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Afghan Refugees Tortured on Farmakonisi By Greek Guards

On Wednesday morning, June 22 at 05.30, a boat carrying 39 people, mostly families fleeing from Afghanistan, landed on the uninhabited Greek island of Farmakonisi.

The group contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they asked for help to be rescued from the island and taken to a port of safety to apply for asylum.

Farmakonisi is a small uninhabited Greek island in the Dodecanese, there is a Greek military garrison on the island.

The group sent pictures, videos and geolocations to Aegean Boat Report to prove and document their presence on the island, there is no doubt that they in fact were on Farmakonisi.

There is no rescue vessel in the Aegean Sea, the only solution to get people rescued from these uninhabited islands is by assistance of the Greek coast guard. Unfortunately the same coast guard brutality and illegal returnees people by all means possible, on direct orders from the Greek authorities, this group was no exception.

At 09.00 on Wednesday we lost contact with the group, all phones we had contact with went offline, we assumed that they had been found by the military on the island and arrested.

In previous cases when people have arrived on Farmakonisi, they have been arrested and taken to a closed area surrounded by barbed wire next to a small port on the island, a shabby worn-down shed the only shelter. We assume the this group was taken to the same area after being arrested.

On Thursday morning, 04.25, Turkish coast guard reported finding two life rafts drifting outside Datcha, Turkey, 10 miles south east of Kos, a total of 39 people were rescued, many of them children and elderly people.

The victims from this illegal pushback explained how commandos in dark uniforms, face’s covered by balaclavas, tortured some of the men in the group while in Greek custody on Farmakonisi, “it seemed to amuse them” one of the victims explained, “we had done nothing wrong, we are fleeing from torture, trying to find safety, to be tortured in Europe when we arrive, where is the humanity?”.

After spending 20 hours in captivity on Farmakonisi, the Hellenic coast guard forced these families, men, women and children, into two life rafts and abandoned them, helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea in the middle of the night. Tansporting them over 70 km from Farmakonisi to Datcha.

Such treatment demonstrates Europe’s continuing trend away from human rights protection towards border control along with a lack of accountability from the European Union’s border force, Frontex.

At a time when Greek authorities are facing heavy criticism for violations of international laws and human rights, pushbacks and violence in the Aegean Sea towards asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution is rapidly increasing, efforts to stop these authorities seems to have no effect.

Greek authorities claims that they do not perform pushbacks, and that all the evidence piling up against them over the last two years is the result of Turkish propaganda. UN, reputed journalists, NGOs, European MEPs, international courts, even the High Commissioner For Refugees, Filippo Grandi, are being manipulated by “propaganda machines and smuggling networks”, paid off, according to the Greek authorities..

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

Pushbacks violate the fundamental asylum-law principle of non-refoulement and are contrary to international and EU human rights law of which Greece, as an EU Member State is subject to as well as national law (article 20 and 41 of Law no. 3907 of 2011.16).

It is the absolute legal right of any person to travel to any state, with or without paperwork, to apply for asylum. It is absolutely illegal for any government to prevent them, or to force them out of the country once they have entered, without giving their application for asylum due consideration.

What’s going on in Greece is unacceptable. It is a stain not only on the good name of Greece and Europe, but on the world.

Side Note:

In this case Aegean Boat Report definitely should have done more to try to prevent this pushback, but due to lack of funding and resources ,the organization was not able to provide any assistance.

At the time people on Farmakonisi contacted Aegean Boat Report, the organization was already engaged in a case on Barbalias Island, Lesvos, trying to prevent 29 people from being pushed back. By the time I could start focusing on the case on Farmakonisi, all contact was lost, and I had nothing to work with.

Due to lack of funding and resources, I unfortunately have to prioritize between cases I believe I can and can not change the outcome of. It might seem cruel to some, but that’s the reality. People arriving on uninhabited islands will always need the assistance of the Greek coast guard, there is no other means of rescue available in the Aegean Sea. And as we all know, the Greek coast guard are ordered to remove people, push them back by all means possible, on orders from the Greek authorities.

Could the organization have made any difference in this case, honestly not much. I could have provided the group with some public attention by publishing their case, the effect would most likely been limited, but definitely better than nothing, it would perhaps have given them at least a fighting chance, and that they definitely deserved.

I try to be as honest as I can, one person can only do so much without proper funding, for those I have failed, I’m truly sorry.

25 Refugees On Ikaria Fear For Their Safety

A group of 25 people, 14 men, 3 women and 8 children, contacted Aegean Boat Report tonight, Thursday June 2, from the island of Ikaria, west of Samos, and asked for assistance, they are afraid that the Greek authorities will deport them back to Turkey.

They arrived on Ikaria two days ago, found by police and taken to an old decommissioned building next to the police station.

People have to sleep on the floor, no blankets or mattresses have been provided.

So far local police have not taken away any of their belongings, and that’s perhaps a good sign, considering the normal procedures when people are being pushed back. On the other hand a local police officer told the group that they will be taken back to Turkey in the morning by the Greek coast guard, and the group was forced to sign a document presented to them only in Greek written, no explanation on it’s contents or why they had to sign.

Some of the people in the group is in need of medics attention, especially two people with some kind of skin disorder, that at first glance seems similar to Monkeypox, an infectious viral disease that have recently been registered in several countries in Europe, no medical attention has been provided.

Locals in the area are well aware of the group and have kindly provided food and water for everyone, the group is grateful for the support given.

What will happen to this group is so far unknown, local police did not want to provide any information when Aegean Boat Report contacted them Thursday night, not even admitting that the group was present on Ikaria, and in police custody.

Hopefully this group will be transported to a place of safety, given the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, but from previous cases when people have arrived on Ikaria, we are worried on what lies ahead.

On August 5 last year a group of 14 people was removed from the island and pushed back in a life raft that was found drifting outside Didim, Turkey.

And on October 17 last year a group of 22 people was also removed from Ikaria, found drifting in a life raft outside Seferihisar, Turkey.

We request that the appropriate authorities immediately transfer all members of this group to the nearest reception centre and allow them to register for asylum. Let’s hope they won’t share the same faith as previous arrivals on this island.

Frontex Under Scrutiny, Pushbacks Continue In Greece

On May 25, Aegean Boat Report was contacted by people onboard a Greek coast guard vessel outside Samos, close to the island of Samiopoula, heading towards the Turkish sea border, begging for help.

People onboard asked for help, they believed that the Greek coast guard was pushing them back to Turkey, later their suspicion would be confirmed.

“They arrested us from a sailboat heading to Italy yesterday, Organization… please help us, please send someone to help us, they are going to throw us to the water, they want to kill us, there are 105 of us, we were beaten, please help us…”

From videos received, we can clearly see that some of the men have injuries, after, according to people onboard, being beaten by officers of the Greek coast guard.

People onboard told Aegean Boat Report that they had been heading towards Italy in a sailboat, when the Greek coast guard stopped them last night. Everyone was taken onboard the coast guard vessel, they destroyed the sailboat that sank shortly after.

From live location on Whatsapp, we could track the boat heading south east towards Turkey, after 30 minutes the connection was lost, most likely phone was taken by officers onboard.

From the videos we have identified the boat to be a P355 GR / Class Marinos Zampatis, either ΛΣ-900 or ΛΣ-910, belonging to the Greek coast guard.

After analyzing the footage taken by the refugees onboard, compared to known pictures of the two vessels, we have determined that the boat in these videos is the ΛΣ-910 and not the ΛΣ-900, small details give away its identity.

The boat was built in Italy, bought in 2020 financed under the FRONTEX Special Equipment Action of the Internal Security Fund, 90% funded by EU money.

Naval Analyses: CNV P355GR, the new coastal patrol vessels of the Hellenic Coast Guard

The faith of 105 people, men, women and children was unknown, we suspected that they would be forced into life rafts and left drifting in the Aegean Sea. Aegean Boat Report published the incident while it was ongoing on May 25. We didn’t believe it would make any difference for the people involved, nevertheless, it’s important to document these atrocities.

The Greek government is systematically and illegally pushing back people on a daily basis, with no condemnation from Europe, quite the opposite, EU is funding these operations and Frontex is assisting.

So, what really happened to this group? Contact was lost and there was no way to be 100% sure what would happen, we had our suspicions but no proof at the time. There was no information from any of the islands in the area that people had been brought in and registered, another magic trick by the Greek government.

On Wednesday night, May 25, at 22.18, the Turkish coast guard reported that they had found and rescued 26 people from two life rafts drifting outside Bodrum, Turkey.

TCG Report May 25 2022

The Turkish coast guard had received an email from the Greek coast guard, informing them about people drifting in the area. First, they illegally forced people into life rafts at sea, then they informed Turkish authorities to get them rescued.

By comparing pictures and videos received from the people while onboard the Greek Coast Guard vessel, with the footage from the time they were found and rescued by the Turkish coast guard, we can confirm that it’s the same people. The two rafts consisted of only single men, no families, women and children.

The following morning, May 26 at 05.10, Turkish coast guard reported to have found and rescued 81 people from four life rafts drifting outside Datcha, Turkey, also this time after being informed by email from the Greek Coast Guard.

TCG Report May 26 2022

881 people were found drifting in four life rafts, many of them small children, nobody is spared, everyone is treated in the same inhuman brutal way. The four rafts consisted of families, men, women and children, all single men was placed in the two rafts outside Bodrum.

107 people were stopped by the Greek coast guard close to mainland Greece, their boat destroyed, transported hundreds of miles and left drifting in a total of six life rafts.

So why push them back in two separate groups 60 miles apart, from the same coast guard vessel? Did they honestly believe that they could disguise this as two separate incidents? That it would be difficult to link it to the case already published from outside Samos on May 25?

Without pictures and videos, it would of course be difficult to prove, but unfortunately for the Greek Authorities we are not easily misled, and the evidence speaks for itself.

Greek authorities are used to being in control of what is published by Greek press. This case, no matter how outrageous it is, would never be published by mainstream media in Greece, if anyone did, they would no longer receive funding from the government, so it’s better to not publish anything that could upset the ruling party. One thing I can ensure you, Aegean Boat Report cannot be bought nor threatened to silence, we will continue to investigate and publish violations of international laws and human rights performed by the Greek authorities as long as it is necessary.

This is the brutal reality for refugees on the border of Europe, how long can we continue to look away as if nothing is happening? Greece is acting in direct violation of international laws and human rights, funded by the EU, pushing back refugees in the Aegean Sea by any means possible.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

Greek uniformed officers beat these people. They rob them, strip them, in some cases sexually assault them. They ridicule them, injure them, and in some cases kill them. It is hard to imagine how any government could possibly behave worse to people seeking safety.

As long as human rights abuse by Greek authorities continues, all funding from the EU should and must stop, on all projects. Funding already received should be thoroughly investigated to determine if funds are used as intended. End all Frontex operations and remove all Frontex presence currently deployed in Greece, until violations of international laws and human rights are brought to an end.

