9 distress cases in the Aegean Sea, close to several Greek islands

25.09.2015 / 23:42 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 24th of September 2015

Case name: 2015_09_24-AEG80
Situation: 9 distress cases in the Aegean Sea, close to Kouneli, Farmakonisi, Chios, Samos, Lesvos, Nera
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On Thursday, the 24th of September 2015, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 9 cases of distress in the Aegean Sea, close to the Greek islands of Kouneli, Farmakonisi, Chios, Samos, Lesvos, and Nera.

The 1st alert reached us at twenty minutes past midnight. A contact person sent us an e-mail with the coordinates and number of a boat and told us that the boat had been attacked and left behind without fuel. We called the Turkish coastguard, who already knew about the case and who had already sent a boat. At 1am the Turkish coastguard called us back to inform us that they had saved 46 persons.

Shortly after the first alert, at 00.25am the Alarm Phone shift team received a 2nd alert. A group of 20 persons with 6 children among them had stranded on a beach on Konely Island. They said that they were freezing. They had talked to the coast guard five hours earlier, who had promised to come, but never did. The shift team contacted the Greek coastguard, who was not very cooperative, because the stranded travellers had already called them three times. Nevertheless the coastguard promised to look for the travellers. We also sent an e-mail with the coordinates to the coastguard. During the whole night, we kept in touch with the travellers via WhatsApp. At 6.35 they called us again on the alarm phone, but communication was difficult. At 7.20 we called the police station in Agathonisi. The person on duty told us that they had sent a boat to the stranded group. At 10.30am we received a WhatsApp message from Nawal Soufi's activist collective about the same case with the information that the travellers had still not been picked up. At 11am a friend in Greece called the police in Agathonisi again and received the information that the travellers had been taken to Agathonisi.

At 2am we were alerted by different contact persons to a 3rd distress case in the Aegean Sea, close to Farmakonisi, Greece. 41 travellers with 11 children among them were lost in a storm. We informed the Greek coastguard, but they said that the travellers should go on by themselves, as their engine was still working. We tried several times to contact the travellers, but without success. At 3am we received a message from one of the contact persons that the engine had broken down. We forwarded the information to the Greek coastguard. At 4.10am another contact person called us with the information that the boat had been attacked by people wearing masks. Again, we passed on the information to the Greek coastguard. A few minutes later, at 4.30am one of the contact persons told us that the travellers had arrived in Farmakonisi. We sent a final e-mail to the coastguard, asking them to pick up the travellers from the deserted island. During the day, we tried to follow up the transfer of the group from Farmakonisi to another island. At 3.25pm, we finally got in touch with a representative of UNHCR Greece, who forwarded the information to her colleagues on Leros and assured us that they would take care of the group.

At 2:41, the shift team received a WhatsApp message about a 4th distress case of a vessel between Turkey and Chios, Greece in danger of capsizing. We called the Greek coastguard, but they told us that the boat was in Turkish water. After checking with the contact person, we called the Turkish coastguard about the case. They told us that they were informed about the case and that the rescue was ongoing. We reached out to the contact person, who confirmed that the travellers saw a big and a small rescue boat close by. At 4am the contact person messaged us that the travellers had been taken back to Turkey.

During the day the Alarm Phone was alerted to 4 other cases of distress in the Aegean Sea. One boat near Sami carrying 30 persons and another boat near Lesvos in distress were rescued by the Greek coastguard, without our intervention. another boat near lesvos reached the coast by themselves and one group that had stranded on Nera was picked up by the police and brought to Agathonisi.

At 5.36pm we received a call from a German number about a 9th distress case of a person trying to swim to Greece. He probably left Turkey at 11am and his family had not heard from him since. The contact person did not know where the swimmer started, what his destination or his last position was. We sent an email to the Greek and Turkish coastguards, to the Greek police and the UNHCR to inform them about the incident and to ask whether they had any further information. At 6.30 we received a WhatsApp message with the name of the swimmer (Amar Mhamad Al Sous / Ammar Mohamad Haidar Alsous), his age (born 1996) and photos. The last contact with his family had been on September 14th 2015.
Last update: 17:19 Oct 03, 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