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Pushed Back Under Extreme Weather Conditions

The tragic shipwreck on Lesvos on the morning of Tuesday February 7 claimed three lives, two women and one man.

A boat, reported to be carrying 41 people, ran into cliffs on their way in towards shore on Lesvos, 39 people was eventually rescued and 3 people died.

According to survivors, the smugglers told them that the boat would only have 10 passengers, when the boat left Turkey in bad weather conditions, there were 41 passengers onboard, none of them used life jackets.

This boat should under no circumstances have left Turkish shores, not even in good weather conditions. These boats are death traps, overloaded rubber boats, poorly made, that the smugglers have bought cheap from China, to maximize their profit, without any concern for the safety of the people who are placed in these boats.

These boats are of such poor quality that it must be understood that when at sea, people onboard these dangerous boats are already in distress, and needs to be rescued even do they haven’t asked to be rescued.

According to The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Rescue of people in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality or status, is an unconditional obligation for all ships in vicinity and coastal state authorities.

In this aspect both Turkish and Greek coast guard are obligated to rescue people in these boats, and transport them to the nearest port of safety. Under no circumstances should people in these boats face further endangerment by the actions taken by the coast guard based on political motives.

In the Aegean Sea these people have over several years been used as political pawns between Turkey and Greece, as a result people are drowning at the border, nobody is held accountable for this power game, and The European Parliament is avoiding the issue at all cost, looking the other way as if nothing is going on.

After the shipwreck on Lesvos we could read statements in the Greek press and on social media, from Greek politicians, especially the minister of migration and asylum, Notis Mitarachi, that this was Turkish fault, that they should have stoped these dangerous boats from starting out from Turkish shores.

The portraits of Greece as the hero saving thousands of lives at sea, and Turkey as the villain killing people is not unfamiliar, this is what the greek authorities want the public to read, downplaying their role and responsibility, covering up what is really going on.

Anyone who would take the time to talk to refugees, both in Turkey and Greece, will quickly learn that what Greek authorities want you to believe, is as far from the truth as it could possibly be, and that refugees are put in further danger by the actions taken by Greek authorities to prevent people from applying for asylum in Greece.

While the rescue operation on Lesvos was ongoing on February 7, another boat carrying 50 people was heading toward Lesvos south. Wetter conditions in the area was as we know not good, high waves and wind up to 7 Beaufort.

The boat was stoped by a vessel from the Greek coast guard, petrol hose on the boat was cut and they were left drifting in bad weather conditions in the middle of the sea. Non of the passengers was wearing life jackets, if they had ended up in the sea this would have been the second disaster this day.

People onboard contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they were scared of drowning, begging to be rescued. Turkish coast guard was alerted but due to difficult weather conditions it took time to locate the drifting rubble boat.

The rubble boat drifter for six hours in the sea area between Lesvos south and Turkey, when the Turkish coast guard finally found them they had drifted 14 nautical miles(26km) in heavy winds and waves.

At 16.25 Turkish coast guard found and rescued 50 people from a rubber boat drifting outside Foça, Turkey, 39 people from Kongo, 5 from Somalia, 4 from Yemen and 2 from Angola.

50 human beings was set adrift by the Greek coast guard in bad weather conditions in the middle of the sea. At the same time a rescue operation was ongoing only a few miles away, to rescue people from a shipwreck after a boat had hit the rocks on Lesvos, three people drowned.

Pushbacks in the Aegean Sea is a daily occurrence, over the last three years 54.000 people, men, women and children, have been pushed back by Greek authorities in over 2.000 cases. People are left helplessly drifting at sea in unseaworthy boats and life raft, their lives put at risk by the Greek coast guard.

Greek authorities are still denying that they perform pushbacks, evidence that say otherwise is overwhelming. These violations of international laws and human rights have over many years been documented and proven by journalists, researchers, EU institutions and organizations, even EUs own Anti-Fraud Office(OLAF) investigated Frontex involvement in these pushbacks in Greece, their conclusions was clear as day, but still Greece denies any involvement.

The latest revelation was a confidential report by Jonas Grimheden, the top rights officer at Europe’s border agency, to the management board of Frontex, saying that Frontex should stop working with Greece because border guards there were mistreating asylum seekers.

From an article recently published in The New York Times, we could read, “The human rights chief of the European Union border agency said last year that it should stop operating in Greece because of serial abuses by Greek border guards, including violently pushing asylum seekers back to Turkey and separating migrant children from their parents”.

The recommendation to suspend Frontex operations in Greece came from Frontex own top human rights officer, and was based on internal reports in the situation in Greece from frontex own human rights officers on the ground. Instead of following the recommendation, and take legal action against Greece, EU decided to set up a “working group” to make further enquirers, avoiding taking any responsibility. Frontex management board replied to the The Times that “we don’t see a reason to pull out from one of the most challenging border areas of the whole E.U”, human rights violations and breach of the rule of law seems to be of little concern for the European Parliament, no infringement procedures have been launched against Greece, and is not very likely to happen anytime soon.

“The officer wrote that he had gathered continued “credible reports” of the Greek authorities systematically expelling migrants at both sea and land borders.”

If reports from EUs own agencies isn’t enough, what is? What will it take for EU to follow their own laws, and if they are not willing to do so, why should anyone else?

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