A boat arrives at Lesbos (archive photo) NOS News • yesterday, 12:30
A large-scale investigation should be conducted into the Greek coast guard, which may have handcuffed and thrown migrants overboard in the Mediterranean Sea. The call for an investigation comes from human rights organizations and Greek opposition parties following a documentary by the BBC.
In the documentary Dead Calm: Killing in the Med? which aired yesterday, several migrants are interviewed, sharing what they have seen and experienced. Some of them also claim to have been abused.
The BBC further states that there is evidence of pushbacks: the towing back of boats to the Turkish coast to prevent those on board from applying for asylum in Europe. Pushbacks are illegal according to both European and international law.
Illegal practices
The Greek coast guard and the government deny all accusations. However, a former coast guard official seems to support the migrants’ stories and the BBC in an interview on the matter.
The man is shown footage of a pushback during the interview, and in response to the video, he remains diplomatic. But immediately after the interview (the microphone is still on), he says in Greek to someone next to him: “It is clearly illegal. It is an international crime.”
The footage shows a group of people, including two babies, being left on a raft in the middle of the sea: 1:32
Greek coast guard returning refugees to open sea
Human Rights Watch and the Greek Council for Refugees state that the documentary confirms the stories that have long circulated about the Greek coast guard.
“It is a particularly gruesome addition to the growing and credible allegations against the Greek authorities,” a Human Rights Watch spokesperson told the British broadcaster.
Dutch lawyer Flip Schüller, who represents refugees in Greece, also recognizes the stories in an interview with NOS Radio 1 Journaal. He says that the European Union is turning a blind eye. “I find that very shocking.”
Demanding answers
For the opposition parties in Greece, the documentary is reason enough to once again ask critical questions of the government. The government had previously reacted very negatively to such inquiries. For instance, the left-wing party Syriza was labeled as anti-Greek and an agent of Turkish President Erdogan by the government.
Giorgos Psychogios of Syriza also calls for an EU investigation. The social democratic opposition party Pasok is in agreement.
Whether such an investigation will take place is still unknown. The government reiterated its full support for the coast guard, stating that they “save dozens of lives every day.” The Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs announced yesterday that they will further investigate the footage from the documentary.