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Testimony: Ilegal pushback by the Greek Coast Guard

The official regulations for the containment of COVID-19 apply to pleasure boats in the Aegean. This means that the Mare Liberum cannot cruise along the Turkish-Greek border as usual to observe human rights violations, document them and make them public.

However, people continue to cross the Turkish-Greek border by rubber boat to get to Europe and live a safe life here. They are currently unprotected and exposed to the unobserved coast guard. We are learning more and more frequently about illegal operations by the Greek coast guard, in which, without being observed, they take even more measures against the boats of the refugees in order to prevent these boats from reaching the Greek mainland.

Pushing back and hindering boats is called “pushback”. This procedure does not only violate international regulations, but also means an acute risk to the life of the people on board the small rubber boats. They are left to the open sea without a motor so that they drift back towards the Turkish mainland.

These practices of the coast guard that endanger people and put up with their deaths must be stopped! The Mare Liberum must resume its mission to document violations of human rights and thereby control the work of the coast guard.

We have an eyewitness account of a “pushback” which describes exactly how the “border guards” proceed. The incident happend in march.

The witness describes that they were a group of about 30 people heading for mainland Greece in a rubber boat. Among them were two small children and a baby. A ship from the Greek coast guard pulled up to the rubber boat and the Greek border guards shouted at the people, hit the rubber dinghy and shot into the air. They demanded from the group to stop the engine and to put away their cell phones so that they could not use them for filming. One of the officers boarded the rubber boat, removed the engine and dropped it into the sea. He then returned to the ship from the coast guard and then they left. The people on the rubber boat cried desperately for help. Luckily a panic that would have caused the boat to capsize was prevented. After about an hour, a ship from the Turkish coast guard approached, which took the people and brought them back to the Turkish mainland.

We still demand: freedom of movement, open the borders!