Pushback from Greece to Turkey documented on camera

The Greek newspaper Ef.Syn published an article on a pushback from Greece to Turkey based on information by the Watch the Med Alarm:

In this video, taken by refugees trying to reach the Greek islands by boat on the 21st July, we see a boat with a Greek flag creating waves by circling around them. The refugees are desperately calling the organization for documentation and surveillance of dangerous incidents in the Mediterranean Sea, Watch the Med, to inform them that a pushback-operation back to Turkey is in progress.

The video published by “Ef.Syn.” completely exposes the explanation given by the Greek Coast Guards about the incident and provokes some serious questions. Questions arise regarding the policies that the Coast Guard applies regarding people trying to ask for international protection in Greece, among them small children and one pregnant woman. This is not in accordance with international law and the announcement of the Greek government to terminate operations of pushback at sea. Furthermore, it questions the reliability of the investigations conducted by the headquarters of the Greek Coast Guard and the evidence published by them.

The chronicle

On the 3rd of August the Greek Coast Guard published an official statement denying the information from Watch the Med published by “Ef.Syn.”. “In the morning of 21st July the Coast Guard boat “L.S._EL.AKT.” saw the refugee boat with approximately 30 passengers moving within Turkish waters and after seeing the Coast Guard boat changing its direction towards the Turkish coast. Therefore no incident of a refugee boat in bad condition occurred and the statement of Watch the Med, published by “Ef.Syn” in a previous article, cannot be confirmed.”

On the contrary the video shows the Coast Guard boat very close to the coast, obviously the Greek coast, moving in front of the refugee boat and creating waves, instead of responding to the refugees calling for international protection. It is obvious that if something forced the refugees to change their course towards Turkish waters, where they were then arrested by the Turkish police, it wasn’t the “sight” of the Greek Coast Guard but, clearly, their aggressive actions.

Not only did the Greek Coast Guard fail to offer any rescue assistance, they even created waves as an threatening action putting the refugees lives in danger.

After the announcement of the Greek Coast Guard, Watch the Med said to “Ef.Syn.”: “From what we know the refugee boat was not in Turkish but in Greek waters when approached by the Greek Coast Guard. The geographic coordinates that the refugees sent to us were 36.1699150, 29.5822960. We forwarded them to the Coast Guard via phone and email. These geographic coordinates show that the refugee boat was in Greek waters.” These coordinates appear to be near the Greek island “Megisti”. “The video shows the refugee boat, with children sitting in its center. A fast boat with a Greek flag approaches the refugee boat coming very close. A person on the refugee boat comments in arabic: “This is the Greek Coast Guard coming to take us back to Turkey. You can see the island at which we have arrived. The Coast Guard is making waves around us with their boat. Please help us. You can see we have arrived. Please help us.”

Water inside the boat

According to the evidence  provided by the refugees two days after the incident: “After the boat entered Greek waters it was intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard at 6.43 am. The Greek Coast Guard was very aggressive. They started making circles around the refugee boat, creating big waves. Water started to get inside the boat, panicking the passengers.Then they were ordered to return to the Turkish coast. Afraid of their lives and the lives of their children the refugees returned to the Turkish coast where they were taken in custody by the Turkish police. Although the refugees told the Greek Coast Guard that one of the passengers was a sick child in need of medical care, the Greek coastguard insisted on sending them back to Turkey. The Turkish Coast Guard was not involved in the redirection.”

According to the organization, there were 26 passengers on the boat, among them an 8 month old girl, a 5 year old child with disabilities and a pregnant woman.

A few hundred meters from the Greek coast, the boat of the Greek Coast Guard appeared, led by two armed officers dressed in black, their faces not covered though. They shouted “Go back to Turkey” and insulted them. The refugees turned off the engine. After a while another boat with French, German, Croatian and Greek flags appeared, but they only watched the incident unfold.

The article was originally published in Greek. We translated the article into English.