4 cases of distress near Lesvos, Farmakonisi and Agathonisi‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬

04.09.2015 / 15:25 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 3rd of September 2015

Case name: 2015_09_3-AEG59
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 4 situations of distress near Lesvos, Farmakonisi and Agathonisi‬‬
Status of WTM Investigations: Concluded
Place of Incidents: Aegean Sea

Summary of the case: On Thursday, the 3rd of September 2015, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 4 distress cases (with 6 vessels involved) in the Aegean Sea, near the islands of Lesvos, Farmakonisi and Agathonisi. The first case concerned three vessels in distress that we were informed about by a Macedonian solidarity group. At 1am we received a first call, informing us about a boat between Didim, Turkey and Farmakonisi, Greece. We tried to contact the travellers, but without success. At 2am we received another call of the solidarity group with an update of the boat's position. Just two minutes later, we received a WhatsApp message, saying that the boat had been rescued by the Turkish coastguard. At 2.30am the same group informed us about another vessel. Again, we were not able to reach the vessel. This time, we did not get any further information of what occurred. Parallel to the second alert, the same group forwarded to us the GPS position of a third vessel in distress, also in the area of Farmakonisi. . With the provided phone number, we were able to reach the travellers, but the connection was immediately interrupted. We tried to call back several times without success and received the confirmation of their rescue only the next morning.

We were informed about the 2nd distress situation (concerning the fourth vessel) of the day by a contact person from the United States, who had a friend among the travellers on board. She had lost contact with the passengers 45 minutes earlier, when the boat was near Agathonisi, Greece. A couple of minutes later, at 7.23am the contact person informed us that the vessel had been rescued by the Greek coastguard. We passed on information about the situation in Greece and Europe for migrants and asylum seekers to the contact person.

At 9.15am the Alarm Phone was contacted about a 3rd case of distress. The vessel, carrying 49 persons (mostly women and children) was near Farmakonisi, Greece. We thus passed the information on to the Greek coastguard. However, they checked the position and said that the boat was still in Turkish territorial waters. We insisted that the boat had already reached Greek waters and agreed to call back 10 minutes later. In the meantime, we sent an e-mail to the Greek coastguard. They insisted that they were not responsible for the case, so we called the Turkish coastguard. They were already informed about the case, as the Greeks had forwarded our e-mail to them. The Turkish coastguard promised to check on the boat.

At 9.27pm we received a Facebook message about a 4th case - a vessel in Turkish waters. The last GPS position available was from a post that had been put online 45 minutes earlier. Two numbers were posted, but we could not reach them. At 10.14pm we finally reached the Turkish coastguard, who already knew about the case. However, they said they could not do much, as the boat was in Greek waters. We asked for the exact coordinates, and whether the Greek coastguard was informed, but did not receive an answer. We then tried several times to reach the coastguard in Lesvos, but were put on hold each time. When we finally reached them they told us that they could not identify the boat by the phone number, because they did not call boats and did not save the numbers of ongoing cases. We have not been able to get in contact with the travellers, so we did not get a final confirmation of their safe arrival on Lesvos.
Last update: 17:48 Sep 14, 2015
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Layers »
  • 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