Alarm Phone 6 Week Report, 19 March – 29 April 2018
+++ 587 Deaths at Sea in 2018 +++ Alarm Phone Actions and Campaigns +++ Situation in the Western Mediterranean, Central Mediterranean, and Aegean Sea +++ Summaries of 40 Alarm Phone distress cases
Over the past six weeks, the period of time covered in this report, we have once again witnessed devastating violence in the Mediterranean. Dozens have drowned and many have gone missing. Hundreds were returned to places they tried to escape from, back into conditions of suffering. We are nearing 600 deaths this year, while the overall number of arrivals has dramatically decreased. In the meantime, the criminalisation of non-governmental rescuers continues. In the overview of the different Mediterranean regions, we will elaborate in some greater detail on these disheartening processes of deterrence, forcible return, and criminalisation. This first part will begin, however, with the political campaigns that the Alarm Phone has been involved in over the past six weeks, showing that Europe will not be allowed to foster its murderous regime without contestation.
Migrant boats still reach Europe. Over the past six weeks, the Alarm Phone has engaged in 40 emergency cases, all of which took place in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean – with 9 cases coming from Morocco and 31 from Turkey. This is not surprising if we look at the overall numbers – with over 2,900 people arriving on the Aegean islands only in April, we have the highest figure per month so far this year, and with over 4,300 arrivals to Spain this year, sea-migration continuous in relatively high numbers also in the Western Mediterranean. Besides supporting travellers at sea through our 24/7 emergency hotline, we have engaged in several political campaigns and actions.
Between the 7-9th of April, our Alarm Phone team in Tunisia organised a weekend of workshops, debates, theatre plays, film screenings and demonstrations in Zarzis, in south-eastern Tunisia. About 30 activists went to the coastal town from Tunis where we met with migrant rights lawyers, groups, and NGOs, as well as with the local organisation of fishermen, the Association ‘Le Pêcheur’ pour le Développement et l’Environnement. The fishermen are at the forefront of the migration tragedy. They suffer from the distress of being confronted with the many bodies which get caught in their nets out at sea. Together with the fishermen as well as Chamseddine Marzoug who maintains the Cemetery of Strangers, we staged a protest action at the port of Zarzis. About 100 people joined in, and with 5 boats carrying banners, we symbolically blocked the port.
In mid-April, Maggie (left on the picture) and Marcel, members of the Alarm Phone and part of the Sea-Watch crew, were involved in a large rescue operation, rescuing 318 people from two rubber boats in distress off the coast of Libya.
On the 20th of April, Alarm Phone members Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani released their full Forensic Oceanography report, a counter-investigation of the circumstances that led to the confiscation of the humanitarian vessel ‘Iuventa’ of the German NGO Jugend Rettet: https://blamingtherescuers.org/iuventa/.
In our last report, we focussed on the struggle of women across the sea. Two women, Sylvie and Joelle, who shared their stories of how they survived a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea, returned to the island of Lesvos to join a memorial organised by the w2eu network and with members of the Alarm Phone. Activists, locals, and survivors met on the 24th of April in Skala Sikaminias. The boat of Refugee Rescue, Mo Chara, went out with a floral wreath to put it in the sea exactly at the place where the two women and the bodies of the deceased had been found. A 30-metre-long list was rolled out, carrying the names of people who died at European borders the last years. 33.305 names, 33.305 stories, 33.305 deaths that should never have happened. During the memorial, a text was read out that included the following sentences:
“We remember and we won’t forget. We all feel shame, because these deaths highlight our failure in our attempt to stop this murderous regime and to create a welcoming Europe. We remember our friends, whose lives were lost after they had managed to escape war, after they risked death when crossing one border after the other clandestinely, and after finally reaching Europe. Here and today, we want to stop for a moment and create a space for all those who lost their lives. They had left their homes to change their lives. Their death is a death in search for freedom. And that concerns us all.”
Source: Marily Stroux
Source: Giannis Skenteroglou
Developments in the Western Mediterranean Sea
Morocco: Travellers in Transit facing Repression
The repression of Sub-Saharan migrants by the Moroccan authorities remains an acute and massive issue. Around Nador, the Moroccan town bordering the Spanish colony of Melilla, the Moroccan police regularly raids the makeshift camps where Sub Saharan migrants live. In April, the police re-commenced with their raids in Tangier, where many people are waiting for their chance to cross by boat to the Spanish mainland. Sub-Saharan migrants have reported of the police breaking into their homes, stealing their belongings such as phones, gas bottles and zodiacs (rubber boats), and then deporting them to cities further south in Morocco – what has become a regular practice in border towns in Morocco.
In the last weeks and months, border fortification around the Spanish colony Ceuta has increased in order to prevent border crossings. Investments in control and security have grown, and the presence of the military, police forces and security guards has been expanded. The fences were reinforced in the whole border zone, especially at the breakwaters at Tarajal (south east of Ceuta) and Benzu (north western border) and the surrounding area, with new concertina-barbed wire and additional technological equipment, including 35 new surveillance cameras. Since, already for a long time, travellers from Morocco and Algeria as well as all minors have been blocked from travelling onward after arriving in Ceuta, many try to access the port of Ceuta in order to continue their journey towards mainland Spain. The port area of Ceuta is entirely fenced off now with additional parts of cortina-barbed wire and the security forces were expanded with forces from the local police, national police, the Guardia Civil and port police to deter and prevent travellers from jumping the fence in order to reach ships, trucks or caravans that will leave to mainland Spain.
