The Folegandros “Mystery”

On September 5 Aegean Boat Report reported on a sailboat carrying 84 people, drifting outside Agkali, Folegandros.

“A sailboat reported to be carrying 84 people have arrived outside Agkali on the island of Folegandros. The people onboard have informed Aegean Boat Report that the boat has engine problems and they need rescue.”

For a week the whereabouts of the people on this sailboat, that was towed away, according to locals and journalists, by a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, has been a mystery, nobody seems to know, or care where these people went. The silence from the Hellenic coast guard, when asked questions from journalists on this incident, seems also a mystery, they have given no information, on orders from the ministry.

On the day of the incident the Mayor of Folegandros, Efthalia Papadopoulou, told journalists from Protothema that there was a rescue operation ongoing by the Hellenic coast guard.

A journalist on site from EFSYN tried to find out where the boat was towed, without success. He was by coast guard officials told they knew nothing about the incident, and after continuing asking questions they replied that they could not give information on orders from above.

Also a concerned citizen on Folegandros, who was taking pictures of the incident, was approached by port authority officials, not only was she told to stop filming, but also to hand over her camera. When she asked why this was done, she was told by orders from the ministry.

In front of dozens of locals and Greek tourists, a case like this can not go unnoticed. Several Greek news sites wrote about the incident, it seemed like an open and shut case, people would be taken to a quarantine facility for due process. This did unfortunately not happen, and according to Greek officials, there was no incident on Folegandros.

The next day the local coast guard told a shocked SYRIZA MP, Nikos Syrmalenios, who arrived on the island, that they had no knowledge of any incident on Folegandros, also migration ministry told that they had no knowledge of an incident of arrivals of refugees and migrants in Folegandros, referring to the coast guard.

It seems like 84 people just magically disappeared, so what really happened to these vulnerable people?

On the day of the incident first on scene was a Lambro 57 patrol vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, we have pictures of the vessel together with the sailboat in questioning, published in Protothema. Also a helicopter was reported by locals to be in the area.

Also a privat Yacht, the Greek registered Christal Mio, was in the area, the yacht moved on, but have definitely witnessed the sailboat and the Greek coast guard vessel outside Agkali.

A bigger vessel arrived, identification number ΛΣ 090 Gavdos, a Stan Patrol 5509 offshore patrol vessel of the Hellenic coast guard.

The sailboat was, according to locals, towed away from the area, to an unknown and inaccessible part of the island, the passengers were transferred to the offshore vessel, it remained unknown where they would be transferred. The offshore vessel was observed leaving the area later this day, destination unknown.

No new arrivals was registered by the Ministry Of Citizen Protection, not this day nor the following days.

Also two Ukrainian human traffickers was supposedly arrested, but to this day no investigator or prosecutor has received any case file for these arrested traffickers, yet another mystery. The sailboat allegedly “sank” somewhere outside Folegandros, no answers are given by the ministry or coast guard headquarters, who denies any knowledge of this incident.

The following day, September 6, Turkish coast guard (TCG) found and rescued 84 people from four life rafts drifting outside Kusadasi, Turkey. From two pictures published by TCG we suspected that this was the same people who the day before was apprehended outside Folegandros by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

Today the Turkish coast guard was “kind enough” to provide additional footage from this rescue operation, where we not only can see the people rescued, but also the vessel who placed them there. Yes, it’s not without questions we use this footage, both Greece and Turkey would use any opportunity, in the ongoing propaganda war, to make the other side look bad. But when that is said, we can’t ignore the footage published by TCG, it’s just to many things that false into place, it all fits together.

In the video we can see a vessel deploying life rafts, and smaller RIBs towing them away.

HCG Vessel 090 deporting peopla outside Kusadasi, Turkey

When comparing existing published pictures and videos of the ΛΣ 090, there is no doubt, it’s the same vessel, and there are not many of these vessels or similar in the Aegean Sea, it’s in fact only one, the Gavdos, Belonging to the Hellenic coast guard.

Yet another proven pushback, this time not in the border area where it usually takes place, but in the Cyclades, over 130 miles from the Turkish border. The Greek government is no longer doing their dirty work in the cover of darkness, away from witnesses, but in brought daylight in front of everyone to see. They have become confident that nobody will try to stop them, that these systematic violations of international law and human rights will go unchallenged by the rest of Europe.

Greece has recently requested additional funds for border protection, especially in the Aegean, The European Commission asks Greece for transparency on pushbacks to release these funds. The Commission has asked Greece to set up an and credible “independent” mechanism to monitor and avoid pushbacks of migrants at its border as a condition to release an additional €15.83 million in migration funding requested by Athens.

It’s a small step in the right direction, but not by far the reaction on these authorities that would be appropriate for crimes against humanity. They need to do better, we need to do better to stop this European nightmare, that has been allowed to continue for far to long.

We are long past the question “who is behind these pushbacks”, we have seen to many videos of Greek coast guard vessels towing rubber dinghies and inflatable life rafts, testimonies from victims and investigations to be fooled by the continues denials by the Greek government, but still they deny it.

Pushbacks is no longer headlines in the international press, it has become the new “normal”, it’s performed in brought daylight, and even if we can see it happening, every single day, for some strange reason we can still hear Greek officials continue to deny any involvement.

Hundreds of pushback reports have been published by Aegean Boat Report over the last 19 months. Since March 2020 we have documented 637 pushback cases involving 17.775 people. In the same period 332 life rafts has been found drifting in the Aegean Sea, carrying 5700 people.

332 life rafts found drifting in the Aegean see, carrying 5700 vulnerable people, and nobody is asking questions. It’s time for the European Commision to take of their blindfolds and open their eyes, we can no longer tolerate these authorities to continue on European soil.

It’s Time For European Politicians To Take Off Their Blindfolds

On Wednesday morning, 8 September, a boat carrying 28 people landed south west of Ireo, Samos. Immediately after arriving they fled to the woods, hiding from the Greek police, scared that they would be found and returned to Turkey.

Arrival location Samos 08.09.2021

At 05.41 they contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they asked for help, so that they wouldn’t be illegally deported by the Greek police.