The European Union border guard agency’s oversight mechanisms have failed to safeguard people against serious human rights violations at the EU’s external borders. The actions of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), shows a pattern of failure to credibly investigate or take steps to mitigate abuses against migrants at EU external borders, even in the face of clear evidence of rights violations.

Frontex has repeatedly failed to take effective action when allegations of human rights violations are brought to its attention. Frontex has seven oversight, reporting, and monitoring mechanisms with the stated purpose of ensuring that its officers do not engage in abuse, are held accountable if they do, and are not complicit in abuse by EU member states. They include a system to report serious incidents that has recorded only a few incidents but failed to prevent abuse, and failed to hold those responsible accountable.

Under Article 46 of the Frontex Regulation, the agency also has a duty to suspend or terminate operations in case of serious abuses, Greece is a textbook example of such abuse.

Since March 2020, Greek authorities have illegal pushed back 32.600 people in 1240 cases, left 800 boats and 630 life rafts helplessly drifting in the Aegean Sea, in many cases assisted by Frontex.

Pushbacks Funded By The European Union

Aegean Boat Report was contacted tonight by people onboard a Greek coast guard vessel outside Samos, close to the island of Samiopoula, heading towards the Turkish sea border, begin for help.

“They arrested us from from a sailboat heading to Italy yesterday, Organization…. please help us, please send someone to help us, they are going to throw us to the water, they want to kill us, there are 105 of us, we were beaten, please help us..”

From videos received we can clearly see that some of the men have injuries, after, according to people onboard, being beaten by officers of the Greek coast guard.

People onboard told Aegean Boat Report that they had been heading towards Italy in a sailboat, when the Greek coast guard stopped them last night. Everyone was taken onboard the coast guard vessel, they destroyed the sailboat that sank shortly after.

From live location on whatsapp we could track the boat heading south east towards Turkey, after 30 minutes connection was lost, most likely phone was taken by officers onboard.

From the videos we have identified the boat to be a P355 GR / Class Marinos Zampatis, most likely either ΛΣ-900 or ΛΣ-910, belonging to the Greek coast guard.

The boat was built in Italy, bought in 2020 financed under the FRONTEX Special Equipment Action of the Internal Security Fund, 90% funded by EU money.

Naval Analyses: CNV P355GR, the new coastal patrol vessels of the Hellenic Coast Guard

The 105 people, men, women and children, will most likely be forced into life rafts in the Aegean Sea, left drifting as we speak.

This is the brutal reality for refugees on the border of Europe, how long can we continue to look away as if nothing is happening. Greece is acting in direct violation of international laws and human rights, funded by EU, pushing back refugees in the Aegean Sea by any means possible.

Greek uniformed officers beat these people. They rob them, strip them, in some cases sexually assault them. They ridicule them, injure them, and in some cases kill them. It is hard to imagine how any government could possibly behave worse to people seeking safety.

This needs to stop!!

Sailboat Carrying 65 People “Magically Disappeared” in Greek Waters

On Sunday, May 15, Aegean Boat Report published information in a sailboat drifting 9 miles west of Kythera in the Peloponnese, carrying approximately 62 people, amongst them 12 children.

We wrote:
“A group of 62 people, 40 men, 10 women and 12 children, are drifting in a sailboat west of Kithira, Peloponnese. The boat are drifting due to engine failure, Greek Coast Guard have been informed.

A vessel from the Greek coast guard arrived on location one hour ago, but did not approach the sailboat, they are just watching from a distance. From pictures and videos received it appear to be a Lambro 53 Guardian (LCS-53) patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard.

We believe that the patrol vessel is waiting for a bigger boat to arrive, so that people can be taken onboard. We fear that the Greek coast guard then will remove the group from Greek waters, and deploy them in life rafts closer to the Turkish border.

People onboard the sailboat should, according to international law, be taken to the closest port of safety, in Greece, unfortunately the Greek government don’t follow the law.

Aegean Boat Report will try to follow this group as long as it’s possible, to document how people are treated on the borders of Europe.”

Soon after this was posted, people onboard the sailboat got their engine working again, and started moving away from Kythera, direction west, while the vessel from the coast guard followed on a safe distance.

Last contact with the boat was at 18.00, in a location 17 miles west of Kythera, still heading west. People onboard were scared, the Smugler driving the boat didn’t want to be arrested, he refused to stop when ordered to do so by the Greek coast guard, of course he couldn’t outrun them, but he nevertheless tried.

Location Sailboat 15.05.2022 18.00pm

At 21.00 we got informed that the sailboat had been stopped and boarded by commandos from a Greek coast guard, soon after all contact was lost.

At this point we couldn’t know what was going to happen, we suspected that the group would be removed from Greek waters, because this is the practice of the Hellenic coast guard when intercepting refugees in Greek waters, in direct violation of international laws, Law of the Sea and human rights.

On both Sunday night and Monday morning, Aegean Boat Report contacted the port authority on Kythera, trying to get information on if the people from the sailboat had been disembarked on the island. In both cases port police on Kythera told us that they had no knowledge on any incident in the area, and hang up the phone when we tried to confront them with these lies.

The boat we had seen in both videos and pictures sent by the people onboard the sailboat, was later confirmed to be a Lambro 53 Guardian (LCS-53) patrol vessel belonging to the Hellenic coast guard. We also identified the identification number on the vessel from the footage, it was ΛΣ-123. The Lambro 53 Guardian with ID ΛΣ-123 is stationed on Kythera, her photographed in the port of Diakofti July 29, 2021.

On Monday morning, May 16, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 65 people from 3 life rafts drifting south west of Datcha, Turkey.

Pictures and videos received while they were on the sailboat outside Kythera, was compared to pictures and videos provided by the Turkish coast guard from when they found them drifting at sea. There is absolutely no doubt that this was the same group, nor any doubt on who was responsible for placing them in these life rafts.

Datcha, Tyrkey 16.05.2022

Aegean Boat Report managed to get in touch with the people from the sailboat now incarcerated in Turkey.

19.05.2022 Turkey

They explained that a larger coast guard vessel stopped them, arrested the smugler and returned them to Turkey. “ they told us to leave everything in the sailboat, one by one we were brutally searched before climbing up the later to the big ship. They took my papers, money and phone, now I have nothing, they stole everything I had left. They destroyed the sailboat, it sank before we left” a man explained. The coast guard vessel he couldn’t remember that well, it was dark and the commandos ordered them to look down, it was gray, big and seemed old, something similar to the picture below.

Ilustration Picture

The Greek coast guard efforts when following instructions from it’s government has no limits, the “wrong” refugees must be stopped by all means possible, in this case 65 men, women and children was transported over 270 miles across the Aegean Sea before left drifting in life rafts outside Datcha, Turkey.

The group started their trip outside Cesme on Saturday, their destination was originally Italy. After 260 miles the engine on the boat broke down, and they ended up drifting outside Kythera.

After arriving back in Turkey, the group was arrested and taken to a holding facility. Most of them are Kurds from northern Iraq, and will most likely be deported from Turkey.

The international community is officially condemning what we refer to as pushbacks, but on the other hand supporting countries performing these violations, funding their operations, supporting them with Frontex personnel and equipment, because they are doing the dirty work of Europe, keeping people out by all means possible.

From 1 March 2020 to 20 May 2022, the Greek government has pushed back 31.380 men, women and children in the Aegean Sea alone, 762 rubber boats and 607 life rafts have been picked up by the Turkis coast guard.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

Greek uniformed officers beat these people. They rob them, strip them, in some cases sexually assault them. They ridicule them, injure them, and in some cases kill them. It is hard to imagine how any government could possibly behave worse to people seeking safety.

Frontex director Favrice Leggeri resigned after his involvement in covering up pushbacks performed by the Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea. When will Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, minister of migration and asylym, Notis Mitarakis and minister of shipping and island policy, Ioannis Plakiotakis, do the same?

These criminals needs to be brought to justice for their crimes against humanity!

Does UNHCR enable the torture of refugees by Greek police?

UNHCR has consistently and strongly criticised the Greek government and its uniformed officers for their barbaric, illegal, pushbacks against people who arrive in Greece.

So why does UNHCR Greece hand the same authorities details about the locations of those men, women and children?

A boat carrying 38 people, amongst them at least 17 children and two pregnant women people landed west of the village of Skala Sikaminea on Lesvos north, on Sunday 1 May, at 21.30. Immediately after arriving they fled to the woods to hide, scared that if found by Greek police, they would be pushed back to Turkey.

The group, mostly families, all Afghans, stayed together. They contacted Aegean Boat Report at 21.45, and asked for assistance. We gathered necessary information from the group: pictures, videos and location data, and there was no doubt, the group was on Lesvos.

We do not usually give advice on where people should go, but since they were only 4km from the quarantine camp in Megala Therma, we advised them to move towards it.

It was dark, not many people use the dirt track at night, and it would have taken them about one hour to walk. Considering the alternatives, which were to stay outside in the woods all night, and most likely be found by police the following day, we firmly believed that this was their best option.

Unfortunately, they were reluctant to walk in the dark, and decided to wait until daylight, try to find a better solution. Perhaps they thought the walk would be difficult in the dark, especially for the children. Little did they know about the dangers ahead.

Aegean Boat Report maintained contact with the group throughout the night. They had stayed in the same place all night, and in the morning, they reached out to the UNHCR through their shoreline duty phone, and asked for help.

The duty phone operates 8.00-20.00 seven days a week, to receive information about new arrivals. What assistance – if any at all – UNHCR actually can give to new arrivals contacting this number is difficult to say, especially since most of those who have tried asking UNHCR for help, have ended up drifting in life rafts in the Aegean Sea.

Some may see this as a coincidence, I beg to differ.

A member of this group told us that a UNHCR representative had been in contact, asking for permission to give their location to the Greek authorities.

At first they refused, but after several calls and messages on WhatsApp, in which UNHCR had insisted this was the only option available, the person told us they had agreed. This approach raises a lot of questions regarding UNHCR’s standard operating procedures in Greece.

Do they actually provide the location of new arrivals to the Greek authorities?

What measures have UNHCR taken to ensure the safety of new arrivals , after they give information to the Greek authorities? Do UNHCR staff go to these locations to protect people, to make sure that legal procedures are followed in accordance with international law?

UNHCR criticised Greece for brutality pushing back people on land and sea several times in the last two years.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke out against “the increasing number of incidents of violence and serious human rights violations against refugees and migrants at various European borders,” and the multiple deaths they have caused.

UNHCR’s new High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, speaks at his first press conferance as head of the agency.

Gandi also called out Greece directly. “We are alarmed by recurrent and consistent reports coming from Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where UNHCR has recorded almost 540 reported incidents of informal returns by Greece since the beginning of 2020.”

