PI Briefing | No. 3 | The Aegean blue grave

Pushbacks in the Mediterranean.
In the Progressive International's 3rd Briefing of 2024, we look at Forensic Architecture’s research on one of the great crimes of our time. If you would like to receive our Briefing in your inbox, you can sign up using the form at the bottom of this page.
In the Progressive International's 3rd Briefing of 2024, we look at Forensic Architecture’s research on one of the great crimes of our time. If you would like to receive our Briefing in your inbox, you can sign up using the form at the bottom of this page.

For more than a decade, migrants and refugees making the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece have suffered egregious and well-documented violence, including forced detention, arbitrary arrest and beatings.

Since March 2020, the Greek state has deployed a new method of violent and illegal deterrent know as “drift-backs”. Migrants and refugees crossing the Aegean Sea describe being intercepted within Greek territorial waters, or arrested after they arrive on Greek shores, beaten, stripped of their possessions, and then forcefully loaded onto life rafts with no engine and left to drift back to the Turkish coast.

Today, Forensic Architecture has released the largest trove of data on drift-backs by the Greek government in the Aegean Sea, revealing a ’systematic’ and illegal campaign to brutalise and abandon asylum-seekers approaching Greek shores.

The mapping reveals Greece’s Aegean border to Turkey to be “a cruel frontier of violence and lawlessness on an unprecedented proportion,” according to Forensic Architecture director and PI Council member Eyal Weizman.

The data gathered by Forensic Architecture covers a three year period from 28 February 2020 to 2023. The interactive cartographic platform hosts evidence of 2010 drift-backs in the Aegean Sea, involving 55,445 people. Of these 2010 incidents, 700 were found to have taken place from, or off the shores of, Lesvos island, 238 off Chios island, 424 off Samos island, 283 off Kos, 212 off Rhodes and 123 in the rest of the Dodecanese. 26 deep ‘drift-backs’ were recorded, meaning that asylum seekers were intercepted deep inside Greek waters before being taken to the border and left adrift. One case was recorded in the North Aegean, off the island of Samothraki. FRONTEX, the European border and coast guard agency was found to have been directly involved in 122 of these cases, while it has knowledge of 417, having logged them in their own operational archives codified and masked as ‘preventions of entry’. In three cases, the German NATO warship FGS Berlin was present on the scene.

32 cases were recorded where people were thrown directly into the sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard, without the use of any flotation device. In 3 of these cases, the people were found handcuffed. 24 people were documented to have died during a drift-back, and at least 17 more went missing.

Responding to these shocking findings, Yanis Varoufakis, Secretary General of Greek political party MeRa25 and PI Council member, said, "Greece's progressives, who have been witnessing in despair the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Greek Coastguard and FRONTEX, already owe an immense debt of gratitude to Forensic Architecture for their meticulous exposure of the illegal, misanthropic and lethal pushbacks of vulnerable people attempting to cross the Aegean Sea. This new report will remove any remnants of a poor excuse that "we did not know". Thanks to Forensic Architecture we know. And, thus, our duty to call out the Greek government and the EU authorities is now beyond dispute. The ball is now in our court. "

Please spread the word about this trove of evidence of terrible crimes against asylum seekers. You can watch and share a video summarising the findings here and explore the data yourself here.

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