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Pushbacks in the Aegean reached a new level of severity

Pushback of 14 people documented who had reached the shores of Chios already

In the last weeks there were very few landings on the Greek islands, and more and more reports about pushbacks come to light. While pushbacks occurred from time to time, even with the presence of the EU border agency Frontex there are now three reports of pushbacks of people, that had already landed (Simi 23rd March, Samos 28th April). Meanwhile, there are also reports about pushbacks on the mainland, which show that people have been illegally deported from inland camps back to Turkey (Report here). All together this marks a new quality of pushbacks in Greece.

In one of the cases we collected evidence and testimonies about the circumstances of the incident:

On 30 April 2020 in the morning a boat carrying 14 migrants arrived on the island of Chios. Shortly after the Hellenic Coast Guard was on scene with at least one vessel and officers who arrived by car. Some of the migrants tried to make their way away from the beach but they were apprehended by the Coast Guard officers and put into a building under construction. Locals that observed the scene were send away. A little later the Coast Guard vessel approached the shore again and then left in the direction of the open sea, thus Turkey, while towing behind at least one rubber dinghy. The eye witnesses didn’t see how the migrants boarded the vessel but given all the circumstances, this seems very probable.

In the early morning hours of the next day, 14 migrants were rescued from the Turkish Coast Guard from a small island, rather a rock, off the island of Chios. The migrants were taken to the port of Çeşme.

The reports of eye witnesses as well as the videos shared by the Turkish Coast Guard suggest that the Hellenic Coast Guard gathered the migrants in an abandoned building before forcing them on their vessel to bring them to the small island of Bogaz.

This is a clear pushback that goes against the non-refoulement principles laid out in the Geneva Convention which was signed by Greece!

According to the local newspaper Astraparis, the port authority of Chios, the Hellenic Coast Guard and the police in Chios all announced that there had been no migrant arrivals on April 30 2020. There is no information from parts of Frontex. The port authorities of Chios stated that there were no arrival of refugees and migrants on that day, besides an incident in which the Turkish Coast Guard intervened. Accordingly, they abandoned a dingy in the open waters, which according to the port authorities then washed up on the shore of Chios.

Besides, there were no new arrivals in the Vial Hotspot according to the official administration of the camp. Besides the police and Coast Guard account no new registrations. The UNCHR states that according to the information they obtained from the port authorities in Chios, there have been no arrivals during that period.

Migrants have the right to asylum! We urge the Greek state to investigate this incident!

We are planning to investigate this incident further. If you have any kind of information, that could help to gather more perspectives, please contact us at info@mare-liberum.org

Timeline of events:

The following timeline is based on information by eye-witnesses, media reports and our field research.

30 April 2020:

Between 08.00 a.m. and 09.00 a.m.

A boat carrying 14 migrants, six men, five women and three children, arrives on the island of Chios between Agia Fotia and Agios Aimilianos. Ten of the migrants are Somalian and four from Syria. More precise, the boat arrives somewhere between Saint Emilian and Saint John, close to the city of Kallimasia. The area where the boat lands is called Monolias.

The red arrow indicates where the migrants arrived

09.30 a.m.

Some of the migrants apparently try to reach a settlement but walking up a small rural road leading up from the coast, according to eye witnesses.

A rescue vessel of the Hellenic Coast Guard, CG 518, arrives on scene, just outside of the small port of Saint John. Besides, a car with two Coast Guard officers arrives and they start to gather the refugees.

11.30 a.m.

The Hellenic Coast Guard moves the 14 people who arrived by boat into an abandoned building which is under construction. An officer tells an eye witness that is walking by that they moved the migrants inside to protect them from the cold winds.

The Hellenic Coast Guards tells an investigating local journalist that there have been no migrant arrivals on Chios that day: “There have been no arrivals of refugees. The Turkish Coast Guard early this morning was called to retrieve some refugees that were trying to enter the Greek waters and left the boat afloat, which resulted to wash ashore on the beach between Agia Fotia and Agios Aimilianos.”

12.00 noon

The Hellenic Coast Guard vessel CG 518 is again approaching the shore. An eye witness is being told to leave the area and go back home, as the Coast Guard was “on an important mission”. Intimidated by the officers, the eye witness leaves the scene.

Between 12.50 p.m. and 01.30 p.m.

An eye witness reports how a crew member of the CG 518 vessel goes to shore with their auxiliary RHIB to get the rubber dinghy, which the migrants had used. Accordingly, he tows the dinghy to the vessel and ties it to the back side of the vessel.

From a hidden position, another eye witness sees how the vessel CG 518 is leaving the coast again in the direction of the open sea, thus towards Turkish waters. They are towing one or two dinghies, around the same size as the boat with which the migrants had arrived. It’s not clear if this is the same dinghy with which the migrants had arrived, or another one. Besides, other witnesses speak of one or two boats.

Still, this particular dinghy could not be found on Chios in the days following the incident, although it was diligently sought. Normally, refugee boats are temporarily guarded in the Coast Guards area in the port of Chios, before they are transferred to a warehouse.

1 May 2020

Around 07.00 a.m.

The Turkish Coast Guard dispatches three SAR vessels and a diving unit to evacuate 14 migrants that were stranded on Bogaz island.

The blue arrow indicates the island from which the migrants were rescued

The migrants are transferred to the vessel of the Coast Guard and brought the port of Çeşme where they are being health checked.

Other reports about the incident:

https://astraparis.gr/poy-vriskontai-oi-prosfyges-poy-vgikan-stin-monolia-kallimasias-tin-pempti/

https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/241802_hios-mystirio-me-tin-tyhi-prosfygon-poy-eftasan-stin-paralia-tis-monolias

https://www.sozcu.com.tr/2020/gundem/adada-olume-terk-edilen-gocmenleri-sahil-guvenlik-kurtardi-5789442/?fbclid=IwAR2FjOiLyTxaSMsYrBjpBcJdP93HIvc6vopWb_U3OjrphhmpQP8xG05fA3l

https://www.sg.gov.tr/izmir-aciklarinda-14-duzensiz-gocmen-kurtarilmistir