These past two years we’ve had to fight different obstacles and hurdles from the Greek and also German government who tried to keep us from monitoring at sea. In addition to a now lifted ban on sailing by the German Ministry of Transport, which has been declared unlawful, Covid-19-restrictions, politically motivated police investigations and a pending court case have also almost completely restricted our missions at sea during the past two years.
Despite all these attempts to prevent our work, we tried to return to our monitoring mission in October 2021 which was again prohibited by the Greek authorities. As most NGOs and solidarity groups in Greece we are now confronted with the NGO registry, an overall crack down on NGOs working with people on the move with the aim to control the situation at sea and in the camps to block solidarity movements. The Greek authorities argued that a change of law from the beginning of September 2021 which stipulates all civil society organisations need to be registered in the national NGO Registry when operating in the area of jurisdiction of the Hellenic Coastguard applies to us although we do not operate in the areas specified in the law. We had to halt our operations at sea due to this change of law.
There are currently no civil monitoring or rescue assets active in the Aegean Sea. We are devastated to leave the sea strait between Turkey and Greece again to the ruthless actions of the Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex who are perpetrating human rights violations and border crimes on a daily basis. We are left speechless that the Hellenic Coast Guard has been perpetrating these illegal and lethal pushbacks for two years now – without any consequences. They have become the new norm and the many shipwrecks and mass dying at sea became a side note – if there are even reported on.
For the moment, we can’t continue our monitoring operation at sea. Thus, we will have to take a step back now to develop new modes of operation, to be able to continue fighting against illegal pushbacks in the Aegean. We will be back in spring with some news on how we will continue. Also, we are currently working on the pushback report for 2021. Stay tuned!