Category: Pushback and Human Rights Violations
Number of people: 24 (2 women, 10 children)
On 10 May 2020, an overcrowded dinghy carrying 24 persons from Afghanistan, Iran, Congo, Central African Republic and Mali, among them one woman and ten minors, leaves from Ayvacık district of Çanakkale province at around 4:00h CEST.
At 8:16h, Alarm Phone is alerted to the boat, which is in the middle of the sea between Lesvos and Turkey, already unable to move in any direction. The passengers state that they were attacked by a Hellenic Coast Guard boat in Turkish waters and their fuel was taken away. Their boat is taking on water and they ask for rescue as they are left adrift. The Alarm Phone alerts the Turkish Coast Guard at 8:22h CEST and is soon informed that Turkish authorities reached the vessel for rescue.

Snapshot from the situation on board

One of the survivors gave Alarm Phone the following testimonial:
We started when the sun was coming out in the early morning. Among the passengers were two women and many underage boys. After maybe one hour, the Greek coastguard stopped us while we were in the middle of the sea between Turkey and Lesvos. There were maybe 500 metres left to reach Greek waters. Their boat approached us with high-speed coming from Lesvos towards us. It was white and grey. One officer had a long metal stick. He was wearing a mask. There was one more masked officer and a third person steering their boat who seemed to be the captain. He had no mask. They wear blue uniforms. The man with the stick threatened us with it. He shouted from the speaker: “Stop. Stop! Move away from the engine!” We stopped and their boat halted next to ours. He pulled of the pipe from the engine with this stick and took the petrol. The boat had a Greek flag, a blue-white stripe and a writing in non-Latin characters in white colour. They tried to scare us by shouting angrily at us and threatening to beat our dinghy with the stick. Then they slightly pushed our boat with theirs. All this happened within few minutes. I think they were in great hurry, as they illegally had entered Turkish waters. After, they quickly left returning back towards Lesvos, we noticed another big grey boat in Greek waters that was stopped in distance between us and Lesvos. It seemed to belong to the navy. I think they were observing us and making sure we would not try again to reach Greece. This boat was bigger. Our boat was taking on water and we were scared to sink. Most of us were only carrying tubes to save themselves from drowning and others had nothing to protect themselves. Two other boats appeared from Lesvos and left again – one looking like a navy boat and the other was a speedboat. But they didn’t act. Two hours later, the Turkish coastguard arrived. They brought us to a camp near Ayvalik where we were fingerprinted and they took a flu test for Corona. We stayed 3 hours there. They took away all of our money for our transfer to Bursa where we were then released.
The Turkish media later wrote about this case, pointing out that the Turkish Coast Guard had rescued these people and other boats which the Hellenic Coast Guard had forced into life-threatening situations. People on board later reported to Alarm Phone that they had been put in distress by the Hellenic Coast Guard. They however also emphasised that while Turkish mainstream media was celebrating each rescue and presenting the Turkish authorities as the “good guys”, in their case the Turkish authorities had stolen the last bit of money they had and returned them to where they had tried to escape from.
Turkish media: