Groundbreaking decision in our first pushback case before the European Court of Human Rights

Last week, we asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to prevent the pushback of four asylum-seekers from Greek territory (Aegean islands).

Initially, the Court issued a provisional decision, asking to the Greek Government information about the steps that had been taken on the allegation of pushback. The decision also imposed that first-aid assistance be provided to the asylum-seekers, who had been forced to live for three days without access to food, water, shelter, nor medical assistance.

Sadly, by the time the Court reached such a decision, three out of four asylum-seekers had been already subjected to a violent and life-threatening pushback. However, the proceedings continued in respect of the fourth asylum-seekers, and the results so achieved are important.

After having received further information on the case by us and by the Greek Government, the European Court has concluded that the asylum-seeker who is still in Greek territory cannot be subjected to a removal.

In our knowledge, this is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights issues a decision ordering that a pushback from the Greek islands should not take place.

Such decision reminds of those issued against Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in the context of the Belarusian crisis, thus representing a key element in the widening of the protection afforded by the European Court of Human Rights to asylum seekers throughout Europe.

Human rights belongs to everyone, or do they?

On Tuesday March 8, a boat carrying 20 Palestinians from Gaza, 10 men, 3 women and 7 children, landed on the south east shores of Chios, not far from Nenita.

After arriving they fled to the woods in the surrounding areas, in fear of being found and arrested by Greek police. The group remained in the area for a while, the feet of the small children couldn’t move very fast, the dark made it even more challenging.

At 05.00 people from the group made contact with Aegean Boat Report, they asked for assistance., “hello, we are on the island of Chios, we want to apply for asylum, we are all Palestinians from Gaza, we have many children, please help us”.

Filmed after arriving on Chios, while hiding

In the next hours we received pictures, videos and location data, documenting their presence on Chios, small children, tiered and soaking wet from the rain, shivering from the cold, sitting straight on the ground.

We followed the group´s movements on Live location on whatsapp, slowly moving north. At 07.30 we received a message from the group, “police are chasing us, please help us, we have small children, we are afraid”.

Their location showed that they were in the outskirts of Nenita, a short message was sent, “ police caught us, we are afraid”.

Location arrested by police

People were rounded up, but a group of six young men managed to get away, and moved quickly from the area, heading west. Police were chasing them, but gave up after a short while. Aegean Boat Report got a short message from them 07.40, “many of us were arrested, all the children, we managed to run away, they will be returned, please help”. 20 minutes later we lost contact with the group of six, and didn’t hear from them anymore, perhaps they ran out of power on their phone.

The six that manage to run away

14 people were arrested by police south of Nenita, police told them to wait, and they would be transported to the camp for registration and asylum procedures, this would later prove to not be the case.

The six that managed to get away from the police, later arrived by their own means at the refugee camp in Halkios, and transported to the quarantine facility in Lefkonia.

For some reason police didn’t take their phones away, perhaps the officers arresting them indeed believed that they actually would be taken to camp, especially considering the many small children, and that the order later was changed by their commander.

Aegean Boat Report received a new message on whatsapp, “we are now with the police, they caught us, we hope they will not return us again, we are so afraid, we are now in a bus, we do not know where they will take us, perhaps return us, they have done that four times before”. We received a picture from inside the bus, all we could recognize was the clothes of one of the children.

Picture from inside the bus

Aegean Boat Report followed their movement on whatsapp Live location, while the bus moved through Nenita and Kallimasia towards Chios city center, the bus eventually stoped at an industrial site at the seafront close to city of Chios.

At 09.00 we received two videos, one showing the inside of the bus, the second perhaps a bit more interesting, we can clearly see the outside of the bus, but perhaps even more interesting, a man in dark clothes can be seen standing outside the bus, talking with the bus driver, while wearing a balaclava. This indicates that the man with the face covered knows the bus driver, and is indeed from local police. Locals on Chios can easily identify the area where these videos were taken.

Video inside the bus

What can be heard on the video from the conversation seems trivial enough, “longline prepared and you can pull it the shore.. you need a strong hand..”, this could of course be about fishing, but could also be related to what happened later on, most of the conversation was not caught on film.

Police brought an additional 12 people onboard the bus in handcuffs, all with African descent. We later learned that these 12 were a part of a boat arriving the day before, Monday March 7 on Chios south east, close to Nenita, carrying at least 25 people. The remaining 13 from this arrival was, according to sources, registered in the quarantine facility in Lefkonia.

Aegean Boat Report later received three voice messages that was recorded on a phone inside the bus. There was a lot of shouting, but some can be clearly heard from the sound files, a man telling people to sit down in their set’s in English, he’s counting up to 32 in Greek, and callling another man by the name Chrisstos, last message “look at that look at that, right next to the car/phone, under our ?- malaka” it’s actually very difficult to understand what he is talking about, perhaps it’s about a phone, difficult to say. But one word is very easy to understand, “malaka”, in this setting and tone it’s most likely used as an insult towards one of the refugees, “asshole”, “wanker“, “impotent“, “stupid‘, “idiot‘, “sucker“, nothing nice at least, and show what this man thinks of these people.

At least 45 people arrived on Chios between March 7-8 on two landings, 19 of those were registered in the quarantine facility in Lefkonia, 26 was illegally deported by the Greek authorities in a rubber boat without an engine, helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea, another illegal refoulement performed by the Greek coast guard.

This case has also been featured in Astraparis, the local online news on Chios the last three days. Todays article sends a direct question to the Greek minister of imigration and asylum, Notis Mitarakis, “Where are these children?

