On 29 April 2020, a boat carrying 48 persons from Afghanistan, Congo and Iran, including 18 children, tries to reach Lesvos Island in the early hours of the day. According to witness accounts, after about 1 ½ hours of moving, the people suddenly find themselves confronted with a big grey boat with a blue-white line. The boat reportedly has a Greek flag and many officers on board. Alarm Phone is alerted to this group of people after they were pushed back to Turkish waters. Unable to move by themselves in a boat with water leaking in, the people are desperately asking for rescue. At 12:36h CEST, we inform the Hellenic Coast Guard about the boat in distress and are told that it is in Turkish waters and a Turkish Coast Guard vessel is nearby.
Testimony of a person who was on the boat:
Later on, the Turkish coastguard released a statement: “On 29 April 2020 at 06.10 a.m., it was reported by Greek authorities that there was a migrant boat off the coast of Çanakkale’s Ayvacık district/Sivrice Burnu. CG boats were dispatched to the area immediately. However; it was detected that the mentioned migrant boat was in the Greek side and Hellenic Coast Guard boats were putting the lives of the irregular migrants in danger by doing dangerous maneuvers around the migrant boat instead of rescuing them. The migrants were pushed back towards Turkish territorial waters. The fuel can of the migrant boat was taken and the engine of it was broken. 25 Afghan, 22 Congolese and 1 Iranian, totally 48 irregular migrants on board (20 men, 10 women and 18 children) were rescued by CG boat.”
Alarm Phone understands that the dinghy carrying protection seekers escaping from war-torn and conflict-ridden countries has been unlawfully returned by Greek authorities, pushed back from Greek to Turkish waters. They were actively brought into a situation of distress at sea. At the same time, the lack of action by the Turkish authorities who stood by for many hours, also put their lives in danger.