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.

Another Documented Pushback!

On the morning of December 5th a boat carrying 31 people was in distress south east of Leros, this was posted about the incident that day on Aegean Boat Report:

“A boat carrying approximately 31 people is in distress south east of Leros. The boat has been drifting for at least 5 hours, and need immediate rescue. Port police on Leros has been informed, all necessary information have been given to initiate a rescue operation. There are many small children on the boat. Update : ABR have received information that they have managed to reach land, and are currently on the north tip of Kalymnos.”

Port police on Kalymnos was alerted, and witnesses on Leros observed boats from the Hellenic coast guard moving back and forth in the area. Nothing was reported to be found, officially. ABR had no further contact with the new arrivals that day.

Sunday morning a location and a voice message was sent to Aegean Boat Report, “ hello we are on the island of kalimnos please come and help us we have, we are very afraid we have no shelter even water” The location was up in the hills south west on Kalymnos, Again port police on Kalymnos was informed, and Aegean Boat Report did not have further contact that they, and the number have been disconnected since then.

Official registration on new arrivals show that only 3 people was registered on Kalymnos on Sunday December 6th, nothing the day before and nothing after, question is, where did the remaining 28 people go, if not found by Hellenic coast guard or police on Kalymnos?

The answer came yesterday, when Aegean Boat Report received three videos from a woman claiming to have been on the island of Kalymnos, but was returned to Turkey in a life raft, showing 1) over 30 people on land on Kalymnos, the location in the video matches the typography for the area where the initial location was received the day before, 2) people in a life raft and a vessel from Hellenic coast guard( identified as a Lambro-57 Panther Mk.I patrol boat belonging to the Hellenic Coast guard), 3) a video filmed inside the life raft, only women and children.

The video of the people that Aegean Boat Report received the day before of people in a rubber boat heading towards Kalymnos, matches the people in the videos on land on Kalymnos and in the life raft, there is no doubt that it’s the same people.

A testimony from one of the people from the landing on Kalymnos, now in Aydin, Turkey, describes what happened to them: “we walked for a very long time, it was very difficult, but some people found us and gave us bread, oranges and apples. After a while two other men came, and told us to give them papers and phones, we did, but not all of us, some managed to hide theirs. They said they would take us to camp, so we went with them, but they took us to a port, and put us in a gray and white Boat. Her they separated us, all men in the front, and all women and children in the back, outside. After a while they stopped and told us to go in to this orange strange boat, they took all women and children in two of these boats, the children was screaming, we was so afraid. I don’t know what happened, the men refused to go in to these boats, and the Greek boat left with the men onboard, 11 men. The boat they put us in lost air, but Turkish coast guard found us before it was to late, and took us to Aydin”

Report from Turkish coast guard:At 18.50 A fishing boat found 17 people, women and children, in a semi submerged life raft outside Didim, Turkey, none of them had life jackets. People onboard claimed that they had been placed there by the Greek coast guard.

Two days later, on December 8th at 21.00, 11 people, men, was picked up from two life rafts drifting outside Yalıkavak, Bodrum, also claiming to have been on the island of Kalymnos for several days.

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. Why they decided to illegally deported all but 3 people from this landing is unknown, and can only be answered by the port police on Kalymnos.

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, has been denying any involvement in illegal deportation of asylum seekers on the Greek border, “The Hellenic 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, We fully abide by international and European law”. Mr. Mitsotakis say, when asked directly about these allegations, “It has not happened, we’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign”, referring to articles and investigation in international press.

Aegean Boat Report has documented hundreds of illegal pushbacks since March, documenting and publishing such information has not gone unnoticed by the Greek government. In cooperation wit international press, information from Aegean Boat Report have made headlines all over Europe, highlighting the illegal activities of the Greek government. By doing so Aegean Boat Report became a victim of a deliberate misleading attack yesterday when the Greek minister of immigration and asylum, Notis Mitarachi, made false and unfounded accusations, in an attempt to discredit Aegean Boat Report.

As I have stated in the past, Aegean Boat Report will not be intimidated to keep quiet, like many other organizations has done, and will continue to reveal human rights violations in the Aegean Sea as long as it’s necessary!

Another Proven Pushback!

On Saturday November 28th, at 22.00, a boat carrying 18 people landed in Ag. Kratigou, Lesvos south. The new arrivals fled to the woods, hiding from the police in fear of being deported in the cover of darkness. Aegean Boat Report was informed, pictures, video and geo location data was collected as documentation on their arrival on Lesvos.

At the same time several other boats arrived in other locations on Lesvos.The arrivals was split into two groups, 16 people went up the hill in the dark, above the main road, two women stayed behind, hiding close to the road, they didn’t have the strength to go any further, one was reported to have leg injuries, the other pregnant. Both groups had contact with Aegean Boat Report throughout the night.

The following morning, November 29th, Aegean Boat Report advised them to go to the main road, to make their presence known to locals in the area, and they walked down towards Katia. The two women who had been hiding closest to the road arrived there first, around 12.30, and soon after a teacher from the local university and his wife found the two women, and asked if they needed help, he also called the police so that someone could come to their aid, as it seemed that they needed medical attention. The second group arrived in Katia, and was observed by many people in the area, walking on the road towards Mytilíni.

Port Police arrived 13.10 and stopped them from walking further towards Mytilíni at a small marina referred to as “Limanaki Kratigou” (little port of kratigos) by locals. The car registered to the port authority in Mytilíni, who arrived on scene was a Nissan Navara 2015, license plate ΛΣ 5906, and both the car and the port police officer was filmed. Also video from Witnesses standing on the pier in the marina confirms the location and presence of the car from port police at 13.23. Everyone was taken behind a small chapel, searched, their money, papers and phones was confiscated. According to testimony from the new arrivals, they where abused, verbally and physically, before being transported from the area in a dark blue/black van.

After a while they where transferred to a white bus, officers told them that they were being taken to a camp, this was not the case, instead they drove for what seemed to be several hours, and finally arrived at a port. From video material filmed from inside the bus, one of the new arrivals managed to hid his phone, the port is identified as the Schengen port in Petra, Lesvos north. Also in the video material from Petra port, we can see another car, a Nissan Terrano ll 2001 modelwho, registered to the port police in Mólivos, license plate ΛΣ 3804. A local witness in Petra confirms that he observed a white bus escorted by a car from the port police driving down to Petra port in the afternoon of November 29th.

They where held in the bus in Petra port for hours, no food or water was provided. After dark, around 19.00 they where taken out of the bus, sprayed with water, and taken onboard a coast guard vessel soaking wet. They where placed on the deck, in the front on the vessel, outside, and told that they would freeze to death. Other people also arrived on the boat, 13 people from a different group, was placed in the back on the vessel. The vessel involved is identified from video material as a Vosper Europatrol 250 MK1 class offshore patrol vessel of the Hellenic coast guard visual ID number ΛΣ 050, currently stationed in Petra, Lesvos north.

What time they headed out is unknown, it was sometime after 19.00, and it was dark. People from the boat said the trip took several hours, and when they stopped they where forced into what they describe as small orange tent, and left drifting helpless in the dark. Luckily they had managed to hide one phone, and they called 158, the emergency number to the Turkish coast guard. After several hours they where rescued and taken to Çanakkale, Turkey.

Information from the Turkish coast guard, 13 people was found drifting in a life raft outside Kadirga cape, Ayvacik 02.40 on November 30th. Another group of 18 people was found drifting in the same day in the same area 05.00 also in a life raft. Pictures published of the people rescued by the Turkish coast guard, confirm that it is the same people who Aegean Boat Report received pictures and videos of on Lesvos the day before, it is without a doubt the same people.

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.

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, has been denying any involvement in illegal deportation of asylum seekers on the Greek border, “The Hellenic 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, We fully abide by international and European law”. Mr. Mitsotakis say, when asked directly about these allegations, “It has not happened, we’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign”, referring to articles and investigation in international press.

In September the Greek shipping minister, Giannis Plakiotakis, blows the “whistle”, most likely by mistake, bragging about their achievement, “Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented,” Plakiotakis said during a news conference. In August alone, he said, “we had 68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.”

The Greek government is determined to prevent anyone to reach Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution. No measures have so far been taken by the EU to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even do they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.

Push-backs are happening every single day in the Aegean Sea, and Greece will continue practicing illegal pushbacks on an industrial scale, putting families and children in inflatable life rafts, drifting in the Aegean Sea, in direct violation of international laws and human, until Europe once again decides to put human rights back on the agenda. So far this year 296 pushback cases have been registered by Aegean Boat Report, involving 9012 people. 89 of these cases was performed by using life rafts (rescue equipment), 2753 people have so far been placed in a total of 163 life rafts, and left drifting by the Hellenic coast guard.

Following orders is for the officers involved not an excuse, they know they are committing a crime, and should be punished accordingly. All evidence obtained by Aegean Boat Report will be made available for those who want to file charges against the Hellenic coast guard, the Greek government or the officers involved. At some point we need to make a stand, we can no longer tolerate crimes against humanity performed on European soil, we once said “never again”, let’s honor that promise!

We are astonished to have been the focus of an unprovoked and deliberately misleading attack on our organisation.

Aegean Boat Report, in common with all aid organisations working to help the Greek government and the EU with the refugee response in Greece, strongly opposes people smuggling between Turkey and Greece.

We are not, never have been and never will be part of any smuggling network and we do not work, have never worked, and will never work with any person or people smuggling people on any route, in any part of the world.

We operate a public service, accessible to all, which locates men, women and children who arrive on the Greek islands, in part because the Greek government consistently fails to perform this basic function.

Once they are located, we ensure that they are taken to camps where they can enter the proper legal processes.

We are forced to do this because the men, women and children travelling to the EU are well aware by now that the Greek government practices illegal pushbacks, and if we did not help to ensure that they were found, they would attempt to stay in hiding on arrival. This would be the worst of all possible outcomes for every person including the citizens of Greece and wider EU.

We do not deliver aid to those people, though the Minister should be pleased that some organisations do this, because without their work, the failures of his own Ministry would have caused hundreds more deaths than have taken place so far, and seen many men, women and children wandering Lesvos and other Eastern Aegean islands searching for shelter.

We must request the Minister ceases his baseless allegations, and advise him that if he wishes to allege we have acted illegally or improperly he must produce something more than a small number of refugees saying that smugglers in Turkey know the name ‘Aegean Boat Report’ and  tell them if they attempt to contact us they will be given dry clothing and a bottle of water.

We have broken no law, we do not work with anyone who does, and it is inexplicable that a Minister of the Greek government would seek to launch such a wild attack on a small organisation trying to ensure that people forced by Greek and EU policy to take dangerous journeys presided over by criminals do not die and are not lost to the system.

Far from Aegean Boat Report and other NGOs, the major factor assisting smugglers and ensuring they profit from the suffering of refugees is the Greek government and EU’s refusal to provide safe routes for people to travel and apply for asylum, which is their legal right.

None of the people arriving on the Greek islands are ‘illegal immigrants’. They are asylum seekers exercising their fundamental human rights.

The Greek state may of course decide whether to grant asylum to Somalians, whose country is a failed state and which has been in a state of war for more than 30 years.

And we hope the Greek government will in fact focus its attention on that decision, instead of continuing its ill-researched and misleading attacks on aid organisations working to help people survive, and help the Greek state.

In this way, we believe it and the EU will be able to respond to the situation on its borders in a manner befitting civilised actors in the modern world.

‘here is how we interact with new arrivals into Greece’

I Will Continue As Long As It’s Possible, But I Really Could Need Your Support!

To fundraise in these difficult times isn’t the easiest thing I have done, especially since the Aegean Boat Report don’t provide aid like food, clothes, medical, and hygiene, but only information.

Aegean Boat Report have provided free information for everyone to use for many years, documenting the ongoing situation in the Aegean Sea, in a time when verified Information is increasingly difficult to come by. Continuously trying to put the spotlight on how people have been treated, abuse and violations by government’s, have made headlines, not only in Europe but also internationally.

By operating as a “watchdog”, a “whistler”, openly criticizing and revealing violations done towards vulnerable people, especially by the Greek government, haven’t made me many friends, threats towards me and my family isn’t unusual. There has been many attempts to try to silence me, from right wing extremists groups but also from the Greek government. The attempt to criminals and discredit people and organizations that openly criticize the Greek government violations of international laws and human rights is common, to target what I do by saying it’s propaganda, I’m an enemy of the state, human trafficker working with the mafia and a Turkish spy is frequently used in the Greek press.

Information provided by Aegean Boat Report is used by volunteers, organizations, researchers and journalists, many actually benefit from the work that is published on a daily basis, also financially. For any organization media attention towards the area they work in would be beneficiary, and lead to more volunteers and funding. When an organization, who has tirelessly worked to provide more media attention, ask for support, I’m often faced with the question “ why do you ask for funding, you just gather information, you don’t do anything on the ground, you don’t help anyone”, it’s just frustrating, especially when coming from people who actually benefits from the work you do.

Everything is great, everyone is happy because they can freely use the fruits of your labor, until the time you ask for help, then they take a step back, turn around and walks away. Some even starts to ask questions on your motives to fundraise, if you are in this form the money.. if anyone had known the effort that has been put in to this over the years, the sacrifices, they would be shocked. Yes, even do everything I provided is free of charge, what I do actually costs money, any organization need funds to be able to work, just not Aegean Boat Report because it basically don’t do anything.. As I mentioned previously, it’s just frustrating..

What Aegean Boat Report stand for and what it dose is extremely well documented, not only on social media platforms like Facebook but also in the international press. To question my dedication and motives actually offends me, and I take it very personal! Anyone working in this field knows what it takes to stand in this over time, the sacrifices made, the dedication is many times difficult to carry.

I’m truly sorry that I can’t do everything on my own without asking for help, and that I need to to provide for my family. I’m sorry that I try to fundraise to keep this organization going, when so many other organizations actually needs the money more than I do, because they do, no question about it! I’m not rich, I work hard to be able to put food on the table, as everyone else, and if I’m faced with the option to continue and not be able to provide for my family, I would close down ABR in a heartbeat, because family always comes first in my book.

To support my work with the Aegean Boat Report please use the link below, and for those of you who have supported me, I’m truly grateful, thank you!

I will continue as long as it’s possible, but I really could need your support!

https://www.facebook.com/donate/1017770735407213/?fundraiser_source=external_url

It’s Not About Us, Or Is It..

A little boy, age 6, drowned on the shores of Samos, when he and his father tried to reach safety in Europe. Today the 25 year old father was arrested on suspicion of endangering a person’s life that lead to death, a crime that could carry a penalty, if found guilty, of up to 10 years in prison.

What happened on Samos on Saturday night is a tragedy not only for his family, but also for Europe. We let yet another child drown on our watch while we are occupied building walls and barbed wire fences, to keep everyone who “don’t belong her” out.. at what point did we start to turn our backs towards families, children asking for help, what made us this cold..

It’s outrageous that a grieving father is being punished for trying to seek safety for himself and his child, we would have done the same if we had walked in their shoes, but this doesn’t concern us dose it, it’s not our “kind”, so we just look the other way and move on as if nothing has happened, it’s not about us, or is it..

The screams of desperation and horror in the night is difficult to describe, if you haven’t hear it yourself, I have, not only this time but many times before, when I close my eyes at night I still hear them, I can live with that, because it’s not about me, it’s about “them”.. “them” is not my family, it’s nobody I know or even anyone I have ever seen before, so why would I care, it’s not “us”, it’s only “them” right..

Europe have for a long time tried to criminalize rescue workers and organizations who’s only goal is to help people seeking protection in Europe, now we are also criminalizing the people who are seeking safety..

What more can we take from these people, who have lost so much already, and still call ourselves humans..

It Was A Chaotic But Beautiful Symphony, Dysfunctional At Times, But Nevertheless Beautiful

Has the international volunteers, grass-root organizations and NGOs still a positive impact on the refugee crisis in Greece, ore have they played out their part as a independent neutral force who was driven by humanitarian values where money, politics and self preservation wasn’t the main objective.

