For three years, the Greek government has, in place of a refugee policy, deliberately broken international law, carrying out acts of violence, torture, and sometimes murder against men, women and children who have done nothing wrong.
It’s time for this outrage to end. Whether the trash is the despicable policy and activity of the Greek Nea Dimokratia government, or the government itself, it’s time we took it out, and disposed of it. That’s what we do with trash..
Over the last three years, thousands of people have contact Aegean Boat Report for assistance, either from the Greek islands after arriving,
or in distress at sea.
In recent months we have seen a decrease of people making contact after arriving on the Greek islands. This is happening at a time when the number of people trying to cross, and the number of pushbacks, is rapidly increasing, which gives real cause for concern.
If more people were instead making direct contact with local organisations for assistance when they arrive, this would make the reduced number of calls to us an improvement, and hopefully would have resulted in fewer people being violently removed from the islands. This is unfortunately not the case.
When I’m looking at statistics on the number of people being registered as new arrivals compared to people being pushed back in life rafts, I’m concerned that most of us are not seeing the full picture.
Arrivals on the Greek islands have increased throughout 2022, so from that we can assume that more people have made contact with someone after arriving to try to get assistance. Aegean Boat Report have had a steady increase in people asking for assistance last year, apart from in December: the last month of 2022 was unusually quiet compared to previous months.
Only 18 per cent of people who started their trip towards the Greek Aegean islands in 2022 managed to arrive and were given the opportunity to apply for asylum – their legal right.
This means 82 per cent ended up back in Turkey, due to pushbacks (41 per cent), engine problems, or being stopped by the Turkish coast guard (TCG)(41 per cent).
What we don’t see is the high number of people who reach the Greek islands, only to be arrested, taken back out to sea, and are left drifting in life rafts by Greek authorities.
A total of 21,152 people actually arrived on the Greek islands in 2022. Of those, 11.496 (54 per cent) people were registered and given the opportunity to apply for asylum, while 9.656 (46 per cent) were forcibly removed by Greek authorities and left helplessly drifting in 575 life rafts in the Aegean Sea.
Aegean Boat Report has documented and published hundreds of pushback cases, which has been possible because after arriving, people arriving have contacted us, providing important documentation in form of pictures, videos and location data.
When fewer people make contact, our ability to document and publish is affected, and important documentation is lost.
We must assume that local organisations have had contact with many of the people who have later been pushed back, but unfortunately this information is not made available to the public.
What information these local organisations receive, and how this information is preserved, is unknown. As far as we know, this information is not used or shared as documentation on how people on the move are treated in Greece.
We understand that organisations on the ground can’t use the information they have as we do, because they will be criminalized, targeted, intimidated and eventually charged, as I have, by a government which is abusing its position and its power to target and attack organisations with false claims and threats of jail and other punishments, despite those organisations – including ABR – doing nothing other than protecting the legal and human rights of men, women and children, highlighting the incidences in which those rights are being ignored or denied, and assisting the government to fulfil its moral and legal duties to people on the move.
We are determined to continue to protect people’s inalienable legal and human rights, by revealing the true face of the Greek authorities. But we can’t do it without information, and we can’t do it alone.
In December, 14 groups that arrived on Lesvos – more than 400 men, women and children – were found by Greek authorities, arrested, forced back to sea, and left drifting in life rafts. Similar cases take place every week – in many cases every day – on each of the Greek Aegean islands. There is no exception.
This is a systematic approach to so-called ‘migration management’, the Greek authorities, backed and protected by the European Commission, violating international laws and human rights.
Almost 10.000 people, half of everyone who managed to reach the Greek Aegean islands in 2022, were arrested, robbed, threatened, beaten and forcibly removed by Greek police and coast guard, with the help of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX, in the name of border management and protection.
This was paid for by European taxpayers’ money, and blessed by the European Commission. The Commission has the mandate, authority and opportunity to stop these atrocities, to ensure the rule of law in Europe is upheld, human rights are defended, and that our common European values are protected.
Instead, after more three years, it has done nothing.
The question everyone should ask themselves is why, why has nothing been done?
The Commission can’t hide behind claims of a lack of evidence: even their own OLAF report concluded the Greek authorities, with help from FRONTEX, violate international laws and human rights, so why has absolutely nothing been done?
There are thousands of witness statements, hundreds of reports and investigations, overwhelming amounts of evidence from EU bodies, NGO’s, journalists and researchers, all proving that Greek authorities are violating international laws and human rights on an industrial scale, activity that can only be seen as crimes against humanity.
It’s time to remove the cancer before it’s to late, before it infects everything we hold dearly.
It’s time to pull up our sleeves and take out the trash.