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Refugees Beaten, Handcuffed and Eyes Taped Shut on Kos

On June 26 we published a disturbing video from Kos showing 14 people trapped and gagged in the back of a van, this is what we published.

The video went viral the moment it was published, viewed on Twitter by over 500.000 people the first day, it created a lot of attention, and by some very unwanted attention, especially for the Mayor of Kos, Theodosis Nikitaras. In the middle of tourist season it was bad for business to have such disturbing images, showing refugees being tortured coming out from his island, so he had to act.

Normally any responsible authority would immediately launch an investigation to get to the bottom of it, to find the truth and arrest those responsible of such atrocities. Instead Nikitaras used the Greek political elite’s standard response, when being criticized for human rights violations, attacking the people who highlight violence and abuse of men, women and children who seek safety.

First he went out in the local press saying he wanted to file a lawsuit against ABR for “defaming” Kos, later he went on national tv lying about our organization, that we were obsessed with Kos, he claimed the video was ‘an act of revenge against the Greek justice system.’, and that ‘there is nothing to show that the video is real.

The Mayor on Kos did everything in his power to try to slander the organization who had published this horrific video, but did he do anything to look into the facts in this case, to make sure that this wasn’t happening on Kos? The answer is no, he did absolutely nothing to find the truth, so anyone should ask themselves why, why would a mayor do nothing to investigate such criminal acts?

The answer is quite obvious, this mayor is fully aware of what has been going on on his island for years, not only is he aware but he’s also approving, and if necessary covering it up, as he tried his best to do in this case as well. His close relation with police and coast guard on the island would make it practically impossible to not know what is going on on his island on a daily basis.

When it comes to this case, we firmly believe that the mayor on kos knew the truth when he went to the press, and that he did so to try to cover it up, trying to shift focus from this horrible crime committed on his island. We have waited a long time to reveal the truth about this case, not because we couldn’t have done it earlier but to try to protect the victims from the van. It’s now time to set the record straight, to explain why we did what we did, and what the results of our actions was.

When we published this horrific video, people were still trapped inside this van, and the chances of them being taken to the camp on kos was slim to none. We know the drill all to well, capture, incarcerate, remove and dispose, this has been the common practice of the Greek authorities for years when it comes to arriving refugees on the Greek islands.

“My hands were cuffed but i could get the phone and took videos”
“She is begging for help and can send videos”
“Please come and help us, we will send the videos”

We knew the risks of publishing this video when we did, and knew that we would be “attacked” by those who didn’t want this to come out. The video was published in an attempt to create enough attention so that the people who was holding them captured would find it difficult to go through with their plans, in this aspect our actions was a great success.

The spotlight was already on Greece for human rights violations and violations of international law after the sinking of Adriana, where over 600 people died. Also the revealing video published by The New York Times showing refugees being removed from Lesvos and left helplessly drifting in a life raft had created a lot of pressure from the EU and Frontex demanding answers, they just didn’t need another scandal on their hands.

After this video was published they couldn’t risk that these 14 people suddenly popped up in a life raft in the Aegean Sea, it would have created to much attention, to many questions from the international press, so they decided to change their plans, so what really happened?

We have no doubt that the group in the van was destined for deportation, in the video we can hear one of their captures telling to taken them straight to Marmari, and that’s not the name of the camp on Kos but a are by the sea north west on kos, far from the camp.

Normally, since this group was hunted down and captured in the morning hours of Monday June 26, if intended to be taken to a camp, they would have been registered as arrived in the official registration published by Greek authorities on the 26 of June, but no arrival’s were registered on kos this day.

Official arrival information Greek authorities June 26 2023

The following day we can see from the registration that 13 people was registered, not 14 as was reported from the van, we can now confirm that the 13 registered as arrived on Kos on June 27 was the people in the video destined for deportation.

Official arrival information Greek authorities June 27 2023

When this video was published and went viral, the faith of the group changed drastically, Greek authorities were no longer in position to take them back to sea and leave them in a life raft, as their plan was, and what is routinely done in these cases, so they needed to find an alternative solution.

After the video was made public, the group was first kept in the van, then taken to a secret location on Kos for hours until they decided how to deal with the situation. This is why they were registered the day after their arrival, on the 27 of June. They were taken to the camp at night, in the cover of darkness, less people would see them and potentially be able to identify them from the video that was published. The group was also kept isolated in a closed area in the camp, away from the general population, everything was done to keep a lid on any information of these group.

The people registered from the van this day were mostly Palestinians from Lebanon, but also a Syrian family, a man, his wife and their son, the boy is in the video wearing a Spiderman t-shirt. 14 people was taken to the camp this night, only 13 was registered in the official registration. The Syrian father was separated from his family, for what reason is not clear, but possibly arrested for smuggling.

It’s the normal practice of Greek authorities to arrest at least one person from every arriving boat and charge them for smuggling, because someone must have driven the boat towards land, there are over 2000 people in Greek prisons facing hard sentences based on the fact that they are suspected of driving a boat carrying people over Greek borders.

People from the group has been scared of what would happen to them if they talked about what they have been the victims of, while being locked up by the same authorities who was responsible for this inhumane treatment, and we know that the group has been threatened, told by officials of what to say, and what to keep for themselves and not speak about or there would be consequences.

People working in the camp on Kos, and people living there has now for some time been aware of the identity of this group who arrived on June 27, especially the boy in the Spiderman t-shirt, he was impossible to overlook. We also must assume that the mayor of Kos, Theodosis Nikitaras, is well informed on the fact that the people from the video published by Aegean Boat Report on June 26, tied up and taped in the back of a van, was taken on kos, and that the people in the video now is incarcerated in the camp on his island.

The 13 people in the camp on kos has been given legal advice and procedural assistance with their asylum applications by Greek organizations present on Kos. UΝHCR on Kos has told us that they have been aware of the case and has taken appropriate actions, exactly what actions they wouldn’t comment on due to confidentiality.

We aexpect and demand that the mayor on Kos, Theodosis Nikitaras, issues an official apology to our organization, for slandering and lying about us in the Greek press, with the same enthusiasm as when he publicly attacked us, the same apology should be given to the people of Kos, in witch he lied to and tried to mislead.

Aegean Boat Report will continue to monitor the situation for people on the move in the Aegean Sea, document, and expose those trying to violate the rights of others, we will not be silenced.

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