Greek coastguard ‘threw migrants overboard to their deaths’: BBC

The Greek coastguard has denied responsibility for the deaths of some 500 people in a major boat tragedy last year [GETTY]

Dozens of migrants recently attempting to reach Europe were allegedly killed by Greek coastguard authorities, according to a BBC report, in the latest example of negligence and pushbacks against refugees by Athens.

Around 40 people are alleged to have died after being pushed back from Greek islands by coastguards including nine people who were physically pushed into the sea after attempting to seek asylum in Greece, which serves as a gateway into the European Union, according to a new report.

A new investigation from the BBC revealed the deaths, as well as footage showing 12 people being removed from the island of Lesbos, one of Greece’s migration hotspots, onto a coastguard boat before being loaded onto a raft and left to drift at sea.

Refugees, witnesses, and Greek authorities interviewed in the report revealed how people died due to negligence on the part of the Greek coastguard. Athens insists it worked “in full compliance with the country’s international obligations”.

Over the past decade, Mediterranean EU member nations have faced huge numbers of people arriving by boat from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia.

The Greek government has lobbied the EU to introduce a policy that would sanction countries that refuse to accept migrants deported by the bloc.

In 2023, it received 41,561 migrants who arrived by sea, out of a total of 263,048 into Europe, according to data from the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Other EU nations Italy, Malta, Cyprus and Spain also receive large numbers of sea arrivals from North Africa.

Most of those arriving in Greece hope to register as asylum seekers, but hostile EU policy and a surge in numbers mean those making it to the southern European country are left in limbo in overcrowded refugee camps for years.

The investigation profiles one man from Somalia who nearly died, along with several other migrants, after he was thrown into the sea by the Greek coastguard with his hands “tied behind his back”,  having been detained on arrival by the Greek army on the island of Chios in 2021.

The revelations come following the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic sinking of a boat carrying around 750 people in the Mediterranean Sea on 14 June 2023, off the coast of Pylos, Greece.

Only 105 people survived and 500 remain missing, according to Human Rights Watch.

The rights group says it has documented several accounts of the Greek coastguard dumping  migrants at sea, despite it being under their jurisdiction, or leaving them adrift near Turkish territorial waters.

A preliminary investigation into the disaster revealed that Greek coastguard authorities had been alerted to an overcrowded trawler, which was in their demarcated search and rescue zone, some 15 hours prior to its sinking.

Human Rights Watch and the UN have urged the Greek authorities to advance the investigation into the potential liability of the coastguard, which is facing a charge of responsibility brought by NGOs on behalf of 53 survivors.

Greek officials have alleged that the boat was not in danger and was heading to Italy.

One survivor, a Syrian man called Munir, recently spoke to The New Arab about the tragedy, recalling the “crying and screaming” of many children onboard.

Munir said they were met by a Greek coastguard vessel which claimed it would lead the migrant boat to Italian waters, but danger ensued when the ropes broke, leaving them to sink.

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