Pushbacks in the Aegean increasing dramatically. Despite repetitive documentation of torture and law-breaking, pushbacks in the Aegean Sea don't only continue to happen but accelerate in violence and quantity.
Over the last three months, the number of pushback incidents in the Aegean has been increasing. In September 2021 we found information about 91 cases involving 2.289 people who were denied their right to seek asylum in Europe. This is the highest number we've recorded since March 2020. Usually, we count an average of 35 pushbacks per month in the Aegean Sea but in the last three months alone, we registered around 198 documented incidents in which more than 4.900 people have been illegally pushed back to Turkish waters.
In August, we reported a rise to about 63 documented pushbacks – at that time, already the highest number of pushbacks in the last 1,5 years . The fact that the number of pushbacks continues to increase troughout the past months shows that there is an ongoing escalation of border violence in the Aegean Sea that people on the move are exposed to.
Along with the high number of pushbacks happening in the Aegean, there are some other concerning developments. Over the summer, the Turkish Coast Guard has repeatedly found life rafts or previously pushed-back boats near Samos. While most crossings and pushbacks took place off Lesvos, there are now about as many cases around the island of Samos.
There have also been some pushback cases recorded in the Ionian Sea, a route people take when they want to avoid the Aegean and Greece and travel from Turkey directly to Italy. This route has been active for a long time, but only now recurring pushback cases came to our attention.
Another concerning development is the increasing visibility and ruthlessness of pushbacks. Protection seekers are being thrown in the water without life rafts or boats. According to the Turkish Coast Guard, they picked up 44 people who were thrown in the water and who managed to swim to the Turkish shores in the last months.
Pushbacks and other forms of border violence are part of the EU's ongoing war against people on the move. Even though pushbacks are mainly carried out by Greek authorities, this should not distract from the political responsibility that the European Union bears in the horrific crimes against humanity at its external borders.