After dark on Monday November 20 a rubber boat carrying 17 Afghans, six of them small children, sat out from Turkey towards the Greek island of Lesvos.
They hoped that they would reach the island within a few hours, in the cover of darkness, that the Greek coast guard and Frontex, who are guarding the border, wouldn’t spot them, unfortunately they were mistaken.
Deep inside Greek territory waters, outside the north east side of Lesvos, a Greek coast guard vessel approached them. They knew what was installed for them, they had been pushed back several times before by the Greek coast guard.
They tried their best to outrun the coast guard vessel, but they didn’t stand a chance. Several times the coast guard vessel, a Lambro 57, ID number ΛΣ-614, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, stationed on Lesvos, rammed the fragile rubber boat.
Anyone familiar with the sea knows that such maneuvering is extremely dangerous, and can easily result in damaging a small rubber boat, sending people onboard into the sea. We have numerous times seen this extremely dangerous and reckless behavior by the Greek coast guard.
In the last months there has been several shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea, where people have drowned after their rubber boats has gone down. Greek coast guard has claimed the these boats has gone down without their interference, and that they only have done their utmost to save lives, after seeing this we can only wonder what really happened. Survivors from these shipwreck has been conveniently “shielded” from the press, for their own “protection”, and not been allowed to speak to anyone.
The rubber boat was stopped, and masked officers demanded that they handed over their phones, in which they did, you do as you are told when someone is pointing a gun at you. Phones were thrown in the sea, other belongings and valuables were confiscated.
The Greek coast guard vessel towed the rubber boat back towards Turkish waters, and sat them adrift in the middle of the sea in the dark. The engine the masked officers had taken off the boat and thrown in the sea, they had no phones to call for help, all they could do was wait, hopefully someone would find them.
At 21.40 the Turkish coast guard found a rubber boat drifting outside Ayvacik, Turkey, onboard was 17 Afghans, six of them small children, everyone was taken back to Turkey and arrested for illegally leaving the country, also the small children.
These cases of illegal pushbacks in the Aegean Sea performed by the Greek coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek government and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is a direct violation of not only Greek law, but also international laws, Maritime laws and international human rights.
These authorities are happening several times every single day in the Aegean Sea, for the last four years over 75.000 people have been illegally and brutally pushed back by Greek authorities in this area, nobody, not even the European Commission, seem to have any problems with it, all in the name of border protection, paid for by EU taxpayers money.
It’s time to put an end to this, it’s time to put these criminals where they belong, in jail, behind bars. We can no longer tolerate that these atrocities are performed in our names on our watch.
In the early morning of Monday November 13, at 07.30, a boat carrying 23 afghans, mostly families with children, was stopped 100 meters from land east of Korakas, Lesvos north by a vessel from the Greek coast guard.
In the video, that was taken by one of the passengers, we can clearly see the cliffs of Korakas on the right side. We can also see a little white building on the left in the first 10 seconds of the video, it’s the chapel “Agios Theodoras”. There is absolutely no question where this video was taken, any local can confirm that this is east of Korakas, Lesvos north.
Masked men used boat hooks with iron tips to destroy the engine, in the process hitting and injuring several people onboard, amongst them an old man and a child. The masked coast guard officers took no notice of this, and continued to hit down hard toward the fragile rubber boat until the engine was destroyed.
Everyone onboard was terrified, we can hear people screaming hysterically, it’s just unbelievable that members of a European coast guard agency, who have sworn an oath to protect human lives, can perform such atrocities, it’s just appalling.
The group of 23 men, women and children were taken onboard the coast guard vessel, the masked officers told them that they would take them to a “UN camp”, this was most definitely a lie.
When everyone was onboard the coast guard vessel, the masked men ordered everyone to hand over their phones, money and other valuables, those who refused were brutally beaten. All phones was immediately thrown into the sea, it was quite obvious that they didn’t want any evidence of their crimes.
