Alarm Phone alerted to 21 distress cases and 2 attacks near the Greek islands of Lesvos, Kos, Farmakonisi, Chios and Nisirios

09.09.2015 / 10:40 / Greek islands of Lesvos, Kos, Farmakonisi, Chios and Nisirios

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 8th of September 2015

Case name: 2015_09_08-AEG64
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 21 distress cases near several Greek islands
Status of WTM Investigations: Concluded
Place of Incidents: Aegean Sea

On Tuesday the 8th of September 2015, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 21 emergency cases in the Aegean Sea – so far the highest number of distress situations ever experienced in one day. In this report we will first summarise two cases where the travellers we were in touch with were attacked. We will then provide a brief summary of the remaining 19 cases.

Two vessels attacked by the Greek coastguard: At 1.34am, our shift team was alerted to a distress situation by Syrian friends of the Alarm Phone. They passed on a phone number and GPS coordinates of the vessel and informed us that there were 41 people on board. Following their account, the travellers had been attacked and beaten by masked men who also stole their engine. They asked us to inform the Greek coastguard which we did. However, they said that the vessel was in Turkish waters and thus not within the zone of their responsibility. In the meantime we tried several times to reach the travellers directly, without success. The Turkish coastguard was very cooperative when we notified them at 2.25am and confirmed that they would launch a search and rescue operation. We finally reached the group directly at 2.28am and they confirmed that they had made it to an island. At 7.51am, they told us that they thought the island was in Greek territory. However, they were in fact on a small Turkish island. They informed us at 9.44am that they were in the process of being rescued by the Turkish coastguard. About two hours later, they were back on Turkish mainland and told us how their vessel had been approached in the night by a small vessel with three people wearing masks. Following their account, the men told them that they would bring them to Greece. However, they dragged them back to Turkish waters instead. A violent conflict escalated on board, leaving two travellers injured. The masked men, who are said to have been Greek, took away their petrol and the engine and left them behind in distress at sea.

The Alarm Phone experienced another situation of distress that had been caused by an attack on a refugee vessel. At 8.55am we learned about a group of approximately 55 people, including 15 children, who were on a vessel in Turkish waters. They were on their way to Lesvos/Greece when they were attacked and their engine was taken away. We received a phone number and their GPS position by our contact person and were asked to notify the Turkish coastguards. We could not get through to the travellers themselves. We reached out to the Turkish authorities who confirmed that they would start to search for the vessel. Our contact person was in direct contact with the group and advised them to stay calm until the Turkish coastguard would arrive. At 10.08am, their rescue was confirmed.

Summary of other 19 cases: At 1.51am, we were contacted by someone residing in Germany who was in contact with 14 travellers on board of a vessel in distress. He passed on phone number and their GPS position. We reached the travellers who stated that water had entered their vessel – they required help urgently. The Greek coastguards agreed to search for the vessel and shortly afterwards, the travellers confirmed to us that they had been rescued.

Our Syrian friends then told us about another case of a vessel trying to reach Nisirios/Greece. Since they were still in Turkish waters and in urgent distress as their vessel was sinking, we informed the Turkish coastguards who confirmed that they would launch a rescue mission. Later on we received the confirmation that they had been rescued – by a fishing vessel which brought the 35 travellers to a Greek island.

Our contact person from a Macedonian activist collective informed us about a distress situation. A vessel was trying to reach Chios. We reached the group in Turkish waters who were 40 people, including 20 children. We informed the Turkish coastguards and their rescue was later confirmed to us.

We heard about 30-35 people on a vessel, seeking to reach Lesvos/Greece. We spoke to the travellers and they passed on their GPS coordinates. They told us that they were sinking and wanted us to immediately notify the Turkish coastguards which we did. They quickly sent a rescue vessel to their position and with the assistance of a Turkish fishing vessel, the travellers were rescued.

In addition, we were informed about several groups in distress, most of whom we could not reach directly: Five were trying to reach Chios/Greece, two Agathonisi/Greece, one Kos/Greece, two Samos/Greece, two Nisirios/Greece, one Lesvos/Greece, and one group was already on Farmakonisi/Greece and needed support. We passed their GPS positions on, if known, to the Greek coastguards. The rescue of seven of these distress cases, two near Chios, one near Kos, two near Samos, one near Lesvos, and one near Nisirios, was later confirmed to us. We were also notified via Facebook about a man who had gone overboard near Lesvos/Greece. However, no further information about him could be obtained and the Greek coastguards had no knowledge on a man gone missing.
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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

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