The Greek newspaper EFSYN have been in contact with one of the Palestinian families, now in Turkey, who fell victim to this illigal refoulement performed by the Greek authorities, and published an article today.

At 13.15, March 8, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 26 people from a rubber boat drifting outside Cesme, Turkey.

Registration in Turkey shows that 14 Palestinians, 10 Liberians, 1 Yemenis and 1 Gambian was rescued in this incident.

From pictures and videos received while this group was on Chios, we can easily identify the same people, especially the Palestinian children, from the footage provided by the Turkish coast guard. There is absolutely no doubt what happened here, and who is responsible.

Picture taken on Chios 08.03.2022
26 people rescued outside Cesme by Turkish coast guard

This isn’t the first time this Palestinian family have tried to cross into Greece, they have tried five times, three times they have actualy managed to reache land, every single time they have been removed. Their last attempt was on February 17, they were arrested by Greek police after their arrival and removed from Chios, forced into two life raft and left drifting in the Aegean Sea in the middle of the night.

18 February 05.30 Cesme

And on December 23, 2021, they managed to reach land on Chios, police arrested them, forced them back to sea and left them drifting in a life raft outside Cesme, Tyrkey.

Another “successful” illegal operation performed by the Greek coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek authorities, to protect Europe from these unwanted people. In these difficult times it’s easy to see that we do not value life equally, we differentiate between people who are more “similar” to us, the right skin color and religion, and we open our doors, the rest, those unlucky ones, who comes from the wrong place, we beat, torture and mutilate, even kill to keep them out of our precious Europe.

At a time when European countries opens their doors to millions of refugees fleeing war and terror in Ukraine, the Greek government is systematically breaking international laws and human rights, beating, robbing, and risking the lives of men, women and children from other parts of the world, who are searching for safety.

Human rights are everyone’s: they are the rights of every person on Earth, regardless of their race, their nationality, their colour or their beliefs.

The Refugee Lottery

On Monday Aegean Boat Report published an urgent appeal to prevent a pushback on Lesvos. This appeal was only partially successful, 14 people, amongst them 8 children, was prevented from being pushed back, 17 people from the same group was found drifting in a life raft hours later, amongst them 8 children and a pregnant woman.

At a time when European countries opens their doors to millions of refugees fleeing war and terror in Ukraine, the Greek government is systematically breaking international laws and human rights, beating, robbing, and risking the lives of men, women and children from other parts of the world, who are searching for safety.

Before first light a boat carrying at least 31 people landed on the north shores of Lesvos, west of the village of Skala Sikamineas. The place become famous under the refugee crisis in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of refugees was welcomed with open arms, the village was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in saving people crossing the waters from Turkey to Greece.

Things have changed drastically since then, now it’s actually considered a crime to assist any new arrivals on these beaches. If you assist without approval from the authorities, you most likely will be arrested and face charges, a result of the Greek government’s hostility against refugees coming from non-European countries, unlike refugees from Ukraine, “the real refugees” as they Greek government have chosen to call them.

Today anyone arriving on these shores must run for their lives and hid in the woods, if found by Greek police they face immediate deportation, usually left drifting at sea in a life raft by the Greek Coast Guard. The 31 afghans from the landing on Monday did just that, scattered around in the surrounding areas, groups of men women and children was hiding from the Greek police, amongst them 16 children.

Signs of people arriving could be found on the beach close to To Kyma, west of Skala Sikamineas the following day. Many things was left behind on the beach, maybe because they were in a hurry to leave the area before anyone found them.

Several groups contacted the Aegean Boat Report for assistance, and we tried our best, under the circumstances, to find someone who was willing and able to assist, these days this is often very difficult. Most organizations do not dare to assist, in fear of consequences from the Greek authorities.

At 09.18 Greek time, head of operation for UNHCR on Lesvos, Reyhaneh Shakibaie, was informed. She received detailed information on several of the groups hiding in the woods in Lesvos north, locations, number of people, number of children, nationalities and contact numbers. We had hoped that UNHCR would act swiftly, especially considering the number of children in imminent danger of being put in an life treating situation, if deported in life rafts, this did unfortunately not happen.

Instead UNHCR waited for consent from the people who was hiding in the woods, so that UNHCR could give their location to the authorities. Most of the groups didn’t want the police to have their location, so they refused.

Not a very strange decision, especially when everyone knows what happens when police get a location on new arrivals. They are arrested, many times beaten, stripped of their clothes, humiliated and threatened at gunpoint, their belongings stolen, especially money and phones, before removed from the island and forced into life rafts in the Aegean Sea.

The UNHCR is very aware of this, but nevertheless they continues to provide the Greek authorities with locations of new arrivals, putting vulnerable people in harms way, a practice that is very difficult to understand, and perhaps even more difficult to justify.

The practice of the Greek UNHCR is a direct contradiction to the mandate given to UNHCR based on the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. “UNHCR’s core mandate is to ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide”. The organization claims to promotes the basic human rights of refugees and ensures they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution, in Greece we unfortunately see the opposite.

Anyone contacting and trusting UNHCR in Greece when they arrive, puts themselves in a very dangerous situation, since they are all about “playing ball” with the fascistic Greek government, and seems to have a lost sight of their real purpose, their core mandate, protecting vulnerable people.

Aegean Boat Report maintained contact with several of the groups, they sent pictures, videos and locations to document their whereabouts.

One group of five people, two women and three men, had made it up to the small village of Sikaminea, where they took some pictures outside the local school. After they sent pictures and their location, we lost contact with the group, what happened to them we didn’t know at the time.

To prove that they actually had been at the local school in Sikaminea, we used google street view, witch prove this without any doubt.

