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.

Small Children Left Drifting In Life Rafts In The Aegean Sea!

In yet another shocking breach of international law, men, women and children have been beaten, robbed and forced onto a life raft by Greek authorities, despite repeated government claims that it does not undertake ‘pushbacks’ of refugees into Turkey. Thirteen men, women and children were forcibly removed from a refugee camp in Lesvos on Wednesday night by uniformed operatives, who claimed the refugees were being taken to be tested for COVID-19. Instead, they were forced into an isobox, repeatedly beaten with batons, stripped of their possessions and forced into the sea on an inflatable life raft.

On Wednesday night (17th February 2021) at around 19.00 EET, a boat carrying 13 people – 5 children, 3 women and 5 men – landed east of Eftalou, in northern Lesvos. They came ashore and walked into the woods to avoid being seen by people, because they were afraid of being found and pushed back to Turkey by the Hellenic coast guard.

At 20.00, they contacted Aegean Boat Report on Whatsapp for help. It was a cold night and the children were freezing so the group needed to find shelter. At 20.10 they sent both their live location and regular location on Whatsapp, which showed they were just 300 meters from the quarantine camp in Megala Therma, Lesvos.

At 20.18 the new arrivals were sent the camp’s location, and directions to it from their position. At first, they were scared of the police, but they decided to listen to the advice they were given, and walked to the camp. Infuriatingly and unforgivably, in light of what happened next, the refugees were proven correct to mistrust the Greek port police to accept and protect their rights as human beings.

At 21.15, the 13 people arrived outside the Megala Therma camp, where they were met by that night’s port police duty officers, were told to wait inside the camp, while one officer made a phone call on his mobile phone. While the officer made this call, camp residents gave the new arrivals blankets and raisins, because the 13 were freezing and no support was provided by the police. At this point, the new arrivals were inside the camp, and the women and children used the toilets. This detail is important, because what happened next means these people were removed by force from a camp managed by the Greek Ministry of Migration, and illegally deported.

When the officer returned, he told the new arrivals they were going to be taken to be tested for COVID-19, which camp residents who overheard found odd, because this is not usually done at night. On Wednesday evening there where 29 residents in the quarantine camp, so there are many witnesses of their arrival and later removal by police. There is no doubt that the 13 people later deported were inside Megala Therma camp.

Aegean Boat Report has obtained a detailed description of the two officers on duty that night, and in coordination with a shift protocol from the port police, it would be fairly easy to determine the identity of these two officers in any official investigation.

Police told the new arrivals to hand over their phones. They had eight phones between them, but at this stage they only handed three to the police. The officers then demanded that they walk west on the dirt track, but the people refused. They didn’t trust the police, because residents in the camp had told them that testing was not performed at night. The police insisted and the 13 people, five of them children, did not feel they could resist officer carrying guns.

Pictures taken of the isobox that is located in the exact location where the refugees sent their location on WhatsApp, video is filmed inside.

They walked for about 15 minutes, and arrived at a small white container. They were told to wait outside the container, and about 30 minutes later an officer arrived with a key and locked them inside. When they had calmed down enough, they wrapped the children in blankets, helped them to sleep, and at 22.36 EET, made a video which they sent, along with their location, to Aegean Boat Report.

Local residents in the area confirm that police have placed a white container/Isobox next to the dirt track in this exact location, and the video sent by the new arrivals from inside the container, combined with the location sent at the same time, confirm that this was where they were locked up.

After about one hour, a black or dark blue van arrived, and four men wearing unmarked dark blue or black, seemingly military, uniforms and balaclavas, and carrying batons entered the container shouting. The refugees, particularly the children, were very frightened, and the uniformed men screamed “Get up! Get up!” and hit people with batons to force them to stand. They immediately frisked them one by one, even the children, and stole their belongings, bags, money and three of the remaining mobile phones. The refugees report that the men paid particular attention to the women, putting their hands in private areas by force, which was especially humiliating, a violation which they were powerless to prevent. The officers next forced the men, women and children one by one into the back of the van like cattle. Those who resisted were again beaten with batons.

