This Will Forever Be a Stain On European History

Several boats carrying refugees tried to cross from Turkey to the Greek Aegean island of Lesvos on 2 April.

In at least five incidents, more than 200 people were stopped and pushed back by the Hellenic coast guard, as previously reported by Aegean Boat Report.

Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, made a public statement, in which he accused the Turkish coast guard and Turkish Navy of “accompanying flimsy migrant boats to the border of Europe in an effort to provoke an escalation with Greece”, an accusation made without evidence.

The Turkish coast guard issued its own statement about these incidents, in which it blamed the Greek coast guard for illegal activities, and the Turkish government’s Deputy Interior Minister Mr. Catakli, speaking on behalf of his government, categorically denied Mitarachi’s allegations.

Both sides released videos supposed to prove their accusations: videos which did not prove their claims.

Video published by the Hellenic coast guard
Video published by the Turkish coast guard

There are interesting elements in these videos, but for the most part they can only be seen as propaganda material to try to make the other side look bad.

But we don’t have to rely solely on these propaganda videos: not only did many people in these boats capture interesting and revealing footage on their phones, also a German TV crew from ZDF was onboard one of the Turkish coast guard vessels. Their report, especially their video, is highly interesting.

The Hellenic coast guard’s official report claimed none of the rubber boats managed to cross into Greek waters, but from the footage available this seems highly unlikely. First, we can see that both the Greek coast guard vessel PLS-080 (ΛΣ-080), and the RIB belonging to PLS-080 is driving dangerously close to and around several of the rubber boats trying to cross. It’s highly unlikely that they would operate and act like this inside Turkish waters.

Second, some footage shows some of the rubber boats only a few kilometres from land (Lesvos), so if not all, at least some of these boats clearly did reach Greek waters, which contradicts the Hellenic coast guard’s report.

In videos and pictures published by the Turkish coast guard, we can also see an Italian Frontex vessel, the 200/S-Class deep sea patrol boat CP-290, currently operating from Lesvos.

Next to the Italian Frontex vessel we can also clearly see a rubber boat with refugees. We have thoroughly investigated pictures and videos from multiple angles, and can confirm without any doubt that both the Frontex vessel and the rubber boat are inside Greek waters.

Frontex would not, unless there was a specific emergency, operate inside Turkish territory waters. At least some of the boats were clearly within Greek waters.

There are two interesting details within the Turkish coast guard’s statement that raise questions.

The Turkish coast guard reported that at 3.30am a rubber boat outside Lesvos south was picked up by the Hellenic coast guard vessel PLS-618 (ΛΣ-618), one of two Faiakas-class fast patrol crafts (FPCs) currently operated by the Hellenic Coast Guard and stationed on Lesvos.

This boat has been involved in numerous illegal pushbacks outside Lesvos, the latest reported by Aegean Boat Report on 19 February. In August last year an investigation was published on the Border Violence Monitoring Network, involving the boat in queastion.

In their report, the Turkish coast guard claims this incident on 2 April at 3.30am started as a pushback attempt, but the rubber boat was later picked up and taken towards Lesvos. Italian Frontex was reported to be present. This was also reported by the TV crew from ZDF filming onboard the Turkish coast guard vessel, making it more plausible that it in fact happened.

The question here is what happened to these people, allegedly picked up by HCG? We will return to this later.

At 7.00am, the Turkish coast guard reported that a rubber boat was intercepted by Italian Frontex (CP-290) and a Greek coast guard vessel (Lambro-57) outside Palios, north-eastern Lesvos. They report the passengers on this boat were picked up by the vessels from the Hellenic coast guard, and taken towards Lesvos.

From pictures and videos of the incident the rubber boat was picked up a few kilometres from land. There can be no doubt that it was inside Greek territory waters. We are left with the same question: what happened to these people?

Neither the 3am, or the 7am pick ups were reported as arriving on Lesvos, on 2 April or in the following days. They seems to have magically disappeared. On 2 April, 35 people were officially registered as arrived on Lesvos, so everything seems in order. But to understand that things are not as they seem, we need a bit more detailed information, of the kind the Greek government does not publish.

In the early morning, seven people were found by police walking towards Mytilíni harbour, and were taken to the quarantine camp in Kara Tepe. They claimed to have arrived by themselves in a rubber boat. Had they been picked up at sea by HCG, they would definitely not be walking alone towards Mytilíni harbour, so we can rule out that they had been picked up at sea.

Also on 2 April, a group of 28 people contacted Aegean Boat Report at first light after they had landed north west of Palios. Pictures and videos showed they had landed by themselves: they had not been picked up by HCG at sea.

They also explained that they did not see any boats when they approached land on Lesvos, so theirs clearly was not the boat we can see next to the Italian Frontex vessel. Twenty-eight people were registered in the quarantine camp in Megala Therma this day.

As previously mentioned, 35 people were officially registered as arriving at the camp on this day, and we have already ruled out that any of them were picked up by the Hellenic coast guard at sea.

It’s also important to mention that nobody was officially registered as arriving in the following days. So we must ask again: what happened to these people who were picked up by HCG?

The first case outside south Lesvos south is a bit difficult, because there’s no visible evidence besides the radar pictures published by ZDF. In the case later the same morning, outside north-east Lesvos, there are videos and pictures that clearly place the rubber boat next to the Italian Frontex vessel inside Greek territory waters. Perhaps Frontex can explain what really happened here, because we know that the Greek coast guard will deny even being there, despite what we can clearly see in the video.

That people have a tendency to magically disappear after encountering Greek officials, is nothing new: this has been reported numerous times at the land border in Evros and the Aegean Sea border for years.

The fact that Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is reportedly deeply involved in these violations, seems to explain why EU is so reluctant to act against Greece on these violations, which are a systematic, illegal practice where international law and human rights are violated every single day, supported by Frontex.

If this had been taken seriously by the European Commission, they would have had no option but to pull Frontex out of Greece. Instead, they strengthen Frontex’s presence there, and arm its operatives.

It is also hard not to connect the EU’s reluctance to address illegal pushbacks in Greece to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission’s statement in March 2020: “Greece is the shield of Europe”. This makes it seem as if anything goes as long as it is in the ‘interest’ of Europe (though in fact it is not: stripping the rights of Syrian teenagers, Afghan women, Iraqi men, and Congolese children, is also to strip the rights of every single person in Europe. Ourselves, our children, our brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents).

Another strange phenomenon are the mysterious rubber boats carrying masked men who have been reported to have violently attacked boats with refugees in the Aegean Sea for years. Previously, we have only seen glimpses of these boats in videos provided by refugees who have been victims of violent attacks at sea, but in the most recent video, it is clear that they are now operating in broad daylight.

In previous published investigations it has been proved without a doubt that these boats belong to the Hellenic coast guard, though this has of course been denied by the Greek government.