In most cases people don’t hide their phones, in fear of what will happen to them if the phones are found. This time one of them kept his cool, and hid the phone under his child’s clothes, this phone was later used to call the international emergency number 112 that resulted in them being rescued.
The group was kept on the coast guard vessel for almost two hours, the vessel, a Lambro 57 coastal patrol vessel ΛΣ-144, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, stationed on Lesvos. While onboard, the vessel moved slowly away from Lesvos towards the Turkish sea border, they had never any intention on taking anyone to a camp.
At the Turkish sea border outside Ayvacik, the Greek coast guard vessel forced the group back in the rubber boat, 23 people, men, women and children, those who couldn’t clime down into the boat was thrown down, everything was done at gunpoint, they had no choice.
The Greek coast guard vessel pulled away, and the group was left helplessly drifting in the middle of the sea, in a rubber boat with no engine, the Greek officers had taken it off and dropped it into the sea. Luckily they had managed to hide one phone, this was used to contact rescue services, and at 11.05 am they were found drifting outside Ayvacik by the Turkish coast guard.
Some might say this is an isolated incident, unfortunately it’s not, this is the normal routine happening every single day all over the Aegean Sea. In the last four years 75.000 people have been illegally pushed back in the Aegean Sea by Greek authorities, all in the name of border protection.
This was all done in brought daylight in an area heavily monitored by Frontex, strangely enough, nobody saw anything, no report was filed, all reported to be normal. And in many aspects it’s actually exactly what it is, normal, because this has now been going on for four years, night and day, everyone knows that these atrocities are taking place, but nobody is doing anything to stop it.
These men onboard the coast guard vessel isn’t coast guard officers, just criminals with a badge, they and so many other officers in the Greek coast guard should be put behind bars where they belong. To hide behind “just following orders” won’t save them, because they know that these orders are illegal, in direct violation of the law of the sea, international law and human rights law.
At some point, sooner or later, everyone will face judgment for their crimes, let’s hope, for the sake of humanity, that for these criminals it’s sooner than later.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since 1 March 2020, the Greek government’s main response to refugees arriving on Greek islands has been to send masked men to hunt them down, arrest, rob, and in some cases rape or otherwise sexually abuse them, before forcing them back to the sea, leaving them to drift helplessly in life rafts.
The systematic violation of international law and human rights in the name of ‘border protection’ in the Aegean Sea has been a trademark for Greece’s Right wing Nea Dimokratia government for more than three years, forcing more than 20.000 men, women and children, into more than 1.200 life rafts, leaving them helplessly drifting at sea.
It’s not as if this illegal practice by the Greek authorities has been a secret: hundreds of articles have been published by investigative journalists over the years, international organisations, and UN and EU bodies, have documented and criticised these violations, without being able, or in some cases willing, to put an end to them.
Many of us trying to assist people on the move have asked ourselves what it would take to end this madness, or at least force some positive change.
In 2022, the OLAF report on Frontex was made public: the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency was shown to have carried out cover ups of human rights violations in EU member states by the agency and its staff, and to have helped cover up illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers from Greece.
Surely this would force change? some of us thought. And something did change: the situation got worse.
A video of this magnitude should be powerful enough to force the head of state to resign. But not in Greece. Absolutely nothing changed.
The European Parliament and EU Commission have been unable, and more likely unwilling, to act against the widespread human rights violations committed by a member state. As a result, thousands of people have drowned, and vulnerable people have had tremendous human suffering inflicted upon them by a developed state in the world’s richest ever political bloc, and by the bloc itself.
Thousands of people have drowned, when one person dying at sea because of deliberate policies imposed by a government or governments should have been enough to end those policies immediately.
Failing this, thousands of refugees drowning while trying to reach safety in Europe – which has in fact been allowed to happen – should have forced European authorities to act, but it did not, and they did not.
On 14 June 2023, a fishing boat carrying an estimated 750 people sank off the coast of Pylos, Greece.
Only 104 people were rescued, meaning more than 600 people, 100 of them children, drowned.
