20/01: 15 boats in distress near the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Farmakonisi and Samos; 2 groups stranded on Farmakonisi and Pasas; all rescued

21.01.2016 / 19:28 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 20th of January 2016

Case name: 2016_01_20-AEG188
Situation: 15 boats in distress near the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Farmakonisi and Samos; 2 groups stranded on Farmakonisi and Pasas; all rescued
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On Wednesday the 20th of January 2016 the Alarm Phone was alerted to 17 groups in distress on their way to the Greek island of Lesvos, Chios, Farmakonisi, Pasas and Samos. Two groups had stranded on the islands of Farmakonisi and Pasas and were transferred to larger islands by the Greek port authorities. The Greek coastguard rescued 4 boats, while another 7 boats arrived independently on Lesvos and Chios. 4 boats were rescued and transferred back to Turkey by the Turkish coastguard.

At 0.12am a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat in distress in Turkish territorial waters (case 1). He forwarded its GPS position to us and asked us to call the Turkish coastguard as the boat was already sinking. We informed the Turkish coastguard at 0.16am, but they were already aware of this boat and had started a rescue operation. At 1.22am our contact person confirmed to us that the Turkish coastguard had rescued the travellers on board. However, one person went missing during this operation. At 3.30am we called the Turkish coastguard again, in order to get updates on the missing person. We were told that the coastguard was still searching this person, but this information did not seem to be reliable. At 5.15am we talked to our contact person again and he assumed that the person drowned. In the afternoon of that day the contact person confirmed to us that the missing person died.

At 0.30am, several contact persons informed us about a boat in distress on its way to the Greek island of Lesvos, with about 50 travellers on board, among them many children (case 2). We were again asked to directly alert the Turkish coastguard, as water was already entering the boat. We called the Turkish coastguard at 0.39am and learned that they had already sent a rescue vessel. Ten minutes later one of the contact persons called us again. He had been in contact with the people on board again and told us that they had not yet been picked up. He forwarded updated coordinates to us and urged us to call the Turkish coastguard again. At 1am we called the coastguard again and pressurized them to become active. They promised to do so but did not give us any further information. Only at 5.30am we received a confirmation from one of our contact persons that the boat had been rescued by the Turkish coastguard.

At 0.15am we were informed about a boat close to the Turkish coast on its way to the Greek island of Chios, the engine of which had stopped (case 3). The contact person asked us to alert the Turkish coastguard. We called them at 0.25am and they promised to search the boat. At 0.45am we received an updated position, the current had pushed the boat further west. At 1.20am the contact person informed us that the boat’s engine had started again and that the travellers were able to continue their journey in the direction of Chios. At 1.30am we received a new GPS position, showing that the boat had entered Greek territorial waters. Finally, at 4.10am the contact person confirmed to us that the boat had safely arrived in Greece.

At about the same time we were informed via WhatsApp about a group of 200 travellers who had stranded on the Greek island of Farmakonisi (case 4). We learned that the Greek military was with the group, but that they did not provide them with any food or water and that the group was suffering from being cold and wet. We establish direct contact to the travellers via WhatsApp and promised to them to check with the authorities on the island of Leros when they would be picked up from the island of Farmakonisi. At 5.15am the travellers informed us that another 100 travellers had arrived. During the day we were not able to establish contact to the group again. But at 8.50pm the Greek coastguard in Piraeus told us that all travellers had been picked up from Farmakonisi and were transferred to Leros during the day.

At 2.40am we were alerted via Facebook to a group of 14 travellers who had stranded on the Greek island of Pasas (case 5). We called the travellers directly and talked to one of them. At 2.45am we informed the Chios Refugee Support group and called the port authorities on Chios at 2.50am. They were already aware of this group and promised to pick them up. However, they were not sure how long this would take due to bad weather conditions. After several failed attempts we reached the port authorities again at 5am. They told us that they were not able to go to the island of Pasas so far, but promised to do so at about 8am. At 8.40am we called them again and learned that the group of travellers had grown to 150 persons and that a first rescue vessel had started to pick them up. Beyond that they told us that a second larger vessel was on its way from Chios to Pasas. We tried to reach the travellers again at 8.45am, but without success. During the whole day, we were not able to obtain any news about the situation on Pasas, but at 1.15am of the next day the person who had informed us about this case in the very beginning confirmed to us that the group had been transferred to Chios.

At about 3am a contact person informed us about a boat in distress southeast of the Greek island of Lesvos (case 6). He had already called the Turkish coastguard but they did not react and told him that it would take to long to reach this boat. Thus he asked us to call the Turkish coastguard as well and to pressurize them. We did so at 3.05am and were able to convince the coastguard to search for the boat. At 3.50am we were in contact with the people on board via WhatsApp and learned that they had indeed been rescued by the Turkish coastguard.

At 4.30am a contact person sent us a message via Facebook, informing us about another boat in distress on its way to the Greek island of Lesvos (case 7). The contact person forwarded several phone numbers to us and told us that he lost contact to the group. At 4.45am we called the Greek coastguard and were told that they were observing the boat but that it was still moving. We forwarded this information to the contact person and asked him to try to get in contact with the travellers again. During the day we were not able to get any updates on this case, but at 7.10pm the contact person told us that the boat had safely arrived on Lesvos.

