Sovereign Borders: Detected, Intercepted and Removed 5h - ‘They tried to kill us’: pushbacks in the Aegean


‘They tried to kill us’: pushbacks in the Aegean

[imagecaption] Safet Zac, ‘Exodus,’ 2017, Santa Maria della Pietà, Venice. Photo: Joseph Pugliese. [/imagecaption]

‘There were strong waves. We thought they came to save us. They told us to cut the engine. They tied our boat to theirs with a rope, and then they started to turn us in circles…It was so inhumane. They tried to kill us… I told them there were children aboard, but they wouldn’t listen.’

Mohammed Fadil, whose 4 year-old daughter drowned during a turnback operation 


On 15 January 2019, 46 people seeking asylum were intercepted by the Greek coastguard in the Aegean Sea and pushed back towards the Turkish coast.   Their boat began to fill with water during this move, and survivors report that the Greek coastguard abandoned them as they started to sink. The Turkish coastguard dispatched boats and a helicopter to try rescue survivors, but Mohammed Fadil’s daughter had already drowned.

Despite the suggestion by Greek authorities that these are isolated  incidents, organisations such as Amnesty International have documented a pattern of pushback operations that have consistently placed lives at risk. Five years earlier, in January 2014, 11 Afghans – including eight children – drowned when their fishing boat carrying 27 people sank near the Greek island of Farmakonisi. Survivors stated that the boat started to sink as Greek authorities towed the vessel at great speed back towards Turkey. Sabur Azizi told Amnesty International, ‘Somebody showed them the baby asking for help but the coastguards swore at us instead of helping us…When the coastguards cut the rope and tried to move away we started sinking.’ As people tried to move from their sinking vessel to the coastguard boat they were beaten back by the coastguards. Those who managed to climb on board were subsequently held at gunpoint and stripped and beaten after being taken to the island.

There are other documented cases of the coastguard firing bullets at refugees travelling by boat and subjecting them to other forms of ill treatment.


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