In videos from 2 April, we can clearly see a grey RIB, without any distinguishing marks, numbers or flag, carrying men not in uniform and wearing balaclavas, chasing boats filled with men women and children. The RIB is working closely with the Hellenic coast guard vessel PLS-080: the video shows it going back and forth from this vessel several times.

Also, in several videos we can clearly see that the RIB that usually is mounted on deck, as the RIB from PLS-080’s starboard side is missing. The RIB in the videos is identical to this missing RIB. The PLS-080 is a Saar IV class offshore patrol vessel. The Hellenic coast guard has three of these, ΛΣ-060, ΛΣ-070 and ΛΣ-080. They are all equipped with a one-engined orange Rescue RIB on Port side and a grey two-engined Pursuit RIB on starboard side.

All vessels in the Hellenic coast guard, including RIBs, are marked with an identification number and blue and white stripes. The RIBs also carry the identification mark of the vessel it belongs to. In this case, it should have been marked ‘ΛΣ-080 ’.

To see this unmarked RIB carrying four men wearing irregular clothing, faces covered, chasing flimsy rubber boats packed with unarmed people raises a lot of questions. Why is the identification markings on these boats removed? What could possibly be the explanation for that? Is it because these boats usually are used to carry out illegal operations under cover of darkness, and the coast guard doesn’t want them recognised?

But why would they then use these same boats in broad daylight, operating out of a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard? Normally officers in any coast guard, including Greece’s, wear uniforms on duty. The four men on this RIB, which belongs to the Hellenic coast guard, are not in uniform, wearing irregular clothing. Why? Is it so the coast guard might deny that the men onboard this RIB are coast guard personnel? So the Greek government could use ‘plausible deniability’ and claim no accountability for what is going on.

Also, why are the the men onboard this RIB covering or semi-covering their faces? To hide their identity? This is understandable, as they are breaking the law, but the Hellenic coast guard has previously said its personnel do not wear balaclavas or cover their faces on duty, but here we see men in dark irregular clothes, faces covered on a vessel belonging to the Hellenic Coast Guard. If not coast guard personnel, who are these people? It seems clear that we are dealing with a government which is systematically practicing illegal pushbacks on an industrial scale, violating international laws, regulations and international human rights on a daily basis.

And this is important. Greece should be sanctioned for these violations, and the people responsible should be behind bars.

But instead of sanctioning a EU member state for these authorities, we applaud them, give them billions in support and send armed Frontex personnel to assist them.

We seem to have lost touch with reality, forgotten our recent history. Not too long ago, fascism ruled Europe. We know what it ‘achieved’.

If anyone anywhere in the world tortured more than 10,000 people, we would without doubt call it a crime against humanity, and act accordingly. Greece has, since March 2020 tortured 11,567 people and counting. What have we done to stop this? Nothing.

This will forever be a stain on European history. When our grandchildren asked why it happened, and why we did not stop it, what will we say?

Another Day, Another Pushback, It Never Ends..

In the early hours of Saturday 3 April, a rubber boat started out from Balabanli, Ayvacik, carrying 27 people, 11 children and 16 adults, destination Lesvos north.

Boat Traveling towards Lesvos north April 3

After several hours at sea in the dark, only 450 metres from land east of Megala Therma, Lesvos north, their engine started to malfunction, they contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance. The time was 4.31am.

For almost an hour, the boat drifted slowly towards land, but at 5.20am a coast guard vessel arrived and stopped it. From videos, we have identified the boat as a Lambro-57 coastal patrol boat belonging to the Hellenic coast guard. But instead of rescuing the drifting refugees, they attached a rope to the rubber dinghy and started to tow it back out to sea. The time was now 5.49am.

In several videos and pictures provided by the refugees, we can see the vessel from the Greek coast guard towing the rubber boat. It’s dark but we can positively identify the vessel. “We were almost on land” they later explained, “we could see the beach when the Greek Coast Guard stopped us and forced us back to Turkey”, there is no doubt who was behind this illegal pushback.

Pushback ongoing outside Lesvos north April 3

The weather wasn’t good, and water was entering the rubber boat while it was being towed. The Greek Coast Guard decided transferred the passengers from the flimsy rubber dinghy to the coast guard vessel, punctured the rubber boat, and the remains of the boat and its engine were thrown in the sea. The refugees explained that the boat took them towards Turkey, and after a short while, they were forced into a life raft.

At 8.37 am Aegean Boat Report regained contact with the people from the boat, they were screaming on the phone, beginning to be rescued. Their position was now deep inside Turkish waters, and the Turkish coast guard was notified immediately.

While they were waiting to be rescued, they sent several voice messages and videos. The case is clear, and there is very little room for doubt about what happened to them, and who is responsible. Videos clearly show what happened, and their locations were sent both as regular and live location on Whatsapp.

Life raft drifting north of Lesvos April 3

After spending hours in the life raft, they were eventually found and rescued by the Turkish coast guard.

Why people trying to seek safety in Europe are tortured this way I can’t even begin to understand. What is driving humans to inflict so much suffering and pain upon others is beyond my comprehension. If this had been done to Europeans anywhere in the world, lawyers would have lined up, lawsuits against the people responsible would have tied them up in court for years, but for this and almost all of the hundreds of similar cases in the last year alone, not one single word is mentioned in any newspaper. It’s as if these people do not exist.

I wonder how the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, would try to squirm out of this one. Probably by saying that they had not been inside Greek territory waters, just as he said for the seven pushback incidents on Friday, and that the Hellenic Coast Guard complies with all international laws and regulations, an is not involved in any pushbacks whatsoever. And yes, he would probably also argue, as he has before, that these ‘unfounded allegations’ about pushbacks carried out by the Greek government are lies told by smugglers and organizations losing money on the decrease in arrivals on the Greek Aegean islands. It’s actually quite sad to see a man making a fool out of himself, by continuing to deny what has been proven over and over again. It’s perhaps difficult to stop lying when you have lied for so long, and lost touch with reality.

Over 200 People Pushed Back Outside Lesvos on April 2

Before first light on 2 April, Aegean Boat Reported was contacted by several people claiming to be in the need of rescue in different locations in the sea area around Lesvos. Some had been pushed back, engines removed from their vessels, drifting. One was being towed towards Turkish waters, and others were forced back over the border by vessels from the Hellenic coast guard.

In the early hours of 2 April, we registered at least five cases of pushbacks performed by the Greek Coast Guard: more than 200 people were pushed back in these five incidents.

Boats who contacted Aegean Boat Report on April 2

Later the same morning, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, made a public statement, were he accused the Turkish coast guard and Turkish Navy of “accompanying flimsy migrant boats to the border of Europe in an effort to provoke an escalation with Greece”, an accusation made without what we can call substantial proof.

He based his accusations on two videos released together with a statement from the Hellenic coast guard. The only problem is that the videos do not in any way show or prove what the minister is claiming.

