02/03: 6 groups in distress near Greek islands of Lesvos and Pasas

03.03.2016 / 22:41 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 2nd of March 2016

Case name: 2016_03_02-AEG223
Situation: 02/03: 6 groups in distress near Greek islands of Lesvos and Pasas
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On Wednesday the 2nd of March 2016, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 6 groups of travellers in distress near the Greek islands of Lesvos and Pasas. While one group had stranded on Pasas and was transferred to Chios afterwards, 5 boats had been in distress east of the Greek island of Lesvos. In the end, two boats reached Lesvos independently and the Greek coastguard rescued one boat. Beyond that, one boat returned to Turkey independently and the Turkish coastguard rescued another boat.

At around midnight, the Alarm Phone was called directly from a Turkish number (case 1). We heard many overlapping voices, but then the call was interrupted. We called the phone number back via Skype and were able to talk to one traveller. We realized that the group was in distress, but we needed a translator to understand the exact problem. With the help of a translator we learned at 0.40am that there were 50 people on a rubber boat. They were scared but not in urgent distress. 15 minutes later, at 0.54am, we received the GPS coordinates of the group, which showed them very close to the Greek island of Lesvos. We called the Greek coastguard at 0.57am and informed them about the boat, but we were quite sure that the boat would independently reach the coast. 20 minutes afterwards, at 1.19am, the travellers confirmed to our translator via WhatsApp that they had safely arrived on Lesvos and that local rescue teams were already waiting for them.

At 5am the Alarm Phone was again directly called from a boat in distress, carrying 40 people (case 2). As the communication via phone was difficult, we asked for a WhatsApp number and received it at 5.09am. At 5.12am we asked the travellers via WhatsApp to sent us their current GPS position. They did so at 5.18am and we were able to see that they had already entered Greek territorial waters east of Lesvos. Thus we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus immediately afterwards and forwarded their position and phone number. At 5.23am we informed the travellers that the coastguard would come and rescue them. At 5.36am the travellers confirmed to us that the Greek coastguard had arrived and in the course of the next 10 minutes we received confirmation from several contact persons that the coastguard had rescued the travellers.

At 6.08am a contact person alerted us to 40 people in distress and forwarded their phone number and a GPS position in Turkish territorial waters east of the Greek island of Lesvos to us (case 3). We tried to contact the people via WhatsApp and reached them at 06.16am. They wrote to us that they were in real danger and we promised to call the Turkish coastguard. At 6.18am the contact person forwarded updated coordinates to us and added the information that the boat had broken down and that water was quickly entering it. At 6.25am we called the Turkish coastguard and forwarded the boat’s position and phone number to the Turkish authorities. They seemed to be already informed and refused to promise to us that they would rescue the boat. However, in the following 20 minutes, several contact persons informed us that the boat in distress might have been rescued. Finally, at 7am, the initial contact person confirmed to us, that the boat had returned and reached the Turkish coast independently.

At about 7.30am several contact persons forwarded a phone number and GPS coordinates of a boat to us, which was close to the island of Lesvos, but not in urgent distress (case 4). We tried to call the travellers directly several times, but did not reach them. At 7.40am, we learned that the boat was still moving and at 7.55am the travellers told us that they were close to Mytilene. Finally, at 10.30am the travellers wrote to us via WhatsApp that they had safely arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos.

At 9.17am the Alarm Phone was informed about a boat with 35 travellers on board, which had run out of fuel in Turkish territorial waters east of the Greek island of Lesvos (case 5). We tried to call the travellers directly several times in order to ask them if we should alert the Turkish coastguard, but we did not reach them. However, at 9.30am, the travellers sent us their latest GPS position, which showed that they had not moved anymore since we had been alerted. At 9.33am one of our contact persons informed us, that he had already called the Turkish coastguard and that they would rescue the boat. We decided not to get active beyond that, and at 10.27am the same contact persons confirmed to us that the Turkish coastguard had indeed rescued the boat.

In the late evening of that day, at 11pm, the Alarm Phone was informed about a group of 50 travellers, who had stranded on the Greek island of Pasas (case 6). At 11.12pm we were able to speak directly to the stranded travellers. They were very calm and had already been informed by the local military that they had to spend the night at the island and that they would be picked up only at the next morning. At 11.30pm we called the port authorities on Chios and asked if they had already been informed about the group on Pasas. They confirmed to be aware of this group, but they were not able to tell us when they would be picked up. On the next morning, we sent a WhatsApp message to the travellers, asking if they had been rescued. We did not receive an answer. However, at about midday, we were able to speak to them again and learned that they had been rescued and had already arrived on the Greek island of Chios.
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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