The refugees said it felt like they had travelled for hours in the van, but it was difficult to get a real feeling of time in their situation. When they eventually arrived, they were taken out of the van, each struck 2-3 times with batons and ordered to look at the ground. Those who didn’t were beaten again. They had arrived in a port, made of concrete, which had floodlights, a fence, and a flat roofed square building. But as they were beaten every time they tried to look around, it was hard for them to be certain about their surroundings. From their description, travel time from the container, and the travel time in the boat to the point they were abandoned in a life raft, it’s fairly certain that the port is the Schengen port in Petra, north-east Lesvos, which has been used frequently in the last months for illegal deportations by the Hellenic coast guard. (Another Proven Pushback!)

In similar previous cases, people have been taken from the port in large vessels, but this time they were put on a small boat, described by the refugees as a grey rubber speedboat with two engines and a four-man crew. They were placed in the front of the boat, which was piloted by one crew member in its centre. The boat described is almost certainly a Lambro coastal patrol RIB used by the Hellenic coast guard, usually to help people in distress. The five children, three women and five men were forced onto this RIB by four men in the same dark military uniforms and balaclavas as those who had robbed, beaten and forced them into a van. The refugees could not say if they were the same four men who had picked them up and beaten them at the container, but they, too, beat the men, women and children as they forced them into the RIB, ordering them to “look down”.

They were travelling in the boat for less than 30 minutes, including a short stop close to a large grey vessel, after only 10 minutes. One of the officers spoke on the radio with the large vessel in a language the refugees thought was Greek, and was certainly not English. They described the vessel as grey with blue and white stripes on the front – a description which matches the appearance of the Hellenic Coast Guard vessels which patrol the border area.

The boat stopped after approximately 30 minutes, and then an orange tent shaped inflatable life raft was cast over the side. One of the officers went into the raft and put up a small light inside, then the officers pushed the people into the raft one by one. This took only a few minutes, and as soon as all 13 people had been forced into the raft, the boat with the Greek officers left the men, women and children alone, in the dark, helplessly drifting in the sea. Not one of the people – even the children – in the life raft were given life jackets, and sea water had already found its way into the life raft.

At 01.29, they a video was sent to Aegean Boat Report, showing the people inside the life raft. Soon after, alone, cold, tired, powerless, and vulnerable, the refugees began to panic. Using one of the phones they had managed to hide when they were robbed by the uniformed officers, they called the Turkish coast guard.

At 04.10 the Turkish coast guard reported they had found and rescued 13 people from a life raft drifting outside Behram, Turkey.

Aegean Boat Report received a third video the following day, this time from inside a bus, and a location that showed they were heading towards Ayvacik, Turkey.

This video is of the same people in the video from the container on Lesvos, and from the life raft helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea.

And there is absolutely no doubt who is responsible for their illegal deportation. Despite the fact that the Greek government continues to claim to follow all international laws and regulations.

Last week, the minister of asylum and immigration, Notis Mitarachis, once again denied claims that Greece is pushing refugees back to Turkey, calling the allegations “fake news,” and claiming they are part of a strategy promoted by Turkey. For some reason he has not chosen to explain this strategy. (Greek migration minister calls allegations of migrant pushbacks ‘fake news’)

And yet, even as Mitarachis and his government continues to make these claims, more and more people are illegally set adrift in the Aegean Sea, having been forcibly removed from refugee camps, beaten, stripped of their possessions, and forced onto inflatable rafts by uniformed people operating in Greece.

3 People Drowned After they where forced in life rafts by the Hellenic coast guard

Survivors claims that 3 people drowned after they where forced in life rafts by the Hellenic coast guard

A boat carrying 34 people started out at from Sazli, Ayvacik, Turkey on December 18th at 22.00, heading towards Lesvos north east. Around midnight they where stopped and picked up by a vessel with ID number ΛΣ 050, identified as a Vosper Europatrol 250 Mk1 Class offshore patrol vessel of the Hellenic coast guard, stationed in Petra port on Lesvos north.

Most of their phones, money and papers was taken from them onboard by men wearing black mask, some who resisted were brutally beaten, according to one of the people involved. They where kept outside in the front of the vessel for hours in the cold, traveling due south.

After several unsuccessful attempts to deploy them they where transferred into a smaller vessel, from the pictures taken after they where forced in the rafts, the boat is identified as a Lambro 57 coastal patrol boat, same type used by the Hellenic coast guard.