This is not the first time Mr. Mitarachi has thrown accusations around without being able to back them up with proof. In an international invite-only press conference in December 2020, he accused Aegean Boat Report of being a part of a smuggling network without a single shred of evidence. This was of course entirely untrue, and was done to try to take focus away from an investigation published in Der Spiegel the same day regarding a serious pushback incident on Lesvos.

Another Proven Pushback!

The minister’s most recent statement, also in English, seems to be another poorly-planned and -executed attempt to move focus away from illegal pushbacks performed by the Greek government. In recent months, numerous investigations and reports on pushbacks have been published by the international press and organizations, resulting in questions being raised in the EU Parliament.

Pushback outside Lesvos April 2

The Turkish coast guard published their own statement from these incidents outside Lesvos on April 2, they on the other hand blamed the Greek coast guard for illegal activities. Also the Turkish government by Deputy Interior Minister Mr. Catakli, categorically denies the allegations put forward by Mr. Mitarachi.

So, let’s take a closer look at this statement, to see exactly how much of what Mr. Mitarachi said on 2 April is shown by the evidence to be accurate.

He said: “This morning, the Hellenic Coastguard reported multiple incidents of the Turkish Coastguard and Navy accompanying flimsy migrant boats to the border of Europe”.

Yes, there were multiple boats trying to cross towards the Greek Aegean islands on that morning, but Mr Mitarachi has not shown that they were “accompanied” by the Turkish coast guard. This is interesting because if he had proof that this had happened, wouldn’t it then be strange not to use it, and what could possibly be the reason not to use it?

Pushback outside Lesvos April 2

He also refers to “the border of Europe”, not the Greek border, as if this “provocation” as he calls it, was aimed at Europe, and not Greece. It seems he wants to portray Greece as the ‘shield’ of Europe, as Ursula von der Leyen described it in March last year, so it looks as if Greece is not ‘defending’ itself, but ‘defending’ everyone in Europe.

He went on: “It is beyond doubt that these migrants departed Turkish shores and given the fact they were supported by Turkey, were not at risk”

He is correct to say these people departed from Turkey, but when he adds that they were “supported by Turkey”, he offers no evidence to support this claim. And when he claims that they were ‘not at risk’, we in fact have video evidence that these people were in fact in grave danger, because of the illegal actions taken by the Greek Coast Guard.

Pushback outside Lesvos April 2

He then said: “We call on Turkey to: 1) Stand down and stop this unwarranted provocation; 2) Return these migrants safely to Turkey; 3) Live up to the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Statement on migration.”

So, in response, we should note that: 1) this was not a “provocation”, unless Mr. Mitarachi is correct when he claims these boats were sent by The Turkish government, to “provoke” Greece. There has as yet been no evidence offered to substantiate this claim. 2) Why should Turkey return people who are entitled by international law to cross any border as long as they intend to apply for asylum in their final destination country? It’s also absolutely illegal under international law and it is a direct breach of ALL our human rights for countries to prevent people from traveling and entering, perhaps something to which Mr. Mitarachi should pay more attention.

Pushback outside Lesvos April 3

Mr. Mitarachi tries to imply that people are safe in Turkey, if taken back by the Turkish coast guard. How can he possibly know this? He does not know who these people are, or why they are trying to reach Greece, because he refuses to allow them to apply for asylum, or consider their applications – as is their right under international law.

It is of course true that countries are entitled to ‘defend their borders’ – European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson talked about that in her press conference on Lesvos on Monday 30 March. But Ms Johansson and Mr. Mitarachis know that this does not apply to individuals trying to reach places of safety. A country absolutely has the right to defend its borders from an invading force, but it cannot pretend to be defending itself by breaking international law to prevent people seeking safety. The UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 14) 1948. UN Refugee Convention, 1951 and Protocol 1967 are clear that this is the right of every person on the planet.

3) This is in fact one of several reasons why the EU/Turkey Deal Mr. Mitarachi cites is a direct breach of international law. We might also note that to all intents and purposes, the EU-Turkey Deal is over. Although there is no official ‘end-date’ written into the Deal, the last EU money promised to Turkey under the Deal was in December 2020 (two years late, according to the Deal’s terms). At the time of writing, Ms Johansson herself is talking regularly and publicly about ‘renewing and renegotiating’ the Deal for this precise reason: it is effectively over.

It seems only fair to mention, too, that whatever else may be true about Turkey, and also its relationship with Greece, the Turkish coastguard has stopped well over half of all the people who have tried to make the crossing since the Deal came into effect in late March 2016. From a purely statistical viewpoint, more than twice as many people would have arrived in Greece from March 2016, had the TCG not become the sea militia the EU demanded it must be, under the terms of the Deal. For Mitarachi or anyone else to claim Turkey has not ‘adhered to’ the Deal is simply an attempt to mislead the public, as well as politicians looking on from elsewhere in Europe.

Aegean Boat Report Statisticks

Mitarachi’s statement to camera on 2 April was almost entirely incorrect. We cannot know for certain why he chose to say what he said, when he did, but it is reasonable to consider that it was broadcast just as the issue of Greece’s lawbreaking on the Aegean was gaining widespread, and correctly negative, international coverage.

Perhaps when he practised it in front of his mirror, the statement sounded firm and convincing. But to anyone with even the slightest interest and knowledge, it sounded like the opposite: a person desperately trying to cover up their atrocious behaviour with the flimsiest of stories.

On 2 April, a genuinely dreadful moment in the modern history of Europe, more than 200 people were illegally pushed back by the Greek government outside Lesvos. This statement is a fact, and we have the proof to support it.  

Voices from people being pushed back by Greek coast guard

We doubt Mr. Mitarachi lost any sleep over it, but I can tell you I did.

From just after midnight on 2 April, Aegean Boat Report received more than 100 phone calls from people in distress, begging for help, fearing for their lives, and all we could do was to call the very coast guard which was the reason for their suffering.

More than 11,000 men, women and children entering the EU to seek safe places to rebuild their lives have been illegally forced out of Greece since 1 March 2020.

First-hand accounts from these innocent people tell of beatings at the hands of uniformed officers, and in every case, they have been forced into engineless vessels – almost always inflatable tents – and set adrift in the Eastern Aegean Sea.

This is illegal, immoral, and in the EU – a political bloc which presents itself as, and believes itself to be, a protector and promoter of international law and human rights – unacceptable.

It is time we as people, and the EU as a political body, moves to end these illegal acts. Mr Mitarachi and the Greek government can, of course, join us in this effort. We would welcome them. But with them or without them, this is a stain on all of our consciences, and all of our records, and it cannot continue.

Aegean Boat Report will upon official request, make all documentation available for international news outlets who wants to investigate these cases further. Conditions of use determined by ABR.

” I Felt like An Animal On The Way To Slaughter”

In the early hours of Tuesday, 30 March, 37 people started out from Ayvalik, Turkey, in a rubber boat and headed towards Lesvos north east. The wind and current in the area pushed them due south west.

