Greek coastguard caused dozens of deaths in Mediterranean - including nine who were deliberately thrown in water, investigation finds

17 June 2024, 10:21 | Updated: 17 June 2024, 10:46

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The Greek coastguard has been responsible for the deaths of dozens of migrants in the Mediterranean, including nine who were intentionally thrown into the water, an investigation has found. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Flaminia Luck

The Greek coastguard has been responsible for the deaths of dozens of migrants in the Mediterranean, including nine who were intentionally thrown into the water, an investigation has found.

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More than 40 people attempting to cross on small boats are said to have died due to the Greek coastguard's activities, which has included forcing punctured vessels to go back out to sea.

The nine fatalities are believed to have died after they were deliberately pushed into the water by coastguard officers, according to eyewitnesses which icludes those from NGOs, local media and the Turkish coastguard, which often receive migrants turned away by Greece.

The Greek government has been previously accused of forced returns - pushing people back towards Turkey, where they have crossed from, which is illegal under international law.

The Greek coastguard told the BBC investigation it strongly rejects all accusations of illegal activities.

A Greek coastguard vessel approaches the port of Preveza, northwestern Greece
The Greek coastguard strongly rejects all accusations of illegal activities. Picture: Alamy

The investigation calculated the number of incidents which allege deaths occurred as a result of the Greek coastguard's actions.

The 15 incidents analysed - dated May 2020-23 - resulted in 43 deaths.

In five of the incidents, migrants said they were thrown directly into the sea by the Greek authorities. In four of those cases they explained how they had landed on Greek islands but were hunted down.

In several other incidents, migrants said they had been put onto inflatable rafts without motors which then deflated, or appeared to have been punctured.

One Cameroonian man said he was hunted by Greek authorities after landing on the island of Samos in September 2021.

"We had barely docked, and the police came from behind," he told us.

"There were two policemen dressed in black, and three others in civilian clothes. They were masked, you could only see their eyes," he told the investigation.

Another man, from Somalia said he had been caught by the Greek army on arrival on the island of Chios, who then handed him to the Greek coastguard.

He said the coastguard had tied his hands behind his back, before dropping him into the water.

"They threw me zip-tied in the middle of the sea. They wanted me to die," he said.

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Protesters march during a protest to mark a year after one of the worst migrant boat tragedies
Protesters march during a protest to mark a year after one of the worst migrant boat tragedies. Picture: Alamy

The investigation comes just days after hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Athens on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of a shipwreck that killed hundreds more migrants off Greece, demanding answers about the causes of the disaster and the fate of relatives.

In the incident with the highest loss of life - in September 2022 - a boat carrying 85 migrants ran into trouble near the Greek island of Rhodes when its motor cut out.

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