Category: Pushback and Human Rights Violations
Number of people: 27 (12 women, 4 children)
On 9 December 2020, the Alarm Phone receives an alert about two boats that left the region of Izmir, Turkey on 6 December 2020. According to the information received by relatives, the group was picked up by the Hellenic Coast Guard but separated. While 12 women and 4 children have been pushed back immediately to Turkey, a group of 11 men is reportedly detained in Greece. At 12:35h CET, we send an email to the Hellenic Coast Guard, UNHCR, Frontex, NATO and several NGOs to ask for assistance to find the missing men. In a phone-call the Hellenic Coast Guard states to know nothing about the case, but promises to inform the Alarm Phone once they have news regarding our request. Unfortunately, we are unable to establish direct communication with thetravellers themselves - their phones appear to be switched off.
Later that day, Alarm Phone receives several videos from the part of the group that has been pushed back to Turkey. They show the group of women and men on land on a Greek island, most likely Kalymnos. Another video shows women in inflatable life rafts with an unidentified ship being displayed in the back of the scene.
The next day, 10 December 2020, at 08:40h CEST the Turkish Coast Guard informs us that the 11 men were pushed back on 9 December. They were heavily beaten by the Hellenic Coast Guard - some of the people found by the Turkish Coast Guard had broken bones. According to the information received by Turkish authorities, the people were brought to Didim in Turkey.
A woman on one of the boats chronicles:
We arrived around 10am at the island of Kalymnos. Then the police found us in the forest. They brutalized us and took everything we had - clothes, phones, money. Around 7pm, they pushed us back to the sea and put us in inflatable life rafts. There they separated us from our husbands who were 11 in number. When they [husbands] realized this, they started shouting, saying, ‘do not separate us from our women. Why do you want to kill our families?‘ Then the police started to hit them and left with them. We were alone in the middle of the sea. Luckily, a Turkish fishing boat saw us and called the Turkish Coast Guard. We were brought to jail, where we stayed for two days before we were released.
We get an even clearer picture of what happened through a report of the group of men that were separated from the women. They stated that they could identify two Hellenic Coast Guard vessels, the ΛΣ105 and the ΛΣ1055, near the coast of the island on which they had arrived. The captain of one of these ships fired gunshots when they refused to cooperate in the pushback. When separated from the women and children, they were brought to another Greek island, most likely to Farmakonisi. After several nights in a sheep shed, the group was forced into two boats, one of which could be identified as ΛΣ613 and which is according to an image search a Lambo 57 coastal patrol boat of the Hellenic Coast Guard. In total, three boats were on scene. The officers were reportedly armed with guns and wore black uniforms with a badge showing two swords crossing each other and a gladiator helmet. The men were promised to be brought to a hospital on Leros. However, when they resisted the embarkation, due to fear of being pushed back, they reported having been heavily attacked by the Hellenic officers. Again, gunshots were fired into the water. Then, the group, despite being seriously injured, was split into one group of 5 men and one group of 6 men, driven to the sea and forced into life rafts. This is where they were reportedly found by the Turkish Coast Guard and returned to Turkey, where they received medical treatment.