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Greek coastguard accused of another refugee pushback – days after New York Times published video evidence of refugees being forced out to sea

Alarm Phone says about 115 people were forcibly sent back to Turkey today

ACTIVISTS have accused the Greek coastguard of pushing over 100 people back to Turkey today — days after the New York Times shared video evidence of the coastguards abandoning 12 asylum seekers at sea. 

The activist-run distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone said on Monday that it was contacted by about 115 people aboard a boat in distress in waters off southwest Greece

“They told us that some on board are unconscious,” Alarm Phone said in the evening.  

“They left from Turkey on Saturday morning and fear for their lives due to high waves. They are desperately asking for help.”

Alarm Phone said the Hellenic coastguard (its Greek name) told its activist last night that an operation had been launched to find and rescue the 115 people. 

But around 90 minutes later, the people on the boat told Alarm Phone’s activists that they were still awaiting the coastguard. 

“The wind is very bad, the boat is going from left to right. I am afraid we will fall [into the sea],” one of the survivors told Alarm Phone last night. 

This morning the coastguard told Alarm Phone that its rescue operation had ended with “negative results.”

However, Alarm Phone heard back from the people on the move this afternoon. 

“The people told us they are back in Turkey, over 524km (325 miles) away from their last location!,” the activist network said.  

“They report being kidnapped by [the Hellenic coastguard] and left adrift in life rafts. [This is] another attack against people’s lives and rights backed and financed by the EU.”

Last Friday the New York Times (NYT) published video footage from April 11, 2023, of 12 people being locked up inside a van, forced onto a speedboat and transferred over to a Greek coastguard vessel.

The 12 were then left adrift in the middle of the Aegean Sea in an inflatable life raft.

The NYT report was far from the first time the Greek coastguard has been accused of abandoning people at sea, a point Alarm Phone made last Friday.

“These practices have been extensively documented, first and foremost by the numerous accounts of people on the move themselves but also [by] activists and the media. 

“What more is needed for the EU to speak out and act against violent pushbacks?”

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Monday that her office has sent a formal request to the Greek authorities asking that this incident be “fully and independently” investigated.

“The EU Commission stands ready to take formal steps, as appropriate,” she said. 

Few were impressed by Ms Johansson’s statement, including Aegean Boat Report, an organisation that monitors crossings between Greece and Turkey, which said: “And once again [Ylva Johansson] is acting surprised, as if she wasn’t fully aware of what has been going on in [Greece] for years.

“Since 2020 almost 1,200 life rafts have been found drifting in the Aegean Sea, 20,000 people left helplessly drifting by [the Greek government], funded by [EU Commission].

Legal Centre Lesvos, a migrant rights organisation operating on the Greek island of Lesbos (Lesvos in Greek), said: “We hope that this comprehensive evidence, added to years of documentation of over a thousand pushback operations by the Legal Centre Lesvos and many other human rights organisations, will finally trigger a real response not only from the European Commission – as a financier of Greece’ pushback policy – but also from politicians and society, who have been turning a blind eye, tacitly approving these border crimes for all too long. 

“The fact that in 2023 Greece remains the only European Union member state which has not ratified Protocol 4 of the ECHR [European Convention of Human Rights], prohibiting collective expulsions, further contributes to the government’s ongoing full impunity.”

The Civil Fleet is not just a news blog, but also a podcast that platforms activists, refugees, human rights lawyers, journalists and more .

Find us on Spotify, Apple & Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts from.

Episode 39: A hostile environment for refugees The Civil Fleet Podcast

In today's episode we speak with filmmaker Sonita Gale, about her award-winning documentary film Hostile.    Sonita tells us how Britain's "hostile environment" stretches much further back than 2012, when then home secretary Theresa May coined the term, and is rooted in the British Empire.    We hear how successive governments — both Labour and Conservative — have created an inhumane system for migrants and refugees in the UK and how this has affected the people in her film.    She also tells us how these dehumanising policies lead to the Windrush Scandal, and how they link with the NHS crisis, workers' rights, poverty, and the government's anti-protest laws.     —Get in touch— Twitter: @FleetCivil Mastodon:   Support:   —Show Notes—   For more on Sonita Gale's documentary, see here:   If you're in the UK, you can watch the film online here:   If you're outside the UK, then check here for more information on how to watch it:    See the trailer for Hostile here:    You can follow Hostile on Twitter here: @hostiledoc   And follow Hostile on Instagram here:   For anyone outside the UK that doesn't know what the Home Office is, it is similar to the Ministry of the Interior in much of Europe, or the Department for Homeland Security in the US.    The head of the UK Home Office (called the Home Secretary) is Suella Braverman. Before her, it was Priti Patel. Both are mentioned in the podcast.    Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron were all former Conservative Prime Ministers. Members of the Conservative party are often referred to as Tories, and the party as The Tory Party.    Theresa May was the Home Secretary in 2012. She coined the term Hostile Environment in 2012. You can read more about that, and the 10-year anniversary of it, here:     Ben and Sonita mention Enoch Powell and his Rivers of Blood speech. You can read more about him and his infamous speech here:   Here's a good explanation of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill and why it is so dangerous by the human rights organisation Liberty:     For more on the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy, see the NRPF Network, here:   Here is a good explanation of the Windrush Scandal by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants:    The Noam Chomsky quote at the end of the film is this: "As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”   The Chomsky quote that Ben (mis)quotes (again!) is this: “If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things.”
  1. Episode 39: A hostile environment for refugees
  2. Episode 38: ‘The Illegal Migration Bill is truly horrific’
  3. Episode 37: Free The El Hiblu 3 – Teenagers accused of terrorism for translating
  4. Episode 36: Defending the Iuventa 4 refugee rescuers
  5. Episode 35: Sentenced to 142-years for doing ‘what any human would do’

Top image shows a Hellenic coastguard vessel [Pic: ANA-MPA news]


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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