New evidence comes to light in the tragic incident last Monday involving a boat transporting illegal immigrants in the eastern Aegean Sea and the Greek coast guard, which led to the death of 12 immigrants. The statements given by the survivors contradict those by the Greek coast guard and provide different versions of the story.
Immigrants: “They were kicking us”
During anti-racist rallies held on Saturday in Athens, the survivors spoke about their tragic experience and mentioned, “They (Greek coast guard]) were kicking us to prevent us from getting on their boat. When our women started screaming and crying they were shouting f**k you.”
According to the immigrants, the boat of the Greek coast guard, which arrived on scene in order to repel the boat to Turkey, attached a rope and then towed it away with high-speed, causing the rope to snap twice and the ultimate capsizing of the boat.
“Some immigrants held their toddlers high so as to show that there were families on board but one coast guard officer kicked them and told them to sit down,” described Abdul Sabur Azizi, who lost his wife and his ten-year-old child. It was also said that the marine officers were shooting in the air and threatening the immigrants with their guns.
At the holding facility of the island of Leros, Greece, the survivors weren’t offered anything to eat or drink and were left with their wet clothes. Ehsada Sufi, who lost five members of his family, said that coast guard officers threatened the immigrants not to say a word about the incident or else “they will damage us.”
“They should come here, look us in the eyes and admit that they are lying,” stated a survivor upon being asked about the fact that the coast guard describes a different version of the story.
Greek coast guard: “our sole goal is the utmost respect on human rights”
A different version was provided in a long statement issued by the Greek coast guard “for the full restoration of truth and reality” and answering to “the alleged assaults and our refusal to provide assistance to illegal immigrants at risk,” while those tragedies “are shocking even for our officers.”
The coast guard mentioned that their only priority was the safe towing of the boat to the closest land, which was the small island of Farmakonisi, and the rescue of the immigrants after their boat had sunk. The electronic log of the coast guard’s vessel attests to this statement, thus contradicting the alleged repelling of the immigrants’ boat, as the officials of the coast guard said.
According to immigrants’ testimonies, the machine had broken down. Women and children were in the holds waiting. The immigrants testified, “When the sea patrol reached our boat, the crew tried to calm us down.” The waters were rough and the towing of the boat was a real challenge, while “after the rope snapped, the officers threw us another one but water was getting into the boat due to the high seas.”
The rescue officers foreseeing the risk caused by the panic of the immigrants told them to remain in their seats so as to get them on their vessel. But two of the immigrants jumped overboard with the rest moving to their rescue, thus shifting the center of gravity of the boat and ultimately causing its capsizing.
Nobody could swim and only two life jackets were on board. “They told us to stay down but no one complied and the boat capsized. They rescued everyone they could,” mentioned the immigrants after being rescued.
The Greek coast guard’s statement notes that “the utmost respect on human rights and civil liberties is our sole goal while planning and engaging in operations,” while the officers “strain their every nerve to rescue all people in distress, without regard to bad weather conditions, to the peculiarities of each sea area and to the vessels which in most cases are unfit for sea voyage.”