So why, after all this, would UNHCR Greece, whose core mandate is to “ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide”, which claims to promote the basic human rights of refugees and ensure they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution, give information to Greek authorities on the whereabouts of new arrivals? This, surely, just assists them to push back refugees?

The communication between UNHCR and the 38 refugees on Lesvos would have been stored on the phones used, but this information was lost to everyone after the police found them and confiscated those phones.

We believe UNHCR procedures are the same every time refugees contact them after arriving, at least on Lesvos.

Just a few days after this incident another group of new arrivals contacted UNHCR on Lesvos and asked for assistance.

In this case, the refugees took screenshots of the conversation, and provided them to Aegean Boat Report. They said: “We don’t trust that UNHCR are giving us good information and advice.”

They were correct, 18 people ended up floating in a life raft outside Ayvalik, Turkey.

Aegean Boat Report lost contact with the group of 38 Afghans on Lesvos north at 13.00 on Monday 2 May. We hoped they had been found and taken to camp, but when we received information that no Afghans had been registered that day, this hope vanished.

At 19.30 on 2 May, the Turkish coast guard reported they had found and rescued 38 people, all Afghans, from two life rafts drifting outside Karaburun, Turkey, just south of Lesvos.

We compared the pictures and videos received while they were on land on Lesvos, with those provided by the Turkish coast guard when they found them drifting at sea. There is absolutely no doubt that this was the same group, nor any doubt on who was responsible for placing them in these life rafts.

So why would UNHCR Greece provide information to a government which repeatedly and systematically violates international laws and human rights? A government UNHCR has criticised over and over again for pushbacks in the Aegean Sea?

We asked UNHCR Greece for a statement on this issue. Their answers didn’t come as a huge surprise, or shed any light or provide any information other than that UNHCR Greece believes it has done nothing wrong while dealing with new arrivals.

They basically state that they take no responsibility for any harm to vulnerable people who call on them for help, nor do they provide any protection for people who they turn over to the Greek authorities.

So why should anyone arriving in Greece contact UNHCR, when they facilitate pushbacks for Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea? A few days ago, Aegean Boat Report managed to reconnect with members of the group, who are now in Turkey.

The group confirmed they gave permission for UNHCR to inform authorities on their location, and that UNHCR promised to come to their aid to protect them.

UNHCR, on the other hand, claims to have made no such promises.

UNHCR Greece says that they inform authorities in cases where people are in distress to prevent loss of life.

In this case, the group was on land and there were no known medical cases that would suggest that there were any threats to their lives.

The only known threat to their life at that point was the Greek authorities, to which UNHCR turned them over without any consideration for their safety.

At 13.00 the group agreed that UNHCR should provide information to the Greek authorities on their whereabouts. At 15.00 their hideout deep in the woods was stormed by 10 masked men in dark uniforms carrying guns.

UNHCR promised to come to us”, the man said from Turkey. “They told us we just had to be patient, they said they would be there before five, but they lied, the only one who came for us was the police, they came and tortured us and threw us back in the sea. Why would UNHCR do that?”

That’s actually a very good question. Why would UNHCR turn people over to the Greek authorities to be tortured? It’s not as if they don’t know how Greek authorities treats refugees after they arrive: this is well documented in several statements by UNHCR over the last two years.

Perhaps UNHCR Greece didn’t ‘get the memo’.

When police arrived at the location all hell broke loose, they were shouting and shooting in the air, forcing everyone to lie face down on the ground, even the children.

One man wasn’t quick enough to do as he was told, they beat him severely and broke his leg.

Another disabled man didn’t understand what was going on, they hit him several times in the face with the back of a rifle and broke his nose. There was blood everywhere, the witness explained.

Please remember that these people aren’t criminals, just normal families with small children fleeing for their lives, and this is how Greek authorities treat them.

They were all searched, the men had to take off all their clothes in front of the women, “we had to lay down on the ground, naked, face down with our hands on our heads, I feared they would shoot us, Taliban in Afghanistan treated people like this, I didn’t expect to experience this in Europe.

“They were shouting and screaming, shooting in the air, everyone was terrified, children and women were crying, some so terrified that they wet their pants. That seemed to amuse some of the masked men, who laughed and called them names.”

The women were sexually abused.

The masked men searched them for hidden phones and money, especially thoroughly on their breast and between their legs, while speaking in Greek between themselves, laughing.

“It seemed to amuse them to torture us,” the witness explained.

When the police were satisfied with their search, the group had to pick up everything that had been thrown around, clothes, personal belongings and garbage from the ground, and carry it to the police car.

“They took everything from us, our bags, papers, money and phones, nothing was given back, they even took the clothes from our backs, especially jackets, it was cold and people were freezing.”

The police had arrived in five cars: an official white and blue police car, two vans – one black and one blue – and two private cars, both silver. They also had three motorcycles.

The group was split, 19 people were forced into the back of each of the vans.

There were no seats, they had to sit on the floor in the dark. The windows were painted black and they couldn’t see out.

They drove for a very long time, about two hours, and when they stopped, they were in some kind of port. They could see some fishing boats close by.

Everyone was ordered to look down, if they didn’t the police would beat them, so they did not see much of their surroundings.

“If you come back to Greece we will kill you, we will rape your women in front of you and then kill them,” the men in balaclavas said, before they turned them over to the Greek Coastguard.

A white two engine boat took them out to a bigger ship in two groups.

The ship was marked with the ID ΛΣ 090, a Stan Patrol 5509 vessel belonging to the Hellenic Coast Guard.

“We were placed outside in the back of the vessel, they pulled a big black plastic tarpaulin over us, and we had to sit on our knees with our heads down, like when we are praying. If we moved or spoke they would beat down on the tarpaulin with sticks.”