We now know this was the direct result of the Greek authorities pushback and no-rescue tactics: that – and there is no other way to put this, and no way to hide from the overwhelming evidence which proves this to be true – more than 600 people were killed by the Greek authorities.
The tragic sinking of the Adriana fishing boat made headlines all over the world, another testimony to the effort and dedication of investigative journalists to uncover the truth: without their tireless work we most likely would have been kept in the dark, whereas, instead, to try to cover this up now would be futile.
But what actions have the European Commission taken in response? Zero.
It’s a scandal, and a disgrace. The Commission has called for a Greek investigation – literally telling the criminals in this case to investigate themselves – only after which will action be taken, if any is at all.
It’s absolutely ridiculous to believe that a Greek secret investigation would find the Greek authorities guilty of any wrongdoing. Such a thing has absolutely never happened.
Frontex on the other hand, who was involved in this disaster, has launched an investigation into the sinking of the Adriana, the pushback published in The New York Times and a pushback at sea outside Lesvos, where there is indication that a Portuguese Frontex vessel was involved.
The clear implied outcome of any and all these investigations is that Frontex may invoke Article 46 of its charter, and suspend all operations in Greece because of the Greek government’s persistent violation of human rights and international law.
Whether Frontex will do this will ultimately depend on how the Greek government responds to its questions on the incidents.
The agency’s fundamental rights officer, Jonas Grimheden has, once again, recommended Frontex should suspend its operations in Greece, though so far, it has given no information about how it intends to react, if at all, to the thoroughly-documented, systematic, human rights abuses the Greek government has carried out.
But many different scenarios have been debated in the press, from suspending all operations, holding back funding and docking vessels funded by the agency.
And the pressure on the Greek government and its employees to change their ways, and start following international laws, is mounting. The government must, by now, be aware that its abuse of human rights will no longer be tolerated by the international community.
The Greek government knows that if Frontex pulled out all resources from the country, and ended all operational abilities for vessels funded by the agency, it would be in a very difficult situation, and it does appear that it has been forced to change, at least for now.
Are these changes the result of an ultimatum by Frontex? We cannot, of course, say so for sure. But we firmly believe so, because it is hard to imagine changes being made on this scale and with this speed without one.
Aegean Boat Report has been monitoring the situation in the Aegean Sea for six years, and we started noticing changes – small, but noticeable to the trained eye – the week after the Adriana sank.
The number of people found drifting in life rafts suddenly dropped: in the last two years an average of 10 life rafts have been found drifting in the Aegean Sea every week. So far this month, a period of nearly four weeks, only three life rafts have been found, carrying 51 people. Based on what has happened since 1 March 2020, that’s nothing short of a miracle.
By comparison, in July 2022, 65 life rafts were found drifting in the Aegean Sea, carrying almost 1200 people. In May 2023, the last full month before the Adriana sank, 26 rafts were found, carrying 467 people.
At the same time, the number of people officially registered as arrived on the Greek islands since the Adriana sank has skyrocketed. Last week was the first week for many years in which registered arrivals exceeded the number of people picked up by the Turkish coast guard.
In the last five weeks, registered arrivals on the islands have increased by 190 per cent, and in the same period, pushbacks from the islands have decreased 90 per cent. The pattern is unmistakable.
Prior to the sinking of the Adriana, the normal practice of the Greek Coast Guard was to push back boats, no matter how close they were to the Greek islands, or in what condition they were found.
In recent years, when refugees have arrived on the Aegean Islands they have run and hidden to avoid being found by Greek authorities and illegally deported to Turkey.
They have not done so ‘only’ because they have heard someone say they will be returned: they have experienced this first hand, many of them several times.
We will not claim the Greek Coastguard is not pushing back boats at sea – it consistently has done and we see no evidence it has ceased to do this – but those found close to the main Aegean Island hotspots, especially those in need of rescue, have for the last few weeks actually been rescued and taken to the closest port of safety.
