Alarm Phone alerted to 10 distress cases, near Lesvos, Kalymnos and Samos ‬‬‬

03.09.2015 / 10:42 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 2nd of September 2015

Case name: 2015_09_2-AEG58
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 10 distress cases, mostly Lesvos, Kalymnos and Samos ‬‬‬
Status of WTM Investigations: Concluded
Place of Incidents: Aegean Sea

Summary of the case: On Wednesday the 2nd of September 2015, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 10 distress cases in the Aegean Sea, mostly near Lesvos, Kalymnos and Samos. At 1.35am our shift team was notified by two different contact persons about the same distress situation. The coordinates showed that the travellers were located on an island close to Samos. We tried to reach the travellers, but since nobody picked up we sent them a WhatsApp message with the numbers of the UNHCR in Greece, telling them to call UNHCR in the morning. We asked the contact person about the size and composition of the group. He informed us that there were about 100 persons with 25 children, and passed on another phone number. With this number, we managed to reach the group and told them to call the UNHCR at 9am in the morning. At 10.30am, we called the UNHCR about the case. They took the coordinates and told us that the group would be picked up, but also stated that they could not intervene, as long as the travellers were not in a more pressing emergency situation.‬‬

At 2.30am we were informed about a 2nd vessel with 52 travellers on board, located south of Lesvos. The contact person, who informed us about the case told us that he had lost contact with the passengers and feared that they were about to drown. We again could not reach the boat and thus called the Greek coastguard on Lesvos, who took the coordinates, but did not promise to start a rescue operation. We thus informed the Hellenic Rescue Team about the case and called again the Greek coastguard half an hour later, inquiring about their action. We were told that all rescue boats were involved in other operations and that the case had to wait until a boat was available. Unfortunately we could not follow-up whether this vessel was rescued or not.

At 8.34am a person called us about a 3rd distress case in the Aegean. The contact person told us that the travellers were in panic because their engine had broken down. At 9am we received the coordinates of the vessel, which we could locate in between Turkey and Lesvos, still in Turkish waters. We could not establish direct contact with the travellers, but the contact person told us to inform the Turkish coastguards, as the distress situation was urgent. We thus informed the Turkish coastguard: First we tried the station closest to the vessel, in Canakkale, but no one picked up the phone. The same happened when we tried to reach Izmir and Ankara. At 9.13am we finally reached the Greek coastguard and informed them about the case. Moreover, we sent an e-mail to the UNHCR in Turkey and Greece. At 9.52am we were informed by a contact person that vessel 3 was saved and brought back to Turkey.

At 10am, we received a call about a boat on the way to Lesvos, which had been attacked by masked men, who had left the boat with a damaged engine. Our contact person provided us with a phone number, but could not pass on coordinates. At 11am we managed to reach the travellers. They told us that despite the broken engine they had somehow managed to reach the Turkish coast.

Shortly after 10 am, we received information about a 5th distress case, this time in Greek waters. We did not have any details about the travellers' condition and no phone number, but we passed on the coordinates to the Greek coastguard. They told us to find out whether this was an actual distress case. We thus called the contact person again, who had informed us about the case, and he told us that the group had already safely arrived in Kalymnos.

At 11am we were informed about a group of 6 women and children and 1 man who were lost in the mountains in the East of Samos Island, Greece. Apparently they had been walking for hours and were disoriented and exhausted. We informed the UNHCR, who forwarded the SOS call to local rescue teams. However, they told us that the mountains in the East of the island were very hard to reach.

The 7th case of the day concerned two vessels about which we were informed via WhatsApp. Our contact person had received a SOS call and the positions of the 2 boats via Facebook. According to the coordinates he gave us, the boats were off the Turkish coast, moving towards Skala Sikamenias, Lesvos, Greece. Since we did not receive any further information - neither about the situation of the travellers, nor about ways to contact them, we could not resolve the case.

At 4.30pm we received a direct call from a vessel in distress, carrying 50 passengers. Water was entering the boat, the engine had apparently already broken down and the travellers asked us urgently for help. They said that they were 45 persons, 15 children among them. They sent us their position via WhatsApp. They were still in Turkish waters. Half an hour later they told us that they had managed to restart the engine, but it stopped again twenty minutes later. They sent us new coordinates, clearly showing them in Greek territory. We called the Greek coastguard, who said that they were already informed about the case. The travellers sent us a picture of their boat via WhatsApp. At 6pm we called an activist in Eftalou, Greece. She confirmed that the coastguard had gone out to the spot of the boat and that the boat did not seem to be in danger of capsizing. For the next two hours, we could not join the travellers anymore. We sent them a message, asking whether they had arrived. At 8pm they confirmed that they had safely arrived in Greece.

At 5pm an Alarm Phone member received a message on his private phone about our 9th case with a GPS position and two phone numbers. The shift team tried to reach the numbers, but without success. We sent a WhatsApp message asking for their position. At 6pm we received a GPS position. Given the answers of the coastguard in the last cases, we decided not to call them right away, because we did not know from which time these corrdinates were. We tried several times to get in touch with the vessels, but could not reach them.

At 5.43pm we received another direct call from a vessel, carrying 45 persons, among them 10 children and 16 women. The engine already stopped and the battery of the phone was low. The travellers sent their position from a different phone and we could locate them east of Skala Sikamenias, Lesvos, Greece. At 9pm they sent us another message, saying that their boat was sinking. We tried to call them back on both numbers but could not reach them. We thus called the activist in Eftalou again, who told us that a convoy of eleven boats had arrived and that at this time not much could be seen from Eftalou. At 9.20pm we called the Greek coastguard again, who confirmed that as far as they knew all boats had reached land independently, but they took the coordinates and promised to double-check.
Last update: 17:53 Sep 15, 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