Locals living in the area observed several cars, driving around in the area, both in the village of Sikaminea, Lepetimnos, Eftalu and skala Sikamineas. It was civilian cars, one dark green van, and two black Fiat Panda. Non of the cars had license plates and inside locals could observe men wearing black balaclavas, not the typical headgear in the middle of the day.

Contact with several groups was eventually lost, and we feared that local police had found them. Aegean Boat Report tried several times to get updates from UNHCR on what, if any, they had done in this case. Head of operation for UNHCR ignored this request, and refused to give any information, even do we had provided them with all necessary information from the beginning, to handle the case.

At 15.30 the three cars without license plates was observed traveling south in high speed, a local asset filmed two of them outside Pedi and then again in Paralia, the third car had gone ahead and was nowhere to be seen. These cars was the same cars seen in the villages in the north a few hours earlier.

UNHCR representatives was observed hanging around in Skaka Sikamineas around 16.00, when they got there and what they had done is not clear. What on the other hand is clear, is that the mysterious black cars arrived hours before the UNHCR, and they seemed to know exactly what areas to search, where they had gotten these locations from is unknown, but perhaps UNHCR can answer to that.

Most likely UNHCR provided locations to the authorities, and the authorities stalled UNHCR just long enough so that they could remove any new arrivals they could find, before UNHCR was given permission to go to the area. This is of course only speculations, but the masked men disappeared from the area and later UNHCR was observed in the same area, so we can only speculate what deal they had with the authorities.

In the afternoon 11 people was persuaded to come out of hiding in the woods, and down to Skala Sikamineas, later 3 more arrived. 8 children and 6 adults was taken to the Megala Therma quarantine camp east of Eftalu, Lesvos north.

Skala Sikamineas

At 23.30 on Monday March 7, 17 People was found and rescued from a life raft drifting outside Çeşme Turkey. Amongst the 17 there were 8 children and a pregnant woman.

From a video provided by the Turkish coast guard, we can clearly see people who we previously had seen in pictures from Lesvos north, there is absolutely no doubt, it’s the same group.

17 people rescued outside Cesme, Turkey

Pictures of the people being picked up by the Turkish coast guard was shown to the lucky ones that managed to remain on Lesvos, they confirmed their identity. They were shocked and devastated when they learned of their friends faith.

What had happened to this group was quite obvious: they had been found by police on Lesvos and removed from the island, pushed back as so many before them.

While the eyes and sympathy of the world is fixed on the situation in Ukraine, understandably of course, but nevertheless, people coming from other countries outside Europe, continues to suffer by the hands of cruelty, performed by the Greek authorities.

It is good to be reminded that the EU is capable of doing its duty by recognising and acting on those people’s rights as human beings. But even as it happens, EU states are still breaking the law, and acting against all human decency and civilisation, by pushing back other people – people who are just as likely to be refugees, including some like this Afghan families who certainly are – from their borders: not only denying them asylum, but their right even to apply for asylum.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

The law is not a lottery: one does not have human rights only if one is born in a particular part of the world.

To call refugees from Ukraine “the real refugees”, and people from other “unwanted” parts of the world “illegal immigrant’s”, just based of the color on their skin and their religion, comes from the same dangerous ideology that was used by Nazi Germany under Hitler. We seem to have forgotten our recent dark history, both in Greece and in Europe.

Beaten, robbed and forced to paddle themselves by hand back to Turkey: Greece’s government continues its barbaric pushbacks regime

Even as Greek politicians – and others from across Europe – said they would obey international law by welcoming people fleeing terror and chaos in Ukraine, the Greek government was beating, robbing, humiliating and risking the lives of men, women and children from other parts of the world, who are searching for safety.

On February 26-27, even as Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis was announcing that Greece would welcome Ukrainian people, who he described as ‘real refugees’ men following his orders were beating, stripping, abusing, and forcing innocent men, women and children into a life raft, which they had to paddle with their hands to guide to safe dry land.

The people, of 12 Palestinians from Gaza, arrived by boat to Livadaki, Samos north east before first light on Saturday February 26.

Their story is similar to thousands of other refugees arriving on Greek shores, when encountering Greek officials: they are met with violence.

This group, six men, three women and three children, was beaten, threatened at gunpoint, and strip-searched in public. Even the children and women had to remove all their clothes in front of everyone.

The five men from Samos’ port police who ordered this outrage seemed to enjoy it, laughing when the women stood naked in front of them, crying: this sadistic behaviour has no place in today’s Europe. It feels like a breath from the past when Nazis ruled.

After arriving, the group tried to contact several organisations for assistance, sending pictures and videos as proof of their whereabouts. Unfortunately, by the time these organisations replied, it was already too late: the group had been found by police on Samos, and were no longer able to reply.

The group also tried to contact Aegean Boat Report, but could not respond when we tried to speak to them.

When local residents who tried to find them came up empty, we suspected that they had been taken away by police, and we contacted port police on Samos to try to get some answers.

After several calls to the Samos port police, the answer was still the same, they had no information on any arrivals on Samos, and more specifically no “incidents” in Livadaki.

This was not an unusual answer: it’s what they always say when asked about arrivals, or the whereabouts of people who suddenly disappear.

Aegean Boat Report published a report about this incident on Facebook, asking people to contact port police on Samos and demand answers. We also hoped that locals from the area who had observed this, would step forward.

Instead, nothing happened. It didn’t even make headlines in the local newspapers.

It is perhaps not a big surprise that the local newspapers looked the other way, they usually do in cases involving inhuman treatment of refugees.