After one hour the coast guard vessel stopped, people were forced into two life rafts floating in the sea behind the vessel, the smallest children were thrown down from the vessel into the life rafts, because they were too small to go down themselves. When everyone was onboard, the coast guard vessel turned on the engine, making waves behind the vessel, and the life rafts drifted away.

“They left us in the middle of the sea in these rubber tents, they left us to die”.

Usually, we do not get much footage of these events at sea, because Greek authorities are very thorough when searching people, removing especially phones because this can document their crimes.

In this case they had overlooked one phone, and when the Greek Coastguard vessel moved away to a safe distance, they filmed to document what had happened to them, and who was responsible.

The man filming wasn’t sure if people onboard the Greek Coast Guard vessel could see him filming in their binoculars, so he tried to hide the phone between his fingers, but the footage leaves no doubt on what happened and who is responsible. The Gavdos (ΛΣ 090) can be clearly seen in the video.

The international community is officially condemning what we refer to as pushbacks, but on the other hand supporting countries performing these violations, funding their operations, supporting them with Frontex personnel and equipment, because they are doing the dirty work of Europe, keeping people out by all means possible.

Many believe that humanitarian organisations, especially the biggest and most powerful of them all, the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR), would refrain from assisting governments in such crimes against humanity, but we can only wonder if UNHCR Greece has lost its way, blinded by money and greed, or been heavily influenced by the right-wing government’s propaganda machinery.

At the end of 2021, Maria Clara Martin took office as UNHCR’s new Representative in Greece, and she praised the efforts and compassion of the Greek authorities in dealing with refugees, as if they actually were doing a great job.

She said: ““Greece has been receiving refugees and asylum-seekers for many years, showing solidarity and compassion to the most vulnerable. I look forward to working together with the Greek authorities, partners, municipalities, civil society, and local and refugee communities towards protecting, supporting and finding long-term solutions for the men, women and children who are forced to flee their homes and seek sanctuary in Greece”.

The Greek authorities are definitely not doing a great job.

From 1 March 2020 to 30 April 2022, the Greek government has pushed back 37,571 men, women and children. In fact, the number is probably far greater. In the same period, it has registered as new arrivals just 7,264 people. That is, the Greek government, in direct breach of international law, has pushed back 83.8 per cent, more than four in every five, people who have arrived in Greece via the Aegean Sea.

Nor is this some kind of ‘standard’ breaking of the law: Greek uniformed officers beat these people. They rob them, strip them, in some cases sexually assault them. They ridicule them, injure them, and in some cases kill them. It is hard to imagine how any government could possibly behave worse to people seeking safe places to live, learn and work.  

We can only wonder how an organisation whose core mandate is to ensure the international protection of uprooted people worldwide, promote the basic human rights of refugees and ensure they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution, could assist the Greek authorities to do this.

Even if people in positions like Ms Martin’s are forced to be ‘diplomatic’ in their public statements, we must ask: why is UNHCR helping the Greek government to carry out pushbacks?

⚠️Urgent Appeal, 90 People In Imminent Danger Of Being Pushed Back From Kos⚠️

Earlier today, Saturday May 7th, a sailboat carrying approximately 90 people, amongst them 30 children, was forced to go towards land on Kos due to engine problems.

They arrived in a remote area on kos, south west of Limnionas beach, in a rocky area, luckily everyone made it ashore with only minor casualties.

A child, a little girl, was wounded in the head when they tried to get ashore.

The group contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they provide pictures, videos and geolocations, to document their presence on Kos. They fear that when Greek authorities finds them, they will be illegal returned to Turkey.

The boat was smacked against the cliffs and sank within one hour after arriving, a small boy is asking for someone to come and help them.

They have asked the international community for protection, but fear that their prayers will be in vain., her they ask the United Nations for help.

The group have made several fires to try to stay warm during the night, and we assume that the authorities have been informed on the activities in the area, especially from fishermen fishing close to shore this night, their boats are visible from land.

Aegean Boat Report will try to stay in contact with the group throughout the night, any change in location will be registered on WhatsApp live location, as long as we are connected.

The group have a long night ahead, hopefully parents will manage to at least keep their children warm, and hopefully they will eventually find a safe place when the new day begins.

In the morning authorities will get an email where all information necessary to find and rescue this group is provided, also including their names, date of birth, nationality and birth place.

We request that the appropriate authorities immediately transfer all members of this group to the nearest reception centre and allow them to register for asylum.

These men, women and children are asking for nothing illegal, and nothing more than everyone else – including everyone reading this and the person who wrote it – is entitled to.

They are asking for a chance. A chance to show that they have good reason to be in the EU, searching for a place to live, learn and work. A chance to remain in a safe space for long enough to apply for asylum. A chance, of course, to be allowed to become part of a community in which they can thrive and to which they can contribute, rather than facing the real risk of death in their homeland.

It is their legal right, to come here and to apply for asylum. It is your legal right, you father’s, your mother’s, your children’s and their children’s. You would not remove it from them, or yourself. And it must not be removed from them.

These people deserve at least the chance to apply for somewhere decent to live. They probably deserve more than that. We all do. It is their – and your – right. And by standing to protect their right, we also stand to protect our own.

The group has given Aegean Boat Report permission to publish all information, pictures, videos and location data, to the general public, in a desperate effort to prevent Greek authorities from illegal deported this group back to Turkey.