The new arrivals provided pictures, videos and location data, there was no doubt that the group had arrived on Samos. Aegean Boat Report tried to persuade them to move towards populated areas, but in the group there were a pregnant woman, one person with a leg injury and some children, their ability to walk as a group was limited.

We had only contact with the group for five hours, and at 10.34 all contact was lost, on three different phones, simultaneously, we suspected that police had found the group, but they also could have run out of battery on their phone, all at once, we couldn’t know for sure.

Aegean Boat Report tried to find out what happened with the new arrivals on Samos, from local contacts we were informed that no new arrivals had been registered on the island, not this day nor the following days. The possibility that they had been illegally removed from the island seemed highly possible.

At 02.45 September 9, the Turkish coast guard(TCG) reported that they had rescued and picked up 25 people from a life raft drifting outside Seferihisar, Turkey.

From pictures and video published by TCG from the incident we have identified 11 of them to be from the landing on Samos south. The Hellenic coast guard had taken away all their belongings, bags and phones.

For a while we believed that perhaps a three of them had managed to stay behind, hiding in the woods on Samos, and at 06.20 Thursday morning the group of three contacted Aegean Boat Report.

We maintain contact for two hours, while they moved towards Ireo, pictures and location data was received, and in particular one picture proves without a doubt their presence on the island, a picture of the three of them in front of the road sign to Ireo. At 08.25 contact with the group was lost, most like found by Greek police in the outskirts of Ireo.

At 14.10 September 9, the Turkish coast guard(TCG) reported that they had detected three people, two men and a woman, on land in an remote area of Kusadasi National park, east of the Mycale Strait, only a few kilometers from Samos.

Their story is almost unbelievable, and if we hadn’t had pictures and location data from them that place them on Samos earlier this day, we would have had difficulty believing them.

The three of them hade decided to separate from the group and walk towards the village of Ireo, to try to be taken to the refuge camp on the island so that they could register their asylum claim. They slept in the woods during the night to avoid being detected by police, but in the morning Police had found them, just as they were entering Ireo, and they were arrested.

They didn’t see much, it was dark, but it was some kind of port. Police in dark military uniforms, head covered with balaclavas, forced them on a grey and white boat, most likely a Lambro coastal patrol boat belonging to the Hellenic Coast Guard. At night they were taken out to sea in high speed, and after about 30 minutes the boat stopped. Three people was thrown from the coast guard vessel directly into the sea, and told they had to swim ashore. Even with life vests, this is extremely dangerous, and can only be seen as attempted murder.

Illustration Pickture

This kind of inhuman and extreme behavior from the Hellenic Coast Guard is unfortunately not unusual, several have previously reported to have gotten the same treatment, left at sea and had to swim ashore, outside Lesvos, Samos and especially Chios.

The evidence speaks for itself, there is, and have never been, any doubt on who is responsible for these authorities.

It’s time for European politicians to take off their blindfolds, it’s time to see that what is going on on the borders of Europe is a crime against humanity, to say “we didn’t know” is no longer an option.We must stop pretending that this doesn’t concern us, that’s it’s “their” rights that are being violated, not ours.

It is an attack on us all: when a government strips a Somali teen, a Syrian child, an Iraqi man, an Afghan woman of their human rights, you have to know that they are reserving the right to do the same to you, to your son, daughter, brother, sister, parents, grandfather and grandmother.

Those rights belong to us all: once they are taken from one of us, they can be taken from us all. It must stop. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to this – the disgrace of Europe. Instead, we must stand, together, and demand better: from our governments, from the EU, from the international community.

The Greek government must stop pretending to ‘know nothing’ about a practice which is clearly its policy. It must stop pretending that every NGO operating in Greece, as well as the UN, international media and the European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, are in fact somehow ‘employees of’ or collaborators in, Turkish ‘propaganda’.

It must, immediately – as Greece’s Ombudsman has concluded and demands – open public and accessible investigations into the actions of its own uniformed officers in illegally expelling men, women and children seeking decent places to live.

It must end this shameful, illegal, dehumanising, embarrassing and unacceptable practice.

We Simply Don`t Care

On Tuesday morning, 31 August, a boat carrying 23 people landed south west of Tarti. Immediately after arriving they fled to the woods, hiding from the Greek police, scared that they would be found and returned to Turkey.

At 07.20 they contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they asked for help, so that they wouldn’t be illegally deported. UNHCR on Lesvos was informed on their arrival and location, but as usual they do not do anything to protect vulnerable people arriving on our doorstep.

This should of course be unnecessary in a European country in 2021, but not in Greece, in Greece pushbacks is the rule, not the exception. Since March 2020 the Greek government has illegally deported 17.500 people in the Aegean Sea, men, women and children trying to seek asylum in Europe. 

The new arrivals provided pictures, videos and location data, there was no doubt that the group had arrived on Lesvos. Aegean Boat Report maintained contact with the group throughout the day, and tried to persuade them to move towards populated areas, but people was scared, and felt safer hiding in the woods.

In the afternoon the group had split into three groups, 12, 7 and 4 people. The group of 12 moved towards Evaggelistria, while the remaining two groups stayed behind. Two of the groups reported that there was drones above them, most likely drones used by port police to locate them.

In the afternoon we lost contact with the group of 7, we suspected that police had found them, but they also could have run out of battery on their phone, we couldn’t know for sure. 

The group of 12 we maintain contact with until 02.27 September 1, the last sign of life was a location sent over whatsapp on the road a few kilometers east of Evaggelistria, there was no text, connection was lost. Had they been found by police, impossible to say, but highly possible. We tried throughout the night to reconnect with the groups, unsuccessfully, neither of the phones have been online since. 

The third group of 4 people we didn’t manage to reconnect with after the group split up, we suspect that their phones was out of battery, these phones haven’t been online since either.

In the coming days we tried to figure out what happened to the 23 people who arrived on Lesvos south on August 31. No arrivals was registered on Lesvos, not this day nor the following day’s, there could only be one explanation, they had been pushed back.

At 20.35, August 31, the Turkish coast guard(TCG) reported that they had rescued and picked up 7 people from a life raft drifting north of Foça, Turkey. 

