19/02: 7 groups of distress near Greek islands of Lesvos, Pasas and Farmakonisi

20.02.2016 / 15:51 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 19th of January 2016

Case name: 2016_02_19-AEG212
Situation: 19/02: 7 groups in distress near Greek islands of Lesvos, Pasas and Farmakonisi
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On Friday the 19th of February 2016, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 7 groups of travellers in distress near the Greek islands of Lesvos and Farmakonisi. On group had stranded on Pasas and was picked up and transferred to Chios afterwards. Of 6 boats in distress 3 were rescued by the Greek coastguard, 2 by the Turkish coastguard and one boat reached Lesvos independently.

At 0.26am the Alarm Phone was informed by several contact persons about a boat in distress close to the Greek island of Lesvos, with 55 people on board (case 1). A contact person informed us that the boat’s engine had stopped working 20 minutes earlier and forwarded to us the phone number of the travellers in distress. We asked him that they should call the emergency hotlines 112 and 108 and promised to call the Greek coastguard by ourselves. In a call to the Greek coastguard at 0.44am we handed over the received information. But already at 0.52am, one of the contact persons forwarded a message from the travellers to us, stating that they had safely arrived on the island of Lesvos. The other contact persons confirmed this information afterwards.

At 2.46am a contact persons alerted us to another boat in distress close to Lesvos, with 42 travellers on board (case 2). We tried to call the boat directly, but did not reach the travellers and thus we sent a WhatsApp message to them. As we were not able to speak to them directly, we hesitated to immediately alert the Greek coastguard. At 3.15am the contact persons informed us, that the boat had been rescued by the Greek coastguard in the meantime.

At 4.15am the GPS coordinates and phone number of another boat between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesvos was forwarded to us via WhatsApp (case 3). 50 people were in distress close to the Turkish coast. We decided to immediately call the Turkish coastguard and asked the contact person to urge the travellers to call the Turkish emergency hotline 158. We called the Turkish coastguard at 4.22am, but they were already informed about this boat for about 10 minutes. However, they had not been able to call to the travellers directly, but we confirmed to them that they were in distress and in need of help. At 4.53am we learned from the contact person that the Turkish coastguard had informed him about a successful rescue of this boat, but that he had not received a confirmation of rescue from the travellers themselves, as they were not reachable anymore. At 2.30pm in the afternoon we also talked about this case with the Turkish coastguard and they also confirmed to us that they had rescued a boat at the position in question in the morning.

At 7am a contact person forwarded a phone number and GPS position to us and informed us that the travellers are in need of help (case 4). We tried to contact the boat at 7.05am but the travellers were not answering. At 7.20am we received a new position of the boat, which showed it just 250 meters away from the Turkish coast. The contact person told us that the engine of the boat had stopped and that the waves had pushed the boat back to the Turkish coast. Afterwards, the contact person lost the connection to the boat and we were not able to reach the given number as well. But at 8.30am another contact person informed us, that the Turkish coastguard had rescued this boat.

At 7.48am the Alarm Phone was called and provided with GPS coordinates and a phone number of a boat in distress on its way to the Greek island of Lesvos, with 57 people on board, including 25 children (case 5). We tried to call the boat directly, but did not reach the travellers. At 9.18am we received another GPS position of the boat via another contact person. At that time, the boat was still in Turkish territorial waters. However, at 10.30am we received updated coordinates, showing that they had arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos. At 10.50am we finally reached the travellers directly and learned that the Greek coastguard had rescued them.

At about 8.40am several contact persons alerted us to a group of travellers who had stranded on the Greek island of Pasas and provided us with their phone number (case 6). At 8.52am we were able to speak directly to the travellers and learned that they were 45 persons. At 9am we called the port authorities on the neighbouring island of Chios. They were already informed about the group and had already sent a rescue vessel to the island of Pasas. At 11.16am we received an updated GPS position, showing that the group was still on the island. But at 1.20pm the Chios port authorities confirmed to us that they had picked up the group and transferred them to Chios.

At 10.08am we were provided with GPS coordinates and a phone number of a boat with a broken engine on its way to the Greek island of Farmakonisi, with about 55 people on board (case 7). We called the Turkish coastguard at 10.20pm, they were already alerted to this boat. Because the boat was exactly on the border between Turkish and Greek territorial waters, we also called the Greek coastguard and the Hellenic rescue team at 10.30pm. In the following two hours, we tried to keep in touch with the travellers, but this was difficult due to bad network connections, we only learned that they were still at sea at about 11.20pm. But at 1.05am of the next day we reached them again and learned that they had arrived on the Greek island of Farmakonisi. They reported to us that they had been beaten by 4 men from the military and that they were in need of food and water. At 1.22am we called the port authorities on Leros, who were already informed about the group on Farmakonisi and stated that they will be picked up soon. They asked us about the situation of the travellers and we reported what we had learned from them. We also sent an e-mail to the Leros authorities, to the Greek police, the Leros solidarity group and the UNHCR Greece and provided them with our information. On the next morning, at 7.20am, we called the port authorities on Leros again to ask if they had already picked up the travellers from the island of Farmakonisi, but we did not get an answer. At 7.30am we tried to reach the travellers again, but were not able to speak to them. However, at 7.50am we saw that the Greek rescue vessel ILIAS T had arrived in the harbor of Farmakonisi, probably in order to pick up stranded travellers. At 8.30am the rescue vessel had left Farmakonisi in the direction of Leros. Although we were not able to reach the travellers again, we assumed that they had been transferred to Leros with this vessel.
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

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