This is precisely what Coastguards are supposed to do, but under orders from the Greek government, the Greek Coastguard has not done so for many years: that it is now doing so is momentous and astonishing, even as we must stress that what we are saying here is that it is momentous and astonishing that the Greek Coastguard is doing its actual job, providing the sole service for which it exists at all.
People arriving in Greece know that they will be hunted down by masked violent men, robbed and beaten, before being forced back to sea and left drifting in a life raft. But not anymore, at least for the time being.
We can, with a fair degree of certainty, say that those who actually manage to arrive on the Greek islands, are no longer hunted down by masked men and pushed back, they are being allowed to stay, and given the opportunity to apply for international protection.
It appears, at last, that the Greek authorities have been forced to change their ways.
It is an exceptionally positive development, though one – let us not forget – that should never have been necessary, and which came at the cost of the completely avoidable deaths, in fact the killing, of at least 600 men, women and children.
And even that would probably not have been enough, were it not for the work of dedicated organisations and individuals, including Aegean Boat Report, humanitarian actors, and news reporters dedicated to the truth, as well as to the brave testimonies of people made to suffer serious injury, loss of possessions, and sexual assault, ordered by the Greek government.
We cannot know yet whether this change is one which will last, or merely a ‘lull’ before the government re-starts its despicable, violent, illegal and barbaric behaviour at its sea borders, perhaps when the eyes of the world are diverted to some new horror elsewhere in the world.
But we can promise that we will keep watching, monitoring, talking to people about their experiences, and reporting what we know to you, and anyone else who cares to keep informed.
We wished to report a positive development in the Aegean Sea, but we – and our colleagues engaged in this situation – will not stop watching, and not stop exposing what we find.
On May 19, only four days after the shocking video was published in The New York Times showing Greek authorities pushing back 12 people from Lesvos, 96 people was lefts drifting in 4 life rafts in the middle of the sea. No journalist or EU politician has mentioned them with a single word, no article, no request for investigation, it’s as if their rights have no value.
On Monday may 22, a sailboat carrying 96 people was in distress south west of Methoni, Pelopponese, Greece. Wetter was rough, in high waves and without a working engine they feared for their lives, and contaminated Aegean Boat Report for assistance.
We immediately informed the Greek coast guard, and learned that they already had received a distress call regarding this sailboat, and that a rescue operation had been launched.
People onboard the sailboat told us that they had spoken directly to the Greek coast guard, but no rescue boat had arrived. They feared that the Greek coast guard wouldn’t rescue them, so they contacted several organizations to try to get help, amongst them Aegean Boat Report and Alarmphone.
We lost contact with the group on the sailboat around midnight, Greek coast guard refused to give any further information, and we feared that they had no intention to rescue the passengers and take them to a port of safety, as they are required to do under international maritime law.
The following day Greek coast guard suddenly was keen on providing information, they told us that they had launched a rescue operation but not found any signs of the boat nor the people onboard, and that the boat most likely had traveled towards Italy.
We found this hard to believe since the people onboard had no prior experience in sailing a boat, and the engine on the boat had run out of fuel, so how could they have moved away from the are by themselves, especially as far as Italy. From previous experience we had a pretty good idea about what had happened, and now we only had to wait to confirm our suspicion.
Tuesday afternoon we were informed that the Turkish coast guard had picked up four life rafts in two different locations, a total of 96 people, all claiming to be from the same sailboat that had been in distress close to the greek mainland.
50 people was found drifting in two Greek manufacturer life rafts from Lalizas at 13.25 outside Datça, close to the Greek island of Simi.
Three hours later two other life rafts carrying 46 people was found drifting outside Dalaman, close to the greek island of Rhodes, these life rafts was also from the Greek manufacturer Lalizas from Piraeus.
People rescued by the Turkish coast guard told that they had finally been rescued by the Greek coast guard, everyone was so relieved, they were finally safe, or so they thought.