From pictures and video published by TCG from the incident we have identified all 7 to be from the landing on Lesvos south. The Hellenic coast guard had taken away all their belongings, bags, phones, and even their shoes before they abandoned them drifting at sea. 

Video By TCG 31.08.2021 Foca

Just after noon on September 1, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 12 people from a life raft drifting north west of Dikili, Turkey.

From the footage published by TCG we were able to positively identify 9 of the 12 people from the landing on Lesvos south on 31 August. This group had also had their belongings stolen by the Greek coast guard, and for some reason also their shoes. 

Video By TCG 01.09.2021 Dikili

For a while we believed that perhaps a few of them had managed to stay behind, hiding in the woods on Lesvos, but in the morning of 2 September, we realized that they had removed them all.

At 08.57, 2 September, the Turkish coast guard(TCG) reported that they had rescued and picked up 4 people from a life raft drifting north west of Dikili, Turkey.

Also in this last case we have positively identified all 4 as the same people who arrived on Lesvos south on 31 August. As we can see from the footage they were found without any belongings, no bags, no phones, and again without shoes, everything had been stolen by the Greek coast guard before they threw them in a life raft. 

Video By TCG 02.09.2021 Dikili

Also in the video from September 2, published by TCG, we can see a vessel identified as a Cantiere Navale Vittoria (CNV) P355GR coastal patrol vessel, belonging to the Greek cast guard, abandoning a life raft with 4 people in the Aegean Sea, south east of Lesvos. 

Video By TCG 02.09.2021 Dikili

The evidence speaks for itself, there is, and have never been, any doubt on who is responsible for these authorities. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Greek Minister of Migration and AsylumNotis Mitarachi, has on international TV denied all involvement in pushback in the Aegean Sea on several occasions. Where they blatantly lying, yes definitely, they should be removed from office and charged for crimes against humanity.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

We have seen vessels from the Hellenic coast guard attacking flimsy rubber boats at sea, shooting towards them, ramming them, towing rubber boats and life rafts towards Turkish waters, people being forced back into rubber boats and life rafts at sea from Greek coast guard vessels, hundreds of testimonies from people who have been violated, thousands of pictures and videos. 

Rarely have a case been so thoroughly documented, proven without doubt through open source investigations, reports in the international press, humanitarian organizations and NGO’s, hundreds of different actors all point in the same direction, so why don’t Europe sanction Greece for these crimes against humanity, when there is no longer any doubt that they are responsible? 

The answer is quite simple, and it gives me the creeps, WE DON`T CARE what happens to them, as long as we can continue our comfortable lives. We are willing to close our eyes, look the other way, because we simply DON`T CARE, if we had, we would have stopped this a long time ago.

Violations of international laws and human rights unfortunately happens every day in Greece, on orders from the Greek government. While the rights of men women and children, seeking protection in Europe are violated, the rest of Europe is looking the other way, pretending nothing is happening. 

The unwillingness by European politicians to act and stop these atrocities is a mockery of humanity.

14 People Pushed Back From Ikaria

In the morning of August 5, a boat carrying 26 people landed on Paralia Lero beach, Ikaria north. Only 12 people was officially registered as arrived on Ikaria, and transported to Samos.

Question is what happened to the rest of this group, police claims they only found 12 people, but locals that was on Paralia Lero beach this morning, confirmed that far more than 12 people arrived. From videos sent, we can confirm that the group consisted of 26 people, so 14 people from this landing seemed to have magically disappeared, again.

26 people arriving on Paralia Lero Beach, Ikaria

When they arrived several locals was already at the beach, police was informed straight away. From videos and pictures received by Aegean Boat Report, we can see numerous people and cars at the beach.

The new arrivals left the beach and walked towards the airport, also her they documented their presence on the island, and shared the footage with Aegean Boat Report.

There is no doubt that this group arrived on Ikaria, the footage they sent, and local witnesses, would be impossible to deny, still Greek police claim that they only found 12 people.

At 21.50, August 5, Turkish coast guard reported to have rescued 14 people from a life raft drifting outside Didim, Turkey. We assumed that this was in fact the missing 14 from Ikaria, but needed conclusive evidence to be able to confirm.

Videos and pictures now published by the Turkish coast guard, confirms that the 14 people picked up outside Didim, was without a doubt the 14 missing people from Ikaria. Aegean Boat Report have identified 8 people from the TCG footage, the same 8 people can be found in the footage taken on Ikaria.

TCG Rescuing 14 people from a life raft outside Didim, Turkey.

So why register 12 people, and push back 14 people from the same landing. The people pushed back was only men, the 12 registered was families, men, women and children. After arriving on Paralia Lero beach, they split up into two groups, 12 and 14 people, the families stayed behind at the beach, while the others group walked towards the Airport.

Police found 12 people at Paralia Lero beach, locals were present, observing, it would be extremely difficult for the police to claim that nobody arrived, therefore these 12 was registered as arrived, and transported to quarantine facilities on Samos.

The 14 that left the beach on the other hand, was found by police in the mountain, far from the eyes of locals, and could easily be removed without questions. Had they stayed at the beach together with the rest, they most likely would have been in quarantine on Samos.

“They found us in the mountain, close to the airport” one of the victims told Aegean Boat Report. Police ensured them that they would be taken to camp on Samos, this did not happen and was obviously a lie. “We were taken in an old van down to a small port, there they put us on a white and blue fishing boat, this boat transported us out to a Greek coast guard vessel”.

A local fisherman assisted the coast guard, who this man was is difficult to say, but most likely someone with close connection to local police. Locals on Ikaria could probably point in the right direction, if anyone would be interested in investigating this case further.

“They forced us in the dark into this raft” a man said, at gun point they had little choice. 14 people was left drifting by the Hellenic coast guard, in a life raft in the Aegean Sea. Inhuman and illegal actions performed by the Hellenic coast guard on orders from the Greek government continues.

Yet another violent and illegal pushback carried out by Greece’s police and coastguard, on the orders of the country’s Nea Dimokratia government.

