Alarm Phone alerted to 9 boats in distress close to Lesvos, Agathonisi, Kos, Chios and Samos

11.10.2015 / 14:54 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 10th of October 2015

Case name: 2015_10_10-AEG95
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 9 boats in distress close to the Greek islands of Lesvos, Agathonisi, Kos, Chios and Samos
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On Saturday the 10th of October 2015 the Alarm Phone dealt with a total of 9 boats in distress in the Aegean Sea, near the Greek island of Lesvos, Agathonisi, Kos and Samos. In 5 cases the Greek coastguard rescued the travellers and in one case the Turkish coastguard conducted a large rescue operation. One boat reached Greece on its own but in two more cases rescue cannot be confirmed by the Alarm Phone, because we lost contact with the travellers.

At around midnight a contact person informed us via WhatsApp about 40 people in distress, including 7 women and 5 children, northeast of the Greek island of Lesvos (case 1). In a direct phone call we learned that they had run out of fuel and that the boat’s engine had stopped. We called the Greek coastguard in Mytilini on the island of Lesvos and passed our information on to them. At about 1am the contact person sent us a voice message from the travellers, confirming that the Greek coastguard had rescued them.

At 0.45am another contact person altered us to a boat in distress southeast of Lesvos with 10 people on board (case 2). We called the coastguard in Mytilini again and informed them about this case. At 0.55am we talked directly to the travellers and told them that the coastguard was already informed. One hour later, the coastguard told us that their vessel had brought the travellers of case 1 to the port and went out again to search the second boat. At about 3am the coastguard had no further information, but at 4am they confirmed to us that they had rescued the travellers in distress.

At 3.20am a contact person informed us about a group of 39 travellers who had stranded on a rocky island close to Agathonisi (case 3). Twenty minutes later we managed to establish contact to them via WhatsApp and the group confirmed this information. They wrote to us that they had 9 women and 12 children among them. We called the port authorities on Agathonisi immediately afterwards and they promised to search for the group. Meanwhile, we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus to alarm them of the situation. They promised to search for the group as well. In the following hours we were not able to re-establish contact to the group. At 10am we called the port police in Agathonisi, but they asked us to inform the Hellenic Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Piraeus again. It seemed to us that the person on duty was not informed about the case, but he promised to look for them after we provided him with the group’s coordinates and phone number for the second time. We tried calling the group several times but were not able to reach them, thus we could not confirm the rescue.

At 4.30am we received a direct call from a group of travellers in distress (case 4). Communication with them was only possible in Arabic, so we asked a friend who speaks Arabic to call them back. He learned that the group lost orientation but had left from Çanakkale/Turkey at about 4am, among them 18 children. Their situation seemed to be serious as they urgently asked for help. So we decided to immediately inform the Turkish coastguard. The coastguard took all the information and asked us to inform the travellers to call the Turkish emergency number 158. At 6.45am we called the coastguard again and were told that they had found the boat but it was not in distress but still moving towards Greece. We were very sceptical with respect to this information, as the travellers had desperately asked for help on the phone. At 7.30am we reached the travellers again via phone, but after some seconds the connection got off. In the following hours we did not manage to reach them again.

During that night, another distress message reached us, informing us about a boat in distress southeast of Lesvos (case 5). Before we were able to intervene, the contact person informed us that the travellers had already been rescued by the Greek coastguard.

At 7.45am the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress between Bodrum/Turkey and the Greek island of Kos (case 6). There were 100 travellers on board, among them about 25 children. We called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus, which was already aware of this boat but told us that it was still in Turkish territorial waters. In a phone call with the Turkish coastguard we learned, that they already had a rescue vessel on the spot but had to wait for another one, as the number of travellers on board of the boat in distress was so large. At 8am we talked to the travellers again and they confirmed to us that a Turkish rescue vessel in close vicinity did not intervene. We told them that the Turkish boat was waiting for a back up. We also asked them to go further in the direction of Greece, but they were not able to do so as their engine had broken down. In the following 30 minutes we stayed in contact with the boat and learned that the Turkish coastguard had started to rescue the travellers but had stopped again after having disembarked half of the group. We called the Turkish coastguard again and we were able to confirm to the travellers afterwards that a second rescue vessel was nearby. At 8.40am the travellers told us, that the rescue of the second part of the group had started. Finally, at 9.25am they confirmed to us that all people had been rescued.

At 9am we received a WhatsApp message from a contact person, alerting us to a boat in distress northeast of Samos, with 40 people on board who had run out of fuel (case 7). Although we were not able to establish direct contact to the boat, we informed the Greek coastguard at 9.20am, as the boat was clearly in Greek waters. The coastguard promised to search for the boat. Afterwards we were still not able to reach the boat, but at 11.20am our contact person confirmed that the boat was rescued.

At 11.25am a contact person forwarded the phone number and coordinates of a boat to us, which was in distress in Greek territorial waters, 5 kilometres east of the island of Chios (case 8). We called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus at 11.45am. They told us that the travellers had to call the emergency number 112 by themselves. Although we argued that they might not be able to make calls at the moment, they refused to take notice of our information. Thus, at 12pm we informed the UNHCR in Greece about the case and the coastguard’s refusal to take notice. 45 minutes later, at 12.45pm, we talked to the travellers again and they told us that they had been rescued. At 1pm the Greek coastguard confirmed the rescue as well.

At midday a member of a Swedish collective forwarded a SOS call, alerting us to a boat in distress near the Greek island of Samos, which had run out of fuel (case 9). One hour later the contact person informed us, that there were 40 travellers on the boat and 3 persons urgently needed help. At 1.05pm we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus and forwarded all information we obtained to them. At 2.15pm the informant called us again, confirming that the group had arrived on Samos and that they had alerted the port authorities and the police on that island.
Last update: 15:20 Oct 23, 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