Journalists working for these papers are usually either too scared to take up these cases, or agree with the Right-wing policies of the sitting fascistic Greek government. Either way, many are a disgrace to, and others must ask themselves why they are in, the profession.

From pictures we received from the new arrivals in Livadaki, there was absolutely no doubt that they had arrived on Samos. Unfortunately, their whereabouts seemed to be a mystery.

Locals in the area must have observed unusual activity this morning, uniformed men in balaclavas, vans with dark windows, cars from port police.

Since this group of people was, according to the port authority on Samos, not taken to the quarantine camp, we assumed that they had already been removed from the island, or locked up somewhere pending removal from it.

No new arrivals were registered on Samos this day or the following days.

Two days later, on February 28, our assumption was proven correct, Turkish coast guard published a picture of 12 people who had been found on land in a remote area in Kusadasi, Turkey, in the early hours of February 27.

We recognised several people on this picture, as being the same people that had been on Samos two days prior.

The group of 12 had been placed on a life raft after dark, and paddled with their own hands to get ashore.

They managed to reach land and lit a fire to try to keep warm.

Eventually, they were spotted by the Turkish coast guard, and at 02.00, February 27, they were rescued.

What had happened to this group was quite obvious: they had been found by police on Samos and removed from the island, and pushed back as so many before them.

The details about how this happened were not clear, until the people in this group contacted Aegean Boat Report again, this time from Izmir, Turkey.

The group of 12 had arrived west of Livadaki around 4.30am on February 26. They started walking east towards Livadaki. At first light, the group arrived at a church, and they took several pictures of themselves. From pictures received from the group, we can see that they arrived at the Saint Patapios church in Livadaki.

Around 7.00am, the group started walking towards Agios Konstantinos, and an hour later, they took pictures at a road sign at the intersection to Agios Konstantinos beach in the outskirts of the village.

To establish definite proof that the pictures taken by the Palestinian refugees on Samos on the morning of February 26, actually were from Samos, we had a local representative go out to find the exact areas these pictures had been taken. The new pictures were taken on February 28, and left no doubt.

Soon after they had taken this picture, the group was stopped by two police officers in a white Nissan Frontier from the port police on Samos. Both officers had dark blue uniforms and were wearing COVID protection masks.

Ilustration picture, similar make and model as the care stopping them on Samos

The car had two white stripes and the logo of the port authorities. The men guided the group off the main road, behind some big trees, hidden from the eyes of the public, and told them to wait here.

After about an hour, a second car arrived, a civilian blue car carrying three men in civilian clothes all wearing balaclavas, it seemed as if the police took orders from these people.

Everyone was searched. The police were very brutal, and stripped us naked, hit us several times. Even the children and women had to take of all their clothes in front of these brutal savages. One victim explained: ‘We were stripped naked and treated in a filthy obscene manner. This was done at gunpoint. We didn’t understand what was going on. It seemed that they only had interest for our phones and money, everything else they didn’t care about. Why all this, why are we treated in all the dirt like this? Are we terrorists or what? We left our country because of the wars, leaving us nothing, no homeland, no life. We were subjected to injustice and insults.

TCG Video

‘Why did the Greeks treat us this way? Before this, I had got to the Greek island of Chios, got to the beach, and they forced us back to Turkey. Why all this violence?’

After hours hidden among the trees, a dark blue van arrived. In the back there were no seats. Everyone was forced inside and had to sit on the dirty floor.

Ilustration picture

They drove for about one hour, perhaps more, followed by both the police car and the civilian car. At some point the civilian car stopped following them, and the van started to drive up towards the mountains.

The person explained: ‘They took us to an army base somewhere up in the mountains, the soldiers saw us, but they didn’t let us out of the van, we waited there for hours, with no food, or water, and they didn’t let us use the toilet, not even the women and children. They kept us there until they drove us down to the sea, where a boat was waiting.’

On Saturday February 26, at around noon, the van drove down towards the sea with the 12 arrested Palestinian refugees, 6 young men, 3 women and 3 children. They took them to a remote area, with no port, just a rocky area at the coast where a small vessel from the Hellenic coast guard was waiting.

(After looking at pictures of Greek vessels, the victims identified the vessel as a Ragnar 1100 Patrol RIB belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, one of these boats is stationed on Samos.)

Ilustration Picture

The patrol RIB took the group out to a larger vessel waiting out at sea, later identified as a Lambro 57 belonging to the Hellenic coast guard, which is also stationed on Samos.

Ilustration Picture

Onboard the vessel, people were again brutally searched, some who didn’t cooperate were beaten and threatened with guns. We asked the group to get them to identify numbers on their vehicles and vessels.

They replied ‘Unfortunately, it was impossible because our heads were on the ground and it was forbidden to raise them. Once you raised your head, they were beating violently.’

Please keep in mind that we are talking about officers from a “democratic” European country, and not the armed force of a military junta. Their status or nationality didn’t matter, the only thing that did were the orders from the Greek government: everyone must be stopped, everyone must be returned, by all means possible, no exceptions.

One of the victims tried to talk to the officers onboard, and showed him his family’s UNRWA registration papers. ‘They didn’t tell us anything. He was avoiding talking to us. I showed them my papers proving that I was Palestinian, and I had proof from UNRWA #that I was a refugee, but they didn’t care.’

In broad daylight, the Hellenic coast guard forced 12 defenceless men, women and children into a life raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea and left them drifting.

They couldn’t call for help because Greek police had taken all their phones away. They paddled with their hands to get to safety on land. After hours of this, they managed to get ashore in a remote area of Kussadasi, Turkey, where they were found by the Turkish coast guard the following night.

TCG Video

Now, we should note that in the last 11 days, more than 1.3m Ukrainian people have been forced from their country.