Locaten reciev Aegean Boat Report

After two hours the boat’s engine stopped and they called for help, still in Turkish waters, drifting slowly into Greek waters. The Turkish coast guard was informed, but by the time their vessel reached the location, the rubber boat had drifted into Greek waters, and detected and stopped by a boat belonging to the Hellenic coast guard (later in interview identified as a Lambro-57 coastal patrol vessel). The Time was 5.30am.

Ilustration Picture

According to their testimony, while onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel, they were beaten by men wearing black balaclavas and dark uniforms. Everyone, including the children, was placed at the front of the vessel, outside in the cold winds.

A second vessel was also on location, a larger military vessel (later in interview identified as a Vosper Europatrol 250 MK1 offshore patrol vessel identification mark ΛΣ 050, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, and stationed in Petra, Lesvos).

After a while, everyone was transferred to this larger vessel. They were not allowed to take any of their belongings with them: what little they had, they were forced to leave behind.

One by one they were searched when taken onboard, and their phones, papers and money were confiscated. One girl managed to hide her phone, which she later used to again call for rescue and to document their situation. They were placed again at the front of the vessel, ordered to look down and be quiet.

For five hours, they were held captive on the vessel, and offered no support like food, water or blankets, even for the children.

The young woman I spoke with, still in shock after this traumatic experience, asked me “why Europe treat us like this, is it because you hate black people?” the question went unanswered. She told me she felt like an animal on the way to slaughter, horrible words to hear from a 15 year-old girl.

At 10.30am, Aegean Boat Report received a second emergency call, still from the same number. The men, women and children were now drifting in two life rafts, one of which was punctured and taking in water: everyone had to climb into one raft.

From the new location the girl sent, they were north east of Karaada island, Cesme, 63 nautical miles from the first location received south west of Ayvalik. There is no possible way they could manage this trip by themselves, not in a rubber dinghy, nor in a engineless life raft, there is no doubt who is responsible for this.

Video Taken Inside the Life Raft Outside Cesme

Aegean Boat Report again informed the Turkish coast guard, and shortly after they were found and rescued, 37 people picked up from a life raft in the Aegean Sea.

İzmir Açıklarında 37 Düzensiz Göçmen Kurtarılmıştır (sg.gov.tr)

Why people trying to seek safety in Europe are tortured this way I can’t even begin to understand. What is driving humans to inflict so much suffering and pain upon others? It is beyond my comprehension.

If this had been done to Europeans anywhere in the world, lawyers would have lined up, and lawsuits against the people responsible would have tied them up in court for years, but it seems as if in cases like this one, no-one even blinks: not one single word is mentioned in any newspaper, it’s as if these people do not exist.

Watching the news conference the other day from Lesvos with the Greek minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson made me physically sick.

Again, Mr. Mitarachi denied any involvement or wrongdoing by the Greek government or the Hellenic coast guard, using the same phrase he has so many times before, calling it fake news and propaganda to influence international public opinion, this time adding a new scenario, that it was manufactured by smugglers and organizations losing money when arrival numbers decreased.

Mr. Mitarachi can only be seen as a pathological liar, a puppet acting on behalf of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the political agenda of the right-wing party New Democracy. Mr. Mitarachi is obviously not the brain behind this, he’s merely a tool, and someone who will take the fall for this when it goes sideways, which it will.

Any person of intelligence would see this coming and dodge the bullet, but Mr. Mitarachi is heading towards the inevitable with a smile, like a lamb to the slaughter.

And in a meeting yesterday in Athens, the Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Mr. Ioannis Plakiotakis said that “on the basis of unsubstantiated complaints” he has already initiated the process of updating the internal mechanism in order to fully investigate each incident and to “put an end to the propaganda efforts against Greece.”

He added: “The European Union must take all necessary steps to ensure that the attempt to manipulate international public opinion, which results from specific centres and interest groups, fails.”

This is the same man who in in September last year, bragged in an international news conference. “Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented.” In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”

Plakiotakis said nothing about how the boats were stopped from entering Greek waters, which also is the south-eastern border of the EU. But he stressed that the coast guard “operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and,.. with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life.”

Madam Commissioner, we are here to help

Dear Madam Commissioner, Ms Johansson,

We watched your press conference this afternoon (29 March 2021) with interest and – we have to say – no little disappointment.

It was heartening to hear both you and Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis promise that the ‘closed camps’ on the Aegean islands Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos will not be closed.

You can be assured that we will be keeping a close eye on those camps, because they have been repeatedly described by the Greek government as ‘closed’ since the idea was first suggested in September 2019.

We will be sure to keep you updated, as we know very well that you do not want the EU funding closed camps, as you said so publicly in September 2020, in the immediate aftermath of the Moria fire.

We would be very interested to understand why the Greek government has decided everyone who lives in these ‘non-closed’ camps will be subject to a curfew of 8pm every evening, however. Would you perhaps be able to explain that to us?

Anyway, we are sorry to say that – for us – this was the end of the ‘encouraging updates’.

Perhaps most disappointing – and as you heard it yourself, we are sure you, too, were dismayed – was to hear Notis Mitarachis describe the 370 documented pushbacks, in which 10,989 men, women and children were forcibly removed from Greece (many of them beaten) and set adrift in engineless life-rafts (some of them killed in the journey) as ‘fake news’, and repeated his evidence-free implication that those documented cases had somehow been ‘faked’ by ‘smugglers’.

We can only imagine the personal embarrassment you felt when you heard Mr Mitarachis as then forced to admit that in fact not all the cases were ‘fake news’: that those raised by UNHCR (and only those) may have had some truth to them and were in fact treated seriously.

He did not explain – and never has explained – exactly how he and his government have discovered that every single case not raised by UNHCR is unworthy of further investigation, but every single one highlighted by them needs to be taken seriously. Perhaps you have asked him how this decision was taken?

In any case, we are very sorry that you were forced into the embarrassing position of having to appear to take seriously a claim that every single documented pushback from Greece in the last 12 months was a lie, except the ones which happen to have been raised by UNHCR. We were equally distressed that you then had to appear to accept that of the cases UNHCR wished to be investigated, every single one hadbeen judged to have been wrong by the Greek courts.

It was almost impossible not to cringe in sympathy with you as Mr Mitarachis appeared to claim that every humanitarian organisation with any knowledge of the Greek coastguard’s activities in the Aegean and the United Nations was for some reason targeting Greece with unjust attacks.

We can assure you that many more cases are to be heard, and not only in Greek courts.

Once again, we feel we must offer our deepest sympathy to you for this experience.

But, Madam Commissioner, Ms Johansson, we do want to offer you something else. Information you may not have received from Mr Mitarachis and his Ministry.

From Saturday night to the end of Sunday, Madam Commissioner, a period which roughly matches the first third of your visit, the Greek coastguard carried out NINE (9) pushbacks, of 291 men, women and children.

We know this because we receive their desperate messages, calling for someone, anyone, to help them.