34 people was forced into three life raft, but shortly after one of the rafts “exploded” one of the survivors stated, five people disappeared in the dark, only two of them was found alive. Three dead bodies was taken onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel ΛΣ 050, before they left them drifting, according to the survivors.

At 05.50 Aegean Boat Report was informed that 34 people was drifting north west of Foça in 3 life rafts, “ we need help, Greek coast guard dropped us her, we are 34 people, we need help” shortly after one of the rafts supposedly exploded. Turkish coast guard was alerted and all necessary information was given.

On December 19th Turkish coast guard rescued 31 people from two life rafts drifting outside Aslan Cape, Foça, Turkey.They also gave a statement to TCG who published the statement on the TCG website. Statement given to Aegean Boat Report in the morning on December 19th tells the same story, 3 people drowned after a life raft was destroyed after they where deployed.

A judicial investigation has been initiated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Foça regarding the incident. There has been no statement from neither the Hellenic coast guard or the Greek government on the incident, I guess they will say that they where not involved, as usual..

What really happened that night is so far difficult to determine, but the statement from the survivors is clear, they claim that 3 people drowned due to the illegal actions of the Hellenic coast guard.

The failure of the Greek government is getting more and more visual, evidence of violations of international laws and human rights is published every single day, yet Europe remains quiet, no actions is so far taken against the Greek government for these violations.

Report published by the Turkish coast guard: https://www.sg.gov.tr/izmir-aciklarinda-31-duzensiz1…

Pushback Chios December 17th

A boat carrying 34 people landed south of Vokaria, Chios south east just before midnight on December 17th. Scared they fled to the woods in several smaller groups, hiding until first light.

The following morning 8 people was found in the village of Nenita, several locals had seen them and called the police. 8 people was officially registered as arrived on Chios 18th of December and taken to the quarantine site in Lefkonia.

Police searched the area all day, and found the remaining 26 people that had been hiding, many of them very small children. The local online newspaper Astraparis wrote about the new arrivals, from locals it was estimated to be between 38-40 people, the correct number was 34. Everyone assumed that all the new arrivals would be taken to the quarantine site, that was not the case. https://astraparis.gr/epicheirisi-perisyllogis-prosfygon…/

26 people was found and taken to an unknown location, probably out of sight of the public, held in this area until dark, before transported back to sea by a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard.

On December 19th, just after midnight Turkish coast guard picked up a life raft outside Kusadasi, Turkey, packed with 26 people, many of them very small children. They had been drifting for several hours before being found, and taken back to land in Turkey.

Pictures posted by the Turkish coast guard from when they picked them up from the life raft leaves no doubt, it’s the same people who Aegean Boat Report received pictures and videos from on land on Chios, several people are positively identified.

The 8 people who went to the village of Nenita wasn’t pushed back because to many locals had seen them, but the rest they illegally deported, in violation of international law and human rights. Who puts so many small children in a life raft and leave them at sea, I wonder if the people who did this had children of their own..

Turkish coast guard report on the incident: Aydın Açıklarında 26 Düzensiz Göçmen Kurtarılmıştır (sg.gov.tr)

Pushback Kalymnos December 15th

A boat trying to cross towards Leros carrying 27 people on December 15th was pushed back by the Hellenic coast guard after being held for two days on the military base on Kalolimnos, her is their testimony.

“It all started at 2 a.m. when a boat with 27 people onboard left the Turkish coast for the Greek island of Leros, initially scheduled for 3 hours, would take 4 days of Hell.

After sailing for more than 7 hours against wind and tide which made the journey difficult, it was at 10 a.m. that the engine stopped less than 15 minutes from Greek soil. Some time later, a Greek fisherman approaches to help us; forced by fear of having his maritime license withdrawn, he called the police; 30 minutes later the first Greek coast guard boat registered ΑΣ-1055 blue with 4 people on board appears, reassuring the fisherman that we will be taken care of and asking us to wait for the arrival of a large boat that can pick us up and take us to the quarantine zone following the current health situation due to covid-19, yet it was a way to free ourselves from the fisherman who until then remains the only civilian witness to our passage in Greece. 40 minutes later, a white and gray boat arrives ΛΣ 608, which takes care of transporting the women and children, giving the impression of heading towards Greek soil, it is from there that the fisherman leaves the premises.

