Last week, the German military vessel F216 ’Schleswig Holstein’ left Germany to join the NATO mission in the Aegean Sea. They will witness, document and even assist brutal human rights violations against refugees by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

We have witnessed this in the past. Last year, on June 17th, 2020, the German vessel A1411 ‘Berlin’ under NATO command was present during several brutal and illegal pushbacks in the Aegean, in which fleeing people were brutally attacked, their lives endangered and left drifting for up to 28 hours. Upon request, the German government admitted to knowing about several incidents, which included severe human rights violations but did not intervene and refused to give out info because it could have “adverse effects on […] bilateral relations between Germany and Greece". 

A crew of the Bundeswehr was present during illegal pushbacks, the German government even knew about it and tried to cover it up. But we see you! The next months will show if the crew of the F216 ‘Schleswig Holstein’ will follow that inglorious legacy. 

Besides, the official purpose of the mission to fight criminal smuggling networks is rather questionable. This legit-sounding cause masks the large-scale criminalization and imprisonment of so-called ‘drivers’: People who are nearly always asylum seekers and steered the boat out of necessity, like being forced to do so or not being able to afford the crossing. 

To give an example: 23-year-old H.E., who fled with his disabled mother and his two siblings from war torn Afghanistan is currently awaiting his trial and possibly facing a sentence of 230 year for allegedly being a smuggler, because he steered the boat. 

The criminal networks of smugglers do not sit in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, people fleeing from violence and war do! NATO and the EU are investing millions in their so-called fight against criminal smuggling networks. If they’d really wanted to fight these networks, they would establish safe and legal migration routes, that would make smuggling obsolete.

* The picture shows the last available position of the F216 from Saturday, 21th of August. 

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