In spite of all the repressive control mechanisms, travellers still manage to overcome the diverse barriers and enforce their autonomy of migration. Others die during the attempt. On the 6th of April, a minor of 16 years of age, died in the attempt to hide in a truck leaving to mainland Spain. In the week of the 11th to 15th of April, 4 travellers entered Ceuta via the fence and only two arrived at the reception center (CETI). The other two were found dead the following Friday and Saturday at the border zone. The same week a 16-year old from Guinea Conakry was dangerously injured by the concertina barbed-wire and had to be hospitalised in Ceuta.
Algeria: Collective deportations continue
On Sunday, the 25th of March, collective expulsions of travellers from Algeria towards Niger occurred, when 26 lorries carried a total of 664 persons to Niger, including 572 nationals from Niger and 92 persons from other countries. Many of them were in need of medical assistance. Among the deported was a baby of less than one month of age that had been separated from his mother, who stayed behind in Algeria.This is the tenth collective expulsion from Algeria towards Niger since the beginning of 2018. In total 5.518 persons have been deported. Deportations happen once or twice a month since December 2017. Mostly, the people are arrested in Algier and are brought to Tamanrasset in southern Algeria and from there across the border. They have to reach the first town, Assamakka in Niger, by foot through the desert. During the arrests, they don’t have any chance to organize themselves or to inform relatives and friends. The deportees report about violence and the brutality of the Algerian forces.
Deportations also happen from other Algerian cities. In the night from 13th to 14th of April, some 200 travellers have been arrested by the police in Oran, a port city in north-western Algeria. The police raided a whole neighborhood and searched in the apartments for people in hiding. The arrested ones were deported to the south a day after.
Sea crossings: developments and fatal cases
On Sunday, 1st of April, we witnessed another tragedy in the Strait of Gibraltar. From initially 12 people who had left together from Tangier on a rubber boat in order to reach Spain, only one survived, rescued by the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Marítimo.
The weather was rough, with wind speed up to 8 beaufort. The survivor reported that several of the others had started falling into the water already at the beginning of their journey. When a cargo vessel, the ‘Melchor Schulte’, spotted the boat around 4.20pm and alerted Salvamento Marítimo, there had only been three of them left on board. Until the naval asset ‘Concepción Arénal’ of Salvamento Marítimo could reach the location, the boat had flipped over due to the large waves. The survivor was rescued out of the water and was brought to Algeciras/Sapin together with four dead bodies that were recovered from the sea. Seven people remained missing. Here our solidarity statement to the victim’s relatives and friends.
Just one week later, on 9th of April, another shipwreck caused the death of probably 36 travellers that had left from a beach around 20km south of Tanger towards Spain. Only 6 bodies could be retrieved from the sea. Four of the victims were Moroccan nationals, the nationality of the other two remains unknown. From the initial 46 travellers, only 10 were rescued and hospitalised in Tanger. The remaining missing 30 persons are from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Bangladesh and Cameroon, following information from Helena Maleno, human rights activist and member of the collective Caminando Fronteras, who still faces the threat of criminalisation.
Within the first four months of 2018, nearly 200 travellers have drowned in the attempt to cross from Morocco to Spain. The death rate at the Western Mediterranean route is thus similar to the death rate of the Central Mediterranean route.
Developments in the Aegean Sea
Deadly incident on the 16th of March near Agathonisi
On the 16th of March, two families tried to reach Europe through the Aegean Sea, one from Afghanistan, one from Iraq. They left Turkey and swiftly moved toward the Greek island of Agathonisi. But shortly before reaching it, they capsized. A relative of the Afghan family on Samos Island notified the authorities repeatedly, via phone and in person. At that point, many of the shipwrecked could have still been rescued. According to the survivors, they stayed afloat for several hours, waiting for help. But a Search and Rescue operation was launched only a day later, after local resident had discovered the first bodies, and they could recover merely more dead bodies.Three survivors, a woman from Afghanistan, and a man and a woman from Iraq, had been able to swim ashore. It has been the deadliest incident in the Aegean Sea this year. In the weeks following the shipwreck, the survivors, have denounced not only the delayed actions of Greek authorities, but also the inaction of an unidentified boat that was in sight of the shipwrecked people but did not come to their rescue. They have staged protests and we support their call for a thorough investigation into the shipwreck and the inaction of the Greek coastguards. Read our statement here. Only shortly before their shipwreck, the Alarm Phone supported a boat that fortunately reached the island of Agathonisi safely. This lottery of survival, where people are forced onto the most dangerous sea journeys by the EU border regime, and only some survive, has to end now.