Then, another Orange boat, registered ΑΣ-514 appears to transport the men; together the 2 boats turn around for a unknown destination, once on board, they take charge of stripping us of our bags, money and phones.

After more than an hour of travel when we thought we were going to an isolation center as previously announced, we find ourselves in a military camp called “ΕΦ ΚΑΛΟΛΙΜΝΟΥ”, where we are prohibited from entering and obliged to stay on the edge of sea in inhuman conditions with an extremely cold temperature knowing that we were completely wet and this is where we will spend 2 nights.

During this time, we were treated to 1 dry bread for 4 people, unflavored spaghetti and a 0.5cl bottle of water that he took care of removing the labels and any indicative object (attracting our attention and pushing us to steal one that we will take as proof)

They also brought us used blankets marked with UNHCR asking us not to damage them. We would like to remind you that we were under close surveillance by armed soldiers and some coast guards personnel with names YORO, ALEXANDER, GEORGES. Searching us all the time and for no reason.

It was Thursday, 12/17/2020 around 1 a.m. that we woke up suddenly and demanded to line up as on arrival and forced to board the same boats that previously took us. 2 hours later we were abandoned in the middle of the rough sea in their Orange colored push-back instruments”.

It’s very clear from the statement and the pictures and videos received by Aegean Boat Report what happened, and who was involved, there is no doubt that the people picked up by the Turkish coast guard where the same people who was towed by the Greek fishermen towards Kalymnos, several people are positively identified.

ΕΦ ΚΑΛΟΛΙΜΝΟΥ:ΕΦ Is short for national guard, and kaloliminid/Kalolimnos is a small island north east of Kalimnos, housing a military base.

ΛΣ 1055:Identified as a Mastro Top Gun 864/964 coastal patrol boat belonging to the Hellenic coast guard. They also explained that the boat had two 450HK engines and a crew of 4 people.

ΛΣ 608:Identified as a Lambro 57 coastal patrol boat belonging to the Hellenic coast guard stationed on Leros.

ΛΣ 514:Identified as a Lambro Halmatic 60, belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, and currently stationed on Leros.

They where drifting for hours before the Turkish coast guard picked them up outside Bodrum, Turkey, in the morning of December 17th.

It’s beyond any doubt that what is going on in the Aegean Sea is a crime against humanity, performed by the Hellenic coast guard, on orders from the Greek government. It’s proven without a doubt, in several investigations, that the Hellenic coast guard is behind these illegal pushbacks, but still the Greek government keeps denying any involvement in these atrocities.

So far this year Aegean Boat Report have registered 307 pushback cases involving 9267 people in the Aegean Sea. 2907 people have been picked up floating in 176 life rafts.

Turkish coast guard report on the incident: Muğla Açıklarında 27 Düzensiz Göçmen Kurtarılmıştır (sg.gov.tr)

Refugees Violently Beaten By Hellenic Coast Guard!

Aegean Boat Report has reported on two occations on a pushback from Kalymnos on December 5th, when a boat carrying 31 people arrived on Kalymnos, and was pushback back in two groups, 17 people, women and children was found in a life raft outside Didim on December 6th, and 11 men was picked up from two life rafts outside Bodrum December 8th.

The men was separated from the rest of the group because they refused to be forced in life rafts, a witness from the other group told that she observed men on the boat being beaten severely by masked men from the Hellenic coast guard, before they left the woman and children in the life raft, and took the men back towards land. Her story has been difficult to verify until Turkish coast guard published the video from December 8th, when the men was picked up, the men in the video is identical with the men seen in the video taken on Kalymnos December 6th.

11 men was picked up, all showing clear signs of physical violent abuse, broken bones, skull fractures, head injuries and bruises all over their body, they seemed disoriented, some not able to walk. They explained that they first where beaten on board the Hellenic coast guard vessel on the 6th of December, later in a small camp by the sea, where they where held in two days, without food or water. They explained that the camp had the sign “ΕΦ ΚΑΛΟΛΙΜΝΟΥ”, ΕΦ is short for National Guard, and ΚΑΛΟΛΙΜΝΟΥ, Kaloliminid/Kalolimnos is a small island east of Kalymnos that house an army military base.

