This is evidence of another illegal pushback from Land.

We spoke to people who were among the group of 24 refugees that landed at Katia in the south of Lesvos at around 1 a.m. on 10 November. After they reached the shore they went into hiding in the surrounding woods, because they were afraid that the Greek police would illegally push them back to Turkey.

This kind of situation is occurring quite regularly nowadays. Before the establishment of illegal pushbacks as a standard-response to landings, refugees or people who learned about their arrival would contact Greek authorities, so that the refugees could apply for asylum and get registered. 

Now the very few migrants that manage to arrive on Greek land hide in terror of the Greek police – uncertain who to contact for help. In this case they decided to contact the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), whose mandate is “providing international protection […] for refugees.” [1]

An UNHCR employee apparently told them on the phone that they would be picked up and that they would be registered as asylum seekers. Later the UNHCR employee specified that they would be picked up by the police, who would bring them to “the camp”.

Apparently all UNHCR did to protect this group, was to inform the police where the 24 people could be found. They did this despite the well-known fact that the Greek police and Coast Guard perform illegal pushbacks.

Once the police found the group they took them deeper into the ‘bush’ – away from the resident area and the frequented road. This is where they took all of the refugee’s belongings, keeping the valuables and burning everything else in front of them. In the mean time they severely beat the people with sticks and repeatedly threatened them with guns. The police didn’t even spare the highly pregnant woman in the group, who was pushed so hard, she fell to the ground.

Physically hurt and in shock by the brutality of the police the group didn’t dare to resist when the police put them in vans and drove them to a harbor, where they were put in “speedboats” (RhiB’s of the Hellenic Coast Guard). The speedboats took them to a bigger vessel of the Hellenic Coast Guard with the number ΛΣ-618, where they were again beaten by the crew. After about an one hour drive towards Turkey, the HCG crew deployed one live raft and once again beat some of the people in the group while forcing them into the life raft. The Hellenic Coast Guard vessel then left and abandoned the people unable to maneuver and therefor totally exposed to the forces of the sea.

Since they had been able to hide a phone, they could contact the Turkish Coast Guard to give them their location. According to the Turkish Coast Guard they rescued a group of 24 migrants near Izmir’s Dikili district from a life rafts, which is the same model as seen in the video [2]. Dikili is the Turkish district, which lays on the opposite site of the Aegean Sea from Lesvos. The information matches the pin we received from the group.

Women with yellow headscarf on land.

Furthermore the same people as on the footage from land or the life raft can be seen in the pictures published by the Turkish Coast Guard.

Women with yellow headscarf in life raft.

They for instance show a women with a yellow headscarf who can be distinctly seen in the video on sea after the pushback took place.

Women yellow headscarf saved by TCG.

It is one of many similar stories since March. Mare Liberum has collected information that 9296 people were pushed back in 302 cases, but the actual numbers are most likely much higher.

Yet, every single story is a tragedy, people that risk their lives fleeing from war, political persecution and poverty, in seek of a better live in Europe are systematically denied the protection by international law and human rights.

Additionally, to these shockingly high numbers the 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 possible to prevent every single boat from arriving on European soil – no matter what the costs are.

And at the same time, Notis Mitarakis, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, publicly insisted that no illegal pushbacks are taking place in Greece and the EU and all European leaders have yet failed to condemn those illegal tactics.

Their silence is neither due to the lack of information nor proof –the evidence on pushbacks published since March is overwhelming. One must therefore interpret the EU’s silence as approval. An impression that is fortified when one looks at the involvement in pushbacks of the European border agency Frontex or for example a German ship under Nato command.

This brutal pushback on November the 10th was carried out by the Hellenic Coast Guard, but every pushback can be seen as a joint European effort. It is a despicable political strategy that has left over 9000 people stranded in Turkey – beaten, traumatized and without any means after their belongings were taken – and all of this in times of a global pandemic.

We demand an end of those criminal practices. Human rights violations and excessive violence against vulnerable people have been established as so-called ‘border protection measures’ in Europe – and this is simply unacceptable!

Mare Liberum i. A.

Gneisenaustraße 2a
10961 Berlin