The EU has responded by offering them the chance to enter and to find safe places to live, learn and work. This is the EU following international law – in fact, going further by automatically offering these men, women and children protection.

It is good to be reminded that the EU is capable of doing its duty by recognising and acting on those people’s rights as human beings. But even as it happens, EU states are still breaking the law, and acting against all human decency and civilisation, by pushing back other people – people who are just as likely to be refugees, including some like this Palestinian family who certainly are – from their borders: not only denying them asylum, but their right even to apply for asylum.

Artwork By Yorgos Konstantinou

The law is not a lottery: one does not have human rights only if one is born in a particular part of the world.

Human rights are everyone’s: they are the rights of every person on Earth, regardless of their race, their nationality, their colour or their beliefs. The EU is now proving, as we always knew, that it CAN follow the law – and do more than it asks.

Now, it must do so for everyone. Ukrainian people require our help in these darkest of times. It is good that the EU is offering that. But so do many other people, and the bloc – every part of it – must stop denying those people their rights, and instead help them, too, find shelter and ways to start to rebuild their lives.

An Important Step Forward In Our Fight Against Pushbacks!

At the beginning of this week, we asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to prevent the pushback of four asylum-seekers from Greek territory (Aegean islands).

In reply to our request, the Court has issued a provisional decision asking the Greek Government for information about the allegations of pushback and imposing that first-aid assistance be immediately provided to the asylum-seekers.

Provisional decision from the Strasbourg Court.

In fact – as it often happens in such cases – the four persons had been forced to hide for three days without access to food, water and shelter, for fear of being subjected to a violent pushback.

Their fear was well-founded, as they have been subjected to pushback operations from Greek territory 22 times already,both via land and via sea, each time suffering violence and ill-treatments at the hands of Greek authorities. The experience of the four asylum-seekers is sadly consonant with that of Parvin, the Iranian refugee severely beaten, secretly detained and forcibly returned from Greece six times (both via land and sea) who recently filed a complaint against Greece before the UN Human Rights Committee (https://www.ecchr.eu/en/case/bringing-greek-push-backs-to-justice/)

On the same day, the European Court issued a decision with the same content in response to an emergency Rule 39 request filed in similar circumstances by the Legal Centre Lesvos.

11 people from a boat carrying 30 that arrived on Lesvos Monday, February 14. 22 people was eventualy registered on Lesvos from this landing, 8 people, amongst them 2 women and 5 children were missing.

We welcome the Court’s decisions as an important step forward; at the same time, we regret to report that during the time it took for the Court to issue the decisions, three of the four applicants represented by Aegean Boat Report have been subjected to a violent and life-threatening pushback, in the course of which they have also endured unlawful detention.

8 people picked up from a life raft outside Cesme, of which three were applicant in our request to the European Court Of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court

In the case followed by Legal Centre Lesvos, while those included in the request were eventually registered in Greece, an estimated 8 other people who arrived on the same boat still have not been registered as having arrived in Greece, and were likely subject to an illegal expulsion to Turkey.

8 people found and rescued outside Foca, Turkey by the Turkish coast guard, amongst them 2 women and 5 children.

For the applicants who have been pushed back before the European Court reached a decision, the option remains open to ask for compensation for the violation of human rights that they have suffered.

Three of the four applicants currently in a military facility in Cesme, Turkey.

It must not be forgotten that provisional measures adopted by the European Court of Human Rights under Rule39 of the Rules of Court are the only way for asylum-seekers and migrants to benefit from an effective protection of their rights against pushbacks perpetrated by Greek authorities.

We do hope that this decisions will be a first step on the path of a better protection of the right to life and dignity of all persons reaching the Aegean islands, and that in future cases the Court will be able to answer more swiftly to similar requests.

An Industry Of Misery

A massive increase in refugees trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey towards Europe, in the last five days 1500 people have started on this dangerous journey, only 58 have arrived in Greek Aegean Islands.

The increase in large boats carrying hundreds of people is especially worrying. Old condemned cargo and fishing vessels have been stopped, many carrying more than then times the allowed number of passengers. These boats have been scrapped for a reason, they are no longer safe to use, nevertheless unscrupulous smugglers charge thousands of Euros for a ticket on these death traps.

In the past we have seen dozens of these boats go down, it never ends well, hundreds of people have drowned to try to reach Europe. It’s only a matter of time before we have yet another tragedy on our hands, it’s inevitable, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

On Friday February 11, a yacht carrying 197 people set out from Foça, Izmir. The boat supposedly was trying to reach Italy when it was stopped. Six suspected smugglers was arrested.

Second boat on Friday 11 was an old fishing boat carrying 240 people. The vessel was stopped outside Seferihisar, Izmir. Five suspected smugglers was arrested

Third boat on a Friday 11 was an old passenger vessel carrying 252 people. The boat had crossed into Greek territory waters, but was stopped by the Greek coast guard. According to Greek press the boat was escorted back to Turkish waters. In this case it was towed, engine destroyed and left drifting outside Seferihisar, Izmir.

On Monday February 14, a sailboat was stopped south east of Bodrum, Mûgla, carrying 111 people, two suspected smugglers was arrested.

The second boat on Monday February 14 was a fishing boat carrying 332 people. The boat was stopped 22 nautical miles outside Anamur, Mersin. The smugglers driving the boar refused to stop, and in the effort to stop the boat one refugee was injured, another died.

A boat carrying these many people will easily bring in over 1,5 million Euros to the smugglers. And we think we can stop this by building walls and fences, the only solution is safe passage, that would put an end to this “industry of misery”.