More and more arrivals at the Turkish-Greek land border
Over the past six weeks, the Alarm Phone dealt with several cases that came not directly from the Aegean Sea, but from the Evros border region in northern Greece (see individual case reports below). About 3,000 people have arrived in Evros in April, mostly Syrian and Iraqi families. This is equivalent to half the estimated arrivals for all of 2017 in this area. According to figures compiled by UNHCR, in April, land arrivals have exceeded sea arrivals. Since the Aegean Sea is so heavily monitored and push-backs or interceptions are everyday phenomena and as camps on the Greek islands become increasingly overcrowded with the detained having to endure for a long time in order to be either returned to Turkey or taken to the Greek mainland, many are now attempting to cross the land border into northwestern Greece instead. To cross the land border is safer than the sea but it has, over the years, cost already many lives as well. In early April, a mother with her three children went missing here.
We received emergency calls from travellers who got stuck in this border region, and it often took a long time, if at all, for anyone to respond to their emergency situation, especially in the last weeks of March and beginning of April, when the river’s water level was high and thus crossing even more dangerous. Those who manage to arrive on the Greek side are often held in police detention facilities under horrible conditions. Also due to a lack of capacity, some people have to remain in these conditions for longer than 3 months until they get registered. Many of those who have no place to stay, end up in the streets of Thessaloniki and Athens. Perversely, often after facing the oppressive asylum system in Europe, and unable to reunite with their families who remain in Turkey or elsewhere, some have to take this dangerous route to escape from Europe, back to Turkey.
The short relief: Lifting of geographical restrictions for Aegean islands already overturned by a change in law
In mid-April, it was announced that the geographical restrictions for asylum seekers on the Aegean islands were lifted, which had been imposed by the Director of the Greek Asylum Service since 2016. This had meant that the newly arrived had to stay on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos and Rhodes and were not allowed to travel to mainland Greece. The lifting of the restrictions was, however, nearly entirely inconsequential. It would have applied only to those who arrived after April 16, 2018, and, in any case, a new law has now overturned the lifted restrictions already – so that, if at all, it may have been effective merely for a few days. Already on April 20, 2018, the Greek government overturned a binding court ruling ordering it to end its abusive policy of trapping asylum seekers on the islands. Rather than carrying out the April 17 ruling by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, the government issued an administrative decision reinstating the policy, known as the “containment policy.” It also introduced a bill on April 19 to clear the way to restore the policy in Greek law. This procedure has raised serious legal concerns – as 21 human rights and humanitarian organizations have declared. Many have long campaigned against these restrictions. NGOs and lawyers have tried to defend the human rights of those trapped at the court, but it is primarily the migrants stuck on the islands themselves who have protested and revolted against these restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Fascist attack on Saphos square / Mytilene
On the 22nd of April, more than 200 fascists attacked about 120 migrants in the town of Mytilene on Lesvos Island, who were protesting the inhumane conditions in the Moria detention camp and had squatted a central square for several days. The fascists chanted far-right slogans, including ‘burn them alive’, and threw stones and fired flares at the protesters, who had children with them. Several migrants were injured and required treatment in the local hospital. None of the fascists were arrested by the police. Instead, the migrants who were peacefully protesting on the square were returned to the Moria detention camp by the police.
Repression: trials Moria35 and Petrouralli8 started – Solidarity with Salam Aideen on 7th of May
On 18 July 2017, 35 people were arbitrarily arrested during a violent police raid in Moria camp after a peaceful protest. The police broke up the protest with teargas and clashes between police and a handful of protesters followed. Many of the 35 were not even present during the events. They were arrested and brutal police violence was used. The criminal jury trial started on 20 April in Chios.. On 28th of April the trial ended in conviction of 32 of the 35 accused. While all 35 defendants should soon be released after 9 Months of Unjust Detention, a gross miscarriage of justice took place today at the Mixed Jury Court in Chios, Greece. The 35 will finally be Free – and the injustice will not be forgotten. 
In Mai 2017, migrants launched a protest in the detention prison of Petrou Ralli in Athens. They demanded health-care for a comrade in prison and protested against the conditions in confinement. What ensued was a brutal police attack against the protesters, leaving many injured. 8 people were arrested because of their origin (Algerian) and accused. They have been threatened with many years of prison and loss of all rights of protection by asylum. Their court case started on Friday, 27th of April in Athens. We send our solidarity to the accused and we demand their freedom!
On 7th of May also the court case against Salam Aldeen and two more people from Team Humanity will start. They are accused because they rescued people. In 2015, a lot of other rescue initiatives did exactly the same – helping people in distress at sea near Lesvos. They are now being singled out and criminalised. We call for solidarity with them in this difficult situation.
Developments in the Central Mediterranean Sea
In the Central Mediterranean, while in comparison to the last years the number of arrivals to Italy is low, we have seen an uptake in crossings in April, in particular over its second half. While both in February and March merely about 1,000 people arrived, more than 3,100 did so in April. Once again, hundreds of people were rescued by the humanitarian NGOs, who had to fend off the Libyan coastguards endangering their search and rescue operations, at times only able to helplessly watch them abduct people back to Libya, facilitated by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome.
