Arrivals on the Islands

According to UNHCR,1 4,109 people fleeing Turkey reached Greece by sea in 2021. In 2020, there were more than twice as many. However, the official figures only list the people who have arrived in Greece and have been officially registered. In 2021, many of the people who successfully crossed the Aegean and arrived to one of the Greek islands were then apprehended before they could be registered, brought back to Turkish waters by the Hellenic Coast Guard, and abandoned at sea. We recorded 34 such cases last year, but this type of pushback is particularly difficult to document. It can be assumed that significantly more people reach Greece and are then pushed back. Among others, the NGOs Aegean Boat Report and Alarmphone report on arrivals on the various Aegean islands, and often these figures do not match either the arrival figures of the Greek authorities or the pushback figures of the Turkish Coast Guard. This is partly due to groups separating or being separated on the journey or at arrival. It is in any way difficult to find out how many of the people who were pushed back to Turkey were already on Greek soil.

In a press release, the Greek Minister Plakiotakis said: "Greece will continue to save lives that others put in danger in the Aegean and in the eastern Mediterranean. In total in 2021, more than 1,450 Search and Rescue operations have been carried out and more than 29,000 people have been rescued."2 The question now arises as to what happened to the approximately 25,000 people allegedly rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard who do not appear in the statistics on arrivals. It is highly unlikely that all these people are unregistered and unnoticed on the Aegean islands. It is more probable that they were brought back illegally into Turkish waters.3 If these figures are correct, there were many more pushbacks in 2021 than have been recorded.

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