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Two migrants drowned after being thrown into the sea by Greek coastguards

According to an investigation by several European media, Greek coast guards beat and then threw three migrants into the sea, without a canoe or life jacket, last September. Two of them drowned following this illegal refoulement. Another man has been missing since late January after suffering the same fate.

These are revelations that cause a stir. A Cameroonian asylum seeker accuses the Greek coast guard of throwing him into the sea with two other men who drowned.

The facts, which date back to September 14, took place during a push-back operation to Turkey off the island of Samos, reveals an investigation carried out over several months by the German media der Spiegel, the site of French information Mediapart, the British newspaper The Guardian and the collaborative journalism organization Lighthouse Reports. The journalists obtained documents allowing them to trace this “pushback”: meteorological data, presence of boats near the drowning site, correspondence between the different accounts, verification of photos received, sounds, GPS locations, etc.

Beaten “with fists” and “thrown into the sea”

On that day, Ibrahim, the asylum seeker at the origin of these accusations, had, with 35 other people, boarded a dinghy to reach Samos from the Turkish coast. Arrived on the island, several members of the group suffered violence from the Greek coast guard and had their mobile phones and money confiscated, according to several testimonies collected by these media. Some even claim to have undergone excavations in the anus and in the vagina.

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The three men were forced to board a boat presented as that of the Samos coast guard. But once offshore, the Greek coastguard hit them “with their fists” before “throwing them into the sea”, without a dinghy or a life jacket, Ibrahim said.

The bodies of the two victims, an Ivorian named Sidy Keita, 36, and a Cameroonian, Didier Martial Kouamou Nana, 33, were found by Turkish coastguards and pleasure boats on September 18 and 20. .

Ibrahim managed to swim to the Turkish coast opposite Samos. He has since applied for asylum in Greece.

“common practice”

Beyond this tragedy, the journalist-investigators say that throwing migrants into the sea is now a “common practice” on the part of the Greek authorities.

“Two officers from the Greek coast guard confirmed it to us”, assures Thomas Statius, a journalist from Mediapart. “Two reasons for this: it costs less to put people back in the water than to put them in a lifeboat [et] it sends a message across the Aegean to Turkey where thousands of exiles still want to attempt the crossing. »

Asked by these media about this case, Athens once again denied any illegal practice.

The Minister for Migrations and Asylum, Notis Mitrachi, for his part assured that Greece “protects the external borders of the European Union in accordance with international law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights”. He also castigated “Turkish propaganda on illegal immigration”.

“The Greek Coast Guard continues to save the lives of thousands of men, women and children at sea every year,” boasted the minister, quoted in a press release.

Other migrants thrown into the water in January

The facts echo other accusations. At the end of January, the Turkish Minister of the Interior accused the Greek coast guard of having thrown into the water, in the middle of the night, three migrants who had just entered the island of Chios illegally. Two of them had managed to swim to Turkey before being taken care of, but the last was missing.

“He said he couldn’t swim, but they [les garde-côtes grecs, ndlr] didn’t listen to him” His last words were: ‘I can’t swim, I don’t know how to do it’”, explained a migrant present during the scene.

>> To (re)read: Evros border: beaten up and stripped naked, an Afghan Frontex interpreter accuses the Greek border guards

Several NGOs regularly accuse Greece of illegal pushbacks at its border, which Athens systematically denies. The accounts of exiles in the Aegean Sea have been documented many times by the media, including InfoMigrants. A Guinean had told the editorial staff at the end of 2020 how men in uniform had pierced the canoe in which he was to prevent him from reaching the islands. More recently, a Congolese had explained how the Greek coast guard had turned back her boat at sea, putting the passengers in danger. “They threatened us with their weapons (…) They circled around us, which made big waves and currents,” she reported.

The NGO Aegean boat report, which identified 629 cases of “pushback” in the Aegean Sea in 2021, says that several testimonies report migrants thrown into the water by the Greek authorities, some “handcuffed with plastic bands”.

Last October, InfoMigrants was also able to meet a retired Greek ex-policeman who said he himself had illegally returned, for years, thousands of migrants from the Evros region to Turkey.

This new case was brought before the European Court of Human Rights by Turkish lawyers, says Der Spiegel.

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