Letter from the Minister of Migration and Asylum to the European Commission and Frontex regarding the shipwreck of 30th July 2021 off Lesvos

Notis Mitarachi:

"Regarding the incident of the sea wreck in Lesvos on July 30th, the rubber dinghy commenced its trip, illegally, from the Turkish coast. The Turkish Coast Guard, saw it, approached it, but allowed it to continue with its trip, and illegal entering the territorial waters of the EU. According to testimonies, while the sea was calm, the Turkish Coast Guard vessel made maneuvers that caused waves, triggering the rubber dinghy to capsize and left”.  

The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, has sent a letter to the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr. Margaritis Schoinas, the European Commissioners for Home Affairs, Mr. Ylva Johansson and for Neighbourhood & Enlargement, Mr. Olivér Várhelyi and the Director of Frontex, Mr. Fabrice Leggeri, regarding the shipwreck of July 30th off Lesvos.

In the letter Mr. Mitarachi informs European officials that a rubber dinghy carrying 13 third-country nationals capsized within Turkish territorial waters, between Lesvos and the Turkish coast, in the early morning hours of July 30, 2021.

According to testimonies collected by the Hellenic Coast Guard and the Hellenic Police, and set out in the letter, the dinghy commenced its trip from the Turkish coast, namely Altinova. The dingy was approached by the Turkish Coast Guard at around 03:50. The coast guard vessel did not attempt to stop it or divert its course. Rather, it allowed the dinghy to continue, and ultimately to enter the waters of the European Union illegally.

Furthermore, Mr. Mitarachi stated: "the water was calm when the Turkish Coast Guard vessel approached the rubber dinghy who, according to the same testimonies, started manoeuvering close to the dinghy, causing waves and apparently the capsizing of the rubber dinghy".

Despite Turkey’s apparent implication in the capsizing of the dinghy, instead of proceeding immediately to search and rescue of the migrants in distress, the Turkish Coast Guard left from the site of the incident.

The Minister details in his letter how the Hellenic Coast Guard alerted their Turkish counterpart, and in the face of inaction by Turkey, “came to search and rescue half a nautical mile in Turkish waters, rescuing 10 people. Nine were rescued in Turkish waters, and one, having swum away from the site of the incident within Greek territorial waters”. Unfortunately, according to the testimonies, three people are missing, one of whom is a minor.

In this incident, “The responsibility of Turkish authorities in relation to this incident fundamentally clashes with the duty to protect life at sea and to rescue persons in distress”, the Minister notes. Mr. Mitarachi states that this incident underscores, once again, Turkey’s lack of commitment to the EU-Turkey Statement of 18.3.2016, under which Turkey undertook to prevent sea migration routes to the European Union.

At the same time, Mr. Mitarachi emphasizes, ‘‘Turkey continues to undermine the Statement by not accepting returns of finally rejected asylum applicants from the Aegean islands for more than a year now.”.

"The continuous sea and land crossings from Turkey to Greece, writes the Minister of Migration and Asylum in his letter, prove the failure of Turkey to limit the operation of human smuggling networks in its territory.

"“Turkish authorities appear too engaged with filming human smugglers, leaving little opportunity to prosecute and dismantle those criminal rings exposing vulnerable people at risk. In this case, it seems that the Turkish authorities themselves were implicated in exposing people at sea to danger”," says Mr. Mitarachi.

His letter concludes: "I want to reiterate that Greece is committed to a strict, but fair, migration policy and the protection of our common external borders in line with our international obligations. These efforts are even more critical at a time when third states choose to instrumentalise migration for political purposes.”".

The above said, Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, concluded :

""Regarding the incident of the sea wreck in Lesvos on July 30th, it is clear that the rubber dinghy commenced its trip, illegally, from the Turkish coast. Although it came to the attention of the Turkish Coast Guard, who approached it, according to testimonies, not only did they not try to stop it, but allowed it to continue with its trip, with the aim to enter illegally the territorial waters of the European Union. Furthermore, while the sea was calm, the Turkish Coast Guard vessel made maneuvers that caused waves, triggering the rubber dinghy to capsize. Following the incident, instead of proceeding immediately to the search and rescue of people at sea, the Turkish Coast Guard left the site of the incident.   

The Hellenic Coast Guard, located the incident, entered the Turkish waters and rescued 10 people, while, according to testimonies, there are three more missing people, one of whom is a minor.

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