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Greek coastguard systematically violating refugee human rights, report alleges

Alarm Phone documents 76 cases in the last 12 months when the Hellenic Coastguard used violent methods against refugees

THE Greek coastguard stands accused once again of having systematically violated the human rights of refugees over the last year in a new study published today by the refugee distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone.

In the 125 distress calls Alarm Phone received between February 24 2020 and March 5 this year, more than 76 involved human rights violations and violence exercised by Greek authorities, the report says.

Most of the alleged violations occurred in the Aegean Sea as refugees attempted to reach the Greek islands, while some took place on the Greece-Turkey border.

“The travellers reported life-threatening manoeuvres around their boats intending to make waves, threats at gunpoint, theft of their petrol, destruction of engines and also the towing of boats back to Turkish waters, where they were abandoned,” the report says.

“They further reported Hellenic [Greek] coastguard vessels ramming their boats, Hellenic coastguards shooting with live ammunition in the water around them … and physical violence.”

Alarm Phone says it also collected testimonies from people who were forced back to Turkish waters after the Greek coastguards picked them up, put them in life rafts and pushed them away from the shore.

Alarm Phone activist Rosa Goldman stressed the importance of the testimonies, videos and photographs documenting the alleged violations in the report.

“Thanks to the courageous reporting of the survivors of these attacks, we have collected detailed evidence that shows how these ‘pushbacks’ and violent assaults take place,” Ms Goldman said.

“These testimonies and accounts are very detailed evidence which we want to share with the world so that nobody can ever say: ‘We did not know.’

“The evidence of these human rights violations by Greek authorities, supported by the European border agency Frontex, can no longer be ignored.

“We demand the clarification of all these pushback incidents.

“The authorities involved in these border crimes need to be held accountable. We will not stop until freedom of movement becomes a right for everyone.”

The study also includes cases of non-assistance by the Turkish authorities as well as Frontex (the European border and coastguard agency) and Nato.

A Frontex spokesman told The Civil Fleet: “There have been two investigations into media allegations and they found no evidence of any violations of human rights.”

However, at least one of those investigations was internal — and the EU’s home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said that it “took too long and hasn’t been good for the reputation of the agency.

The Civil Fleet has asked the Greek coastguard for comment.

See the report, and an interactive map showing the locations of the alleged abuses, at

Top image is a photograph Alarm Phone received from refugees in the Aegean Sea in March 2020 showing a naval vessel standing by as water seeps in through their boat

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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