Greece Rejects Report Accusing Coast Guard of Migrant Abuse

June 18, 2024 by No Comments

On Monday, Greece refuted a recent report that accused its coast guard of violently preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, a practice allegedly leading to numerous deaths.

A BBC report stated that it had confirmed the deaths of 43 migrants, including nine who were thrown overboard, across 15 incidents off Greece’s eastern Aegean Sea islands between 2020 and 2023. The report cited interviews with eyewitnesses, drawing from reports by media outlets, charities, and the UN.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis asserted that there was no evidence supporting these allegations.

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he stated during a regular press briefing when questioned about the claims. “Every complaint is investigated, and ultimately, the relevant findings are made public.”

Greece serves as a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands enter the country each year, primarily in small boats from neighboring Turkey. Relations with Turkey are often strained, and the two countries’ coast guards have repeatedly accused each other of mistreating migrants.

Migrant charities and human rights groups have consistently accused Greece’s coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by secretly returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has vehemently denied these accusations, arguing that its border forces have rescued hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country’s reputation suffered another blow in June 2023 when a battered fishing vessel carrying an estimated 750 people sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard shadowing the vessel for hours. Survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included an account by a Cameroonian man who claimed that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, shortly after landing on the island of Samos.

The man claimed all three were placed in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Sudanese man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis stated that “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.