In mid-March, the crew of Proactiva Open Arms was threatened by the Libyan coastguards at gunpoint in international waters. They had just rescued 218 people when they were approached by the Libyan authorities who demanded the transfer of the rescued to their vessel, in clear violation of maritime law. Rather than giving in, Proactiva left the scene and sailed to Sicily to disembark the rescued. They were greeted by the police, their boat was confiscated, and members of the crew were put under criminal investigation for ‘conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration’. As Riccardo Gatti, member of Open Arms said: “We were victims of an armed attack, but we are the ones on trial.” For about a month, their boat could not return to the Central Mediterranean Sea, a fact celebrated by the Libyan coastguards. Fortunately, a Sicilian court decided in April that the impounded boat would need to be released – the charges against the crew have, however, not been dropped.
These strategies of criminalisation, where false allegations are made against non-governmental humanitarians in order to remove these witnesses from the contentious space of the Central Mediterranean Sea, have long been experienced by the NGO Jugend Rettet, whose boat the Iuventa was impounded already in August 2017. Since then, they have been unable to carry out vital Search and Rescue operations. Jugend Rettet’s appeal was rejected on the 23rd of April, and their vessel remains impounded – an explanation for which has not yet been offered. You can show solidarity and sign their call to free the Iuventa here: https://right2rescue.org/de/.
On the 21st of April, the crew of Sea-Watch 3 engaged in a rescue operation off the Libyan coast, assigned to them by MRCC Rome. But then the Libyan coastguard appeared and MRCC Rome changed its mind, handing over responsibility to them. As Sea-Watch reports: “When the vessel of the so called Libyan Coast Guard arrived on scene of an unseaworthy rubber boat in distress and tried to take the people on board, the situation went out of control. People jumped into the water, shouting “No Libya”. Luckily everyone had been equipped with lifejackets before by the crew of the Sea-Watch 3. When the Libyan vessel realised its inability to deal with the situation, they asked Sea-Watch 3 for help and we could finally proceed to take the people on board.” Some of the rescued stated that they had attempted to flee Libya several times before but were pulled-back by the Libyan coastguards who then even blackmailed them. Sea-Watch Chairman Johannes Bayer said: “The last week has shown again that European authorities are trying to stop migration by any means, even if they know well, that their actions cause immense suffering to people, their human rights being basically denied. Therefore, we will continue to collect evidence aboard our assets in the Central Mediterranean and we will try to get European authorities held accountable for complicity in multiple human rights abuses.”
Summaries of Alarm Phone distress cases
In the past 6 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was engaged in 40 distress cases, of which 9 took place in the Western Mediterranean and 31 in the Aegean Sea. You can find links to the individual reports of the past 6 weeks below.
On Thursday, 22nd of March, at 7:15am CET, we got alerted by a contact person to 3 boats in distress in the Strait of Gibraltar that had left together from the Moroccan coast at 12pm CET. All together the boats carried about 30 people. The contact person informed us that the people on board could already see the port of Tarifa / Spain. We couldn’t establish a direct connection to none of the three boats and alerted Salvamento Maritimo at 07:25am CET. At 09:18am we called Salvamento Maritimo again that confirmed the rescue of 33 people from three boats to Tarifa. (See full report here: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/809 )
On Thursday, 22nd of March, at 8:02am CET, we got alerted to a rubber boat in distress in the Strait of Gibraltar, carrying 11 people. They had left from Cap Spartel at 4:00am CET. At 08:10am we called the boat. At 08:20am we received their GPS position. We received a video call from the boat at 08:44am. The people asked urgently for help. At 08:52am we called Salvamento Maritimo and informed them about the boat and its position. At 09:15am a contact person informed us that the people had been rescued to Spain. At 09:20am we also received a rescue notification from the travellers. (See full report here: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/810 )
On Thursday, 22nd of March, at 08:09am, we got alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress, carrying 5 people, on its way to the Spanish coast. They had left from Cap Spartel at 4:00am CET. The contact person had lost contact to the boat around an hour before alerting Alarm Phone. We continuously tried to contact the people. At 9:00am we received the information that the people had returned to Morocco due to weather conditions. At 09:06am the contact person confirmed that all had reached safely. (See: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/811 )
On Friday, 23rd of March, at 07:28am CET, we were informed by a contact person about a motorized rubber boat in distress that had left during the night from Tangier towards Tarifa/Spain, carrying 9 people. We couldn’t establish a phone connection to the boat. At 08:35am we called the Spanish search and rescue authority Salvamento Maritimo and informed them about the boat. At 10:28am Salvamento Maritimo informed us that the boat had been located close to Tangier Port and the Moroccan Marine Royale would already conduct the rescue operation. At 1:12pm the Marine Royale confirmed the ongoing operation. We continued to try to reach the travellers, but we couldn’t confirm their arrival in Morocco until the next morning at 08:20am, when the contact person informed us that the people had all been rescued by the Moroccan Navy and brought to the police. (See full report here: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/813 )
On Friday, 23rd of March, at 7:40am, we got a call from a contact person who informed us about a boat in distress in the Strait of Gibraltar. The 11 people on board had left from Tangier Med/Morocco around 5:00am CET, rowing towards Tarifa/Spain. At 08:47am we managed to reach the travellers, but we couldn’t find any indication of their position. Afterwards we tried to communicate with the boat via the contact person to find out their GPS position or whether they had seen any vessel in their vicinity. At 09:35am the contact person informed us that the travellers had been rescued. We couldn’t definitely confirm whether Spanish or Moroccan assets had picked them up, so we continued to try to reach them. At 6:06pm our contact person confirmed their rescue by the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo and their safe arrival in Spain. (See full report here: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/814 ).
On Tuesday the 27th of March, at 2.58am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 29 travellers, forwarding us their phone number and WhatsApp number. The travellers had left from Tangier an hour earlier and were heading for Tarifa in a boat without a motor. We tried to call the travellers but were not able to establish direct contact. At 3.54am the contact person informed us that the travellers had been intercepted by the Moroccan Marine and brought back to Morocco. (http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/824)
On Wednesday the 28th of March, at 6.10pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 29 travellers in distress, including three women. They had left from Nador at 5.30am, and the last contact to the boat had been at midday, at which time the motor on the boat was no longer working. We were not able to establish direct contact to the travellers, so at 6.17pm we called the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and passed on the information we had. At 6.30pm we called the Moroccan Marine Royale. In a call to Marine Royale at 8.46pm, they confirmed that they were still searching for the boat. Only at 9.45pm the following evening, did we receive a confirmation from the contact person, that the travellers had all arrived safely to Spain. (http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/825)
On Thursday the 26th of April, at 8.52am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 10 travellers, forwarding us their phone number and position. We were not able to establish direct contact to the traveller, but at 9.13am we called the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo, who informed us that the travellers had already been rescued and brought to Tarifa. On Vesselfinder we were able to monitor the search and rescue vessel’s trajectory from the area where we received the position and back to Tarifa. (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/845)
On Wednesday, 21st of March, at 1:53am CET, we got alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress south of Lesvos, carrying 25 people. We couldn’t establish contact to the boat. At 2:17am we called the Greek Coast Guard in Piraeus and informed them about the case. In the ongoing we continuously tried to reach the boat. At 3:17am we called again in Piraeus. The Coast Guard informed us that they hadn’t found the people yet but would search with two assets. At 5:44am, a contact person informed us that the boat had landed safely on Lesvos. At 6:10am we reached the people and they confirmed that they had arrived safely. (See full report here: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/812 ).
On Thursday, 22nd of March, at 4:40am CET, we received a distress alert from a boat south of Lesvos, carrying around 50 people, among them 10 children. We tried to call the boat but couldn’t establish a connection. Nevertheless the travellers managed to send us their GPS position at 4:53am. At 4:55am we informed the Greek Coast Guard in Piraeus about the boat. At 5:25am, we called the Coast Guard again that confirmed that they had spotted the boat and a rescue asset would already be close by. At 5:30am local contacts confirmed that the travellers had been picked up by the Greek Coast Guard. At 9:41am we called the Coast Guard in Piraeus that also confirmed the rescue of in total 59 people to Lesvos. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/815 ).
On Thursday, 22nd of March, at 5:30am CET, we received information via a contact person about a push-back at the land border between Greece and Turkey by the Greek Police. The 8 travellers concerned had been stuck on a small island on Evros river since the night before and weren’t able to move back or forth. The group had called various international emergency numbers but had not received any assistance. At 5:40am we informed the UNHCR offices in Greece and Turkey about the push-back. We called the group at 09:10am. They sent us a list of their names and birth dates at 9:20am. Afterwards tried to reach UNHCR and various local authorities on both Greek and Turkish sides of Evros River. At 10:58am we reached the Head Office of the gendarmerie of the nearest biggest town in Turkey, Meriç, that promised to send assistance to the people. We couldn’t establish a connection to the group anymore to inform them. At 1:25pm we called Meriç Police again that stated the rescue team had not found the group at the given position. At 2:45pm local contacts we had alerted informed us that they had called authorities in Meriç and Edirne that had stated that they did sent teams to assist the travellers but the operation was very difficult due to weather conditions. At 3:53pm the travellers called us. They informed us that they had decided to swim across the river to Turkey. All had arrived safely. (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/816 ).
On Friday, 23rd of March, at 3:22pm CET, we were contacted about a group of 10 persons, among them one child, that had been stuck on a small island on Evros river since the morning. At 3:39pm we called the group. The water was rising and they requested urgent assistance. We received their GPS position shortly after. We hence tried to reach both Greek and Turkish local authorities to request assistance and also alerted the UNHCR via E-mail. At 4:24pm we reached the Turkish police in Uzunköprü that promised to sent a team. We couldn’t establish connection to the people any more. Only at 1:45pm we reached Uzunköprü Police again, but they hadn’t found the people yet. At 5pm they stated they would still be looking for the group. At 10:22pm we also called the nearest Greek Police station in Kipoi and passed our information. At 11:30am the next day the Kipoi Police confirmed that they had found the group and had brought them to a detention center. (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/817 ).
