Witnesses said the Greek coast guard threw the migrants into the sea to die

Via Lucile Smith and Ben Steele, BBC Television Current Affairs

BBC graphics show a Greek coast guard holding guns, with a Greek flag in the background BBC

Witnesses said the Greek coast guard caused the deaths of dozens of migrants in the Mediterranean over a three-year period, including nine who were deliberately thrown into the water.

BBC analysis shows the nine people are among more than 40 people believed to have died as a result of being forced to leave Greek territorial waters or taken out to sea after arriving on Greek islands.

The Greek coast guard told our investigation that it strongly denies any allegations of illegal activities.

We showed 12 people being taken onto a Greek coast guard boat and then abandoned in a dinghy to a former senior Greek coast guard officer. As he stood up from his chair with his mic still on, he said it was “clearly illegal” and “an international crime”.

The Greek government has has long been accused of forced return – push people back to Türkiye, where they crossed the border, which is illegal under international law.

But this is the first time the BBC has calculated the number of incidents believed to have resulted in deaths due to the actions of the Greek coast guard.

The 15 incidents we analyzed – which took place between May 23, 2020 and the 23rd – left 43 people dead. Initial sources were mainly local media, NGOs and the Turkish coast guard.

Verifying such accounts is extremely difficult – witnesses often disappear or are too scared to speak up. But in these four cases, we were able to corroborate the accounts by talking to eye witnesses.

Our research, featured in a new BBC documentary, Deadly Calm: Killing in the Med?suggests a clear pattern.

A migrant from Cameroon is interviewed

This man from Cameroon told the BBC he was thrown into the sea by the coastguard – his two companions drowned

In five incidents, migrants said they were thrown into the sea by Greek authorities. In four of those cases, they explain how they landed on the Greek islands but were hunted down. In other incidents, migrants said they were put on non-motorized inflatable rafts that later deflated or appeared to have punctures.

One of the most chilling accounts was given by a Cameroonian man who said he was hunted by Greek authorities after landing on the island of Samos in September 2021.

Like everyone we interviewed, he said he was planning to register on Greek soil as an asylum seeker.

“We had just docked and the police were coming from behind,” he told us. “There were two policemen in black and three others in civilian clothes. They were masked, you could only see their eyes.”

He and two others – another from Cameroon and a man from Ivory Coast – were transferred to a Greek coast guard boat, where events took a terrifying turn. .

“They started with [other] Cameroonian. They threw him into the water. The Ivory Coast man said: ‘Help me, I don’t want to die… and then in the end only his hand was above the water, and his body below.

“Slowly his hand slid down and the water engulfed him.”

Our interviewee said that the kidnappers beat him.

“The punches rained down on my head. It was like they were punching an animal.” And then he said they pushed him into the water too – without a life jacket. He was able to swim to shore, but the bodies of the other two – Sidy Keita and Didier Martial Kouamou Nana – were recovered on the Turkish coast.

The survivor’s lawyer is asking Greek authorities to open a double murder case.

iPlayer banner

Deadly Calm: Killing in the Med?

In June 2023, an overloaded fishing boat capsized in front of a Greek coast guard patrol boat. More than 600 men, women and children died in the water. But who is responsible and is the coast guard at fault?

Watch on iPlayer or on BBC Two at 9pm on Monday 17 June.

iPlayer banner

Another man, from Somalia, told the BBC that in March 2021 he was captured by the Greek military upon arriving on the island of Chios, who then handed him over to the Greek coast guard.

He said the coast guard tied his hands behind his back before releasing him into the water.

“They threw me with a tow rope in the middle of the sea. They wanted me to die,” he said.

He said he survived by lying on his back, before one of his hands escaped the restraints. But the sea was rough and three of his group died. Our interviewee landed and he was eventually spotted by the Turkish coast guard.

In the incident with the highest death toll – in September 2022 – a boat carrying 85 migrants crashed near the Greek island of Rhodes when its engine failed.

Mohamed, from Syria, told us that they called the Greek coast guard for help – they put them on a boat, took them back to Turkish waters and put them on rafts lifesaving. Mohamed said the raft he and his family were given did not close the valve properly.