Greek coast guard didn’t waist any time, on the same day as the shocking report in The New York Times was published, they once again forced vulnerable people into life rafts and left them helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea. One might think that they would be a bit more careful after a shocking revelation in the international press, but in Greece it’s business as usual.
The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis once again lied about his knowledge of the Greek pushback strategy, this time in an interview on CNN, claiming he did not approve of such actions. It’s actually not only hard, but impossible to believe that he don’t know what his own coast guard is doing, and has been doing for years, resources put in to this is enormous.
The rescued people was taken on a big coast guard vessel, transported over 450 miles before they were forced into these life rafts, it’s hard to believe that this was done without authorization from above.
This isn’t the first time people have magically disappeared from one area and suddenly reappeared very close to the Turkish mainland, hundreds of miles away from their original locationhun, not in boats but in life rafts without any engines, nobody ask anyone questions, especially not the EU Commission.
The pushback case published in The New York Times seems to have come as a shock for many, especially some EU politicians. Ylva Johansson went out on Twitter acting all shocked, and has requested Greek authorities to investigate this single case, not all the other 1.200 life raft cases but only this one, as if she haven’t been aware and fully informed on how border management has been carried out by Greek authorities.
So what made that case so special that she has to make a public announcement, telling everyone that this time, for these 12 people, she will actually make an effort and try to do her job, for once. What about the other 20.000 people who have been found drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea for the last 3 years? She has decided, all by herself, that for these 12, 0.02% of all found drifting in life rafts the last 3 years, she will request an independent investigation, If that’s not a total neglect of her duties as a Commissioner and as a human being I don’t know what is.
For the last three years 20.000 people, men, women and children, have been kidnapped, beaten, robbed, sexually abused, raped, tortured and in some cases killed by Greek authorities. They have been forced back to sea and dropped in 1.200 life rafts, and nobody has bothered to initiate any sort of investigation.
The EU Commission seems to have been particularly uninterested in doing anything, perhaps because they are knowingly financing violations of international laws and human rights in Greece.
So far, after over three years, overwhelming amounts of evidence of human rights violations performed by Greek authorities, no infringement procedures have been launched against Greece.
Just after midnight on Tuesday we reported about a boat in distress inside Greek waters east of Samos, Greek coast guard finally rescued the boat and towed it toward Samos, but her all trace of the people onboard and the boat ends, because they never arrived on Samos.
The boat we reported on had at the time an unknown number of passengers, and was in distress in the sea area between Samos, Greece and Kusadasi, Turkey.
We later was informed that there were approximately 15 people onboard, Palestinians, many of them small children. This number was as we now now not correct, total number was 21 people.
When the group in distress contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, we were told that the boat was taking in water, and that some people was already in the sea. From a video received we can actually see a person swimming in the sea in the dark, for what reason is difficult to say. From the short video we can hear several small children crying, and someone saying “people in the water please call someone”.
Both Greek and Turkish rescue services was informed, but since this was inside Greek territory waters, Turkish coast guard informed us that they couldn’t go into the area, but had a vessel on standby close to the location monitoring the situation.
Greek coast guard refused to provide any information, what their actions would be, if any, was unknown. We could only hope that they would provide all and any necessary assistance for people in distress in their waters, according to international law.
From the people onboard we were informed that the Greek coast guard was close by but refused to initiate rescue, despite the fact that there were reports of people in the sea.
Later, Turkish coast guard informed us that at 04.00 the Greek coast guard finally rescued the boat in distress and started towing it towards Samos, at the same time we lost contact with the people on the boat, all phones went offline.
Yes we assumed that the rescued people would be taken to safety on Samos, and eventually be taken to a camp, that they were finally safe, unfortunately we were gravely mistaken.
Greek officials refused to comment on the rescue operation outside Samos, and acted as if they even didn’t know about it at all. The following day now new arrivals was registered on Samos, no organization had heard of any new arrivals, it was as if the rescue operation never took place, as if these people didn’t exist.