We can’t say “we didn’t know”, because we do, it’s proven without a doubt that the Greek government is responsible for crimes against humanity, so why don’t we care enough to stop these atrocities?

Everyone seems to be looking the other way, it’s not our problem, it’s not our people, so why should we care? The unwillingness by European politicians to act and stop these atrocities is a mockery of humanity. If it had been Europeans that had been drifting around in the Aegean Sea we would have been shouting from the rooftops, heads would have rolled and European leaders would have had to resign, but for “these people”, we couldn’t care less..

Europe for Europeans is the new slogan, we build walls, we will fight and we will kill to keep everyone else out.

We were originally undecided whether or not to respond to the latest allegations made against us, three other NGOs and six individuals two days ago (Monday 19 July 2021).

But having been named as an organisation in yesterday’s Kathimerini – a decision that newspaper would only have made having been given our name by the Greek police, who we must assume were themselves operating with the permission of the Greek government (though none of the three: Kathimerini, the Greek police, or the Greek government, have even once contacted us about this or any other matter), we feel we have no choice but to respond.

So, to repeat what we said the last time these allegations were made (which was coincidentally the last time major international media were talking in-depth about the Greek government’s illegal and immoral practice of pushing men, women and children back from Greece):

Aegean Boat Report is not, has never been and will never be a part of any smuggling ring, anywhere on Earth. We strongly doubt that any such ring exists in the Aegean region in any case, but if it did, we would not be involved, if it does, we are not involved and should such a ring ever be formed, we would not join it or take part in any of its activities.

We are not people smugglers. We do not and never have smuggled any person or item in the entire period not only that Aegean Boat Report has existed, but also that its members have been alive.

More than this, Aegean Boat Report and its members have never broken and will never break any law.

We operate in strict adherence to international law, EU law and Greek law.

In fact, we do so with complete reliability, absolutely all of the time, which is considerably more than can be said for the current Greek government run by Kiriakos Mitsotakis and his Nea Dimokratia party.

What we do in fact do, if men, women and children contact us when they are in Greece waters, is to ensure they are met by people who can give them food, water and dry clothing, and help them enter the system and apply for asylum, as is their legal right.

The Greek government should be doing this, as it is required under international law, European law and indeed Greek law. It should be doing this because it means that they – the Greek government – would have accurate data on the number of men, women and children arriving in Greece and where they are in the process of registering, applying for asylum, and having their applications processed and decided upon by Greece and the wider European Union.

It should be doing this because it is what is safest for the men, women and children seeking asylum. And it should be doing this because it is what is best for the men, women and children who are Greek citizens – for whom the Greek government is supposed to take responsibility.

It is in fact shocking and shameful that Aegean Boat Report is being forced to do the job of the Greek government on this vital issue, because the Greek government prefers to shirk its responsibilities and, worse, to break laws to which Greece is a direct signatory.

It is neither responsible, nor even really feasible, to pretend that what Aegean Boat Report does is any way the same as ‘people smuggling’, and as this is the second time the Greek Police, acting under the guidance of the Greek government, has made these baseless allegations against us, we must ask: why?

We do not say that it is because we dedicate a portion of our time to reporting and publicising the Greek government’s consistent and unjustifiable practice of breaking the law by removing people from Greece without even allowing them to apply for asylum, even though these allegations come – as they did last time – just as international media and even the EU Commission is reporting on and criticising the government for this exact behaviour. Perhaps this latest allegation is just (another) mistake.

But we will say, once more, that the allegations against us are baseless and incorrect.

Neither Aegean Boat Report nor any person associated with it has ever smuggled any person or item or been engaged with any person or group that does so.

Neither Aegean Boat Report nor any person associated with it is engaged with any person or group which does so, or any activities involving smuggling.

And neither Aegean Boat Report nor any person associated with it will ever be engaged with any smuggling activity or person or group involved in such activity.

We have not broken, and do not and will not break, any law.

We hope these latest allegations, whether made by mistake or for any other reason, will be dropped as soon as it becomes clear to those making them how wildly incorrect they are, and will never again be made.

We would like an apology, but instead will settle for the Greek government ceasing to break international, EU and Greek law, and ceasing to smear us in this mendacious – and what is, in England referred to as vexatious – way.

We Must All End The Greek Government’s Abuse of Human Rights

The Greek government’s astonishing and unacceptable violation of human rights continues unabated, as the treatment of two more groups of vulnerable people seeking safety in the EU shows.

In the early hours of 2 July, two boats arrived on the Greek Aegean island of Lesvos, one in the north close to Chapel carrying 10 people, and one east of Tsilia in the south, carrying 20 people.

Both groups fled to the woods in the surrounding areas, hiding from the police, fearing that they, like so many before them, would be sent back to Turkey if found.

At first light, both groups contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance. We received locations, pictures and videos on Whatsapp, which showed the new arrivals was in fact on Lesvos.

The group of 10 people, in the north, walked towards the village of Lepetimnos, then east towards Sikaminea. During the day, we lost contact with the group several times, due to bad cellphone coverage in the area. Our last contact with the group was at 9pm, when all phones went offline. They have not been online since.

UNHCR on Lesvos was informed on the arrivals and their whereabouts, what steps were taken, if any, to ensure the safety of these people is unknown.

At 12.40am on 3 July, the Turkish coast guard (TCG) found and picked up a child, alone in a small rubber boat without an engine, drifting outside Dikili, Turkey.

At 4.30am, the same TCG boat found and picked up nine people drifting in a similar rubber boat, also without an engine, in the same area.

In both cases they said they had been on land on Lesvos, arrested by police and forced back to sea by the Hellenic coast guard. The boy who was found alone, was a part of the group of 10 that arrived at Chapel, north Lesvos.

Comparing pictures taken by the group in the woods on Lesvos with the pictures taken by TCG when they were picked up at sea, there is no doubt it’s the same people. This means that 10 people, including several children, were removed from Lesvos itself and set adrift in small rubber boats by the Hellenic coast guard. They weren’t even given life vests. If this overcrowded small rubber boat had capsized, people would have drowned before anyone could reach them.

The 20 people who landed at Tsilia, in southern Lesvos, also hid in woods nearby.

