Category: Pushback and Human Rights Violations
Number of people: 12
On 15 January 2021, relatives who were desperately searching for six men, who had gone missing between Turkey and Greece, call the Alarm Phone. The relatives inform us that two days earlier, on 13 January 2021, these six men started their journey to Europe from Bodrum in a rubber boat, carrying 12 people from Syria, Iraq, and Palestine.
When we managed to reach some of the group, they reported that they lost six persons in the rough sea, when waves washed them overboard. The ones who survived the tragedy landed on Rhodos. When they were found by local authorities, no rescue operation for the six missing people was launched. Instead, the survivors were forced onto life rafts and pushed back into Turkish waters. When talking with the survivors, we can understand that they were close to Alimia, a small island in front of Rhodos, when their engine stopped and six people fell into the sea. The place they arrived and where they found the abandoned house was the fisher-village Skala Kameiros in Rhodos.
A survivor told the Alarm Phone:
At 11pm [on 13 January 2021] we started from Bodrum with a rubber boat. Until 1:30am everything was okay, [then] the weather started to turn. At 2:15am it started raining. It became more windy, we could see the island already, but the storm became more and more strong. The nose of the boat went under water and my grandfather lost balance and fell into the sea. The second person who fell into the sea was S. (from Irak), then M. (from Palestine). The boat was full of water. We tried to get it out. In only a few minutes the next huge wave came. A. who was sitting in the back was the next to fall into the sea. I. tried to make light with his mobile phone to search for him in the waves. Then Y. fell into the sea. Finally I. fell. He was screaming and his mobile phone has still glowing. The engine stopped then. The boat was full of water. The driver took the water out of the boat and managed to restart the engine after several tries. We turned in circles to search for the missing, but we did not find them. We managed to reach the island at around 3am. We had the waves against us and we drove very slow. None of us was wearing a life-vest. We found an abandoned house. We went inside. At 9am the police came. We were 6 people left, including the driver, the driver left us there and disappeared. We stayed five of us. Two women and three men. One of us had lost his grandfather and one had lost his son in the waves. The car was olive green. A big man shouted at me to come, he spoke English. He followed me into the house. He said we should wait there and he left. We waited for 20 minutes. Another man was in the car, end of 40, grey hair already. We should come and get some food. Besides the house there was a shop to repair boats. We told to the men what happened to us, we were crying and begged them to help us to search for the missing. They said we should keep calm. Then they brought us to the harbour. They forced us back to the sea. They pushed us into a boat that looked like a tent and they left us adrift in the open sea. We were so much afraid about the sea. We stayed there until the Turkish coastguard came about an hour later and picked us up.
The relatives that called the Alarm Phone on 15 January 2021, had called both the Hellenic and the Turkish Coast Guards to understand, if a search operation had already been launched. The Hellenic Coast Guard stated that there was no ongoing case and that they were not aware of people missing - even though they had obviously been with the survivors.
Alarm Phone stayed in contact with relatives of the missing. We also established contact with local fishermen, who started to search the beaches, the weather was still too bad to go out to the sea. “Refugee support Aegean” became involved on a legal level and started to put pressure on Greek authorities to search for the missing. Four of them are still missing.
Yaseen Salih Ahmed Al-Obaidi, from Iraq, born in 1983, drowned. His body was found at a beach on Rhodos. He was buried on Rhodos.
Muhammad Taha Abdullah Suleiman, Palestinian Syrian, drowned. His body was found a few days later, on 24 January in Bakbakkar Bay in Mesudiye Mahallelesi Hayitbükü. It seems like he used all of his energy to swim back to Turkey until he ran out.