For the first time, the sailing boat “Mare Liberum 2“ will be on a mission. The six crew members of Mare Liberum left the port of Mytilene on Lesvos. With the 15 meters long yacht, the crew will set course directly to the Island of Samos, where they are expected to stay for several days before the tour continues to the Island of Chios. On each of the islands, which are about 100 kilometres apart from each other, the mission's goal is to exchange with people seeking protection and networks of solidarity. Mare Liberum wants to strengthen these relationships and at the same time, deepen the knowledge of the extended operational area of the Aegean.

Lesvos is known for being an island at the EU border that many people on the move attempt to reach, as well as for the inhumane conditions in the EU-funded hotspot-camps. Mare Liberum is engaged for refugees and their rights on Lesvos for three years now. The living conditions for protection seekers on the islands south of Lesvos are much less known to the broader public. Mare Liberum will report about their voices and the human rights situation in the Aegean in general.

„As a crew with EU-passports we have all liberties to traveling freely in the area. But only some miles from here, people’s freedom of movement is repressed. It is unbearable to be aware of this rights deprivation and how states curtail people’s rights brutally in form of illegal pushbacks. On Samos, Lesvos and Chios, people are degraded and forced to live under similar undignified conditions. We will use our time to strengthen the voice of refugees and their demands: The inhumane EU-Hotspots need to be shut down, pushbacks need to be stopped immediately. We demand safe passage and humanitarian corridors“, says Jelka Kretzschmar, crew member on board Mare Liberum 2.

Mare Liberum will report daily on the results of this research trip on its social media channels and on mare-liberum.org. The crew will be happy to answer any press inquiries. You can reach the crew at presse@mare-liberum.org.

Background:

The Mare Liberum team documents facts and regularly publishes reports and results of its human rights monitoring in the Aegean Sea. The report published last week (Pushback Quarterly) shows the drastic increase of the pushback practice during the last months. In fact, the illegal practice of the Hellenic Coast Guard and the EU border agency Frontex is the reason why so few people on the move reached the Greek islands crossing the Aegean Sea in recent months. In June, nine out of ten people on the move were deprived of their right to apply for asylum. 1,115 people were illegally pushed back across the border under violence and humiliation, often threatening their lives, while only 84 people reached the Greek islands and thus the EU.

At least 100 cases of illegal pushbacks off Lesvos have been reported in the current year. Since most people try to cross to Lesvos, the numbers of arrivals and push-back cases are highest there.

For the last six months, we know of 12 pushback cases that occurred around Samos, in which 613 people were denied their right to asylum, and five cases involving 70 people around Chios. On the island of Chios, according to UNHCR, only 79 people have arrived so far in 2021 after fleeing across the sea. On Samos, there have been only 27 people. The accommodation in the camps on the islands is similar to the inhumane conditions in the former Moria. The policy of deterrence pursued by the EU is becoming a ruthless reality through illegal pushbacks and inhumane camps throughout the region.

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