After first light they divided into two groups. Twelve people from two families stayed in the area hiding, in part because some elderly people among them had difficulties walking.

The other eight people, from two families, started walking towards Tsilia, to make their presence known to the local residents. At around 8.30am, the group arrived in Tsilia, where members of the community gave them food and something to drink.

Aegean Boat Report advised them to go to the Church of Saint Nikolas, a well-known landmark in the area, to take pictures and videos to document their presence on Lesvos.

Since early morning, we had tried to find someone willing to go to Tsilia and meet them, but no organisation was willing to help: everyone was afraid to get involved, because of how the police might react. There is no doubt that it’s dangerous to get involved, to be in the same area as new arrivals, to try to help. You could face serious charges and end up in jail, just because you were there trying to make sure people are OK.

Tsilia 02.07.2021 by Hami Roshan

A journalist on Lesvos at the time, Hami Roshan, was willing to go to Tsilia to document the new arrivals. He arrived in Tsilia at around 3.30pm, interviewed the people, took some pictures as documentation and left approximately one hour later.

Pictures by Hami Roshan

Locals had already told the police about the new arrivals in Tsilia, and as the journalist left, several police cars drove towards the village. UNHCR was also informed on the arrivals in Tsilia, but what steps, if any, were taken to protect these vulnerable people, is unknown.

After this, we lost all contact with the group in Tsilia, and hours later with the group in the woods east of Tsilia.

From pictures and videos, taken by the journalist but also by the refugees themselves, there is absolutely no doubt that were on Lesvos.

Video by Hami Roshan Tsilia, Lesvos 02.07.2021

Their interactions with the local community were also videoed, but we fear the police have told those locals to keep quiet about what they did and saw.

Video by Hami Roshan, Tsilia, Lesvos 02.07.2021

At 10pm, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 20 people from two life rafts drifting outside Dikili, Turkey, amongst them 7 year old Heliah Nazari.

From the extensive footage received from this group while on Lesvos, there is absolutely no doubt that it’s the same people found drifting in the life rafts by the Turkish coast guard.

Video from TCG

No arrivals were officially registered by the Greek government as having arrived on Lesvos this day, nor any of the following days.

Normally the case would have ended here, it’s one of a huge number of well-documented pushback cases, violations of international laws and human rights performed by the Greek authorities. There is no doubt what took place here, and who’s responsible.

But this case doesn’t end here.

On this particular day, as a sheer stroke of luck, the Turkish coast guard had allowed members of the international press onboard: one crew from a Japanese news outlet, an independent photojournalist, and a crew from The New York Times.

This TCG vessel was the same one which found and rescued the group of 20 people who had landed east of Tsilia, drifting outside Dikili in two life rafts, and later picked up the group of 10 people that had arrived at Chapel.

Aegean Boat Report shared pictures and videos of the groups from Lesvos with Carlotta Gall from The New York Times. From the footage they confirmed these were the same people they had interviewed on the TCG vessel, after they had been rescued from the life rafts. The report from The New Tork Times can be read here: ‘They Just Left Us’: Greece Is Accused of Setting Migrants Adrift at Sea – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

And these cases also came at an interesting time, as earlier this week (13 July 2021), the BBC broadcast a news report, in which the Greek government’s policy and practice of illegally removing men women and children from Greece to deny them their fundamental human right to apply for asylum was displayed and discussed.

The report includes a video of a pushback by the Greek Coastguard, which took place from the island of Kos in March 2020, at the beginning of the government’s increase of this illegal, dangerous and shameful practice. The entire video, that was provided by Aegean Boat Report to the BBC can be watched here.

Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis responded to this accurate and stark presentation of his Ministry’s – and his government’s – deliberate and consistent breaking of international law with a statement in which he said:

‘Allegations affecting Greece are clearly unfounded, rely on footage or testimonials provided for from the country of departure. Numerous cases have been investigated, including by the European Union, and reports have found no evidence of any breach of EU fundamental rights.’

This statement, as yet seemingly unchallenged by international media, argues both that the allegations of pushbacks are ‘unfounded’ and that footage of them happening actually exists. Which is a surprising foundation for an argument.

He adds that the footage which does exist – of pushbacks he claims did not happen – ‘came from the country of departure’. Not only is this irrelevant, it is also absolutely untrue: we and many other monitoring organisations have photos and video footage shot by the men, women and children being illegally forced out of Greece – in many cases while they are still in Greece. 

And while on the subject of false claims, we must state that while Mitarachis says ‘numerous cases have been investigated’ the Greek government has, to date, refused to investigate a single case which has taken place in the Aegean Sea, despite the repeated demands from the Greek Ombudsman that it must do so (because this is not an issue of ‘outsiders attacking Greece’ it is an issue of people who believe in the law attempting to encourage the Greek government to abide by it and investigate situations in which it appears to have been broken).

Nor indeed, despite Mitarachis’ statement, has the ‘European Union’ investigated ‘numerous cases’ let alone any in Greece. Indeed, in May this year, the European Commission responded to an open letter from Koraki and other organisations and stated that it had not and (incorrectly) could not investigate incidents involving the Greek government and its employees.

Indeed, Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, whose department is supposed to have responsibility for refugees, people seeking asylum, their rights and safety in the EU, described the Greek government’s activities as: ‘violations of our fundamental European values’.

We welcome Ms Johannsson’s comments, especially since in the past she has seemed to seek to defend the Greek government’s activities. We hope this is an indication that the Commissioner is become tired of the government’s repeated lies and refusal to even investigate the hundreds of incidents in which thousands of people have been illegally forced out of Greece and denied the right to apply for asylum.

And we would add that in fact, these pushbacks are more than ‘violations of fundamental European values; They are violations of international law; violations of people’s fundamental human rights. Violations of morality, common decency, basic safety standards and of the welfare not just of these men, women and children but of us all.

And they are being carried out as standard practice by the Greek government and its uniformed officers.

From 1 January – 30 June this year, the Greek government registered 1,211 men, women and children as arrivals in Greece via the Aegean Sea. In the same period, it carried out 174 pushbacks, in which 4,960 people were illegally forced out of Greece.

