"They want to see us drown" – Survivors of a push back operation in the Aegean Sea report to the Watch The Med Alarm Phone

16.11.2014 / 17:01 / Chios/Greece-Cesme/Turkey

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation – 25/26 October 2014

Case name: 2014_10_25_pushback_CHIOS-GR-CESME-TR
Situation: Push-back operation by Greek Coastguards
Status of WTM Investigation: Ongoing (Last update: 31st of October 2014)
Time and Place of Incident: Night of 25th-26th of October 2014 between Chios/Greece and Cesme/Turkey

Brief Summary of the Case: Witness Mr D. reports of a push-back operation by the Greek coastguard when he and 32 other passengers, all of Syrian nationality and including a pregnant woman, were leaving Cesme in Turkey to reach the Greek island of Chios on a rubber vessel in the night of the 25th-26th of October 2014. The Greek coastguard intercepted the vessel and later boarded it, then took away the gas tank of the engine and punctured the vessel. The coastguard left the vessel behind in Turkish waters, without an engine and a hole in the vessel. The passengers were able to call the Turkish coastguard which rescued them and brought them back to Cesme.

Summary of the Case based on Mr D.’s witness account: The WTM shift team got in contact by phone on the 26th of October 2014 at 8:49 a.m.. Mr D., calling from a police station in Cesme (Turkey), explained that he and 32 other Syrian refugees were pushed-back by Greek coastguards in the night before when they sought to reach Greece in order to apply for asylum. The shift team reports that Mr D. was audibly shaken and still in shock when recalling the incident of the previous night. In his witness account, he recounted how they boarded a rubber vessel in the area around Cesme/Turkey in order to reach the island of Chios/Greece on the 25th of October. Approximately after one hour, the Greek coastguard intercepted the vessel. The coastguard forced them to shut off the engine. The refugees followed their commands. After they turned off the engine, the coastguard vessel moved away and left them behind. The refugees were stuck in the middle of the sea. After a lengthy period of time they tried to reignite the engine. After some time, they were successful and they reignited the engine. Immediately after, the coastguard re-emerged. The coastguard ordered them to leave their vessel and to embark on theirs. Following Mr D.'s account, the coastguards were shooting in the air. He stated that he was screaming to make the coastguard understand that they were all Syrian refugees on the vessel, and had fled from war and dictatorship: “I have here a 9 months pregnant lady, so please don't do that.” The Greek coastguard entered the now empty refugee vessel. They took away the gas tank of the engine. They drove them to a place where there were no boats, “in the middle of the sea”. They forced them back on the rubber vessel. Then the coastguard punctured the vessel and left them behind in Turkish waters with a hole in the vessel and without an engine. Mr D. stated that the coastguard wanted “to see us drown”. The passengers were able to alarm the Turkish coastguard and after a long time they were rescued by them and brought to Cesme. The survivors were to be brought to Izmir and released there.
Last update: 17:40 Nov 28, 2014
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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