Update 08.05.2022

The group has been found and taken to camp on Kos, from news reports we can read that The Hellenic coast guard stated that they were found in the “evening hours of yesterday”, that`s from what we know wrong, nobody had arrived on location last night. A total of 106 peopl , 72 men, 14 women and 20 children was found this morning, and have been taken to R.I.C. on Kos.

Who Will Take The Fall?

Over the last two years Aegean Boat Report have been documenting, investigating and publishing information on pushbacks performed by the Greek authorities, assisted by Frontex, in the Aegean Sea.

On April 28 the head of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), Mr Leggeri, resigned, in the shadow of the revealing evidence of the involvement of the European coast guard and border guard service in illegal refoulement or pushback operations of hundreds of refugees in the Aegean and of the methodical attempt to mislead and cover up violations of international law.

According to the findings of a joint investigation carried out by France’s Le Monde newspaper, German weekly Der Spiegel, Swiss news outlets SRF Rundschau and Republik, and Netherlands-based Lighthouse Reports, Frontex was involved in 22 pushbacks between March 2020 and September 2021, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Since March 2020, over 30.000 refugees have been pushed back in the Aegean Sea by the Greek coast guard, in many of these cases most likely assisted by Frontex.

Mr Leggeri abandoned ship, but what about his Greek counterparts, his partners in crime, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Ministry of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi, and the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy Ioannis Plakiotakis, will they also resign or face charges for their crimes against humanity?

We can read in some Greek papers, the once not paid off by the Greek authorities, the call for the immediate resignation of Mr Mitarakis, and a thorough independent investigation into all documented claims of pushback against Greece. This is of course not going to happen as long as the right wing ruling government, Néa Dimokratía, is in power, but would, if investigated, tie up not only the Greek legal system but also the European court, for years if not decades.

The call for the resignation of Mitarakis is a joke, everyone knows that he’s not the mastermind behind this, he honestly isn’t clever enough to even be considered as the one behind these devious plans, he’s basically just a scapegoat, someone to take the fall when “the shit hits the fan”, and now it has, again.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

The one responsible is of course the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but he has been clever enough to try to stay out of anything related to pushback, so that he can claim to have no knowledge of what has been going on. Mostly this has been a good plan, but not executed well enough. Several times he has been asked direct questions regarding allegations of performing pushbacks in the Aegean Sea on international tv, both by CNN and BBC, both times he blatantly lied and said that the Greek authorities had nothing to do with pushbacks. Also on a press conference in November last year, he showed his true nature, when he “blew a fuse” shouting at the Dutch journalists Ingebor Beugel, when asked why he was lying about the pushbacks.

Of course Notis Mitarachi should resign, but he should also be investigated and face charges for his involvement in these crimes against humanity by the European court.

Mitarachi awarded the director of Frontex, Mr Leggeri, with the “Commendation of Migration Assistance of the Second Class – Commendation of Merit” under a special event in Lithuania in January, a similar award, “Commendation of Migration Assistance of the First Class – Commendation of Merit” was given to the Vice President of the European Commission Mr. Margaritis Schoinas in February. It seem that this “criminal network” reaches further than the Greek border, and deep into the leadership of the European Union.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, sent a strong message of support to Greece in its attempts to stop asylum seekers crossing its border from Turkey in March 2020, calling Greece the “shield of Europe”. I wonder if she still support and praise these violations of international laws and human rights.

We welcome the idea to start an independent international investigation into documented and previously proven pushbacks performed by the Greek authorities. Aegean Boat report, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greek Council for Refugees, BVMN and other independent bodies have published hundreds of well documented reports on pushbacks. The independent international press have also published hundreds of well researched articles on the topic.

You can start by scroll down and read on this page, there is no doubt on who is responsible.

Our Precious “European Values”

Wednesday April 6, at 15.00, a boat carrying 31 people arrived south of the airport on Lesvos south.

After arriving they quickly ran into the woods, hid in several groups in the surrounding area, scared to be found by authorities and illegal sent back to Turkey.

In a normal world this would not have been a big issue, local organizations together with authorities would have assisted the new arrivals, made sure that they were taken to a safe place, medical check, provided them with food and water, asylum applications processed.

Unfortunately what we considered “normal” just a few years ago, has now been drastically changed, especially in Greece. People arriving on Greek borders seeking safety from war and persecution, men, women and children, are now being violently removed by Greek authorities.

Greek government has decided that these people, these unwanted ones, do not deserve to be treated as human beings, stripped of all rights, due to their religion and color of their skin.

While Greece are welcoming the “real” refugees with open arms from Ukraine, they are forcing refugees who enters Greece “illegally”, back over the border at gunpoint every single day, killing people in the process.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

Since 2020, 30.000 people have been pushed back by Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea, vulnerable people are being beaten, robbed and threatened at gunpoint, forced back in direct violation of international laws and human rights. This has been going on for years, in full knowledge of the European Parliament, assisted by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

The group that arrived on Lesvos south on Wednesday, arrived in brought daylight, and was observed by locals, one even filmed the arrival on his phone, and later published it on social media. Strangely enough, when local law enforcement is asked about this incident, they say there was no arrivals in this area that they had been made aware of.

This is of course not true, just 30 minutes after the group had arrived, local police, port police and civilian police was observed searching the area south of the airport, several cars, some without license plates participated, the boat was also removed from the beach.

Also local online news on Lesvos, Lesvos Post and Lesvos Voice published about the new arrivals south of the airport. Unfortunately they never bothered following up on the story, no question was raised on what happened to these people, since they didn’t arrive in the camp, Investigative journalism at its best.

