Press release, March 3rd 2020.

- Racially motivated violence attacks have surged on Lesvos. - Coast guards are not fulfilling their responsibilities to save lives - Attacks against NGOs and volunteers have spiked, including on the rental car, the ship and the crew of Mare Liberum

“The EU should not violently stop or let refugees drown on its border,” appeals Hanno Bruchmann, speaker of Mare Liberum. A team of the human rights watch organisation Mare Liberum is currently on the Greek island Lesvos, on site of the havoc that has ensued.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, as well as Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, are expected to visit the Turkish-Greek border area today. Together with 62 NGOs working in the Aegean Sea, Mare Liberum released an open letter to demand the resettlement of refugees that are stranded on the Aegean islands to EU member states.

“Refugees meet the hard border of the EU. In order to not further fuel the escalation of racially-motivated protests, Europe needs to act. The EU member states must agree to resettle the refugees arriving in Greece and to guarantee their save passage immediately. In Germany, nearly 140 cities and communities are willing to accept refugees. The German Gouvernement needs to stop its intransigent stance and set an example for Europe,” demands Bruchmann.

For weeks, the mood on the islands has been tense and drastically escalated over the weekend. Local residents prevented refugees from landing near the small village of Thermi to reach the shores of Lesvos. Furthermore, roads were blocked and refugees were denied access to the camp in Moria. The Stage 2 reception center was set on fire on Sunday. Sunday night the rental car from Mare Liberum was damaged. Rental cars seem to be purposefully attacked and destroyed because refugee supporting NGOs, as well as journalists, use them on the island. Monday evening our crew was on board the MARE LIBERUM ship while the ship was docked in Skala Loutron—a small village in the southwest of Lesvos—when they were threatened by a mob that covered the stern deck with gasoline. The crew needed to immediately leave the port and anchor offshore to spend the night at sea in safety.

Since this past weekend, Turkey is no longer stopping refugees from crossing the border to the EU. Whereas most refugees try to reach the boarder traveling northwest by land, 365 people arrived on Lesvos by rubber boat via the sea since Saturday. Counting all other islands including Samos and Chios, around 900 people reached the Greek islands. On Sunday, neither the Turkish nor the Greek coast guards saved refugees that were traveling via unfit rubber boats. On Monday, one girl drowned when a rubber boat with 48 refugees on board capsized in Greek waters. This urgent situation requires the immediate attention of the European Union and its member states. Governments must act now in order to put a stop to the violence and save lives.

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