Pushbacks is unfortunately normalized in this area, European politicians don’t care how people are stopped when trying to enter Europe and apply for asylum, as long as they are stopped, and pushed back.

The last five days there has been 15 registered pushback cases in the Aegean Sea, all performed by the Greek coast guard, involving almost 500 men, women and children.

Pushbacks continues at Europe’s borders because our spineless politicians have failed to uphold and protect our values.

European Values At A Crossroads

On Saturday morning, February 5, a boat carrying approximately 20 people arrived on Samos. Aegean Boat Report called on local NGO’s, lawyers and organizations to intervene, to try to prevent them from being pushed back.

«A call for help on Samos⚠️

A group of 20 people arrived on Samos before first light this morning and are hiding on the island, scared to be pushed back by the police if found.

In the group there are three pregnant women, one in which have a severe injury to her leg, in need of medical assistance.

Aegean Boat Report is in contact with the group, they ask to be connected with a lawyer, so that they can get assistance to apply for asylum.

We fear that if not assisted, they will be found and deported in life rafts, as so many before them.

We ask for local organizations and lawyers to step up and intervene, to prevent further suffering of vulnerable people arriving on our doorstep, immediate action is needed!

Anyone who can assist contact Aegean Boat Report for future information!»

We posted five hours later another outcry for assistance!

“After 5 hours not one sign organization or lawyer on Samos have contacted Aegean Boat Report, to assist 20 new arrivals on the island, to try to prevent yet another pushback.

As I’m writing this 20 people are still in hiding on Samos, 11 men, 9 women. Three of the women are pregnant, 4, 8 and 9 months, one of them with a severe injury to her leg that need immediate medical attention.

We again ask organizations on the island to intervene, their situation is critical, they urgently need your help!”

Nobody answered our call for help, nobody even tried to intervene, everyone just closed their eyes, looked the other way, 20 vulnerable people in need of protection was left to fend for themselves.

No arrivals was registered on Samos on Saturday, nor the following days.

At 15.20, February 6, Turkish coast guard(TCG) found and rescued 9 people from a remote area on land in Kusadasi. The group had been left drifting in a life raft outside Kusadsi, Turkey by the Greek coast guard earlier this morning.

When we compare pictures taken on Samos the previous day, with the pictures published by TCG from the rescue operation in Kusadasi, there is no doubt, it’s the same people who the day before was on Samos.

Two hours later TCG found and rescued 8 people from a life raft drifting outside Kusadasi. The group explained that they had been removed from Samos by masked “commandos” carrying guns, and forced back to sea. The Greek coast guard had put them in two life rafts, but they had drifted apart.

Could this pushback have been prevented, if local resources on Samos had tried to intervene, it’s difficult to say yes. From experience any intervention by lawyers and NGOs have a very slim success rate, but it’s not impossible. In this case we will never know, because nobody even tried, we never gave these vulnerable people a chance, I believe they deserved better.

Today we learned what happened to the remaining 3 people who was not accounted for in the two pushbacks on February 6, one of them was the women with a severe leg injury.

In a video testimony published by the Turkish coast guard today, one of the survivors explain what happened after they arrived on Samos February 5.

They managed, after 17 from their group had been arrested, to escape from the police, and walked to the hospital in Samos.

They didn’t get any medical assistance, instead they were arrested by police, blindfolded, transported to the port, robbed of all their belongings and beaten, before taken out to sea.

They claim that the Greek coast guard threw them directly into the sea, no boat, no life jackets, if true, this is nothing but attempted murder.

After two days on land, on February 8, the men managed to reach a military outpost in Dipburun. The injured woman was later found by the Turkish coast guard after the men had informed them of her location, she was transported to hospital in Kusadasi.

The picture speaks for themselves, there is absolutely no doubt that the injured woman found and rescued by the Turkish coast guard is the same woman we see in the pictures from Samos two days prior.

Only one question remains, what kind of people can treat other human beings this cruel and inhuman? We must remember that this isn’t done in 1940 by the nazis, but in 2022 by the Greek government. How long can these atrocities be ignored by the rest of Europe, what will it take to force the European Commission to act against a member state, crimes against humanity is obviously not enough!

It’s actually difficult to know what to believe, because it’s just to cruller to be true. Unfortunately there are many similar reports from the area outside Chios and Samos where people claims to have been thrown directly into the sea by the Greek Coast Guard, some even handcuffed with plastic strips.

There seems to be no end to the cruelty inflicted on these poor souls, as if they mean nothing to anyone, non humans that can be disposed of without any consequences.

European values at a Crossroads.

There Is No End To The Cruelty

In the early hours of Sunday, January 30, a group of 21 refugees arrived by boat north of Gridia, Chios south east.

Immediately after arriving they split up in several smaller group, hiding in the surrounding areas, scared to be located by police and pushed back to Turkey.

At first light a group of 12 people was located and arrested by Greek police. Another group of six people hiding in the same area, observed while police transported the 12 people away in a van.

At 12.15 Turkish coast guard found and rescued 12 people from a life raft drifting outside Cesme, Turkey, the same 12 people who had been arrested on Chios earlier this day.

The group of six stayed in hiding in the area throughout the day, in the afternoon they moved towards Nenita. While walking the group was detected by police, only two of them got away. At 19.30 they walked into Nenita, and at 20.00 we received pictures of them outside the Agioi Anargyroi church in Nenita.

From google street view we can easily find the church, so there is no doubt that they were in Nenita, Chios. At 21.45 all contact was lost, we assume that police found them, we have no information what happened to these two, but police on Chios claims that there were no new arrivals in this area.