On Tuesday the 27th of March, at 3.42pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 15 travellers stuck at the Evros river. The contact person forwarded us a number, and a position on land, at the Turkish side of the river. At 4.49pm we reached Soufli Regional Centre for Integrated Border Management and Immigrantion and passed on the information we had. We also forwarded the information to UNHCR by email. At 5.46pm the contact person told us that the travellers had been rescued by the Turkish police, and this was shortly after confirmed by the authorities in Soufli. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/818)
On Wednesday the 28th of March, at 10.11pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of nine travellers, including two children. At 10.20pm we managed to reach the travellers. At 10.28pm we received a position via the contact person, showing that the travellers had reached Greek waters. We alerted the Greek coast guard to the case at 10.30pm. 40 minutes later, the contact person informed us that the travellers had reached Kos on their own, and we immediately passed on this information to the Greek coast guard. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/819)
On Wednesday the 28th of March, at 11.11pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 40 travellers on their way to Samos. The contact person forwarded us their number, and a position showing that the travellers were still in Turkish waters. At 11.49pm the contact person informed us, that the travellers had been intercepted by the Turkish coast guard. This was confirmed by the travellers themselves half an hour later. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/820)
On Friday the 30th of March, at 06.34am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 60 travellers, including 25 children and five pregnant women on their way to Samos, forwarding us their number and a position showing that they were in Greek waters. At 7.02am we called the Greek coast guard and passed on the information we had about the boat in distress. Via the contact person we learned that the travellers had reached Samos. At 9.24am we passed on this information to the Greek coast guard. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/821)
On Saturday the 31st of March, at 02.30am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 40 travellers heading towards Agathonisi, forwarding us their phone number and a position showing that they were in Greek waters. At 2.36am we called the Greek coast guard and alerted them to the distress of the travellers. At 03.24am we called the Greek coast guard again, and they informed us that the boat had been rescued by a patrol vessel. During the following day we continuously tried to reach the travellers, and at 8.45pm we received a message from them confirming that they were all safe. However, only on the 2nd of April in the afternoon did we learn that the travellers had not been rescued by the Greek coast guard and brought to Greece as we expected but intercepted by the Turkish coast guard and illegally pulled back to Turkey, despite having reached Greek waters. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/826)
On Saturday the 31st of March, at 3.26pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 12 travellers, including four children, stuck at the Turkish / Greek border close to the river Evros. The contact person forwarded us the travellers’ phone number, and a position showing that they were close to the Greek town Petrades. At 4.45pm we called the local Greek police, and passed on the information we had, and when we spoke to them again an hour later, they confirmed that they were looking for the travellers. At 9.08pm we also called the local Turkish military. The following morning at 10.20am we spoke to the Greek police again, and they confirmed that the travellers had been brought to the police station in Greece. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/828)
On Saturday the 31st of March, at 01.17am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of between 40-50 travellers on their way to Samos, forwarding us their phone number and position. At 01.57am we called the Greek coast guard and passed on the information we had. At midday the Greek coast guard again confirmed that they had rescued 49 travellers close to the coast of Samos. At 2.41pm we reached the travellers, who confirmed that they had arrived safely in Greece. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/823)
On Sunday the 1st of April, at 06.33am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of travellers heading towards Samos, forwarding us their phone number and position. At 07.31am we received a picture, showing a vessel which looked like the coast guard, approaching the travellers. We immediately called the Greek coast guard, and passed on the information we had. In a second call a few minutes later, they confirmed that they were carrying out the rescue operation, and that the travellers would be brought to Samos. At 09.44am the contact person confirmed that the travellers had arrived safely to Greece. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/829)
On Tuesday, the 3rd of April 2018, our shift team was alerted at 7.37am to a boat in distress in the Aegean Sea, carrying 30 people, including 17 children. Our contact person had contact to the boat and reported that they were in immediate distress. We received a GPS position which we passed on to the Greek coastguards at 7.49am, as well as an updated position which we again forwarded to the Greek authorities, at 7.59am. In the meantime, our contact person had lost contact to the boat-people and we were also unable to reach them. In a conversation with the Greek coastguards at 10.21am, they were unable to give us an update on the situation. At 11.47am we learned through our contact person that the people had been rescued to Lesvos Island (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/831).
On Wednesday, the 4th of April 2018, our shift team was alerted at 3.09am by a contact person to a boat in distress in the Aegean Sea, carrying 30 people. We received their GPS position as well as a phone number. Our contact person reported that the boat was at serious risk of capsizing and asked us to alert the Turkish coastguard, since the boat was still in Turkish territory. At 3.15am, we spoke directly to the boat-people and they confirmed that they needed urgent help, and so we agreed to inform the Turkish authorities. At 3.20am, we received a voice message from them, telling us that although they were moving, they were in danger and needed help. We passed their GPS position and other details to the Turkish coastguards at 3.31am. In the meantime, we received new GPS position. At 3.43am we also alerted the Greek coastguards to the case. The boat-people informed us at 3.56am that they were on a rubber boat with 30 people in total, including six children and two infants, as well as a pregnant woman. At 4.08am, our contact person informed us that there were two vessels in the vicinity of the boat in distress. At 4.24am, the Greek coastguards called us and asked us to tell the boat-people that they should get ready for the start of a rescue operation in a few minutes. We were, like our contact person, unable to quickly reach the boat. But already at 4.41am, the boat-people said that they were all safe on the Greek rescue vessel. They said that they were from Syria and had seen so many bad things, but that this day was a happy day in their lives. At 4.43am, we confirmed to the Greek coastguards that the people rescued had been from the boat in question. We then also informed our contact person about the rescue. At 6.18am, the person from the boat confirmed once more that they were safe and that they had arrived on Chios Island (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/832).
On Wednesday the 4th of April 2018, our shift team was alerted at approximately 7.30am by a contact person to a boat in distress in the Aegean Sea, near the island of Kos, carrying 11 adults and 8 children. We tried to contact the travellers directly but were unable to reach them. At 7.56am we spoke to the Greek coastguards who were already aware about the case and confirmed that they were looking for the boat. At 8.24am, the coastguards confirmed that they had visual contact to the boat, and a rescue operation would shortly be launched. At 10.21am, the coastguards stated that they had rescued all the travellers to Kos (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/833).
On Wednesday the 4th of April 2018, at 11.34pm, our shift team received the information through a contact person that a boat was in severe distress between Turkey and Agathonisi Island. Our contact person had lost contact to the boat about 10 minutes earlier, and there were 25 people in the group. We tried to contact the people in distress directly but could also not reach them. At 11.51pm we spoke to the Greek coastguards and informed them about the distress situation. At 1.22am, the Greek coastguards called us, informing us that they had reached the boat-people but failed to communicate with them. They asked us to speak to them in order to receive an updated GPS position. We were unable to reach the boat directly, which we told the Greek coastguards at 1.32am. They informed us that they had searched the area off Agathonisi and had not found any boat. Over the following hours we try repeatedly to get in touch with them, to no avail. At 9.05am, our contact person informed us that the boat had been intercepted by the Turkish coastguards. We are trying to receive more information on whether they were in need or rescue or whether this was a pull-back operation (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/834).
On Thursday the 5th of April 2018, at 3.51am, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress north of Samos Island. There were 36 people on the boat and he had lost contact with them. We received a GPS position as well as a phone number of the travellers. We tried to reach the boat repeatedly, without success. Only at 11.10am were we able to receive the information from the Greek coastguards that the boat had been located by the Turkish coastguards and returned to Turkey. However, about an hour later, our contact person confirmed that he had heard from the boat-people and that they had in fact landed safely on Samos Island (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/835).
On Thursday the 5th of April 2018, our shift team was contacted at 6.39am by a contact person who alerted us to a boat in distress, carrying 37 people, including 9 children. They tried to reach Kos Island but were still deep in Turkish waters. We were informed that they had troubles with their engine. We tried to reach the boat directly several times, without success. The contact person had also lost touch with them. When we spoke to the Turkish coastguards at 7.37am, they said that they had detected a boat shortly before in roughly the same location as the boat in question. A few minutes later, our contact person confirmed that the boat-people were with the Turkish coastguards. At 7.42am, the boat-people sent us a WhatsApp message, stating that their engine had broken down and that the Turkish coastguards had rescued them (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/836).
On Sunday the 8th of April 2018, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted at 2.48am CET by a contact person to a boat in distress, carrying 45 people. They were already in Greek waters, south of Lesvos Island, but water was entering their boat. We tried to call the boat repeatedly, but without success. At 2.53am we alerted the Greek coastguards to the case and they confirmed that they would look into it. At 3.39am, we received the information from our contact person that the Greek coastguards was in the process of rescuing the people. At 4.33am, the Greek authorities confirmed the rescue to us (http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/837).
On the 9th of April 2018, at 6.22am, our Alarm Phone shift team was informed to a distress case in the Aegean Sea by a contact person. We received their GPS position, showing them north of Lesvos, as well as the information that there were 54 people in total, including 11 children on a wooden boat. When we contacted the boat at 6.28am, they responded to us, saying in Arabic that they were in danger. Since they were in Turkish waters, we asked whether we should alert the Turkish coastguards, which they confirmed. At 6.57am, we spoke to the Turkish coastguards and they took on the case. In the meantime, we saw that they were still moving, and we received several new GPS positions, showing them move toward Greek territory. At 8.06am, the Turkish coastguard confirmed that they had launched rescue procedures. At 9.22am, they confirmed that they had rescued the people. Our initial contact person confirmed their safe return to Turkey, and later, the travellers did so as well (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/846).
On Thursday the 12th of April, at 6.49am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of travellers North-East of Lesvos. He told us that the contact was lost and a lot of relatives of the travellers were worried. We were not able to get in contact with the travellers. At 7.42am we decided nevertheless to contact the Turkish coastguard. They promised to investigate if they had carried out a rescue operation in the respective area. At 8.12am we called back the Turkish coastguard. They told us that they had not received any calls from the boat and did not carry out a rescue operation in that area. Later, the contact person told us, that the travellers were safe on land. In the afternoon we could also see that they had been online on WhatsApp again (for the full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/847).
