As a member of the North Shore Emergency Response group in Lesvos, Greece, Refugee Rescue is again deeply concerned by the evidence of an illegal pullback in Greek waters at approximately 20.00 on 4th October 2018 — as well as allegations of aggressive behaviour by the Turkish coastguard, and of the Turkish authorities in Turkey.

At 21.07, the Refugee Rescue Search and Rescue team received a request by the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) to assist them in transitioning new arrivals from their vessel into the shallow port of Skala Sykamineas. At approximately 21.50, the Refugee Rescue vessel “Mo Chara” came alongside HCG vessel just off, in order to transfer the new arrivals on board. They were four people in total. All were male and reported to be from Afghanistan. All four were minors – 14, 15, 16 and 17 respectively – and travelling unaccompanied.

The clothes and hair of all four boys was wet. Despite wearing emergency blankets, which had been distributed by HCG, they were shivering profusely and likely hypothermic – two severely. They all spoke Farsi, but the youngest boy, aged 14 years old, also spoke very good English and served as an ad hoc interpreter for the others. According to his testimony, the four of them had jumped into the water when their boat was intercepted by TCG. They said that, once in the water, they had been rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard.

The people arriving reported that their dinghy had been carrying 60 people when they were intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guard (TCG), and that the remaining people had been taken back to Turkey by TCG. The “translator” also said TCG had stopped their boat with a rope and that the families on board were crying because they did not want to go back to Turkey, where they were treated badly and it was dangerous. He identified the Hellenic Coast Guard vessel – the vessel they had just been transferred from – as having been on scene for duration of the interception by TCG. The presence of the HCG for the duration of this incident is supported by the witness reports of local fishermen, who overheard HCG repeatedly instructing TCG to leave Greek territorial waters, prior to the interception.

SAR case number: N.A

SAR organisation: Refugee Rescue

SAR asset: Mo Chara

Date of SAR (UTC): 04/10/2018

Time of first information received (UTC): 04/10/2018 9:07 pm

Source of first information for the NGO: Greek Coast guard

Starting time of first sighting / engagement with target boat in distress (UTC): 04/10/2018 9:50 pm

Vessels

Number of migrant boats: 1

Type of migrant boat(s): Dinghy

Number of people on board per boat: 60

Other vessels in the vicinity (e.g. unidentified / cargo / aircrafts): Vessel of the Turkish Coastguard and Hellenic Coast Guard

Actors involved (by asset / institution type): Greek Coast guard; Turkish Coast Guard

Location

Region of Mediterranean: Eastern Mediterranean

Position(s) of vessel(s) in distress at the time of SAR request:

Location description: Territorial waters of Greece

Position(s) of rescue(s) at the time of SAR operation(s):

Location description: Territorial waters of Greece

Country of disembarkation: Greece

Survivors

Number of identified unaccompanied minors: 4