In the early hours of Monday, while it was still dark, three men was taken out to sea by the Hellenic coast guard, and thrown directly into the sea, no boat, no life raft, one of them couldn’t even swim.

According to a statement taken and published by the Turkish coast guard, only two of them made it ashore, one is missing and believed to be drowned.

A rescue operation has been ongoing all day to try to locate the man missing, so far without results.

The incident is being investigated by the Public Prosecutors Office in Cesme.

It’s actually difficult to know what to believe, because it’s just to cruller to be true. Unfortunately there are many similar reports from this area outside Chios, where people claims to have been thrown directly into the sea by the Greek Coast Guard, some even handcuffed with plastic strips.

There seems to be no end to the cruelty inflicted on these poor souls, as if they mean nothing to anyone, non humans that can be disposed of without any consequences.

I’m ashamed, lost for words.

15 Children Abandoned At Sea

On Monday morning, January 24, a group of approximately 40 people, 15 of them children, landed north east of Aspalathrokampos, Inousses north east.

After arriving they took pictures and videos to document and prove that they had arrived on the Greek island.

Unfortunately this documentation wasn’t sent directly to Aegean Boat Report, but to people claiming to be family, we only received this information from people outside the group, not on location. Second hand information is many times a problem, because we don’t know where the information is coming from, people claiming to be family members can also easily be smuggler’s trying to protect their investment.

To avoid cooperating or assisting smuggler’s and human traffickers, we can only try to help when information is coming directly from people on location. We always ask for number of people, pictures, videos and location, especially location is important, without it we can do nothing, for several reasons. First it is impossible to try to help people when we don’t know exactly where they are, and secondly, the location proves that people are where they say they are. Location can only be sent either as live location or regular location on Whatsapp, any attempt to forward a location received from others will automatically look different from a regular location.

We are doing everything in our power to try to assist new arrivals, but we must also do all we can to avoid assisting criminals. For that reason we can only try to assist when information is coming directly from the source, and when this source can provide proper location information as described above.

When that is said, we totally understand that family and friends are doing what they can to help. Most people contacting Aegean Boat Report is probably who they claim to be, the only problem is that we can’t verify that, it’s only a number on the screen. So please, if in need of assistance, contact Aegean Boat Report Hotline directly on this number on whatsapp, Signal or Telegram.

Please remember that this is NOT a emergency number, if in any emergency call the international emergency number, 112 and you will be rerouted to your nearest emergency call center.

We tried to get the family members who contacted us on behalf of the people on Inousses, to get them to contact us directly, this did unfortunately not happen, for what reason we don’t know.

The following hours pictures, videos and locations was sent to us from these relatives, it was pretty clear that the case was genuine, unfortunately we never got any direct messages from anyone in this group, so there was little we could do.

Pictures and videos clearly shows that this group was on Inousses, locals can easily recognize, houses, the church and roads.

Locals must also have observed the new arrivals on the islands, and probably the once who informed port police. 40 people were taken onboard a vessel from the Hellenic coast guard, transported away from Inousses, in brought daylight, in front of everyone. Most likely locals were told that they would be taken to the refugee camp on Chios, this did unfortunately not happen.

At 17.50 on January 24, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 40 people from two life rafts drifting outside Cesme, Turkey, 15 of them children.

There is absolutely no doubt that the people found drifting in these life rafts were the same people who arrived on Inousses earlier this day, and there is also no doubt on who abandoned these men, women and children in the Aegean Sea.

In most cases it’s close to impossible to stop the Greek coast guard pushing people back, especially at sea. When it comes to people who already have arrived on a Greek island, we can at least document and publish these crimes committed by the Greek government. We know it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, and if nobody is telling the story, it’s like it never happened, the crimes will go unnoticed.

Aegean Boat Report have been documenting pushbacks in the Aegean Sea for two years, and will continue as long as it is necessary. Hundreds of these cases have been published by international press, putting the spotlight on Greece, if we hadn’t continuously published these cases, this would never have happened. Without information directly from people on the move, this will be impossible, we need direct contact with people just arrived, we need number of people, pictures, videos and locations.

In most cases we can’t stop the Greek government from pushing you back, but we can tell your story, we can give you a voice so that your story is not forgotten. Let Aegean Boat Report tell your story.

17 Children Left Drifting At Sea

Twenty-five people, 17 of them small children, were arrested on Lesvos, beaten and abused before being set adrift on the open sea in the latest outrage carried out by uniformed Greek operatives. And the ‘crime’ committed by these 25 people, to justify their horrifying experience at the hands of people who are paid to save and safeguard human lives? Nothing at all. They were simply attempting to find a safe place to live, learn and work.

In the afternoon of Sunday, 9 January, a boat carrying 25 people landed south of Tsonia, Lesvos north east. Immediately after arriving, the group hid in the woods in the surrounding area, afraid that if found by police, they would be illegally returned to Turkey. At 17.00 they contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance.

In the following hours they provided pictures, videos, voice messages and location data, to document their presence on Lesvos: there was no doubt that they were on the island.

The group desperately needed help, but despite my efforts to find someone, I was not able to locate anyone who could help them on Lesvos. Aegean Boat Report did a public post on social media, with an urgent appeal for help, but no organization came forward, nobody could protect any of these people, not even the 17 children.

There are many organizations who are eager to criticize when people are drowning in the Aegean Sea, pointing fingers towards those responsible. But when they have a chance to intervene, before people are put in potentially life-threatening situations, they say and do nothing.

Next time people are drowning in the Aegean Sea, these same organizations will again use the opportunity to “show their sympathy” with the victims, because it fits their “humanitarian profile”, it’s financially profitable to seem to be on the side of humanity. The word hypocrisy springs to mind.

