A group of around 40 people from Syria, Somalia and Palestine, amongst them 13 children, a pregnant woman and an elderly woman, left the Turkish coast by boat towards Lesvos on 11 July.
They reached the Greek waters sometime in the morning after which Hellenic Coast Guard forces wearing black uniforms and balaclavas approached them in a vessel after 1 km in Greek waters and forced them to turn around and return to Turkey. They used both rigid-hull inflatable boats [RHIBs] and light patrol boats boats to accomplish this. On the RHIB, they were wearing black uniforms and balaclavas. On the light patrol boat, they were wearing Coastguard uniforms and balaclavas. There were described to be more than ten armed men in total.
According to the respondent, one of the officers spoke in English to a member of the group, who expressed their demand of asylum. The officer denied it and told them that because of COVID- 19, they would not be allowed to enter the island of Lesvos and had to return to Turkey. At first, the driver of the boat didn’t follow their order, so they destroyed the dinghies engine and beat the driver. As other group members tried to protect the driver, they were also beaten with batons.
“Haram, they had no mercy at all. Isn’t it against all mercy and humanity what they do?”
They subsequently took them to Turkish waters and then left the group there floating with the broken engine. After 7 more hours in the water, the Turkish coast guard came to rescue the victims of this pushback. They took them to a quarantine detention center, from where they were released after 15 days and left in the streets to fend for themselves.
It was the seventh pushback on sea that the respondent had to endure.
“What shall we do? There is a war in our country, we cannot return there. And we have no future in Turkey.”
For BVMN’s full investigation on this incident, click here