At about 5am the Arab Team to Rescue Refugees alerted us to another boat in distress on its way to the Greek island of Lesvos (case 8). We called the travellers directly and talked to a person who was in panicking. We learned that there were 38 persons on board and that the boat’s engine had stopped. They asked us to call the Greek coastguard and sent us their GPS position, which was however still in Turkish waters. We called them again and explained that we can only alert the Turkish coastguard as long as they are in Turkish waters. Thus we urged them to try to restart the engine and to move further in the direction of Lesvos. During the following hour they constantly updated us on their position and we talked to the Greek coastguard several times, in order to convince them to rescue the boat. At 6am the travellers called us again and told us that their engine had stopped again. Now they asked us to alert the Turkish coastguard as well. We tried to call the Turkish authorities, but no one took the call. Finally, at 6.30am, the travellers sent us a photo of a Greek rescue vessel in front of them, indicating that the Greek coastguard had started to rescue them. Afterwards the traveller’s phone was turned off and we were not able to reach them anymore.

At 6.30am we were informed via Facebook about a boat in distress in Turkish territorial waters east of the Greek island of Lesvos and were asked to alert the Turkish coastguard (case 9). Although we were not able to establish contact to the boat, we called the Turkish coastguard at 6.43am and forwarded the position of the boat. The officer told us that they were aware of this boat and that were working on it. At about 7am the contact person informed us that the Turkish coastguard had rescued the boat in distress.

At about 7am several contact persons forwarded the GPS coordinates and a phone number of another boat to us, which was on its way to the island of Lesvos (case 10). We tried to reach the travellers via phone and WhatsApp but did not receive an answer. Only at 8.05am they wrote to us that they were not in need of help anymore. One contact person informed us afterwards, that the boat had been rescued by the Greek coastguard and another contact person informed us that they had safely arrived on Lesvos.

At 8.15am a contact person alerted us to a boat in distress with 50 travellers on board north of Lesvos (case 11). We called the Greek coastguard at 8.20am and forwarded the position of the boat in distress to them. Only in the afternoon we received further information on this boat. The contact person confirmed to us that the travellers had arrived on Lesvos independently.

At 8.45am and again at 9.15am a group of 40 travellers called us directly from a boat in front of the Greek island of Farmakonisi (case 12). They were facing very high waves and were afraid of the landing process. We informed the Greek coastguard about this boat at 9.18am and urged them to send a rescue vessel to this boat in distress. At 10.15am we talked again to them and were told that a rescue operation was ongoing. At 10.50am we talked to the travellers again and learned that they had been rescued and had safely arrived on Farmakonisi. During the day we tried to keep contact to the group in order to monitor their transfer from Farmakonisi to the island of Leros. Although we were not able to communicate with them anymore, we learned from the Greek coastguard at 8.50pm, that all people on Farmakonisi had been transferred to Leros on this day.

At about 9am we received the GPS coordinates and a phone number of a boat north of the Greek island of Lesvos, already in Greek territorial waters, from a contact person (case 13). Although we were not able to talk to the travellers directly, we called the Greek coastguard at 10am. They were aware of this boat and assumed that they might have already arrived on Lesvos, as the coordinates were forwarded to them one hour earlier. Afterwards we tried to call the travellers directly, but did not reach them. In the afternoon our contact person confirmed to us that the travellers had reached Lesvos independently.

At 9.35am the Alarm Phone was called directly and provided with the phone number of a boat in distress (case 14). We called this number at 9.40am and talked to the travellers. They were panicking and asked for help, however we were not able to obtain any information about their position or starting point of their journey. During the following two hours, several further contact persons informed us about this boat, but neither of them was able to forward their position to us. Thus, we asked the travellers to call the international emergency hotline 112 directly, in order to submit their position to the authorities. At 12.45am one contact person informed us that the travellers had arrived on an island and provided us with a second phone number. During the afternoon we were not able to reach them again, but at 7.30pm the same contact person confirmed to us that the travellers were saved, probably by the Greek coastguard.

At 9.40am the support group United Rescue and another contact person forwarded the phone number and GPS position of a boat in distress northeast of the Greek island of Samos to us (case 15). Contact to this boat had been lost and we were also not able to talk to the travellers. Nevertheless, we informed the Greek coastguard at 10.10am and urged them to search for the boat. At 11am one of the contact persons told us that she had been in contact with the group and that they had been rescued and had safely arrived on the island of Samos.

At 11.55am a contact person informed us about another boat in distress southeast of Lesvos, with 55 travellers on board, and forwarded their phone number and GPS position (case 16). We talked briefly to the travellers. They were screaming and very scared. At 12.05am we alerted the Greek coastguard. Afterwards, several contact persons informed us about a second boat in close vicinity. We forwarded this information to the coastguard via e-mail and talked to them again at 1.15pm. We were told that the coastguard was observing both boats but that they were moving independently in the direction of the island of Lesvos. Finally, at 1.45pm and 2.30pm respectively, our contact persons confirmed to us that both boats had safely and independently arrived on Lesvos.
Last update: 14:50 Feb 05, 2016
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