In the videos we include for your information, there is a group of 19 people. They arrived on Lesvos early on Sunday morning. You can see them on the island in the videos.

The Greek coastguard found them, forced them onto a coastguard vessel, and – as you can also see clearly in this footage – left them adrift near Dikili, Western Turkey in an engineless inflatable tent.

Madam Commissioner, Ms Johansson, we know that you believe in international law. We know that it can be difficult to find the ‘right path’ when the people on whose information you are supposed to rely fail to provide you with the ‘whole story’. And we know that you cannot possibly want this to be happening ‘on your watch’. But it is. It has happened to more than 11,000 people in the last year alone.

We are here to help, Ms Johansson.

We are here to help the men, women and children desperately seeking somewhere safe and decent to live – including, we are sad to have to say, helping them not to die. We are here to help the Greek government ensure those people enter the legal process, and respond to this challenging situation with decency and decorum.

And we are here to help you, by helping you to ensure that the EU is the best it can possibly be. That it does embody the principles and letter of international law, rather than just hoping people will think it does.

We want the same thing, Ms Johansson: an EU of which we can all be proud. Please help us, too, to realise this fine ambition.        

The Pushbacks Continue

A rubber boat carrying 57 people contacted Aegean Boat Report at 2.30 this morning (Sunday 28 March 2021) for assistance. They reported that there were 28 children in the boat.

Inside the rubber boat befor stopped by the Hellenic Coast Guard
Position received 03.11AM north of Tsonia, Lesvos north

At 3.57am, they were stopped by a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, an orange boat, they explained, with SAR 511 written on the side, flying a Greek flag on top and the European Union flag underneath. The boat is a Lambro Halmatic 60 SAR vessel: the 511 is stationed in Mytilíni.

Lambro Halmatic 60 SAR vessel nr 511 HCG, stationed in Mytilini, Lesvos

Soon, a second boat arrived, described as grey underneath and white on top. The people abord the rubber boat sent a video of this second vessel, which is a Lambro-57 Mk1 coastal patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard. All the men onboard this boat were wearing black balaclavas and dark uniforms.

Lambro-57 MK1 Coastal Patrol vessel HCG
Illustration Picture

All 57 people on board the rubber boat were transferred onto the coast guard vessel, where they were placed outside, in the front. They hoped that they were being rescued, but that hope disappeared quickly. Officers onboard shouted to them to “look down and shut up”, and any who didn’t obey were brutally beaten with batons. The people said the boat drove back and forth for hours, and many of the people were soaking wet, and freezing without cover in the front of the boat.

Position received 05.47AM north of Molivos, Lesvos north

Aegean Boat Report received the last position from the refugees at 5.47am, north of Molivos, in the north of Lesvos. After that the people’s phones lost connection.

Video filmed onboard the HCG vessel by the refugees
Video filmed onboard the HCG vessel by the refugees

At first light, the coast guard vessel stopped in the middle of the sea, north west of Petra, in the north of Lesvos. The coastguard stripped the engine from the rubber boat from which the 57 people had been picked up, and ordered the men, women and children to get back into this boat. Those who resisted were beaten, children were screaming, terrified. This was another violent pushback by the Hellenic coast guard. The 57 people, who had hoped they were being rescued, were once again drifting in the Aegean Sea, in the same boat they had started out from Turkey with, but this time without an engine. No-one was given even a life vest, not even the children.

Left drifting by HCG

The Hellenic Coast Guard forced 57 people to drift helplessly, without life support, in a poorly made rubber boat that should never have been used at sea by anyone, and certainly not packed with 57 human beings.

Left drifting by HCG

After a few hours the group was found and rescued by the Turkish coast guard, back where they started, in Turkey.

Rescued by TCG

This is not even a particularly unusual event on this stretch of water, carried out by a service which is supposed to save people’s lives. It took place on the day the European Union’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, arrived in Greece for a three-day visit. We wonder whether the details of this incident have been shared with her.

One Year On: We Need Your Help, Commissioner

Moria 2 November 2020
Picture by Mohammad Reza

Dear Madam Commissioner, Ms Johansson,

                Welcome back to Greece.

We hope you will enjoy your time here, but we are afraid we must let you know that since your last visit, just over a year ago, things have not been going well.

While you were away

From 1 March 2020 (which we know was a couple of weeks before your visit) to 21 March 2021, 4,554 men, women and children were registered as new arrivals at refugee camps on the Greek islands.

But in the same period, the Greek government has expelled 10,898 people from its waters and from its land territory, in total disregard for international law.

In one particularly terrible case, two teenage boys reached a refugee camp on Samos, in the Aegean Sea, where they intended to apply for asylum as is their legal right.

Uniformed Greek officers took them out of the camp, claiming they (the boys) were being taken for COVID-19 tests. Instead, they were forced onto a Greek coastguard vessel and taken out to sea, where they were dumped in an engineless life-raft – effectively an inflatable tent – and set adrift.

That case has been registered with the European Court of Human Rights.

In an even more savage and completely unacceptable defiance of international law, showing not only disdain for the human rights of men, women and children trying to find safe places to live – in fact just at this stage trying to be allowed to apply for the right to live somewhere safe – seven men were set adrift by Greek officials on Friday 19 March 2021. All seven had been put in plastic hand restraints.

Two of the seven drowned at sea. Their bodies have been recovered. One of the men died at Cesme hospital, Western Turkey, soon after the remaining members of the group were rescued by the Turkish Coastguard. A fourth man has still not been found.

In short, at least three – almost certainly four – people have been killed at sea having been handcuffed and then set adrift. Their crime? Attempting to reach a place of safety in which they could apply for asylum.

We are particularly keen to bring this to your attention because we know that just before your last visit to Greece, you specifically stated that the Greek government ‘must uphold the right to asylum’ and ‘you can’t beat them {refugees and asylum seekers}’.

With this in mind we must note that all pushbacks and all other efforts to prevent people from entering the proper legal process and apply for asylum are illegal. There are dozens of cases in which pushed-back men, women and children testify to having been beaten by uniformed Greek officers before being forced out of Greece, and in the 19 March 2021 case, at least three people were killed by the Greek government’s practice.

We must call upon you, as a representative of the European Union, to support international law, and to end this disgusting practice.

Unfortunately, that is not all.

As you know, on 9 September 2020, a fire destroyed Moria refugee camp on Lesvos.

The camp was a disgrace in every possibly term. Hot water and electricity were available sporadically at best, the food was atrocious, people died in the winter, and the camp was consistently at four or more times its safe capacity – the latter was in fact the reason why the fire was able to do so much damage.

Astonishing, given that this was a centre for extraordinarily vulnerable people, in the world’s richest-ever political bloc, in the 21st Century.

But one might have hoped – especially given that the EU gave the Greek government €750,000 to deal with the disaster, that something better could have been provided.

In fact, the opposite is the case.

