Report: Greek Coast Guard Threw Migrants Into Sea

BBC says it has analyzed more than a dozen disturbing incidents
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2024 12:37 PM CDT
Report: Greek Coast Guard Left Migrants to Die
The sun rises as a Greek coast guard vessel patrols on the Aegean Sea near the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos.   (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

The Greek coast guard caused the deaths of dozens of migrants by turning them back in leaky boats or even throwing them into the sea, according to a BBC investigation. The BBC says it looked at 15 incidents from 2020 to 2023 that resulted in 43 deaths and spoke to a handful of survivors. One Somalian man said three people in his group died after they reached the island of Chios and the military handed them over to the coast guard. "They threw me zip-tied in the middle of the sea. They wanted me to die," he said. The man said he managed to float on his back until he was rescued by the Turkish coast guard.

  • "They heard us all screaming, and yet they still left us." The BBC says the incident with the largest loss of life occurred after the motor cut out on a boat carrying 85 migrants off the coast of Rhodes. A Syrian man says they called the Greek coast guard, which took them to Turkish waters and put them in life rafts. He says a valve on his life raft wasn't properly closed and at least eight members of his group died, including his children. "We immediately began to sink, they saw that," he said. "They heard us all screaming, and yet they still left us."

  • Masked perpetrators. Under Greek law, migrants seeking asylum are allowed to register their claims, the BBC notes. But some of the people it spoke to said they were taken into custody before they could reach registration centers. They said they were apprehended by men who were not in uniform, and many of them wore masks.
  • A hot mic moment. The BBC says it showed verified footage of a forced return to Dimitris Baltakos, the coast guard's former head of special operations with the Greek coast guard. He "refused to speculate" about the footage, the BBC says, but during a break in the interview, he could be heard telling somebody in Greek that the actions were "obviously illegal" and an "international crime." "I haven't told them much, right? It's very clear, isn't it," he said. "It's not nuclear physics. I don't know why they did it in broad daylight."
  • Statement from the coast guard. The coast guard, presented with the BBC's findings, said its staff had worked "tirelessly with the utmost professionalism, a strong sense of responsibility and respect for human life and fundamental rights." It added: "It should be highlighted that from 2015 to 2024, the Hellenic Coast Guard has rescued 250,834 refugees/migrants in 6,161 incidents at sea. The impeccable execution of this noble mission has been positively recognized by the international community."
(More Greece stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.