Pharmakonisi: ‘Counterfeited’ testimonies made public by the Hellenic Coast Guard

Translators were also ‘fake’

From the beginning there were doubts as to the originality of what appeared to be the survivors testimonies. New allegations by the Greek Helsinki Monitor.


According to a statement by the GreeK Helsinki Monitor, signed by Panayiotes Dimitras, ‘the note by Frontex regarding the tragedy of 20 January 2014, published by ‘Ef.Syn’ on 5 February 2014, confirms the counterfeited ‘testimonies’ of the survivors the Coast Guard circulated, an allegation substantiated in two previous text in Lifo. gr.

Frontex reports that the Coast Guard told them on 20 January 2014 (a few hours after the tragedy): ‘for security reasons (due to rough sea) the Coast Guard boat started pulling the fishing vessel with the immigrants toward Pharmakonisi. During the process, the immigrants claim, two of them fell in the sea, and the rest of them moved to one side of the boat. As a result the fishing vessel capsized and sunk immediately. All immigrants aboard were thrown in the water. The Coast Guard begun a search & rescue operation. 16 people were saved.

The survivors claimed that another 12 immigrants were trapped in the vessel.’ In the testimonies the Coast Guard made available on the 20th and 21st there is no reference to any claim about two falling in the sea and the boat capsizing as a result. These claims exist only in the counterfeited ‘testimonies’ of 22nd January 2014 which the Coast Guard could not invoke when it was briefing Frontex on 20 January 2014.

It is obvious that after the tragedy it caused, the Coast Guard constructed an ‘interpretation’ it gave to Frontex and when the issue was becoming big, it recorded some ‘testimonies’ by survivors. It should be reminded that on 21 January 2014, the UNHCR was saying: ‘According to information given by the Coast Guard, during the operation, a a great number of those aboard, moved to one side of the boat, and as a result the latter capsized and sunk.

According to survivors’ testimonies, the Coast Guard boat that was pulling them was heading toward the Turkish coast at full speed, when the tragic incident happened.

The same testimonies mention that people were screaming out for help given that there were children aboard.’ The Coast Guard presented the claim to the UNHCR as its own claim, since they knew well that the UNHCR had interviewed the survivors themselves and the latter were not saying what the Coast Guard alleged they were saying in their later ‘testimonies’ or in their briefing with Frontex.

By contrast, the Coast Guard knew, as the head of the Greek department of UNHCR stated, that ‘I can speak only of the testimonies given to us by these people. Those were the first testimonies.’ This is to say that the UNHCR is saying that before they testify to them on 21 January they had not made any statements to anyone else. Another big issue arises besides with the ‘translators’ of the Coast Guard RR and SM who appear in the testimonies as Afghan residents in Leros and in possession of asylum seeker’s papers.

The UNHCR claimed that they used an Afghan translator from Athens who has experience with such arrivals and works in a programme funded by the EU. We communicated with the Afghan community who told us that they are not aware of Afghans living in Leros. Following up on this we gave the names of the ‘afghan’ translators to the community and they told us that they names were actually Pakistani.

Whoever listened to the survivors in the press conference in Athens, will remember that they claimed that they brought a Pakistani translator with whom they could not communicate. It is only natural, since the persian languages Dari (Afghanistan) or Farsi (Iran) are not spoken in Pakistan. Of course a Pakistani on the way to Europe may learn some Farsi in Iran, just as if he stayed in Greece he would learn some Greek.

But that would not qualify one as a competent translator. […]

The state prosecutor is responsible for tracking down these individuals and to act accordingly since they have signed statements taken under oath as translators while the Naval Court prosecution is responsible for the Coast Guard staff SM and KP who hired these translators (and in turn composed the fake ‘testimonies’)

Article translated from ‘Efsyn’ newspaper. Available online at:



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