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Government’s efforts to intimidate humanitarians unfounded, and must not be allowed to succeed

We at Aegean Boat Report are saddened, weary, and sadly not at all surprised to once again have been targeted by the Greek government with yet another mischievous, baseless and transparent attempt to prevent us from carrying out our – unfortunately necessary – work.

Anyone who has followed us or our experiences in recent years will be aware that we are the leading observer and reporter of illegal pushbacks of men, women and children from the Greek Aegean Sea, and that as a result of this work, we have been repeatedly targeted and  threatened by the Greek government, which carries out these illegal, brutal and in many cases fatal pushbacks – despite their absolute illegality – as its main ‘response’ to people seeking safety in the EU.

And once again, the government has, through the Greek Coastguard which has leaned upon the Kos Prosecutor’s Office, issued a transparent attack on us and the Greek branch of the international Helsinki Monitor, in the form of a lawsuit which can only be described as frivolous, if not an aggressive effort to intimidate us.

In this latest abuse of its power, the Greek government has used its operational arms to allege that we and the Greek Helsinki Monitor have: ‘formed a criminal organisation with the purpose of receiving information from citizens of third countries, who attempt illegal entry into Greece, in order to facilitate their illegal entry and stay, by sending the authorities their complete information and their exact location in the country, in order for the latter to be subject to asylum procedures.’

We were not specifically named in the government’s original release announcing this astonishing charge, but we and the ‘… Monitor’ have been named in a letter of complaint about it, signed by 14 Greek humanitarian organisations who, correctly, call the charges a ‘witch-hunt’.

We do not wish to prejudice any trial which may take place, but we must note the following:

·     Neither we, nor as far as we know the Greek Helsinki Monitor have ever formed a criminal organisation. Indeed, we will go further. If the government is seriously suggesting that the Helsinki Monitor, renowned across the world as a guardian of human rights, is in fact carrying out criminal activity, we must advise it to step back and think much more sensibly about what it is alleging, and advise anyone else to treat such claims with the extreme scepticism they deserve

·         The activities alleged in the ‘charge’ are in fact not at all criminal

It is the human and legal right of any and all human beings on Earth to travel to any country they choose to seek safe places to live, learn and work, and enter the asylum system where their claims to such safety must be considered by the government of that country. They have broken no laws by entering Greece.  

The ‘charge’ is that we actually are informing the Greek authorities of the location of people who have entered Greece in the hope of finding safety, both assisting the legal rights of those people, and assisting the Greek authorities to carry out their own legal duties.

That is, we are being ‘charged’ with the promotion and protection of the law, a law being broken by the Greek government, as if us doing so were in some way a crime. It is the opposite.

We feel at this stage it is pointless to say very much more on this matter. We very much hope the Greek courts can save the government the embarrassment of either having their most recent attack on us either dismissed by the court or shown to be the aggressive effort to deter us from doing our jobs that it in fact is.

But we also note that we will be very happy to point out in court that we are not even accused of, and never have we carried out, any illegal activity.

We also feel we must ask: why would it be that the Greek government, which has illegally pushed-back tens of thousands of men, women and children, killing some, beating many and robbing almost all, in the process, should wish to take us to court for ensuring the law is upheld and people are able to enter the asylum system as is their right?

Tommy Olsen, Aegean Boat Report

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