While the situation inside the camps is still more than critical and will worsen significantly with the upcoming winter, Greece continues to perform illegal pushbacks to an extent that is beyond anything there has ever been before. The Greek Minister of Asylum Notis Mitarakis has proudly stated that the arrivals of boats in the Greek islands has gone down by 96 % compared to last year.1 This is not because less people flee their home countries in search of safety. It is due to the highly criminal, brutal and systematic pushback practices by the Hellenic Coast Guard in cooperation with NATO and Frontex. In October alone we already counted 841 people that were pushed back in 23 incidents. Additionally to these shockingly high numbers the few pushbacks of which details and visual proof has been published, show a disturbing level of thoroughness in combination with a total disregard for human life. There is nearly a pedantic element to do anything to prevent every single boat from arriving on European soil – no matter what the costs are.
Nine of these incidents involve life rafts and it seems as the behavior of the Hellenic Coast Guard is getting more cruel. To name some examples:
- On October 4th a family of 5 was pushed back and left adrift at sea in a life raft. One of the family members, a multi-handicapped man, had to be lifted with a crane (!) by the Turkish authorities in order to be able to move him into the rescue boat.2
- On October 18th 59 people were forced into 2 life rafts that usually have an official capacity of 10 people. The life rafts were so overcrowded that some people had to stay in the water to prevent the rafts from sinking, which they later did. Luckily everybody was rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.3
- On October 21st in the so far biggest pushback recorded in the Aegean Sea, the Hellenic Coast Guard took 197 people on board of their vessels, drove them to a different place and let them adrift in 7 life rafts near Rhodes and Simi. There are reports of severe violence being used by the authorities.4
Since there is evidence of Frontex and the NATO being either actively involved in Pushbacks or at least present on scene5, we demand all European authorities to immediately stop these degrading human rights violations at sea and to clarify what is happening in the Aegean!
© Photo: Aegean Boat Report