Pushback with a Greek seal
Pushback with a Greek seal
Another case of illegal pushback that occurred on 25th of May (2020) in the Aegean, in the sea area close to Lesvos, comes to light to confirm the use of liferafts by the Greek port authorities.
A recent investigation published on justsecurity.org by Dr. Itamar Mann and Niamh Keady Tabal, which cites evidence of illegal pushbacks, reveals the close collaboration of the Greek State with the Greek company LALIZAS, which also provided the Navy with rescue equipment, according to files posted on Diavgeia in 2017. The investigation was discussed internationally and obliged Frontex’s chief, Fabrice Leggeri, to admit to Greek illegal pushback operations.
The video published today by «Ef.Syn.» was examined by the Disinfaux Collective, which also participated in the research of justsecurity.org. In the video, one can clearly distinguish the inscription LALIZAS ISO-RAFT labelled on the raft. The serial number and the date of construction are also distinguished, based on the available analysis (ISO 96-50-1, LALIZAS ISO-RAFT, Date of Manufacture 10/2016 Serial Number 161012174). The product with these exact features is advertised on the company’s website. Another part of the video shows 3 similar liferafts, at a close distance. This incident aligns with the available evidence on the event of May 25, as published by the Turkish Coast Guard in the same morning.
Did this specific liferaft belong to the official equipment of the Greek Navy or other Greek forces? How did it end up in the middle of the Aegean sea, being used to pushback vulnerable refugees to Turkey? What do the rescue protocols mention of people in danger in the middle of the sea?
The videos were recorded by a refugee on the liferaft, during the time of the pushback. In his post on social media, he describes the dramatic moments he and about 70 other refugees experienced on May 25, from the moment they fell into the Hellenic Coast Guard’s hands, who later abandoned them floating helplessly on four rafts in the middle of the Aegean for many hours. Among them were five children and two pregnant women. One of the people, who had managed to hide his mobile phone earlier, managed to call the Turkish Coast Guard, who eventually tracked them down. «Ef.Syn.» contacted the refugee who posted the video. According to him, a Greek Coast Guard boat manoeuvred around the refugees’ boat. «All my friends were crying, screaming, asking for help». Armed men in military uniforms, stopped the boat’s engine and told us, «We are here to help you, we want to take you to the Moria camp».
The Coast Guard moved the refugees onto the Coast Guard’s boat, and subsequently checked their temperatures with thermometers, beat them and took their personal belongings. «They took all of our stuff: money, bags, cell phones», he said. They removed the Greek flag from the naval boat, led them further away from the Greek shores and moved them in four liferafts. They forced twenty people onto each raft, while, according to the raft’s specifications, the capacity is a maximum of 12 people. The company LALIZAS provides no liferafts in its catalogue with a capacity of more than 12 people. The witness also mentioned that the four bags the rafts were extracted from were orange, exactly as advertised on the LALIZAS website.
«They didn’t give life jackets to people who didn’t have any, and when I asked an officer to give me my mobile phone to contact the Turkish Coast Guard, he replied ‘come and get it’, showing me his genitals», mentions the refugee, who prefers to remain anonymous. They surrounded the rafts for about 15 minutes and then abandoned them. One of the passengers managed to hide his mobile phone and successfully called the Turkish Coast Guard, who transported them safely to Fotsa in Izmir.
«I publish this video for everyone in the European Union, the UNHCR, and the European Parliament to see the results of their decisions on the refugee issues» mentions in his post. At the same time, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UNHCR, and several agencies are looking for answers and asking for an investigation to be conducted regarding the alleged pushbacks and mass deportations of refugees and migrants to Turkey.