Alarm Phone and BVMN demand Greek authorities launch rescue operation immediately
ACTIVISTS have demanded that the authorities save the lives of 34 people, including six children and a pregnant woman, currently stuck on an islet in the river that separates Greece from Turkey for the last two days.
The 34 people made the attempted crossing of the Evros River from the Turkish side earlier this week. Yesterday they contacted Alarm Phone, an activist-run distress hotline organisation, who then alerted the Greek authorities to their location, as well as the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Frontex — the European Border and Coastguard Agency
Alarm Phone and the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) said in a joint statement today that the Greek authorities at first claimed they could not find the 34, but later said they would bring them to Greece.
“Despite [the Greek authorities’] promises, the group remains stuck on the islet without any help,” Alarm Phone and BVMN said today.
“Frontex confirmed having received the distress call, however, only [it] only forwarded it on to the Greek authorities. Once again, Frontex stays inactive and puts people’s lives at risk.
“Any loss of life would be on the authorities, who remained inactive despite knowing about the distress situation!”
The 34 told Alarm Phone yesterday that they were freezing at night and that they were having to save the last of their food and water for the children.
“We have been stuck for two days on a Greek island in the Evros river,” the group said in a message to Alarm Phone yesterday.
“We have young children, women and an old man. We suffer from lack of food and two children are in poor health. We hope [you] help us reach the Red Cross or the Red Crescent. We cannot get out of here and our situation is tragic.
“Please help us. This is our situation for two days. We suffer from cold, but we cannot light a fire to warm up because of the Greek army and the children are suffering from cold in the middle of the island.
“Greek soldiers terrify children and women with their methods, they want us to surrender ourselves to take us back to Turkey.”
The UNHCR earlier this year called for Greece to stop pushing migrants back across the sea to Turkey following “recurrent and consistent reports” of the practice.
Meanwhile, around 145 people were intercepted by the EU-supported Libya Coastguard and returned to the war-torn country today, Alarm Phone warned this afternoon.
According to the International Organisation for Migration‘s latest estimates, 3.094 people have been intercepted and returned to the country so far this year.
An independent fact-finding mission on Libya, commissioned by the UNHCR, warned in its most recent report that multiple human rights violations in the country are impeding its transition to peace.
The German government on Wednesday announced that its military will no longer provide training to the Libyan coastguard.
“The German government cannot currently justify the training of the Libyan coastguard by German soldiers in view of the repeated unacceptable behaviour by individual units of the Libyan coastguard toward refugees and migrants, and also toward non-governmental organizations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse said.
“We have information that in at least two cases, the coastguard acted in a completely unacceptable and illegal manner.”
Top image shows the 34 people on the islet in the Evros River [Pic: Alarm Phone]