“We immediately started sinking, they saw… They heard us all screaming but they still abandoned us,” he told the BBC.

“The first one to die was my cousin’s son… Then one by one. Another child, another child, then my cousin himself disappeared. By morning, seven or eight children were dead.

“My children didn’t die until morning… just before the Turkish coast guard arrived.”

Greek law allows all migrants seeking asylum to register their claims on certain islands at special registration centres.

But our interviewees – who we contacted with the help of the migrant aid agency’s Integrated Rescue Team – said they were arrested before they could reach the centers. this mind. They said the men appeared to be operating secretly – not wearing uniforms and often wearing masks.

Human rights groups allege thousands of asylum seekers in Europe were illegally forced back to Turkey from Greece and denied the right to seek asylum, which is enshrined in international law. economy and the EU.

Austrian activist Fayad Mulla told us that he discovered for himself how secretive such activities seemed last February, on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Driving to the location where he was allegedly forced to turn back after being warned, he was stopped by a man wearing a hoodie – who was later revealed to work for the police. He said police then tried to delete the dashcam footage of him being stopped and charged him with resisting police.

Ultimately, no further action was taken.

Fayad Mulla The Greek police officer prevented Fayad Mulla from reaching the location and was forced to returnFayad Mulla

Fayad Mulla’s dash cam captured the moment he was stopped by undercover police after receiving a tip-off about forcing Lesbos back

Two months later, at a similar location, Mr. Mulla filmed a forced return, which was published by The New York Times.

A group of women and infants were unloaded from the back of an unmarked truck and marched down the wharf onto a small boat.

They were then transferred to a Greek coast guard ship away from the coast, taken out to sea and then put on a raft to drift.

We showed this footage – which the BBC has verified – to Dimitris Baltakos, the former commander of special operations of the Greek coast guard.

In the interview, he refused to speculate on what the footage showed – he had denied, earlier in our conversation, that the Greek coast guard would be asked to do anything something illegal. But during a break, he was recorded saying to someone in the scene in Greek:

“I haven’t told them much, have I? That’s very obvious, isn’t it? That’s not nuclear physics. I don’t know why they did that in broad daylight… That.. . is clearly illegal.

‘Clearly illegal’ – moment former senior coast guard speaks out on camera

Greece’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Island Policy told the BBC that the footage is currently being investigated by the country’s independent National Transparency Authority.

An investigative journalist we spoke to on the island of Samos said she began chatting with a member of the Greek special forces through the dating app Tinder.

When he called her from what he described as a “warship”, Romy van Baarsen asked him more about his work – and what happened when his forces discovered a refugee boat.

He replied that they “chose them back” and said that such orders were “from the minister”, adding that they would be punished if they failed to intercept a boat.

Greece has always denied that the so-called “resistance” is taking place.

Greece is the gateway to Europe for many migrants. Last year, there was 263,048 cruise passengers arrived in Europe, of which Greece received 41,561 (16%) of them. Türkiye signed a deal with the EU in 2016 to stop migrants and refugees entering Greece, but said in 2020 it could no longer enforce the deal.

Romy van Baarsen chats with a member of the Greek special forces via Tinder

Journalist Romy van Baarsen was told by a member of the Greek special forces that they were being directed by the government to drive the boats back

We have passed the findings of our investigation to the Greek coast guard. They responded that their employees worked “tirelessly with the highest professionalism, high sense of responsibility and respect for human life and fundamental rights”, adding that they “complied with fully comply with the country’s international obligations”.

It added: “It should be emphasized that between 2015 and 2024, the Greek Coast Guard rescued 250,834 refugees/migrants in 6,161 incidents at sea. Perfect execution of high mission This has been positively recognized by the international community.”

The Greek Coast Guard was formerly criticized for its role in the largest migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean in a decade. More than 600 people are believed to have died after the Adriana sank in Greece’s demarcated rescue zone last June.

Greek officials insisted the boat was not in trouble and was safely en route to Italy, so the coast guard did not attempt a rescue.


News 7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button