families, men, women and children, was forced onto a larger coast guard vessel, placed outside in the cold in the dark. They were told to shut up and look down, anyone disobeying was immediately beaten with batons.
Close to midnight, the large vessel from the Greek coast guard headed back out to sea, toward Turkey, there was no doubt about what was going to happen. For the next 24 hours these people were held captive on a Greek coast guard vessel, against their will, while they were transported almost 600km towards Turkey.
The vessel stopped several times out at sea during the day, as if waiting for something. They waited so they could carry out their crimes under cover of darkness. Close to midnight, the vessel slowed down and eventually stopped
There had been little activity on the lower deck during the day, but now officers started to inflate life rafts on the side of the boat. They inflated the rafts and removed the orange cover that usually protects people inside them from the elements in the open sea.
Why this was done might have something to do with the fact that the manufacturers name is printed on the outside of the cover, and the manufacturer doesn’t see this as good advertisement.
Lalizas, which manufactures these rafts, is a Greek company from Piraeus, and has a contract to provide the Greek coast guard with rescue equipment.
This could explain why people are left in these rafts without the usual protection from the elements: to protect the reputation of their Greek supplier, not the people whom these rafts was made to protect.
Since March 2020, we have registered 1,742 pushback cases in the Aegean Sea, performed by the Hellenic coast guard, involving 46,443 men, women and children: 615 of these cases was performed by using rescue equipment/life rafts, 16,092 people have so far been left drifting in 952 life rafts in the Aegean Sea, and most of these rafts are found without the protective cover.
In the dark, people were forced to climb down and into these rafts. Those who refused, or were scared, were beaten until they complied, thrown down into the raft, or both.
People were terrified, children screaming, but there was no mercy. Eventually everyone had been forced into the rafts, five in total, and the Greek coast guard vessel left and headed back toward Greek waters. 104 people, families, men, woman and small children, were left helplessly drifting in the dark in five life rafts outside Datça, Turkey.
They had no means to call for help, all their phones had been taken by the Greek coast guard. After several hours, at 04.10, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 104 people from five life rafts drifting outside Datça, Turkey.
From pictures and videos received while onboard the boat towed towards Greece by the Greek coast guard, compared to pictures and videos from the time they were rescued by Turkish coast guard outside Datça, there is absolutely no doubt: it is the same group.
We later received pictures allegedly showing bruises after people had been beaten by Greek officers onboard the coast guard vessel, or after being thrown down in the rafts.
In most countries in Europe an incident like this would have made a national and international outcry. A huge investigation would have been carried out. Not in Greece.
There is no longer any rule of law in Greece, any investigations into similar incidents, even obvious cases like this, would always have the same outcome: no proof of any wrongdoing whatsoever.
So why has this madness been allowed to continue for years in Greece? Why have Europe and the EU looked the other way, while a European country, an EU member, has systematically, in an industrial scale, violated international law, European law and international human rights?
The Greek government refers to what it is doing as ‘border management’, to protect the European border from ‘invaders’. But invasions are carried out by people with weapons, not by families, men, women and children seeking protection from war and persecution.
The Greek authorities assure everyone that they follow international laws, and are not pushing back refugees in the Aegean Sea, when it’s obvious for anyone to see that they are.
But still, the EU is sitting on its hands, letting this continue, even supporting the Greek government in its crimes.
European values and human rights seem only to apply to European, white Christian people. Must we conclude that the EU feels that the rest are expendable, and have no human value?
Push-backs are happening every single day in the Aegean Sea, and the Greek government will continue this inhuman practice, systematically violating people’s human rights, until Europe once again decides to put human rights on the agenda.
If the EU were serious about the values for which it claims to stand, it would immediately launch infringement proceedings against Greece. The fact that they have done nothing at all, makes it appear that those values mean nothing, and that the laws and rights it claims to promote and protect are only for the white: the rest can be cast to the waves.
And people wonder why refugees takes these extremely dangerous journeys from Turkey to Italy in overcrowded boats, in stead of going to Greece. The result of the Greek war on refugees, blessed and financed by EU, are drowning people, not because they are drowning on their way to Greece, but because they are trying to avoid Greece.
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