The Greek government has opened another tent camp, which flooded within three weeks of opening, and has flooded four times since, ruining people’s few remaining possessions.

There was no electricity whatsoever at the camp for almost four months, and no showers for almost as long: people had to was with buckets of cold water.

This would have been bad enough in a secluded site in the middle of summer (it would in fact have been absolutely unacceptable even then) but the reality is that this was mid-winter, in an exposed location on the sea-front, with the wind whipping across the site.

Sadly, that is not all. As well as tents being destroyed by extreme weather conditions, it has also been found that this site – a former military training ground littered with ordnance of the exact type these men, women and children have fled – has levels of lead far in excess of those safe for for human habitation. That is, these people, seeking somewhere decent to live, have instead been forced into a freezing, Mediaeval night mare, in which they risk lead poisoning simply by being alive.

That risk increases every day.

As an extra relevant note, we feel we should also inform you that on 25 March, the day before we put this short letter together for you, Vathy refugee camp on Samos was very nearly four times over its safe capacity: 3,179 men, women and children are crammed into a camp with a capacity of 648.

VIAL camp at Chios is also over capacity, with 1,344 people in a space which is allowed – by the safety regulations designed by the Greek state – to accommodate 1,014.

We must request, Madame Commissioner, that you act to end this dangerous, inhumane, illegal and immoral situation.

We are aware that since your last visit, you have liaised with Mr Notis Mitarachis, Greece’s Minister of Migration and Asylum, regarding a series of ‘new camps’ to be built on the Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos.

We understand that these have been sold to you as ‘better-equipped’ than the tent camps currently in place here.

They may well be. They will also have rooves – something so far left out of the EU’s refugee response in the five years since the EU-Turkey Statement came into effect in March 2016.

For those reasons, we can understand that you may believe this is a ‘step forward’ for Greece, for the EU, and for the men, women and children seeking to build lives here having been forced from their homes by war, terror, chaos, disease, disaster and death.

But we feel we must inform you that the Greek government intends for these to be closed camps. That the people who enter them (those who get that far, we should say, as in the last 12 months more than twice as many people have been illegally pushed-back by the Greek government before getting the chance) will not be allowed to leave – at all – until their asylum applications have been processed.

We note this because we know you oppose this, and promised on 10 September 2020 that the EU ‘will not fund closed camps’. Yet, perhaps because you were not made aware of the full situation, you agreed less than three months later, that the EU would in fact fund these camps.

We know you know that locking up asylum seekers solely because they are asylum seekers is illegal. We also know that you do not want to fund closed camps.

We feel we should also remind you that the current ‘turnaround’ time for asylum applications – from the moment a person enters the system to the moment at which a decision is made – here in Greece is five years. These men, women and children will be imprisoned – locked in a building they are not allowed to leave – for five years. Having committed no crime.     

This means there will be children who will spend more time locked up for no reason whatsoever – than they have been alive up to the point they arrive in the EU.

We know you do not want this.

We must request you prevent these ‘closed camps’ – to all intents and purposes jails – from being opened.

On the mainland, too, things are extraordinarily bad.

The refugee camps all over the country have been on the strictest lockdown in periods during which the rest of Greece has seen shops, bars and restaurants open.

There is no excuse for this whatsoever.

The government is building walls around six camps in Northern Greece, for absolutely no sensible reason whatsoever. 

Meanwhile, when the government moves people from the islands to the mainland, it either forces them into the already overcrowded mainland camps – at Katsikas, in Epirus, men, women and children have had less then three square metres of living space per person for more than 12 months now – or it forces people out of those camps to make space for the arrivals from the islands, with no decent places for them to move to.

The result has been widespread homelessness across the country.

Once again, there is no excuse or reason for this. It would be horrifying in a small nation-state in the bottom ten percent of global economic strength. In the EU, it is simply impossible to accept.

We must request, Madam Commissioner, that you act to end this atrocious situation. Whether by helping Greece utilise the 500,000 buildings which currently sit empty within its borders, or by making sure other EU member states offer decent places for these men, women and children to live, we implore you to act to end the suffering of these people.

Madam Commissioner, we – like you – know that the EU can and should be a beacon of legal and decent behaviour towards people in need, and a protector and promoter of international law. But it will only be this if it acts to make it happen. And at present, here in Greece, it is very far from it.

Please help us to act to correct the horrifying, immoral, illegal, and dangerous reality which is the European Union as experienced by innocent men, women and children seeking a decent place to live.

Thank you very much,

Yours faithfully,

Koraki and concerned citizens from Greece, the EU and elsewhere

End illegal, immoral and potentially lethal pushbacks now!

‘At least three – and in fact almost certainly four – men died on Friday 19 March 2021. They drowned having been adrift as part of a group of seven people in the Aegean Sea in a life-raft identical to those used by the Greek government for illegal push-backs. All seven had been cuffed with plastic hand restraints.

From 1 March to 31 December 2020, 3,973 men, women and children were registered as new arrivals at refugee camps on the Aegean islands. But in the same period, 9,741 people were pushed back via sea routes by the Greek government.

From 1 January to 21 March 2021, 581 men, women and children were registered at the island refugee camps. In the same period, 46 pushbacks, in which 1,157 men, women and children have – entirely against their will, and in direct breach of international law – been forced into engineless life rafts and set adrift.

People are dying as a result. And meanwhile, the Greek government tells the international community it is not pushing people back, but tells Greek people it IS, and is right to do so.

It is time for this disgraceful, unjustifiable and illegal activity to end.

We call upon all individual MEPs and all parts of the EU to pay attention to, and strongly oppose, the ongoing practice of pushbacks in the Aegean Sea.’

We want to invite you to take part in a project to engage MEPs with the issue of pushbacks.

There is only so much any of us can do alone. But together, there is nothing we can’t achieve.

If you are outraged by the Greek government’s illegal, dangerous and callous pushbacks, we invite you – as an individual or an organisation – to e-mail a letter to your local MEP/s to request they campaign to end this atrocious practice.

We would also really like you to share the letter with your friends and colloeagues, on your facebook or blog sites, and ask them to do the same.

Please download the individual letter here: https://7a9cd6a1-9bb6-44f2-9a56-948509fce51f.usrfiles.com…

Or if you are part of an organisation, use this link: https://7a9cd6a1-9bb6-44f2-9a56-948509fce51f.usrfiles.com…

To find your MEP’s e-mail address, visit: https://www.tttp.eu/

Initiated and written by Koraki: https://www.koraki.org/post/end-pushbacks-now

‘In the light of more than a year of illegal pushbacks by official Greek rescue and border patrol agencies at the behest of the Greek government, behaviour which we can only describe as reprehensible and inhuman, Aegean Boat Report is sorry to announce that except in cases of extreme risk of suffering and potential loss of life, we will no longer share with the Greek port police the location of men, women and children seeking asylum in Greece.

To date, we have happily shared this information when we have had it, in the hope that these men, women and children will be helped to enter the correct legal procedure and system for applying for refugee status.

