27/06 Alarm Phone alerted to two vessels in distress in the Aegean Sea, one in Greece, one returned to Turkey

28.06.2017 / 10:05 / Aegean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 27th of June 2017

Case name: 2017_06_27-AEG289
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 2 emergency situations in the Aegean Sea
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Tuesday the 27th of June 2017, our Alarm Phone shift team was informed at 2.20am by a contact person about a boat carrying about 50 people, including 20 children, who had departed from the Turkish coast and were moving toward Lesvos Island. Over the next few hours, our contact person passed on updated GPS coordinates to us, showing them in Turkish waters but moving toward Greece. At 4.11am we learn that there was a vessel in the vicinity of the boat-people but we were unable to establish direct communications with them. About an hour later, the boat appeared to have left Turkish territory. At 6.25am we then reached out to the Greek coastguards and passed on the received information. About ten minutes later we were informed by our contact person that the travellers had reached Lesvos safely. In turn, we informed the Greek authorities. We later found out that the UNHCR reported of 34 people who had reached Lesvos on that day, which presumably refers to the travellers in question.

A few hours after being notified about the first boat, the same contact person told us about a second boat with about 50 passengers who were moving toward Samos Island. The forwarded GPS coordinates seemed to show them already in Greek waters and we were told that the boat was in an urgent situation of distress. Unable to reach the travellers directly, we contacted the Greek coastguards at 5.11am and passed on the received information. At 6.25am we spoke to the Greek authorities again and they stated that they were unable to find the boat. At 7.15am, the Greek coastguards contacted us, asking whether we had updates, which was not the case. They speculated that the boat may have been rescued by the Turkish coastguards. At 7.51am and 8.15am they called us again and asked for new information but since we were not able to reach the travellers directly and our contact person could not be reached for some time, no updates could be passed on. At 2.40pm, the Greek coastguard informed us that they had not found the boat and stated that the Turkish coastguards had rescued about 45 people in Turkish waters in that area. We spoke to the Turkish coastguards ten minutes later, and they confirmed that they had carried out two Search and Rescue operations in that area - one boat with 45 people close to Samos and one boat with 50 people further away close to Agathonisi. There were no casualties and the people had been returned to Turkey. At around the same time, our initial contact person confirmed that the travellers were in a Turkish camp.
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