Border violence and human rights violations at the Greek-Turkish maritime border have not been news for months. More than a year ago, we were shocked to see how the Hellenic Coast Guard started using life rafts for their pushbacks. Since then, people, some of whom have already reached Greek soil before, have been regularly abandoned in lifeboats on the open sea. This practice has become a "standard procedure" of the authorities. On average, people have been abandoned in life rafts on the Aegean twice a week since March 2020, affecting over 4,700 people. The routine does not make the use of life rafts any less shocking. The rubber dinghies, which cannot be steered and are often overcrowded, are always life-threatening.
In recent months, there have also been repeated cases of people on the move being abandoned in the sea without life rafts or rubber dinghies. Most of those affected were able to swim and save themselves, but at least three people have died in such a pushback this year. Throwing people into the water, regardless of whether they are wearing life jackets or can swim, is attempted murder, and shows in the most brutal way how far the Greek border authorities are willing to go.
On 31 January, four people from Palestine and Somalia were thrown into the sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard after being on Chios. They were able to reach the island of Fener Adası by themselves, where they stayed for three days until the Turkish Coast Guard rescued three of them. The remaining person made it back to Chios alone for the time being, according to unconfirmed information .
On 19 March, the Turkish Coast Guard found seven people who were also already on Chios before and had been thrown into the sea by Greek authorities. Two people made it to Boğaz Adası by swimming, two people were rescued from the water, one of whom later died in hospital. For two people, help was already too late at the time of the incident, and they drowned. The seventh person was found alive days later .
On 23 May, the Turkish Coast Guard found two people on Başak Adası. According to their own statements, they had previously been thrown into the sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard and managed to swim to the Turkish island .
On 3 July, the Turkish Coast Guard found three people near Söke in the Aydın region who reached the coast by swimming after being thrown into the sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard .
On 17 July, the Hellenic Coast Guard found a person on Bayrak Adası, who had also previously been thrown into the sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard and managed to swim to the Turkish island .
Most of this information comes from the Turkish Coast Guard and should therefore be treated with caution. However, as the documented incidents are very similar and partly coincide with reports from affected persons and the Border Violence Monitoring Network, the authenticity of the information can be assumed.
At the Greek-Turkish border, as at many other European external borders, "border protection" is currently going so far as to kill people or put their lives in acute danger. There is no question that this is a European project. Frontex and NATO units are also present in the Aegean, where pushbacks and violence against refugees take place almost daily. The massive human rights violations must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable. Those who do not actively contribute to the investigation of the crimes are accomplices.