For three months people arriving on the Greek Aegean islands have been allowed to stay, pushbacks from land stopped, life rafts almost disappeared from the Aegean Sea, the situation was seemingly getting better. This is at least what Greek authorities wanted everyone to believe, the facts tells a different story, and it’s about to go from bad to worse.
Since the Adriana sank in June killing over 650 people, Greek authorities have been forced to change some of their illegal ways when dealing with new arrivals. The normal practice for over three years has been to remove as many as they could, by any means possible, this also included kidnapping people on land and leaving them helplessly drifting in life rafts at sea.
Greek authorities were forced to do something, the EU Commission, Frontex and the international press put pressure on Greece, they needed to change, and seemingly they did. For three months they did everything in their power to try to change the damaged reputation of the Greek coast guard, and they really put on a good show.
For three months we watched while Greek coast guard rescued anyone they could get their hands on close to the Aegean islands, if they actually needed to be rescued was irrelevant, it looked good on the news.
While this PR show went on for months, Greek authorities not only continued pushing back vulnerable people further out to sea, they drastically scaled up their operations, pushing back more people than ever before.
Aegean Boat Report has over the last weeks published several videos to show what is going on on the Greek side of the Aegean Sea, aware from the eyes of the public. We assume that the video cameras on all the vessels of the Greek coast guard participating in these inhumane acts was unfortunately all out of order, luckily all cameras worked perfectly on those same vessels while involved in rescue operations close to the Aegean islands.
After several months of this very well played PR campaign, everyone seems to be convinced, Frontex back’s of, the EU commission stopes asking questions and most journalists lost interest, it’s as if the deliberate sinking of the Adriana where over 650 men, women and children was killed never happened.
Suddenly we hear that local organizations on the islands is talking to the press about pushbacks going down, that the Greek authorities are now paying more attention to international law and human rights, solely based on what they can see with their own eyes, that people arriving on the islands are now longer pushed back.
Don’t take me wrong, it’s fantastic that people arriving on Greek soil are finally being allowed to stay, but the same should go for all people entering Greek territory, sea or land, the law makes no difference. So to solely base such comments on what you can sea and believe is right, it’s not only reckless but extremely dangerous, especially for the people you are trying to protect.
The ripple effects of such comments moves up the “food chain”, from local organizations, international organizations, international press until it lands on the table of European politicians and eventually Frontex, by that time it’s no longer a comment but a well preserved fact, that is used to take decisions that could potentially impact the lives of thousands of people.
Over several years Aegean Boat Report has had a finger on the pulse in the Aegean Sea, it’s not much that’s slips under the radar, everything is painstakingly documented and registered. When we see large international organizations publishing information that is not only misleading, but straight out false, we have an obligation to speak up and set the record straight.
Pushbacks in the Aegean didn’t go down after the sinking of Adriana, quite the opposite, it skyrocketed, never before has so man people been pushed back in the Aegean Sea, ever. Since Adriana pushbacks in the Aegean Sea has increased by a staggering 320%, and continues to rise, those claiming otherwise has been misled by a well staged PR campaign and an intense wish for things to finally improve, I’m sorry to say but you have been lied to.
So how is this possible, we know that the Greek coast guard isn’t the most robust in Europe, it relies heavily on Funding from EU, so how could they possibly have pull this off? We believe it’s fair to say that this huge increase in pushback activity at sea, at the same time as they have pick up thousands of people from boats close to the islands, would be impossible to pull off without massive support from outside sources, but who would support Greece in these massive human rights violations?
Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has a heavy presence in Greece and the Aegean Sea, we assume that they have had something to do with this massive “achievement” in the name of border protection. In a normal world Frontex would have had to report if they observed violations, so far this month we have registered 160 pushback cases, I wonder how many reports have been filed by Frontex in relation to these pushbacks, I assume very few, if any at all.
Greek authorities are seemingly “off the hook”, and can continue their human rights abuses without further scrutiny, and it didn’t take them long to go back to their old habits leaving vulnerable men, women and children helplessly drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea, it’s again business as usual.
So far this month 65 life rafts have been picked up drifting in the Aegean Sea carrying almost 1.500 people. All of these life rafts came from the same manufacturer, Lalizas in Piraeus, Greece, who also happens to be the main supplier of life rafts to the Greek coast guard.
And again, did Frontex observe any of this?, it’s almost impossible to imagine that with their heavy presence in the area and advanced technology, that they didn’t, but this is what Frontex is claiming. It’s quite remarkable and extremely convenient to claim no knowledge, to be able to continue operating, supporting a country who is systematically violating international laws and human rights.
After four years and hundreds of well documented reports by journalists, international organizations and EU bodies, on human rights violations in Greece, there is absolutely no doubt on what is going on, and who is responsible. That Frontex remains in Greece despite all this, is no coincidence, they are basically carrying out EU policy, supporting human rights violations funded by Europeans tax payers money.
In a time when there is war in Europe, and the Middle East is about to explode, the situation in the Aegean Sea is no longer on anyone’s agenda. Greek authorities can continue their human rights abuses without scrutiny, and we expect the situation in the Aegean to escalate throughout the year.
European countries are now supporting the slaughter of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee, at the same time these countries are refusing to help victims of wars they have previously supported.
A few months from now more Palestinians will be on our doorsteps asking for international protection, as a direct result of Israel’s slaughter of civilians in Gaza. The same countries who refused to adopt the UN Resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”, is the same countries who are pressuring for stricter migration rules, ironic isn’t it..
Fore once I can say I’m proud that the Norwegian government took a solid stand, against the atrocities performed by the Israeli Authorities, one of very few European countries to do so. 45 countries abstained from voting, half of them from Europe trying to stay “neutral” while supporting Israel at the same time.
Some say this is a historic document, and that the world will remember the nations who stood for “protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations”, the ‘axis of evil’ who stood against it, and those who remained ‘neutral’ in times of oppression.