Weekly Reports: Calls from the Greek-Macedonian border for international solidarity

Alarm Phone Weekly Report, 22nd – 28th of February 2016

This past week, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 37 emergency cases in the Aegean Sea, and 1 case in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Besides these situations concerning people in distress at sea or stranded on Greek islands, we also received several calls from those stuck in Idomeni, at the border separating Greece and Macedonia. In these cases we were asked to appeal to the international community and draw attention to the thousands who are prevented from crossing the border to move further north. The humanitarian crisis and mass suffering that European border policies produce were exacerbated further when Macedonian security forces used violence against those trying to overcome the fences, for example by firing tear gas into the crowds. These forms of violence mobilised against men, women and children, many of whom are survivors of violent conflict and war, are deeply disturbing. And while it would be easy to blame the Macedonian security forces for these mass violations of human rights, it is clear that they are reacting to the demands of central and northern EU member states to close their borders to those who seek to merely transit through Macedonian territory.

More and more people are currently arriving in Idomeni and with difficult weather conditions the situation will further worsen if Macedonia, under the pressure of EU member states, remains unwilling to open its borders to allow people to move on. Those who are forced to remain in Greece are often accommodated and/or detained in the many camps that have been built in recent times, on the Greek islands and on mainland Greece which are often overcrowded and poorly run. One accommodation centre in Giannitsa, similar to the mass arson attacks in Germany, was attacked by fascist groups so that it could not be used to accommodate refugees.

We will not cease to demand the freedom of movement for all. The shameful border atrocities all over Europe, from the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Germany to Calais need to stop immediately.

Summary of the Alarm Phone cases:
On Monday the 22nd of February 2016, our Alarm Phone shift teams were alerted to 4 distress situations in the Aegean Sea, all near the Island of Lesvos. All 4 vessels were either rescued by the Greek coastguards or able to reach Lesvos Island independently. (http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/455).

On Tuesday the 23rd of February, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 6 emergency situations in the Aegean region. One group of travellers was in distress between Turkey and Samos Island and unfortunately no confirmation for their rescue could be obtained. Another group had arrived on Samos Island and needed medical support. We were alerted to three boats in distress, near Samos, Lesvos and Pasas. Two of them were able to safely reach Greece while one of them was rescued by the Turkish authorities and returned to Turkey. One group had stranded on Farmakonisi Island and was later found and transferred off the island by the Greek coastguards (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/456).

On Tuesday our Alarm Phone team was also alerted to a vessel in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea. At 9.52am we received a call from a group of 11 people who had left Tangier about 3 hours earlier and were trying to reach Tarifa/Spain. They were rowing in a zodiac vessel and were tired and thirsty. Since they were very likely still in Moroccan waters and moving toward Spain, we agreed with them to send us regular updates about their well-being in the coming hours. When we could not reach them between 10.20-10.40am, we informed the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and they confirmed that they had rescued a boat with 11 persons on board and a baby. However, both the authorities and we ourselves were not entirely convinced that this was the same group of people. SM agreed to work on the case. While we were unable to reach the boat again afterwards, we saw that an activist of Caminando Fronteras had tweeted about a group of 11 people who were between Tangier and Tarifa. When we wrote to them, they confirmed that they had been rescued to Spain. While we cannot ultimately verify whether this was the group in question, it appears to be highly likely (see:

http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/451).

On Wednesday the 24th of February 2016, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two emergency situations in the Aegean Sea. One group of travellers was in distress near Lesvos and then confirmed to us that a rescue mission was ongoing. The second group had stranded on the small Greek island of Kastellorizo. There were about 100 people, including 30 women and 25 children. Later on we received the confirmation that most people had already been transferred off Kastellorizo and were brought to Rhodes from where they would travel on to Athens (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/457).

On Thursday the 25th of February, our Alarm Phone shift teams were alerted to 4 emergency situations in the Aegean region. One vessel in distress near Lesvos was rescued by the Greek coastguards while another vessel close to the island was able to reach it independently. A group of travellers stranded on the small Greek island of Kouneli and were later found and transferred. One large vessel carrying about 125 people was rescued by Turkish coastguards after they had run out of fuel and were unable to move onwards (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/454).

On Friday the 26th of February, the Alarm Phone shift teams were alerted to 9 emergency situations in the Aegean region. Three boats were in distress near Lesvos Island and they were either rescued by the Greek coastguards or able to reach the island independently. Two vessels in distress in Turkish water were rescued by the Turkish coastguards and the passengers were returned to Turkey. One group on a boat in distress near Samos reached out to us and while it is very likely that they were either rescued or able to reach the island independently, we were unable to receive a final confirmation. Several groups had stranded on Greek islands and were in need of support. Groups on Ro and Pasas were soon found and transferred off the islands and another group on Farmakonisi was rescued the following morning (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/458).

On Saturday the 27th of February, our Alarm Phone shift teams were alerted to two cases of emergency in the Aegean region. A group of about 18 people, 6 adults and 12 children had landed on the island of Samos and were in need of support. In the evening we received the confirmation that they had been found and were safe. A second group was in distress near Kastellorizo. They were then able to reach the island but were unable to move on as they were stuck between rocks and cliffs. Later one we received the confirmation that the group had been found and rescued by the local Port Police (see:

http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/459).

On Sunday the 28th of February, our Alarm Phone shift teams were alerted to 10 emergency situations in the Aegean region. Several distress situations occurred near Lesvos, where the Greek coastguards rescued 4 vessels and 1 group of travellers was able to reach the island by themselves. Another group of refugees had called us in severe distress and while we did not know where they were exactly, they stated later on that they had been rescued, presumably to Greece. 4 groups had stranded on different Greek islands (Ro, Pasas, Kastellorizo and Oinousses) and by the morning of the following day, they had been found and transferred off these islands (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/460).

Material

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    Alarm Phone Bi-Weekly Report 8-21 february 2016_final

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