So what really happened in the cover of darkness in the sea area outside Samos, and why were Greek officials so reluctant to comment, or even admit that a rescue operation took place. Well the answer is quite simple, Greek coast guard had no intention of taking the rescued people to land on Samos, they followed the orders from the Greek government to stop people, by any means possible, to get the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, they pushed them back.
When comparing pictures and videos taken onboard the boat in the early hours of Tuesday outside Samos, with pictures and videos provided by the Turkish coast guard from the time of rescue outside Cesme, there is absolutely no doubt, it’s the same group.
So how did the boat, that was without a doubt inside Greek territory waters east of Samos at 04.00, end up outside Cesme, over 90km away, 9 hours later at 13.25.
The answer is also quite simple, they were towed there by the Greek coast guard, and left helplessly drifting, they were illegally pushed back by the Greek authorities.
The Greek authorities explanation will most likely be that they had no knowledge of this boat, and that the boat most likely drifted from Samos to Cesme outside Chios, and nobody would ask any further questions, case closed.
But since I’m not Greek, and I don’t have a perception that Greek authorities tells the truth all the time, quite the opposite I would say, I took the opportunity to look into the matter. It actually didn’t take long to realize that the boat couldn’t have drifted from Samos to Chios this day, it basically would have been impossible.
To have achieved this, the rubber boat carrying 21 people, without an engine, would have had to defy the forces of nature, drifting toward the wind, waves and current in the area at the time, anyone understands that this is just not possible, so there must be a more plausible explanation, and there is.
The Greek coast guard vessel, on direct orders from Greek authorities, towed a boat carrying 21 people, many of them small children, from Samos towards Chios, and left them helplessly drifting outside Cesme.
And not only that, before they started towing them, they took all phones from them, to make sure that this ordeal wasn’t captured on video. It would have been bad PR just before the election if something that cruel and definitely illegal had been published. When taking all their phones away, they also took from them the possibility to call for help, they just left them drifting in the sea without any regards to their safety, all in the name of Greek border protection.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to seek asylum, the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits collective expulsions, the Geneva Convention ensures that no person should be criminalized for crossing a border irregularly with the aim of seeking asylum, and international maritime conventions require the search and rescue of those at risk at sea.
On May 16 outside Samos all the above was broken, 21 people lost all rights of being human being’s by the hand of Greek authorities, they decided that these people had no rights, no value. And what are the guardians of the rule of law in Europe doing to stop this, the European Parliament, absolute nothing, or even worse, they are supporting this cruel and inhumane practice, funding the Greek authorities campaign against vulnerable people on the move.
Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is the most visible part of this support, supporting Greek authorities violate international laws and human rights in the Aegean Sea. In this video, that was taken outside Lesvos Saturday 22 April 2023, involving a boat carrying 17 Afghans and a vessel from Portuguese Frontex ID number UAM 651 stationed on Lesvos. Frontex stoped the boat, and handed them over to the Greek coast guard, who then forced the boat back to Turkish waters.
The boat was later this day picked up by Turkish coast guard and taken back to Turkey.
Portuguese Frontex didn’t file a report on this incident, as they are required to do, why they didn’t report this incident we can only speculate, but that Frontex still is deeply involved in Pushbacks, and are doing everything they can to cover it up, I have no doubt.
Since March 2020 Greek authorities, supported by Frontex, have violated the rights of almost 60.000 men, women and children in the Aegean Sea, in over 2.200 registered pushback cases. It’s time to stop this madness, it’s time to restore human dignity and the rule of law in Greece.
On Saturday March 25, we published about a sailboat south of Crete in distress, Greek coast guard refused to comment on the incident, now we know why.
Earlier the same day, Alarm Phone published about the same sailboat in distress, together with a video showing that the Greek coast guard was on location.
According to the people onboard a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard towed the sailboat towards the southern part of Crete, but did not take the boat to land. The sailboat was left at sea east of the village of Kaloi Limenes, while a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard was observing from a distance.