That means the Greek government has, this year, stripped the rights (and often also the possessions) of 89.5 per cent of people who have attempted to enter the EU via the Aegean Sea.

From 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2021, it has pushed back 14,431 people and only allowed 5,184 to register: breaking the law to prevent 74.6 per cent of all new arrivals from being allowed to exercise their legal rights and apply for asylum.

And the Greek government is actually increasing the pace at which it carries out these entirely illegal, immoral and shameful acts. In June 2021 alone, it registered just 97 men, women and children as new arrivals on the Aegean islands. It pushed back 1,089. That’s a pushback rate of 91.8 per cent. The cases of 2-3 July just prove it continues even now.

This is not acceptable. We say so, but it is not only us.

The European Commission says so. The Council of Europe says so. The Greek Ombudsman says so. Hundreds of Greek and international organisations say so, and every code of moral behaviour, as well as European and international law, say so.

It cannot continue. This is not about ‘Greece’ or Greek people. It is about the Greek government, which is breaking the law, behaving in a shocking and unacceptable fashion towards vulnerable men, women and children, lying to Greek people about its ‘right’ to do so, and lying to the world about wheter it is doing so at all.’

The Greek government is breaking the law, and in the process endangering human lives, and stripping us all of our most fundamental human rights. It cannot be allowed to continue to do so. We call on all organisations, all political agencies, and most importantly perhaps you and all other people, in Greece and beyond, to come together, step up and stop this horrific abuse of the law and human rights.

Greek Coast Guard Abandons New-Born Baby At Sea

Ten men, women and children, including a new-born baby, were held at gunpoint and stripped of their possessions by Greek police, before being forced into an engineless rubber boat and set adrift on the Aegean Sea, in the Greek government’s latest clear violation of international law and decent human behaviour.

On 4 July, Aegean Boat Report published a report about a boat carrying 21 people that landed on Chios.

The boat’s arrival was reported by several Greek newspapers.

Four people were quickly found, but eventually nine people from the boat were registered in the Chios RIC: this means 12 people had ‘disappeared’.

Our report on the incident, on 4 July, read: ‘A boat carrying 21 people landed south of Vokaria, Chios south east before 06.00 this morning. The Hellenic coast guard tried to stop the boat from reaching land, but was not successful. They alerted police and 17 people, amongst them a newborn baby, was apprehended shortly after arrival. Four women managed to escape and contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, while they were hiding in the woods in the area. Port police on Chios denies that there have been any arrivals, even do locals have witnessed everything. Since this morning port police have searched the area by land and sea, even a helicopter have been used, but officially nothing has happened. Question is, where are the remaining 16 people, have they also, as many before them, magically disappeared, or is it more likely that the Hellenic coast guard have removed them from the island, and that they left them drifting in a life raft in the Aegean Sea? After Aegean Boat Report was contacted this morning, various steps was initiated to try to make sure the these four women’s rights was not violated by the Greek government, and that they could seek asylum in Greece, in accordance to international law and human rights.’ The rest of the report can be read at: https://www.facebook.com/285298881993223/posts/1116242815565488/?d=n

Many questions remained unanswered, especially regarding the fate of the missing 12 people from this landing.

Port police on Chios denied that there had been any arrivals, even though local residents had witnessed everything.

At 9pm, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 10 people, eight adults and two children, from an inflatable rubber boat without an engine, outside Cesme.

Picture from Turkish coast guard

The people on the boat told Turkish authorities they had arrived on Chios, with 11 other people, were captured at gunpoint by Greek police, taken back out to sea by the Greek coast guard, and left drifting in a small rubber boat.

From pictures and videos received by Aegean Boat Report, it is clear that the people on the boat picked up by the Turkish coast guard, are the same people who were on Chios earlier that day.

So the question is, how did they end up on this engineless rubber boat, if they were not placed there by the Hellenic coast guard, and how could nine people from a boat the Greek authorities claim never arrived on Chios, be registered in the RIC on Chios?

There is no doubt what happened to this group, and who is responsible.
Aegean Boat Report have talked to several people from this pushback. Their story is similar to so many others that have encountered police, after arriving on a Greek island.

When the boat landed, police were already in the area, having been informed of its whereabouts by the Hellenic coast guard team which tried to stop them at sea.

The group were separated after arriving. Eleven people managed to hide in the surrounding areas, but 10 were caught.

The police arrested 10 people, including this new-born baby. The police officers searched them all, and took their phones, money and papers, though two people managed to hide their phones.

“We were handcuffed with plastic strips, and forced into a white bus” a young boy of 15 told Aegean Boat Report. “The police officers were very angry, pointed guns at us, shouting, I was so scared”.

Who pulls a gun on a defenceless child? It’s beyond cruel.

A woman carrying her new-born, didn’t manage to follow the other group up the hill. The police told her that they would be reunited at the quarantine camp, which was of course not true. The police had no intention of taking them to any camp, but straight back to sea.

Aegean Boat Report was informed about the alleged missing three-year-old child the following day, by his mother who had been pushed back to Turkey. She was desperately trying to find out what happened to her other child.

From this landing, two people seem to be unaccounted for: this three-year-old boy, and an adult. We hope and assume the boy is being cared for by this adult, but we do not know.

We immediately informed UNHCR about the alleged missing child, and provided them with the mother’s contact details in Turkey.

What steps have been taken by UNHCR, is somewhat unclear, but the appropriate authorities have been informed about the alleged missing boy. That authorities’ seeming reluctance to try to resolve this seems strange, especially since it involves a very small child.

The people in quarantine from this group might be able to shed light on the child’s situation, but the Greek government has as far as we know not allowed anyone, even UNHCR, to talk to the new arrivals, ‘due to COVID restrictions’.

Equally, the brutality of the Greek police, as is the case in so many pushbacks we have documented in the last 17 months, is difficult to understand: why would they need to threaten vulnerable men, women and children seeking safety in Europe, at gunpoint, use brutal force, handcuff them with plastic strips?

The 10 people the police arrested were detained on the island until the afternoon.

“They took us to a place where there was a small church, it looked like a military base,” one man said. “They kept us locked up all day, and in the afternoon they took us down to a Greek coast guard boat.”