But there are reasons as well.

On Lesvos, or any other island for that matter, there is nobody able to help, even if they wanted to, no local organizations, no NGOs, volunteers, journalists or lawyers, who would go to a location to help people who have just arrived, not even to document their presence. Because if they did, and the police found them, they risk arrested on site, charged with facilitating illegal entry to Greece, obstruction of police investigations and whatever other charges they might come up with, this just because they tried to help vulnerable people seeking safety in Europe.

This, unfortunately, is the reality on Europe’s borders. European politicians no longer defend ‘our European values’: those values are gone. They are just words without substance, used in speeches to make it look like they are doing something. They are not.

The group of 25 stayed hiding in the woods all night, waiting for daylight. It was cold, they had no dry clothes, food, or water. This was especially challenging for the many small children.

At first light on Monday 10 January, they started moving towards the nearest village, Tsonia, so they would be seen by locals, in the belief that public awareness would prevent the police from pushing them back.

At 08.00 on 10 January, Aegean Boat Report emailed organizations, NGO’s, authorities and the Greek ombudsman, to tell them the group would like to apply for asylum in Greece, and needed international protection. We received no reply. The letter was also published on Facebook and Twitter for public awareness:

“25 refugees arrived in Lesvos yesterday and were announced to the authorities, Greek ombudsman and UNHCR Greece by Aegean Boat Report this morning. We urged UNHCR and the Ombudsman to mediate directly to ensure that their human rights will be respected. 17 of the 25 people in the group are children”.

At 10.20, they arrived in the outskirts of the village, but were too scared to walk further. They saw several cars and local people.

One hour later, at 11.20, they informed Aegean Boat Report that the police had found them. All contact was then lost with the group, all phones went offline, all we could do was wait and hope that they would be taken to a camp. This didn’t happen. No new arrivals were registered by Lesvos’ authorities that day, or in the following days.

We later learned from local residents that police were driving around in the area in civilian cars – a grey minivan with four men in dark uniforms caught their particular attention. This car stopped in the outskirts of the village, and four men stepped out. All were wearing balaclavas, which locals would not use during harvest.

The car was filmed, and we can clearly see the license plate IZH:1548 on its back, as well as a man standing behind it.

The refugees later explained that four men in dark uniforms and balaclavas, all carrying guns, were the ones who had found them. After seeing pictures of the car, they confirmed it was the same one used by the “commandos” who found them.

When the people were found in the outskirts of Tsonia by these “commandos”, some of them tried to run away, one of the refugees said. Four shots were fired to force them back in line. Everyone was very scared, children were crying, it was an horrific ordeal.

People were held at gunpoint in this location for more than an hour. Everyone was searched by force, and all their belongings, bags, papers, money and phones were taken from them.

Locals in the area saw a big white van coming to the area around noon, and later driving away approximately one hour later, with the grey minivan ahead of it. All the refugees they had seen earlier were gone, so they assumed the van had taken them away.

The same white van has been used to transport refugees from several previous landings, and in all these cases people have been forcibly removed from the island, and pushed back to Turkey.

These “civilian” vehicles are known by Lesvos residents to be used by “secret police”, to blend in, but everyone knows the men inside them are military personnel on assignment from the Greek authorities to “hunt” refugees.

In late afternoon on Monday 10 January, Aegean Boat Report received a desperate voice message from one of the people in the group that we had spoken to on Lesvos earlier in the morning.

They had managed to hide one phone from the police on Lesvos, and had just enough power on the phone for an emergency call to the Turkish coast guard, and send a voice message to Aegean Boat Report. No location was received, and the phone was again offline.

We contacted the Turkish Coastguard (TCG) immediately, but without a location there wasn’t much they could do. TCG said they had not found anyone in the area around Lesvos, but they had just received information on a group of people in distress outside Seferihisar.

We discarded the possibility of it being the same group, due to the distance from Lesvos; they wouldn’t transport people over 200km to perform a pushback, we thought.

But after midnight, the Turkish Coastguard informed Aegean Boat Report that they had located and rescued the group we had contacted them about earlier: 25 people had been found drifting in a life raft outside Seferihisar, Turkey, including 17 children.

The Hellenic Coastguard had transported this group over 200km to be able to push them back, which shows the determination of the Greek authorities to remove anyone by any possible means.

So, why didn’t they just push them back outside Lesvos, as they usually do in these cases? The explanation is quite simple, the wind direction at the time was north west, and if they had placed the life raft in the sea it would have drifted back towards Greek waters.

Yesterday, we regained contact with the group, who are are now in a quarantine facility in Seferihisar, Turkey and they explained what really happened to them.

Their experience is just horrific.

The police found them in the outskirts of the village, where they were searched, and all their belongings were confiscated.

After an hour a white van arrived and everyone was forced into the back: “They treated us like garbage”, a woman told us. “They kicked and beat us, even some of the children got beaten”.

It was difficult to be sure, but they believe the car was driving for more than an hour. When it finally stopped, they were at some kind of harbour, where a small grey boat with two engines was waiting at a wooden pier.

When they came out of the van there were 10-15 masked men, all in dark uniforms, carrying guns. People were ordered to look down and stay quiet, and there was a lot of shouting. The children were crying, terrified of the masked men. The two-engined grey RIB took people out to a larger vessel in small groups. In the RIB, there were three masked men with guns.

The larger vessel was grey, with blue and white stripes in the front. After looking at pictures of vessels from the Hellenic Coastguard (HCG), they identified the boat as Sa’ar 4 class offshore patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic Coastguard.