From videos taken onboard the sailboat we can clearly see the towing vessel, a Lambro Halmatic 60 lifeboat, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard stationed on Crete, again no question about the fact that the Greek coast guard was aware of the situation and present on location.
Non of the passengers onboard the sailboat was taken to safety on land, nor had they received food, water or medical attention. Why the coast guard didn’t taken them to port was unknown, people onboard was worried that they would be pushed back to Turkey.
JRCC Piraeus refused to confirm that there were any operation ongoing in the area, but it seemed local press had gotten information that an operation was ongoing, and that a sailboat carrying refugees was involved, even taking picktures of it from land.
Since the sailboat wasn’t taken directly to port, and people were left out in the sea until nightfall guarded by several vessels from the Greek coast guard, we realized that another pushback was imminent.
We feared that the people onboard was about to become victims of yet another pushback. The last we heard was that they could see lights from several larger vessels approaching in the dark, most likely coast guard vessels but impossible to tell in the dark.
We tried to follow the case through the night, but contact on the phones used was soon lost, we didn’t hear from them again.
There was no doubt that the Greek authorities was on location, and was aware of the people in distress in Greek waters. They are obligated by international maritime law, refugee law and human rights law, to bring the people in distress to the nearest port of safety, from previous similar cases this seems to be of no concern to the Greek authorities.
The following day the sailboat was nowhere to be seen, and the people onboard had evaporated into thin air, so what really happened? Greek authorities will say, if asked, that they sent vessels to the area but did not locate anyone, despite the fact that we have videos of them in close proximity of the sailboat in brought daylight. These constant lies seems to bother nobody, when officials lies about this, despite the overwhelming evidence provided to the contrary, what else are they lying about, and on whose orders?
Sunday night at 22.20 Turkish coast guard found 3 life rafts drifting outside Datça, Turkey, onboard 59 people, men, women and small children, they told they had been left helplessly drifting by the Greek coast guard.
Onboard the 3 life rafts there were 19 people from Afghanistan, 18 from Iraq, 12 from Palestine, 9 from Iran and 1 from Syria.
So far Turkish coast guard has only released one picture and one video from the incident outside Datça, but from this we have no problem identifying several people from the sailboat outside Crete.
Anyone looking at the pictures and videos taken onboard the sailboat, can easily see that this is the same group that one day later was found drifting outside Datça in 3 life rafts, it’s actually not rocket science, it’s clear as day.
After towing the sailboat towards land on Crete, the Greek authorities transferred 59 people onto a Greek coast guard vessel, most likely telling them that they would take them to land, this would have been a lie, but would make the transfer so much smoother. Then they transported them away from Crete towards Turkish waters, 362km, before they forced them into life rafts and abandoned them helplessly drifting in the middle of the sea.
Greek authorities are trying to silence Aegean Boat Report, threatening the organization from publishing these cases by judicial harassment. Let me assure you that this is not working, we will continue exposing these criminals as long as it’s necessary, protecting human rights is not a crime, we will not be silenced.
The case will be updated when we receive more information and footage.
On February 9, at 21.42(EET), Aegean Boat Report was contacted by a person claiming to be in distress at sea in a rubber boat with a malfunctioning engine, drifting outside the Greek island of Lesvos in bad weather conditions together with 44 other people.
At first this person was, due to bad cell phone reception in the area, not able to send out a proper location that could be verified. In such cases we try to log as much information as possible regarding the situation onboard, so that we when receiving verified location data can inform local authorities immediately to try to prevent loss of life.
At 22.07 we finally received a location 2 km east of Palios, Lesvos north east, and immediately tried to reach the port authority in Mytilíni, but for some unexplained reason there was no reply, the phone was ringing for 1 minute before it was disconnected. We tried different numbers, all with the same results, ringing for one minute afterwards disconnected.