The men have been victims of torture, first when violently abuse over several days, then when placed in two life rafts and left drifting at sea by the Hellenic coast guard. This is the most violent pushback Aegean Boat Report have documented so far, that normal people are capable of such atrocities is difficult to fathom, performed by the Hellenic coast guard on order’s from the Greek government.

The Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachis, is proud of their achievements when speaking about how they have drastically reduced arrivals on the Greek Aegean islands. He speaks little of how this was done, that it was achieved by breaking international laws, violating human rights and torture, he strangely enough forgot to mention. This is the true face of the ruling party in Greece, New Democracy!

Push-backs are happening every single day in the Aegean Sea, and Greece will continue this inhuman practice, systematically violate people’s human rights, until Europe once again decides to put human rights back on the agenda. Everyone is looking the other way, hoping that things will change, without their involvement, it won’t.. At the moment the Greek government is a disgrace, and embarrassment, not only for Europe but for the Greek people, it will forever be a stain on history.

The case previously published on Aegean Boat Report December 10th: https://www.facebook.com/285298881993223/posts/988631451659959/?d=n

Published by the Turkis coast guard regarding this incident: 06 Aralık 2020 Tarihinde Kurtarılan 17 ve 08 Aralık 2020 Tarihinde Kurtarılan 11 Düzensiz Göçmen Hakkında (sg.gov.tr)

ABR Response To Misinformation In Protothema Article

14.12.2020

  1. Aegean Boat Report has not, does not, and never will guide people to the Eastern Aegean islands.
  2. People travelling to the EU are not ‘illegal immigrants’.
  3. By stating that ABR guides people to the islands, and by calling men, women and children ‘illegal immigrants’, the Greek government – and you – are doing a great disservice to every Greek citizen.

We are disappointed, though no longer surprised, to read, once again, an article in which men, women and children following international law and international agreements on human rights are being attacked as ‘illegal’ by journalists acting on false information supplied by a government department.

We must state, at the outset, that no person is ‘illegal’ just because they enter the EU: it is the fundamental human right of any person to enter a country – with or without paperwork – as long as they apply for asylum at the first available opportunity.

For this reason, continually describing men, women and children landing on the Eastern Aegean islands as ‘illegal’ does a disservice to the Greek public because it is misinformation. And it harms every single person everywhere in the world, because these rights belong to all of us, and the more they are attacked, the more they are weakened. That is, when one strips the rights of a Somalian teenager, one also strips the rights of one’s own son, daughter, grandmother or niece.

We must also address, once again, false information about us, Aegean Boat Report, as an organisation.

This article makes it appear that Aegean Boat Report in some way ‘guides’ people to the Eastern Aegean islands. Aegean Boat Report has not, does not, and never will guide people to the Eastern Aegean islands.

What we do is to ensure that those people who have made it to the Eastern Aegean islands are picked up by the appropriate organisations and entered into the proper legal system – that is, that they are taken to the government and EU’s camps and are then able to apply for asylum as international law states they can.

We should not have to do this. The sole reason we have to is that the Greek government and EU’s border patrols are absolutely failing to do their jobs, and are breaking the law. This would be bad enough in and of itself, but in fact it has created a situation where we – and organisations working on the islands – are the sole reason men, women and children are not roaming the islands searching for food and shelter.

We are providing a public service for Greek people and for those who have been forced to flee their homelands alike. And yet we are being slandered repeatedly by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, and as a result, we are being libelled by articles such as this one.  

We understand that you received this ‘information’ from the Ministry and we recognise that you should be able to trust what you are being told by your own government. But the information you have been given by the Ministry about us is false – perhaps because of the reports we carry out regarding the Greek government and EU’s illegal policy of pushing people back from its waters – and as a result you have here misinformed your readers.

We, and those readers, deserve much better than that, and we must request that you correct this very serious error immediately.

Once again: Aegean Boat Report has not, does not, and will never, ‘guide’ people to the Aegean islands. We simply speak to those who have arrived, and ensure they enter the legal system. The Greek government and wider EU should be doing that, as it is to the benefit of everyone, including every Greek and EU citizen. Because they have refused to fulfil this basic responsibility, we have to do so for them.