He described the boat, as grey and white, with a Greek flag and ΛΣ-607 written on the side. The boat he described was a Lambro 57 patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard on Chios.

All the people onboard wore dark military uniforms, their faces were covered with balaclavas, and they had guns.

A second boat was also in use, smaller, with three engines, all black, with no identification markings, only a Greek flag on top, and a machine gun mounted in the front. After looking through pictures, the boat was identified as a Rafnar 1100 Tactical patrol RIB, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard Special Forces.

The ten men, women and children, including the small baby and its mother, were taken out to sea by the Hellenic coast guard, forced at gunpoint into a small, engineless, rubber boat and left drifting in the Aegean Sea.

10 people left drifting in a rubber boat by the Hellenic coast guard

An unusual cruel and inhuman treatment of vulnerable men, women and children seeking safety in Europe.

Nor did the Greek operatives even have the decency to provide them with life jackets: if the people they forced onto the boat had ended up in the sea, they would have drowned in a matter of minutes.

Once again, people have been forcibly and violently removed from Greece. In this instance, 10 people, among them a new-born baby, were taken back to sea and forced into a small rubber boat, left drifting in the Aegean Sea by the “heroes” of the proud Hellenic coast guard.

Newborn baby abandoned at sea by the Hellenic coast guard

Violations of international laws and human rights unfortunately happens every day in Greece, on orders from the Greek government. And the rest of Europe looks the other way and pretends nothing is happening as the rights of men women and children, seeking protection are violated.

There is no longer any doubt on what’s going on in Greece, and who is responsible, this has been thoroughly documented and proven.

The people responsible for this and hundreds of other illegal pushbacks involving thousands of vulnerable men, women and children seeking decent, safe places to live and work – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi and Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy Ioannis Plakiotakis – should be removed from office and charged with crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, the unwillingness by European politicians to stop these atrocities is a mockery of the European Union, and its claims to stand for decency, law and decent human standards.

“I Reject The Pushbac Concept”

On June 26 Aegean Boat Report published a report on 61 people that was stranded on the small rocky island of Fragkos, south west of Lipsi.

Published June 26 2021

What happened to this group have until now been somewhat unclear, but we assumed that they had been illegally returned to Turkey by the Hellenic coast guard, no arrivals was registered in the area.

The Hellenic coast guard claims that there was nobody on Fragkos when they arrived, after being informed that people had been stranded there for three days, by both Aegean Boat Report and Alarmphone. This is of course not tru, we have pictures, videos and geolocation data that can without a doubt place this group on Fragkos on this date, so what really happened?

At first, In fear of being pushed back, they didn’t want to inform the Greek coast guard, but after being stuck on the island for three days, Greek coast guard was informed. There was no option, without food and water they couldn’t stay on the island.

How they ended up on this small rocky island is unclear, information we have so far is that they were heading towards Italy, but the engine broke down and they drifted towards Fragkos.

At 10.30 in the morning, we were informed that a Greek coast guard vessel had arrived, and uniformed personnel from this vessel had come ashore, shortly after all contact phones went offline. This information has of course been denied by the Hellenic coast guard, because as they said “there was nobody there”, again people have magically disappeared, this seems to happen a lot in the Aegean Sea, it’s like the “Bermuda Triangle” of Europe..

The Hellenic coast guard realized that the boat they had arrived with wasn’t big enough to transport 61 people off the island, and they called to get another boat to the area.

After searching everyone, confiscating phones, ID papers and money, men, women and children were forced onto the two vessels from the Hellenic coast guard, 40 on the bigger vessel and 21 in the smaller and taken back out to sea.


In the afternoon a Turkish fishing vessel found and rescued 21 people, several of them very small children, from a life raft drifting south of Didim, Turkey. Turkish coast guard was informed, people was later transferred to a vessel from the Turkish coast guard and taken to Didim, Turkey.

At 19.00 Turkish coast guard found and rescued 40 people from two life rafts drifting south west of Didim, Turkey, not far from the Greek island of Farmakonisi. Also this group was taken to Didim, Turkey.

People from both these incidents claimed to have arrived on Fragkos, later removed from the island and forced into life rafts by the Hellenic coast guard. The Hellenic coast guard on the other hand denies any involvement, as we know, they always abbey by the rules at sea, and always put human lives first, at least if the human lives are rich tourists, or Greek national’s that is, because “these people”, they seems not to be considered humans in Greece.

This seems to be a never ending story, the Greek government are systematically violating information laws and human rights in an industrial scale, unparalleled in Europe since the time when nazis ruled. This time we can’t say “we didn’t know”, because we do, it’s proven without a doubt that the Greek government is responsible for crimes against humanity, so why don’t we care enough to stop these atrocities?

Everyone seems to be looking the other way, it’s not our problem, it’s not our people, so why should we care? The unwillingness by European politicians to act and stop these atrocities is a mockery of humanity. If it had been Europeans that had been drifting around in the Aegean Sea we would have been shouting from the rooftops, heads would have rolled and European leaders would have had to resign, but for “these people”, we couldn’t care less..

Europe for Europeans is the new slogan, we build walls, we will fight and we will kill to keep “unwanted” people out.

“I reject the pushbac concept, i reject the term. That concept, the word dosen`t exist in my vocabulary. When boat comes, we will do EVERYTHING so that the boat returnes where it came from”.

“Kyriakos Mitsotakis”


Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads

The video you are about to watch is of an illegal pushback carried out by the Greek coastguard.

It is not a ‘one-off’. It did not take place six, twelve or eighteen months ago, and now things are better.

It was just one of 491 incidents since March 2020, in which 14,720 men, women and children have been denied their fundamental human rights by a coastguard armed with assault rifles and behaving like a sea-militia ‘defending’ Greece against innocent, unarmed, and peaceful men, women and children attempting to find safe places to live.

In the morning of 10 June, a boat carrying 31 people travelled towards Kos. Closing in on Ag. Fokas, on the south east side of the island, the boat was approached by several vessels from the Hellenic coast guard, and forced back towards Turkey.

