A video shared by an activist with The New York Times shows evidence of asylum seekers being placed on rafts and abandoned in the middle of the sea after reaching Greece’s borders.
Movies shared by an anonymous activist with The New York Times appears to show evidence of mistreatment of asylum seekers in Greece – a longstanding allegation against the country’s border patrol officials that the government has consistently denied.
The video, which has been verified by the US newspaper, shows a group of 12 asylum seekers including children and a 6-month-old baby on the Greek island of Lesbos – a well-known hotspot for arriving migrants. The date is April 11.
The footage, shot from a distance, shows the migrants getting out of an unmarked van on an isolated-looking road, then being pushed onto a speedboat by two men wearing what appeared to be ski masks. The asylum seekers were then transferred to a Greek Coast Guard ship and eventually abandoned in the middle of the Aegean Sea aboard an inflatable emergency raft.
Such behavior – which has been questioned and condemned by several migrant rights activists and lawyers, but which Greek authorities have never acknowledged – is against Greek, EU and international law.
The 12 migrants were pushed back out to sea aboard the dinghy shortly after reaching Greek soil, according to The New York Times. All had traveled for years to escape the war in the Horn of Africa, from countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
“We didn’t expect to survive that day,” one of the migrants in the video, a 27-year-old from Somalia, told the paper. “When they put us on the inflatable raft, they did it without mercy.”
The raft they were put on was later picked up by the Turkish Coast Guard.
The Greek government has consistently denied mistreating migrants who reach its country. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently praised the country’s migration policy, saying it had reduced the number of illegal migrants by 90%. The government did not respond to a request for comment from the US newspaper.
The European Commission said it was “concerned by the images” and said it would discuss the issue with Greek authorities.
Last year, the former head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, resigned after the first results of an OLAF investigation revealed that the EU agency’s guards covered up the illegal footholds of migrants at the border on a massive scale in violation of human rights between 2020 and 2021.
OLAF’s review found that at least six displacements involved Greek coast guard vessels that had been co-financed by Frontex.
The new head of the EU’s border agency, Hans Leijtens, has promised to put an end to illegal pushbacks.