On Saturday the 14th of April 2018, at 00.45am, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress in the Aegean Sea. We received a GPS position and we learned that the contact person had lost contact about half an hour earlier. We tried to contact the boat that was south of Lesvos. For a long time, we tried but failed to reach the travellers directly. We spoke to the Greek coastguards at 1.15am and informed them about the distress situation. We had also alerted contact persons on Lesvos, and they suggested that they may have spotted the boat in question. At 1.30am, our contact person also confirmed that the people had reached Greece, but it was unclear where precisely they were. The coastguards reached out to us at 1.50am, and it was also unclear to them where the boat was or whether they had already rescued it. However, our contact person soon afterwards stated that the people had already been brought to land by the Greek coastguards. At 2.08am, we spoke to the coastguards again confirmed that the boat rescued had been the one in question (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/848).
On Monday the 14th of April, at 6.39am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of travellers South-East of Lesvos, forwarding us their phone number and a position. The boat was located in Turkish waters and had run out of fuel. At 6.50am we reached the them on the phone. They explained that they were 35 persons, among them many women and children and that they had run out of fuel. They did not feel in danger and we passed to them the number of the Turkish Coastguard so they could alert them in case they needed assistance. At 7.35am and 8:30am we talked again with them and they still said they were able to reach out by themselves to the Turkish Coastguard in case they needed help. Afterwards we lost the contact to the boat until 11:35am when we could speak to the travellers with the help of an Arabic translator. They arrived safely back in Izmir and were held in a police station. Later the day relatives of the travellers contacted us, who were still worried about their well-being. We did some research into the situation and found out that there had been two boats: One with about 50 people on board was rescued by the Greek Coastguards to Greece and the other with about 40 people on board was returned by the Turkish Coastguard to Izmir, Turkey (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/849).
On Tuesday, 17th of April, at 4:15am, we were alerted to a boat in distress on its way to the Greek island Chios. At 4:17am we called the Greek Coast Guard and passed the position. The Coast Guard promised to launch a search and rescue operation immediately. At 4:25am we received the information that the boat had reached the shore on its own safely, but the travellers were in need of support and medical treatment, especially a pregnant woman among them. At 4:28am we informed the Coast Guard that promised to call the police for assistance. At 4:44am we documented the alert via email to the authorities. We were informed by the contact person that the people had been fetched and assisted shortly after by the police (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/839 ).
On Tuesday, 17th of April, at 4:15am, we were informed about a boat in the Aegean Sea headed towards Lesvos. We couldn’t establish direct contact to the boat. At 4:40am we received a position via the contact person. At 4:42am we called the Greek Coast Guard that informed us that a rescue boat would be close to the last position of the boat already. We documented the distress alert via email to the respective authorities. At 5:28am the contact person confirmed that the people were rescued to Greece (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/840 ).
On Thursday, 19th of April, at 10:42am, we were alerted to a boat in distress on its way to Chios island. Ten minutes later, at 10:52am, the contact person informed us that the people had been rescued, but it was unclear whether they had been brought to Turkey or to Greece. We couldn’t establish a phone connection to the travellers. Only the next day we received the information by the travellers themselves that they had been intercepted and brought to Turkey. (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/841 ).
On Monday the 23rd of April, at 11.37pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 55 travellers, forwarding us their phone number and position. The position showed that the travellers were still in Turkish waters, close to the Turkish coast. We called the travellers who told us that the situation was very urgent and asked us to call the Turkish coast guard. At 11.57pm we reached the Turkish coast guard and passed on the information we had. At 00.34am we got a confirmation that the coast guard had arrived, and at 00.44am the travellers told us that they had all been rescued. The following morning at 9.40am the travellers confirmed that they were all safe. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/842)
On Friday the 27th of April, at 04.25am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 50 travellers, forwarding us their phone number and position, showing that they had just reached Greek waters. The contact person informed us that the boat had run out of fuel. At 4.57am we called the Greek coast guard and passed on the information we had. At 5.29am the contact person informed us that the travellers had been rescued, and via a local solidarity group we learned that a group which fitted our description had been brought to the port by the Greek coast guard. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/843)
On Saturday the 28th of April, at 02.24am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 40 travellers, forwarding us their phone number and a position close to Izmir. Shortly after, the contact person informed us, that the travellers were no longer at sea, but stuck at a rocky part of the beach, unable to move. At 3.00am our shift team managed to reach the travellers, who confirmed that they needed help to leave the beach. At 3.23am we called the Turkish coast guard, who confirmed that they would send a boat. However, in a second call to the travellers they informed us that they had already been found by the local police. (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/844)
 Some coverage of our protest in the media: http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/it/notizie/rubriche/cronaca/2018/04/09/migranti-a-zarzis-manifestazione-stop-alle-morti-in-mare_962883c1-d105-4c40-b03e-c83fb4b96047.html, https://directinfo.webmanagercenter.com/2018/04/09/tunisie-une-manifestation-civile-a-zarzis-pour-denoncer-la-poursuite-des-perils-en-mer/, https://goo.gl/GGzXFy
 https://theintercept.com/2018/04/20/mediterranean-refugee-rescue-boat-italy-libya/; https://www.internazionale.it/reportage/annalisa-camilli/2018/04/20/iuventa-video; https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/200418/le-iuventa-embleme-de-la-criminalisation-des-ong-en-mediterranee
 https://freethemoria35.wordpress.com/ and https://twitter.com/lesboslegal