Category: Pushback and Human Rights Violations
Number of people: 30 (10 women, 8 children)
In the early morning of 5 March 2021, Alarm Phone is alerted to a boat with a broken engine, drifting to the North of Lesvos. We receive a GPS position, forward all details to authorities at 04:21h CET and follow up with a phone call to MRCC Piraeus. A few minutes later, people on the boat call us, telling us that a rubber boat, which they had previously seen pointimg a light towards them off the coast of Lesvos, started pulling them back towards Turkey with a rope. According to the people on the boat, there are not enough life vests for all passengers. We hear a lot of panic on the boat.
At 04:55h CET, the boat calls us again, asking us to do something to stop the towing of their boat towards Turkey. The people sound very afraid. We update the authorities on the boat’s position highlighting the need for urgent assistance. On the phone with MRCC Piraeus, the operator denies all knowledge of this distress case.
At 05:30h CET, the boat in distress calls us again, and informs us that their motor and petrol was stolen by the attackers from the rubber boat that was towing them, which now left the scene. People on the boat already called the Turkish Coast Guard.
We also contact Turkish authorities. At 9:20h an operator from the Turkish Coast Guard informs us that four boats were returned to Turkey from the area that morning, including a boat carrying 28 people and a boat carrying 38 people. Both of these boats were near the location of the boat which called us. We send an e-mail to Turkish authorities at 09:25h CET with all details available to us. An hour later, the Turkish Coast Guard confirms the return of the 31 people, who had called us in distress, including ten women and nine chidren, to Ayvacik District/Canakkale Province without any missing people.
The travellers themselves also confirmed later on to be back in Turkey.