In 2015 when the refugee crisis hit Greece, and the biggest mass movement of people in Europe since the Second World War started, thousands of volunteers traveled to the Greek islands to help as hundreds of thousands of people landed on the shores of the Greek Aegean islands, fleeing war and persecution. The job these volunteers did was unprecedented, driven by humanitarian values, a pronounced desire to help, it’s the most unselfish act I have ever witnessed. It was a chaotic but beautiful symphony, dysfunctional at times, but nevertheless beautiful, because it was driven by a genuine desire to help.

From the peak of the refugee crisis, literally hundreds of grass-root organizations and NGOs was formed, many of the organizations operating on the Greek islands today was borne at this time. In any crisis there will be people who are trying to take advantage of the situation, who are hiding behind a humanitarian pretext to benefit financially, but most organizations had genuine goal to help as many as possible, both refugees and locals. Volunteers from all over the world, from all walks of life, came to Greece to help as best they could.

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To coordinate humanitarian aid in a very chaotic situation, with hundreds of organizations with their own agendas and thousands of volunteers wasn’t without challenges. There was often disputes between organizations on how to do things, who should do what when and where. Rivalry between organizations on who was in charge and who should decide was a constant issue, many times overclouding the very reason they where there in the first place. There where even disputes over who had the right to help refugees when they arrived, and we often heard organizations use the phrase “our refugee” as if people who arrived was someone’s property.

To get information was many times also a problem, organizations used information to fundraise on social media, and was not willing to share information they had to others, it was referred to by some organizations as their “media potential”, and was one of the main reasons Aegean Boat Report was founded. I believe all information should be available and free for everyone to use, and not a privilege of a few. Information was crucial on the ground to be able to take good decisions, get a better understanding on what was going on at any given time.

Don’t take me wrong, volunteers and grass-root organizations did an amazing job, and some still do! Their efforts was essential, filled gaps between what was provided by the government and the actual need on the ground. In the beginning Greece would literally have collapsed, if it hadn’t been for the volunteers, Greece was not prepared for what happened and had no possibility to handle the situation on their own. Looking back it’s perhaps easy to criticize, but many mistakes was also made by these organizations, some more damaging than others.

What many organizations and volunteers forgot, was that they were not in their own country, and many decisions made had direct impact on the locals and local communities. Some organizations operated as if they owned the place, and in many cases didn’t consult the local president or involve locals in the decision making process, structures was built on privat land without permission from the owner, and at some point many locals got frustrated, they felt left out, that they had no say in their own communities. The lack of local involvement within the NGOs operating in the communities was perhaps their biggest mistake, the same mistake seems to be made even today.

The tourist industry in Greece was already on their knees long before the refugee crisis peaked, the financial crisis in Greece that started in 2009 had seen to that. When volunteers started to flood towards the Greek Aegean islands in late 2015, the industry in the effected areas got a upswing, hotels, rental car services, restaurants, nightclubs, supermarkets and privat accommodations was in high demand, unfortunately it didn’t last long. When the international press turned off the spotlight, less volunteers came, and when tourists didn’t travel to the Greek Aegean islands in the following summer, bankruptcy and unemployment was inevitable. Many locals lost their jobs, putting food on the table became difficult, people lost their houses and businesses. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs was still packed, not with locals but with international volunteers, this didn’t go unnoticed by locals, and the impression that NGOs spent funds on drinking and partying was created.

This impression was not correct, but nevertheless it damaged the reputation of international grass-root organizations and NGOs, and a general mistrust grew. It became a general perception amongst many locals that these organizations used money intended for aid on themselves, even do these volunteers only used their own hard earned money. Yes there was and still are exemptions, as previously stated, some use a humanitarian pretext to make money to enrich themselves, but this is the exception not the rule.

Skala Sikaminias

The lack of local involvement in the international grass-root organizations and NGOs operating on the islands are still a problem, without this involvement it’s difficult to build bridges and to remove a many times unjustified impression. Instead of paying salaries, rental cars, food and accommodation to international long therm volunteers and coordinators, they could have hired local staff, but perhaps the problem is that mistrust goes both ways, or that international volunteers brings in more funding, social media attention and prestige to the individual organizations. Question is, is the preservation of the organization itself, fat bank account’s, high salaries to their Secretary-Generals and prestige more important than their humanitarian objective, and have they lost their founding vision.

Many of the organizations that was created in the brink of the refugee crisis doesn’t exist anymore, but back in 2015/2016 you could literally find a organization for everything. Several of these organizations are still working on the Greek islands, some still doing an amazing job, while others are raising huge amounts of money by pretending to be involved, when in fact they are doing little to nothing on the ground, floating on their good name and reputation in their home country, filling their bank account from trusting donors. Organizations that has lost track of why they where created in the first place, becoming what they once despised, is dragging the names of good organizations down in the mud, not realizing that they no longer are a part of the solution but a part of the problem.

To be working on the ground today in Greece isn’t easy, neither for volunteers or grass-root organizations, anyone saying otherwise is lying. Volunteers are from time to time targeted by right wing elements, people who don’t want them to help refugees, smashing and burning their cars, beatings and treats. Police is also active, doing their bit to make sure they don’t feel welcome, searching cars, going through their phones looking for incriminating data, ordering people who have done nothing wrong from any public area, just because they feel like it, and that they can just to prove who is in charge.

Organizations also needs to stay in line, one step in the wrong direction and they can be denied access to the camps, any criticism towards the Greek government can automatically result in being denied access, or your project outside the camp suddenly face unannounced inspections that would definitely close the project for good. So organizations and NGOs on the ground mostly remain silent, no matter how difficult the situation is, no criticism is published in fear of being kicked out, in this they are failing the people they should be protecting, people who are suffering every day under inhuman conditions in camps on the Greek islands. Any organization who are denied access to the camp will most likely lose funding, it’s so much easier to ask for money when they are inside, no matter how little they actually do while there. It’s possible for the organization to support and work from outside the camp, but the prestige and funding opportunities are much higher if you are allowed inside, so for some this is a matter of money, and not the humanitarian aspect.

Most grass-root organizations and NGOs still use international volunteers as their main workforce, even do the camps are filled with skilled educated people who are more than capable of doing whatever is needed to improve their own situation. To empower the people who are living in these camps, should have been done a long time ago, in a much bigger scale than what is done today. Sitting around for months and years just waiting, doing nothing, would be devastating for anyone, to be able to occupy your time with something meaningful, feel useful, wanted and necessary would have a positive effect on people’s mental health. So why are hundreds of international volunteers working inside and outside the camps when there are thousands of educated people living there, who are very capable of taking car of themselves, who could have worked to improve their own situation.

Are the NGOs still needed, I would say definitely yes, but I believe that how help and assistance is provided from these organizations can be challenged. If more organizations could put self empowerment higher on there agendas, and use the resources that are already there, instead of international volunteers, they could make a bigger impact on the situation and on the people’s mental health. When it comes to the extensive use of international volunteers as we see today, perhaps it’s time to look at things differently. It’s definitely a “exotic” experience for volunteers to come and participate, it puts things in perspective, but is it in the best interest of the people they are supposed to help. To have short term volunteers, untrained, unskilled trying to help traumatized people living under inhuman conditions isn’t perhaps the ultimate solution. Don’t get me wrong, voluntariness is a beautiful and unselfish act, but there will always be a time and place for everything.

Grass-root organizations who has openly criticized the Greek government’s violations of international laws and human rights, published evidence and assisted international press, has lately been targeted by the Greek government in a broader scale than previously, in an attempt to silence them. Criminal charges against NGOs and volunteers isn’t new in Greece, and recently the Greek government opened a felony case file against 33 members of four NGOs and two “third country nationals” on suspicion of crimes including espionage, violation of state secrets, creation of and participation in a criminal organization and violations of the migration law. Neither the names of the NGOs nor the nationalities of those involved were made public. In addition there other organizations are also of interest, and similar charges can be expected to be raised against them as well. Who these organizations and people are is somewhat unclear, but what we can see is that’s it’s most likely organization’s who has criticized the Greek government over a longer period of time. To try to criminalize these “watchdogs” can be seen as a attempt to discredit them, so that their message is discarded as fake news or propaganda.