If anyone is wondering what a pushback at sea looks like, this is how it’s being carried out. And it is illegal.

Pushback Outside Kos 10.06.2021

This shocking, immoral and illegal practice has become ‘normal’ in the Aegean Sea. Greece carries it out without let or hindrance, while the EU seems unable or unwilling to act.

Human Rights in Europe are at a crossroads.

According to the Greek government and Frontex, this isn’t a pushback, but a ‘prevention of entry’.

There are two major problems with this assessment. First, under international law, no country is allowed to ‘prevent the entry’ of men, women and children not suspected of any crime (as these people are not) and who intend to apply for asylum. Even if the people in this boat had not entered Greek waters, the Greek coastguard would have broken international law, by forcibly preventing people who wish to apply for asylum, from entering Greece.

But in fact, secondly, these people had in fact already entered Greek water. It cannot be a ‘prevention of entry’ if people have already ‘entered’: it is a pushback. And it is absolutely illegal.

In the video we can hear one of the officers on the Hellenic coast guard vessel ΛΣ150, say “everyone abide by the rules, because he’s filming”. It’s disturbing that this even needed to be said. First, because what would have happened had this person not had the presence of mind, and technology, to film? What would have happened then? How would the heavily-armed coastguard have responded to these innocent, unarmed people trying to exercise their fundamental human rights? Why did this coastguard, who noticed a person filming, need to advise his colleagues to abide by the law? What did he fear they would do?

Secondly, the disturbing images we can see in this video are in fact not ‘abiding by the rules’. It appears the coastguard does not understand – or perhaps accept – the rules. This is a video of the Greek coastguard breaking the law, even as one member of the coastguard warns his colleagues not to do something even worse.

Nor is this an isolated incident.

It’s how the Hellenic coastguard – and in some cases also Frontex – have been operating for the last 15 months.

We must demand that Notis Mitarachis, and Fabrice Leggeri, are held to account for their continued, immoral, unacceptable, and illegal activity in the Aegean Sea. We must demand that the EU – or if, as increasingly seems to be the case, the EU is unwilling – the wider international community takes legal action, now, to prevent the Greek coastguard, the Greek government, Frontex and the EU, breaking international law, and shaming the whole of Europe in the process.

None of this is acceptable. None of it is even beneficial to either Greece or the EU.

The time to stop this is now. The time to act is now. The EU can and must act. If it refuses, it is time for the international court to prosecute Mitarachis, Nea Dimokratia, Leggeri, Frontex, and the European Commission. Anything else is to further damage, and indeed make a laughing stock of international law, and all our human rights.

Pushback Nr. 460

4 of June at 02.00 a boat carrying 44 people, many of them very small children, started out from Sazli, Turkey, heading towards Lesvos north.

The trip lasted for five hours, people onboard was afraid that the Greek coast guard would find them at sea and push them back, especially after first light, but luckily they managed to cross without being spotted.

44 People traveling towards Lesvos 04.06.2021

At 07.00 they landed north west of Tsonia, Lesvos north east. They destroyed the rubber boat on the beach, before they split up in several smaller groups, and fled to the woods in the area, frightened that the greek police would find them and returner them to Turkey.

44 People arriving on Lesvos 04.06.2021

Aegean Boat Report had contact with people from several of these groups, hiding in different locations in the area. Between 08.30 and 10.40 we lost contact with all the groups, we feared that they had been found by police, and that they wouldn’t take them to any camp.

Aegean Boat Report received pictures, videos and location data, there was no doubt, they had arrived on Lesvos. From pictures and videos received we can clearly see the area, several locals who knows the area have confirmed that it’s no doubt that this was north west of Tsonia.

For several days we actually didn’t know exactly what happened to them, nobody was registered as arrived on Lesvos, once again large numbers of people, many of them children, had magically disappeared.

Pictures and videos published by the Turkish coast guard several days later solved the mystery. 44 people was picked up from a life raft, drifting north west of Dikili, on June 4 at 18.40. When comparing the people in the video’s, there is no doubt, the people filmed on the ground on Lesvos was identical with the people rescued from the life raft outside Dikili.

44 People rescued by TCG outside Dikili 04.06.2021

Some people argue that they most likely have returned themselves, without any assistance from the Greek authorities, not a very plausible explanation. First they needed to find a life raft, not easy in this area I guess, then paddle with their hands over 31 nautical miles, in head winds and against the current, ah, yes, and in brought daylight without anyone noticing them, to try to get back from where they were fleeing from in the first place… I guess we can rule that one out, this was another pushback by the Hellenic coast guard.

Distance from arrival location to location picked up by TCG

Information received from people in the group, was that they were beaten, robbed of all their belongings, bags, money, phones etc. by masked men in military uniforms, before forced on a Greek coast guard vessel.

How people, who most likely have their own family, children, could do this to people, and especially small children, is beyond me. How can they look themselves in the mirror knowing that they are torturing people on a daily basis.

It’s time for European politicians to take off their blindfolds, it’s time to see that what is going on on the borders of Europe is a crime against humanity, to say “we didn’t know” is no longer an option.We must stop pretending that this doesn’t concern us, that’s it’s “their” rights that are being violated, not ours.

It is an attack on us all: when a government strips a Somali teen, a Syrian child, an Iraqi man, an Afghan woman of their human rights, you have to know that they are reserving the right to do the same to you, to your son, daughter, brother, sister, parents, grandfather and grandmother.

Those rights belong to us all: once they are taken from one of us, they can be taken from us all. It must stop. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to this – the disgrace of Europe. Instead, we must stand, together, and demand better: from our governments, from the EU, from the international community.

The Greek government must stop pretending to ‘know nothing’ about a practice which is clearly its policy. It must stop pretending that every NGO operating in Greece, as well as the UN, international media and the European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, are in fact somehow ‘employees of’ or collaborators in, Turkish ‘propaganda’.

It must, immediately – as Greece’s Ombudsman has concluded and demands – open public and accessible investigations into the actions of its own uniformed officers in illegally expelling men, women and children seeking decent places to live.

It must end this shameful, illegal, dehumanising, embarrassing and unacceptable practice.