«They arrived - but they look very mean!»

Violent pushback over a distance of  ~460 km, from West of Peloponnese to Turkey

On September 1, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat carrying approx. 85 people who were in distress West of Tainaro Cape, Peloponnese, on their way to Italy. The people were calling for help and Greek authorities were immediately informed about the distress. However, they were not helped by the Hellenic Coast Guard, but brutally attacked and pushed back over 460 km from off the Peloponnese peninsula to the Gulf of Izmir.

Once pushed back, the people sent us the following video: they were forced into life rafts, letting adrift at Sea, before the Turkish Coast Guard finally picked them up and brought them back to Turkey.

 

 

The brutal pushback forced the people back to the place they tried to escape for good reasons: After the pushback, the International Kurdistan Committee of Greece reported that a Kurdish politician has been directly arrested and imprisoned. According to their statement, the oppositional HDP politician was “imprisoned, mistreated and tortured” by Turkish authorities. This shows once more how pushbacks directly violate the non-refoulement principle and serve Erdogan’s repressive and authoritarian regime. But not only that: once again, the testimonial of survivors and relatives showed that the term pushback, does not sufficiently describe what is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean region. While being pushed back, the people report brutal attacks by Greek officers: «In front of the kids’ eyes, they beat their fathers», a survivor told us. According to her story, the people were in distress and water was entering the boat.

When the Hellenic Coast Guard arrived, they were transferred onto their ship, robbed by masked men and then pushed back to Turkish waters. The survivor described the Greek officers as real «thieves of the Sea», who even refused to give water to the children on board. After the Hellenic Coast Guard found the people in distress and took them on board, they drove the whole night and another half of a day until they reached Turkish waters. Once arrived, all passengers were forced onto life rafts. A relative of one of the passengers who reached out to us already feared this while it was happening. He was in direct contact with his sister, when the Hellenic Coast Guard arrived on scene. When reading her messages, he feared the worst:

« My sister had to turn off her phone, but told me the police was not very welcoming. They were yelling at the passengers and insulting them!! So my sister and the other migrants were very scared. The last words my sister said to me were: They arrived! But they look very mean! They insult us! They are screaming at us!!»

What followed after was a horrible odyssey full of violence. During many hours, people did not know where they were brought to, were physically and verbally attacked, insulted and harassed and finally left adrift at Sea.

We condemn these ongoing attack against people at Sea and on land by Greek authorities in cooperation with European actors. This violent border regime forces people on the move onto always more dangerous routes. Thousands of people endure torturous journeys, survive pushbacks and then risk to end up Erdogan’s prisons or get deported back to Syria or Afghanistan, where war and prosecution awaits them. While European politicians accuse Turkey to «weaponize» migration, the countless attacks against people’s lives and stories as these, show the real picture: Europe turns migration routes into a battlefield, with a hostile rhetoric, ongoing militarization and brutal practices of migration-control. However, the last years have shown, that their practices fail. Migration has always and will always exist. Its not a threat, but a reality – we will continue to fight against the brutalization of the migration regime and the was against people on the move. We will continue to struggle together until freedom of movement counts for all.

 

Chronology of the events and twitter-links:

01.09.2022: @17:21, CEST: We inform the Hellenic Coast Guard about a boat in distress West of Cape Tainaron, Peloponnese. We share the following GPS-location: N 36.46°, E 22.13°

01.09.2022: @17:37: We call JRCC Piraeus. They confirm to have received our information and that they are investigating. They don’t share any information.

01.09.2022 @18:07: We publish a tweet – https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1565370700814229505

01.09.2022 @19:09: We send another email with an updated position – N 36.47°, E 22.17° – and inform about the deteriorating situation on board.

01.09.2022 @ 19.53: We call Piraeus again. They tell us that they are «investigating». The officer says they sent a patrol boat and «if they are there, they will find them».

01.09.2022 @20:12: We send another update-email with a newly received location: 36°28’51.7″N 22°11’43.7″E

01.09.2022 @20:48: We publish another tweet, asking if there’s a pushbak in the making: https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1565411193229135872

01.09.2022 @ 22:04: The people write that the Coast Guard is arriving at scene. Shortly after also a relative informs us that his sister reported the same. However, when calling the JRCC Piraeus, they insist having searched the position but not found the people.

After that we lose the contact to the passengers – they cannot be reached anymore for over 12 hours.

02.09.2022 @14:07: We are contacted again by the people. They have been pushed back to Turkey. This is their position: 38.767761,26.511804. They send a video showing them in life rafts. On the video one can see four life rafts, full of people, including many children. We immediately inform Turkish authorities about their position. 

02.09.2022 @17:30: Turkish authorities confirm on the phone that they found and picked up the group.

02.09.2022 @19:55: We publish another tweet, condemning the pushback by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

 

Other links:
Turkish Coast Guard Report:
https://en.sg.gov.tr/87-irregular-migrants-were-rescued-off-the-coast-of-izmir

Agean Boat Report:
https://aegeanboatreport.com/2022/09/01/sailboat-in-distress-south-east-of-koroni/

Twitter-Thread International Kurdistan Committee of Greece:
https://twitter.com/StopPushbacks/status/1565384982557822976

Information about the arrest of Mehmet Bakir
https://twitter.com/StopPushbacks/status/1571171849354072068/photo/3

 

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