But since March 2020, the Greek government’s field operatives have pushed 10,656 men, women and children back from Greek waters – and in many cases Greek land and even refugee camps in Greece – into Turkish waters: a clear, direct, immoral and unacceptable breach of international law and of all of our rights as human beings.

We do not feel it is possible for us to continue to assist the Greek port police and the Greek government by providing them with this information, for as long as they continue to behave in this unacceptable, unjustifiable, and illegal way.

As soon as the Greek government ceases to break the law, we will of course be very happy to return to helping them and the men, women and children seeking safety and fleeing violence and oppression elsewhere in the world.’

Two Children Left Drifting Alone In A Rubber Dingy By The Hellenic Coast Guard!

In yet another shocking breach of international law, two children have been beaten, robbed and forced onto a rubber dinghy by Greek authorities, despite repeated government claims that it does not carry out ‘pushbacks’ of refugees from Greece to Turkey.

Two children were forcibly removed from Vathy refugee camp on Samos, and set adrift, alone, in a small rubber dinghy by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

Aegean Boat Report have documented the case, brought the case to GLAN and provided the majority of the evidence. ABR have investigated and provided documentation on pushbacks to media throughout Europe, this is the first case we have worked on that has been filed to the European Court Of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The complaint has now been filed with the European Court Of Human Rights (ECtHR) by Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), on behalf of one of these children.

https://www.glanlaw.org/aegean-push-backs

Two minors picked up by TCG outside Kusadasi.

At around 3.30am on 8 September, 18 people set out in a rubber boat from a remote beach in Kusadasi, Turkey, hoping to reach the Greek island of Samos. Almost three hours later, at 6.20am, the 12 adults and six children arrived on the rocky shore of Cape Praso, north-east Samos.

Arrival location on Samos Septhember 8th 06.20 am.

At 10am, they contacted Aegean Boat Report. The group was in a rocky remote area of the island, and needed assistance.

One, a pregnant woman, had leg injuries and the group contained several small children. As a result, they could not get out of the area without help.

Two boys aged 15 and 16, left the group to see if they could find and bring help.

After the group had documented their whereabouts with pictures, video and location data, Aegean Boat Report contacted Samos port police at 11.58 am, and gave them the location of the new arrivals, so they could be found and taken to the island’s closest quarantine camp.

Due to the remote area they arrived in, and difficult terrain, they had to be taken out of the area by boat, a requirement which would later prove disastrous for the new arrivals.

Two calls was made to the port police on Samos to inform on the new arrivals.

Aegean Boat Report had continuous contact with the new arrivals, following them on live location, and receiving regular location updates, videos and pictures while they were waiting to be found.

At 1.23pm they informed Aegean Boat Report that a boat, which they described as having a white top and grey bottom, had arrived.

At 1.33pm, they sent Aegean Boat Report pictures of the boat, which we identified as a Lambro-57 coastal patrol vessel, LS 604, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, stationed on Samos.

The Lambro vessel was stationary, waiting because it didn’t have a rescue RIB onboard, and couldn’t go closer to shore because of the cliffs in the area.

After approximately 30 minutes a second boat, described as a larger vessel, with an orange top and blue bottom, arrived. We identified this as a Lambro Halmatic 60 lifeboat, SAR-513, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, also stationed on Samos.

A red one-engine RIB was deployed from the SAR vessel, which went to the coastal patrol vessel, picked up two men, and then headed to shore at the location where the new arrivals were waiting.

The group was moved two at a time to the SAR vessel in the small red RIB, until 14 were aboard.

One of the men who came from the coastal patrol vessel was wearing civilian clothes, blue denim shorts and a white T shirt with what members of the group described as a police logo. He was angry, claimed that four people were missing, and asked where they had gone.

Nobody had told him the group had contained 18 people. The only way he could know this was from the information given to Samos’ port police by Aegean Boat Report.

The group also stated that the man was carrying a small backpack, had a short beard and two tattoos, one on his right hand and one behind his leg. One of the tattoos looked like a castle wall with doors, and in his backpack they saw a gun.

On a small island like Samos, a person working with or for the police with this description should be easy to locate.

The police then searched the area, and after an hour they returned with two people they had found. These people were threatened at gun point by the man described above, and had no choice but to obey his orders.

The 15 and 16 year-old boys who had left the group to find help, were not located.

Everyone who was taken aboard the Hellenic coast guard SAR vessel was told to hand over their ID papers and phones.

The officer described above, with the gun and tattoos, pulled an elderly woman across deck by her hair when he later discovered she had not handed over her phone.

After this everyone was forced strip, and were left standing in only their underwear. Even the women and children had to endure this inhuman, degrading treatment. Several phones and personal documents were confiscated. None were returned.

The phones’ owners were forced to give the officers the phones’ passwords.

On one phone, belonging to a man, they found the Watsapp communication with Aegean Boat Report. This once again angered the tattooed man, who took this phones’ owner to the back of the vessel and severely beat him. The assaulted man noted that the tattooed officer appeared to be filming him being beaten.

Last posision sent from the contact at 14.37 am 150 meters from sore.

The last communication Aegean Boat Report received on Whatsapp from the new arrivals was a position sent at 2.37pm. This location was a position in the sea, 130 meters from the rocky cliffs of Cape Praso.

Live location was still active on this phone, and Aegean Boat Report tracked its position, as it moved first to the east, then back west off Cape Praso. The last updated location arrived at 3.12pm. After this the phone went offline, and contact was lost.

The Turkish coast guard (TCG) picked up and rescued 16 people from a life raft drifting outside Kusadasi, Turkey, the following day, 9 September, at 03.40am.

Several of the rescued people in the pictures published by TCG were the same as those in pictures and videos taken on Cape Praso, Samos. There is no doubt that they are the same people, and who put them in this potentially life treating situation.

Aydın Açıklarında 16 Düzensiz Göçmen Kurtarılmıştır (sg.gov.tr)

From testimony taken by Aegean Boat Report the group explained they were on the Greek SAR vessel for more than eight hours, and when it got dark they were forced into the life raft. Those who attempted to resist, or hesitated, were thrown from the Greek vessel onto the raft.

The Hellenic Coast Guard left them drifting helplessly in the sea. They provided the group with no life vests, even for the children. The people, drifting, alone and with no life-protecting equipment, were extremely frightened.

A woman who had managed to hide a phone in the diaper of her small child, called TCG for help.

The group noted that the man with the tattoos was returned to the coastal patrol vessel by the small red RIB before the SAR vessel left the area. He appeared to be in charge, constantly talking on his phone, and seemed to be taking orders from someone else, perhaps the head of the Coast Guard in Samos, Dimitris Tsinias.

The two boys who had left the group to try to find help, observed from a hillside two vessels in the area where they arrived, and assumed that their traveling companions had been found and rescued.

From a distance they said that it was difficult to see the vessels clearly, but described one as white and the other orange.