In todays efsyn they also write abouth yet another disappearance og refugees on Lesvos

So why would local authorities deny any knowledge of the arrival of these people, especially since it happened in brought daylight, in front of everyone? They are obviously lying, no question about it, the people who suppose to enforce the law has turned into criminals, using mafia methods, beating, robbing and threaten people, on direct orders from the Greek government.

So the question is, why is nobody trying to stop this inhumane and illegal practice? If tourists in Greece had been treated in similar ways, it would have been on the front page on every newspaper, it would have been internationally condemned. Instead of condemning it we are actually supporting it, funding Greece to continue, and using Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to assist the Greek authorities.

Would we have done the same if the people arriving in flimsy rubber boats to the Greek Aegean islands have been white, Christian’s similar to us, not carrying names like Ahram, Inaya, Muhammad and Hiba, I highly doubt it. What does that say about us and our so called “European values”?

The new arrivals contacted organizations and relatives in the camp on Lesvos, to try to find help, unfortunately no such help was given, and at 18.00 all contact was lost. The last information sent out was that they had been found and arrested by police, and taken to some kind of storage area close to the airport, locked up in a room. Police was searching everyone, taking away all their belongings, phones, papers, money and bags.

At 23.15 Turkish coast guard (TCG) found and rescued 25 people from two life rafts drifting outside Cesme, Turkey. The Greek police even took the clothes they were wearing, most of their jackets, leaving them outisde in the middle of the sea freezing, that’s just cruel.

When comparing pictures and videos from when TCG found them drifting at sea, there is no doubt, it’s the same people who earlier this day had been on Lesvos.

Six people from this group, four of them minors, were missing. They had quickly moved away from the area and was not arrested by police on Wednesday. During the night they managed to hide, and in the following morning, Thursday 7, 5 arrived by themselves at the RIC in Maurovouni, the last one the following day.

What happened to the rest of the group, and who is responsible is quiet obvious. 25 people was arrested, kept locked up until nightfall and then taken back out to sea on a Greek coast guard vessel. 25 people, men, women and children was forced into two life rafts and left drifting in the Aegean Sea.

Another “successful” illegal operation performed by the Greek coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek authorities, to protect Europe from these unwanted people.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

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.

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.

Six years of failure. Time to ditch the Deal

The EU-Turkey Deal was signed six years ago today (it came into effect two days later, on 20 March 2016).

As we and many others advised at the time, the Deal was a poor idea, written in a moment of panic by EU staff who had watched as, in their desperation to prevent refugees entering their countries, EU member states sent armed officers to, and built walls along, their borders with other EU member states: in short, the EU really ceased to exist or several months in 2015-16.

The Deal breaks international law: it demands that Turkey prevents people from leaving, which is a fundamental human right, and that anyone who does leave Turkey will be immediately sent back, which not only breaks international law on refoulement, but also on the fact that every person who arrives in a country and asks to apply for asylum must be allowed to do so, and that every application must be considered on its own individual merits – it is illegal to deny someone asylum automatically because of which country they are from or have travelled from.

And of course, it was never likely to work. First of all because it was clear the EU would not fulfil the promises it made to the Turkish government (that it would accelerate Turkey’s EU membership process, and provide visa-free travel in the EU to all Turkish people – there are good reasons why these promises have not been kept, but the EU made them – and would give Turkey €6bn by 31 December 2018. In fact, by March 2021, it had paid it just €4.7bn), secondly because it is – as has been proven – literally impossible to prevent people leaving one country for another (since the Statement was signed, at the very least 213,558 people have arrived in Greece. The number is likely to be far higher because it includes zero of those illegally pushed back at the Evros border, and because the Greek government itself has issued figures showing at least 25,000 more people have arrived than appear in its own publicly-released documents).

These broken promises have, predictably, led to the Turkish government refusing to accept Syrian ‘returnees’.

Finally, it was never likely to work because it showed so clearly how frightened the EU was of people seeking asylum, a fear which could easily be used by the Turkish government to make demands upon the EU. Not only does it break international law, and not only has the EU broken every promise it made within it, it has also significantly weakened the EU and the international legal system in which the EU exists and claims to stand for.

As we have noted (Thursday 10 March 2022 ‘Safe third countries’ list resulted in almost doubling of asylum application rejections) Greece’s own new law, naming Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Pakistan, made on 8 June 2021, quite aside from being used illegally to deny people asylum, and ludicrous because Turkey does not even meet its own criteria as a ‘safe state’ and indeed the concept does not exist in international law and should not be used when making an asylum decision, has resulted in the rate of rejections of asylum in Greece almost doubling.

Greece, and Turkey as a ‘safe state’ – hollow, illegal and dangerous

The (I)NGOs International Rescue Committee, Danish Refugee Council, Refugees International, Save the Children, the Greek Council for Refugees, HumanRights360, Terre des hommes, and the Greek Forum of Refugees have noted that 60 per cent of all asylum applications made in Greece last year came from nationals of these five states, and the number of rejections for asylum as ‘inadmissible’ rose from 2,839 in 2020, to 6,424 in 2021.

Their research also notes that in 2020, before the Greek government’s illegal new law came into effect, 92 per cent of Syrian applicants for asylum, 94 per cent of Somalians and 66 per cent of Afghans were recognised as refugees.

We say this almost every year at this time. But it is beyond time for the EU and Greece to ditch its illegal, immoral and failed ‘Deal’ with Turkey, and for the Greek government to end its illegal misuse of the term ‘safe third state’.

© Rory O’Keeffe, Koraki