By Anta Psarra
Behind the Coast Guard officers and illegal ‘refoulements’, there is the government which provokes anyone seeking clarifications about the Pharmakonisi affair.
Informal ‘refoulements’ constitute the government’s central line. Those drowned are ‘collateral damages’ of the governmental line.
Behind the Coast Guard men there is the government. It provokes those demanding an inquiry about the events in Pharmakonisi – the opposition, international organizations, representatives of the E.U – with the argument that the Coast Guard men themselves saved the immigrants and refugees.
The Coast Guard is not at the centre of the allegations. The target is their superior officers as well as those to whom the latter are accountable. It is an act of political immorality to displace responsibility on the Coast Guard men who are executing orders. Perhaps the orders are not written down but the practice suggests they are very clear.
The argument of the Coast Guard Headquarters is based on the appeal of 3,186 castaway immigrants who were saved during the last 18 months. The question is, however, whether the 16 saved the other day in Pharmakonisi are going to be counted. For they have left behind 12 dead women and children because of the ‘unfortunate’ rescue operation. Those 3,186, how many drowned have they left behind? There is no answer to this question from the Headquarters, since nobody counts the drowned, let alone the fact that the spot where one drowned can be localized at will at any national waters. The basic idea that will eventually be inscribed in our consciousness and will be projected as the cause of evil is the ‘dark role of slave-traders’. This is why any of the refugees saved – before they are led to detention, prosecution and detention – they are forced to declare to the media the fee they paid to slave-drivers.
Let us remember some ‘incidents’ luckily recorded by the media:
The media present the naval battle between the Coast Guard, 30 miles from the coast of Messinia, and a vessel carrying 500 starved refugees. Nobody found out what happened to them.
Public protest by Netzati Zontu, one of the 164 refugees arrested in Chania, Crete: “they led each of us separately to the basement of the Maritime School and they beat us. They didn’t let us see a doctor. One day a Coast Guard officer kicked me towards the bathroom and he attempted to rape me with his baton.”
714 refugees, including children, are onboard a vessel. After a fire in the engine, they are rescued in Zakynthos, sick, dehydrated and exhausted.
At least three vessels with a couple of hundred refugees were refouled towards the turkish coast.
Tragedy near Lesvos. A wooden vessel with more than 35 immigrants capsizes. Three children, a woman and a man lose their lives.
A refugee boat sinks whilst carrying 32 passengers after collision with unknown vessel. 25 rescued, 2 dead and 5 missing. The vessel that collided was never found but the Coast Guard arrived immediately.
A woman in her mid-20s is drowned when the vessel carrying them capsizes due to adverse weather near Samos.
Chios: “The Coast Guard officer took a plastic bag and put it on my head. With one hand he tighten it up around my neck. I could not breathe. They did it 3 times until another officer made a signal that they should stop. On 25/11/13 the coast Guard officers were indicted and received a parole sentence.
The recorded, tragic, experiences of more than 100 migrants were submitted to the EU (CPT) and to the Greek Government.
A polyester boat carrying 19 immigrants capsizes near Symi. 18 are saved except for an infant.
A Kurdish immigrant Arivan Osman Abdullah dies. He was hospitalized in coma after having been beaten by Coast Guard officers at the quey in Igoumenitsa on 3 April 2009
A tanker ship tracks down a sinking vessel which carries 40 to 50 people, up to 120. The Coast Guard approaches the capsized vessel, but it remain unclear how many people lost their lives.
Cinematic pursuit of a vessel carrying 37 immigrants by a Coast Guard boat near Symi. The boat sinks. The immigrants are taken to Symi. Simultaneously 16 immigrants disembarking in Pharmakonisi. They are all arrested with their trafficker.
At least 58 immigrants (among whom 20 children) lose their lives, when their boat is sunk. Turkish media estimate 102 passengers.
More than 120 immigrants are traced near Kythira, where their sail boat has sunk, while another immigrant is found in Kastri Viannou, Irakleion, saying that the boat he was on board was carrying another 15 people from Egypt. The captain of the boat threw them in the sea.
18 corpses are found after their boat was sunk near Lesvos. The boat was carrying more than 20. 1 Individual was rescued.
A 6 year-old girl is missing after a vessel on which her and another 21 people were carried, was sunk. The traffickers deflated the boat once they perceived the Coast Guard. Near tragedy in the sea near Ierapetra. The vessel was sunk but its passengers were fortunately saved.
6 dead immigrants (including two children) in Kos. Likely from Syria. The Coast Guard locates them after a Syrian stated that he was on board a vessel with another 11 people.
At least 24 migrants lost their lives when their vessel was sunk off the Turkish coast. 12 migrants were rescued.
Despite good weather in the sea off Palairos, 12 Syrians including four children lose their lives while 15 are rescued. Greek and foreign traffickers are detained until the hearing.
6 migrants from Syria including an infant lose their lives in the sea off Balekishir in the Aegean due to the vessel capsizing on their way to Lesvos.
Around 40 migrants are located in the sea area of Kallithea Rodos. Their vessel sank.
“The testimonies are fake”
By Dimitris Aggelidis
Allegations by the Greek Helsinki Monitor; they demand the legal prosecution of the Coast Guard officers and possibly the translators involved.
The alleged testimonies of the survivors of the sinking vessel in Farmakonisi are giving the Coast Guard and the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Mr. Varvitsiotis, a headache. These are transcripts of testimonies – given during standard questioning of persons entering the country illegally – in which the survivors appear to verify the ‘sea rescue’, official, version disseminated by the authorities, who they congratulate. Yet, simultaneously, the survivors themselves have appeared in public describing a violent expulsion operation and accuse the coast guard crew of hindering the rescue operation of the victims.
The Greek Helsinki monitor has sent a report to the prosecutor of the Naval Court of Pireaus, currently launching its investigation in which it demands the prosecution of the coast guard officers and translators involved.
In a press conference in Syntagma on Saturday the survivors themselves denied the content of the testimonies is their sayings and denounce the practice followed by the Coast Guard during the questioning. “They say that when we got ashore on the island we said ‘thank you for saving us’. We told them ‘thank you for killing our families, our people?’ We didn’t say thank you. We were crying, asking them to retrieve the bodies as soon as possible or look for survivors. They didn’t do it. There was no translator, nothing; they had us signing papers we couldn’t read. They took us one by one in an office; there was a Pakistani, Urdu-speaking, translator they had us talk to. Or they would bring a Pashto – speaking Afghani guy speak with a Persian-speaking guy and vice versa. They did all this to come to the conclusion that they saved us, but this is not true.”
After the interview, around 1000 people marched towards Omonoia Police Station. Syriza delegations and members of migrants and anti-racist collectives protested at the commissioner for the unlawful taking into custody of the survivors a few metres away from the hotel in which they’ve found refuge.
On his part, Mr. Varvitsiotis, talking yesterday to an event of ‘Friends of the Police’, insisted on the rescue version and signposted to the Ministry of Justice for answers […] He revealed that he would propose a debate in the parliament not on push-backs but on illegal immigration.
MP’s of New Democracy, besides, did support M. Varvitsiotis in his critique against Commissioner Muiznieks. In fact the Minister of Justice, Mr. Athanasiou, said that sending reports should stop, reminding us of periods of tension between Greece and the Council of Europe.
[Article translated from ‘Efsyn’ newspaper, 27 January 2014. Available online at: http://www.efsyn.gr/?p=169550]