Distance from arrival location to RIC Samos

The boys’ hike towards Samos town was difficult. It was very hot, they didn’t know the area and the terrain was rough.

In late afternoon they arrived in the hills above Vathy, close to something they described as ‘cellphone towers’. There, they took several pictures of themselves pointing down towards the Vathy refugee camp, with the town of Samos in the background. They were clearly on Samos.

It was getting dark when they arrived at the camp. They asked some people for food, and they were given water, tea and some food.

The people who gave them food also told the boys that they could stay in their tent until morning, so that they could register the following day.

The next morning, the boys went down to the food line, there they met three representatives of the UNHCR, two women and, they said, a ‘very big man’. All wore UNHCR vests.

Because the boys’ names were not on the camp’s list, they were not given food. They wanted to shower, and were directed to the showers by a man in the food line.

Reception And Identification Center Vathy, Samos.

Coming out of the shower, at around 10am, they took a picture, and soon afterwards two men approached them, in civilian clothes, saying there were there to take them to register.

They did not identify themselves, but said they were responsible for registration in the camp. The boys think they were police officers.

They were taken to a location next to the food line, and into a place they described as ‘similar to a police station’.

Inside, they could see monitors, cameras, men wearing uniforms, carrying handcuffs and guns. This was the police station inside the Reception and Identification Center (RIC) in Vathy.

Picture 1 is the original pickture taken on the morning of Septhember 9th outside the showers inside the camp, pickture 2 and 3 is control picktures taken at a later state.

The officers in civilian clothes asked them what language they spoke, and the boys told them Dari. Soon, the men had a translator on the phone.

The boys where asked basic personal information – their age, nationality and who they were traveling with. They replied that they wanted to apply for asylum, they were 15 and 16 years old, from Afghanistan and that they were traveling alone. The officer conducting the interview then knew that they were unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, and in any case anyone who sees the boys can clearly see they cannot possibly be mistaken for adults.

It is extremely likely that the officers knew these were the two boys who had been missing from Praso the previous day, and that the group of 16 the boys had arrived with had already been forced back to Turkey by the Hellenic coast guard.

The officer who interviewed them frequently left the room to talk with someone, most likely a superior officer.

Location of UNHCR containers and Police area inside the RIC.

The boys spent around an hour in the police station, before they were told at around 11.15am that they would be taken to isolation for a few days, and afterwards released.

They were escorted out of the police station by a back door that led to the outside of the camp, and walked for about 10 minutes to a grey car, where two other men in civilian clothes, as well as one other on a motorcycle, were waiting.

Distance from the RIC to the port where they were placed on a HCG vessel.

The boys were told to get into the car. No information was given about where they were taking them, and the men in the car didn’t identify themselves, but the boys assumed that they also worked for the police.

They were driven towards Vathy port, with the motorcycle following behind. After no more than 10 minutes, the car began to pull in to a parking lot next to the harbour, but instead changed direction to drive further down the road.

The boys were ordered to keep their heads down and hide in the car’s back seat. They heard the men say something they believed was ‘organization’, and could see they seemed stressed.

The boys believed this was because of a car in the parking lot at the port, which they think belonged to an NGO, and that the police officers didn’t want members of this organisation to see the boys in their car.

They stopped the car and waited for a few minutes, until the ‘organisation’s’ car drove away, and the boys were driven to the port. The time was now around 12pm.

Illustration pickture: The boys told that they were taken out to sea in a vessel similar to this, and identified as a Lambro-57 coastal patrol boat, same make and model as udes by HCG.

The boys were taken out of the car, and escorted onboard a white and grey vessel, which they immediately saw was a Greek coast guard vessel, and which was later identified from pictures as a Lambro-57 coastal patrol boat.

The vessel had a crew of around five people, all dressed in dark uniforms.

The officers searched the boys, and confiscated their mobile phones and money, before handcuffing the boys together.

The men told the boys to look down, and they slapped their faces several times while the boat headed out towards Turkey.

Port Samos where the boys was put on the HCG vessel.

After a while, at around 1.30pm, the vessel stopped and a man inflated a small grey rubber dinghy, while another removed their handcuffs.

The latter man had a baton and threatened to beat the boys if they moved.

The boys were forced into the small rubber boat, without life vests, and left drifting by the Hellenic coast guard.

The Greek coast guard vessel sped away, as can be seen on a video obtained by Aegean Boat Report from a surveillance camera on the Turkish shore at Bayrakadasi. The time stamp on this video is 2pm.

The boat the boys had been left in had no engine, and they had to paddle with their hands to try to reach the Turkish shore.

The Hellenic coast guard left these two boys minors alone in a small rubber boat without life vests or any form of propellant, even though they knew they were only 15 and 16 years old.

Surveillance video from Bayrakadasi, Turkey.

Two boys were picked up from a small rubber boat outside Kusadasi on 9 September at 2.40pm, by the Turkish coast guard.

The pictures published by TCG clearly show these are the same boys as in the pictures they took on the hill above Vathy on Samos.

There is no doubt that they are the same people, and no doubt who these two minors, in this life-threatening situation, were.

Aydın Açıklarında 2 Düzensiz Göçmen Kurtarılmıştır. (sg.gov.tr)

Two boys picked up from a small rubber dingy ouside Kusadasi 09.09.2020

The boys were taken to the police station in Aydin, where they met the group of 16 people who they had travelled with from Turkey to Samos, and who had been pushed back the previous day and picked up by TCG from a life raft.

The group of 18 people were taken to the Aydin Removal Centre, where they were held for nine days before being released.

Both cases – the 16 people being pushed back from Cape Praso, Samos, on 8 September, and the forced return of two boys from the Vathy, Samos, Reception and Identification Centre the following day, 9 September – were known to UNHCR and MSF.

UNHCR’s operatives on Samos had received detailed information regarding the return of the minors, but for some reason failed to report this to their organisational HQ in Athens. This failure to report a serious case involving two boys raises questions that perhaps need to be answered.

Equally, UNHCR’s office at Vathy camp is next door to the police station, so it is likely that at the very least, the three UNHCR representatives would have seen the boys taken into the police station.

MSF received information on the illegal return of the two minors, from the Reception and Identification Centre on Samos, from Aegean Boat Report on 11 September. They reported it to the competent authorities and UNHCR. What furter steps has been taken by MSF, if any, is unknown, so far no official statement has been issued by MSF.

These are two of an alarmingly-increasing number of cases documented by Aegean Boat Report which show that the Greek government is willing to cross any line, no matter the suffering they inflict on vulnerable innocent people, as long as they can push their political agenda further.

These pushbacks, along with hundreds more in the last year alone, are in direct breach of international law, EU law and even Greek law. The current Greek government appears to believe that none of these applies to it, and the EU has so far failed to react.

As long as they are not confronted on a political and legal level, the Greek government appears to be committed to continually breaking the law, and risking the lives of innocent men, women and children seeking safety.