Greek Coastguard Allegedly Linked to Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

Witnesses claim the Greek coastguard is responsible for the deaths of dozens of migrants in the Mediterranean over the past three years, including nine reportedly thrown into the water deliberately. These nine are among more than 40 migrants who allegedly died after being forced out of Greek territorial waters or taken back to sea after reaching Greek islands, according to a BBC analysis.

The Greek coastguard has firmly denied all allegations of illegal activities. However, when a former senior Greek coastguard officer was shown footage of 12 people being loaded into a Greek coastguard boat and later abandoned on a dinghy, he acknowledged off-camera that it was “obviously illegal” and “an international crime.”

The Greek government has faced longstanding accusations of illegal forced returns, pushing migrants back towards Turkey, which contravenes international law. This is the first time the BBC has calculated the number of fatal incidents linked to the Greek coastguard’s actions.

From May 2020 to May 2023, the BBC analyzed 15 incidents resulting in 43 deaths. These cases were initially reported by local media, NGOs, and the Turkish coastguard. Verifying such accounts is challenging due to the disappearance of witnesses or their fear of speaking out. However, in four cases, the BBC corroborated the accounts by speaking with eyewitnesses.

The findings, featured in the new BBC documentary “Dead Calm: Killing in the Med?”, suggest a disturbing pattern of conduct by the Greek coastguard.

### Migrants Accuse Greek Coastguard of Deadly Practices

In five incidents, migrants reported being thrown directly into the sea by Greek authorities. In four of these cases, they described landing on Greek islands only to be hunted down by officials. Other migrants recounted being placed onto inflatable rafts without motors, which subsequently deflated or appeared punctured.

One particularly chilling account came from a Cameroonian man who says he was pursued by Greek authorities after landing on the island of Samos in September 2021. Planning to register as an asylum seeker, he detailed the harrowing experience:

“We had barely docked when the police arrived from behind,” he recalled. “There were two policemen in black uniforms and three others in civilian clothes. They were masked, showing only their eyes.”

He and two others—another Cameroonian and a man from Ivory Coast—were transferred to a Greek coastguard boat where events took a terrifying turn.

“They started with the [other] Cameroonian. They threw him into the water. The Ivorian man pleaded, ‘Save me, I don’t want to die,’ but eventually, only his hand remained above water before it, too, disappeared.”

Our interviewee described being beaten severely: “Punches rained down on my head as if they were punching an animal.” He was then pushed into the water without a life jacket. Fortunately, he managed to swim to shore, but the bodies of the other two men—Sidy Keita and Didier Martial Kouamou Nana—were later found on the Turkish coastline.

The survivor’s lawyers are now demanding that Greek authorities open a double murder investigation into the incident.

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