We was in constant contact with people onboard, while at the same time trying to reach the authorities on Lesvos. We also informed local assets on the island, so that organizations could be informed on the ongoing emergency situation. We also informed the people in distress to try to reach the international emergency number 112 and the Greek coast guard on 108, as far as we know they managed to reach 112 but was after giving location data told that they could not help them.
We finally established contact with the port police in Mólivos, but at first, even do we thoroughly explained the emergency situation, they were not willing to take the information we had. After some persuasion they finally agreed to write down the necessary information and inform port police in Mytilini. While talking to the port police officer on duty this night, he informed us that they already had received a call from someone in this area, and that vessels was sent to a location not far from the location we provided.
The boat in distress contained to drift south west, parallel to land, only 4-500 meters from land, but due to heavy winds people onboard was not able to maneuver the boat without a working engine. We received a video showing people in a boat, some wearing life jackets, and they clearly asked for help and that they feared that they would drown.
Contact with the group was lost several times over the next hour, but since the person contacting us had activated and sent a live location on WhatsApp, whenever they came online we could follow their movements, and with this information predict due to wind direction where they most likely would hit land.
At 23.14 the group contacted us by sending location and a voice message, confirming that they had managed to reach land, all safe but that they needed assistance from local organizations. A few minutes later the phone went offline, and never came online again.
The group sent out location data over WhatsApp that confirmed that they were on Lesvos, and that they finally had made it safely to land on a small beach north of Ag. Stefanos, Lesvos north east. The entire group, 45 people, men, women and children suddenly magically disappeared, and was according to port authorities on Lesvos never located.
Two hours after the group had landed on the shore, locals and local organizations arrived on location, there were no people to be found, but there were definite proof that people had just arrived and was hastily removed. A boat was found on the beach and bags, clothes, ID documents and other personal belongings was scattered all over the place.
There are usually belongings left behind whenever people arrive, especially wet clothes, life jackets, garbage from food and water bottles. In this location it seemed everything was left behind, very unusual and unlikely that people would leave things they would need in this extent. Later in daylight locals found a total of 22 bags, huge amounts of dry clothes and new shoes, ID documents, credit cards, fresh food, makeup etc. someone was in a hurry to remove this group, no question about it, they knew that organization was on their way, so they removed the people but didn’t have the time to clean up and remove the evidence of their presence.
No new arrivals was registered on Lesvos this day, nor the following days, and port authorities on Lesvos claims that they found no people on land or sea this night.
Another mystery in a long string of mysteries on the Greek island, where people magically disappears on a daily basis, just evaporates into the air, and later are found drifting in Greek manufactured life rafts in the Aegean Sea. Greek authorities have so far categorically detained any involvement. So far over 1100 life rafts have been found drifting in the Aegean Sea, carrying almost 19.000 people, all manufactured by the Greek company Lalizas from Pireus, and who has a contract providing rescue equipment to the Greek coast guard. A short investigation into the companies deliveries will most likely show that they have delivered far more life rafts to the Greek coast guard than they would ever need to equip their vessels, but who cares, it’s business as usual, these rings will never be investigated.
From pictures, videos from and ID documents found on Lesvos, we have been able to confirm that they were the same people who the following morning was found drifting in the life rafts outside Dikili. There is no doubt about who is responsible, not in this case, nor thousands of similar cases over the last three years, all done in the name of border management and protection of our precious “ fortress Europe”.
Europeans are always eager to point fingers towards anyone outside Europe not following the rule of law, violating human rights, treating people badly, but in regards to our own actions, we seems not only blind, but also deaf, dumb and stupid.
European politicians is unable, or rather unwilling, to do anything to stop these crimes against humanity committed by European authorities on European soil, it’s as if human rights is only for “our people”, anyone else is of less importance and value, that they are killed on our borders is of no concern, all in the name of border management.
European values was ones something we could be proud of, something others could be inspired by, look up to. Today the guardians of these values, European politicians and the European Parliament, have failed miserably, what we once was so proud of has been ruined, it will forever be a stain, a dark chapter, of our history.
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?