One group disoriented on Samos Island and one group in distress at sea after attack by Greek coastguard

01.08.2015 / 19:48 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations - 31st of July 2015

Case name: 2015_07_31-AEG29
Situation: Disoriented travellers in need of rescue on Samos island; vessel in distress in the Aegean Sea/Turkey, after being punctured by Greek coastguard
Status of WTM Investigations: One open, one concluded
Place of Incidents: Aegean Sea, Greece

Summary of the Cases: On Friday the 31st of July 2015, at approximately 7.30am, the Alarm Phone was informed about a group of 45 travellers who had reached Samos Island/Greece. There were many children amongst the group who, so our contact person, needed help urgently. He passed on the GPS position of the group and also reported that he had already informed the police but without results. Our shift team then contacted the police station on Samos Island but communications were difficult as they did not speak English. At about 8.30am, we spoke to the group on Samos and passed on the number of the Greek UNHCR to them. They stated that one person was wounded and that they could not stop the bleeding. Following their account, the police passed by but left without supporting them. For several hours afterwards, the group could not be contacted and it was not clear whether Greek authorities were responsive to our demands to search for them. At noon, the Greek coastguards informed us that they had several distress cases at the moment and were unable to search for the group, despite having the GPS position indicating their location.

On the same day we had a second case of distress between Turkey and the island of Samos. At about 7.07am our shift team was informed by a contact person that his friends were in distress at sea after the Greek coastguard had punctured their vessel. They were in danger of capsizing. Shortly afterwards, the people on the vessel were able to send us their position via WhatsApp. We then contacted the Turkish coastguard who promised to search for them. At about 8.14am we reached out to the group again and they informed us that they were 27 people on board. Their vessel was losing air and several travellers did not wear life-vests. They passed on their new GPS position and said they were able to see a vessel that was observing them as well as another vessel with refugees on board. They said that the other refugee vessel had also been punctured by the Greek coastguard. At about 8.27am, the Turkish coastguard stated that they were monitoring the situation and that, due to several distress cases and a lack of resources, they would rescue vessels one at the time. We also informed them about the allegations against the Greek coastguards and they stated that the Greek coastguard would do ‘several of such activities’. We then communicated to the group via WhatsApp and they stated at 8.49am that some of the passengers had already been rescued and transferred to the Turkish vessel. At 8.56 they sent a picture of the boat, one air chamber was completely flattened and about 15 minutes later, they had all been taken on board of the Turkish vessel. At 1.30pm we learned that they had been released from the Turkish prison. On the whole there were about 50 people from both vessels.

We informed UNHCR in Greece and Turkey, human rights organisations on both sides of the border and the Greek ministry on migration for further investigations on this case.
Last update: 09:37 Aug 04, 2015
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
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  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans