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. "
Guatemala’s new president takes office
Bernardo Arévalo was officially been sworn in as the President of Guatemala this week after months of desperate efforts by the country’s elite to prevent the transfer of power. Those efforts and the real threat of a coup continued on inauguration day itself.
The Progressive International was on the ground in Guatemala City to see these anti-democratic sabotage attempts first hand, having been invited to the inauguration by PI-member party Movimiento Semilla
All efforts were made by reactionary forces to halt and delay the swearing in of both Members of Congress and Bernardo Arévalo himself. Members of Semilla and other parties were even locked out congressional proceedings to impede the transfer of power. In response, the people and their elected representatives mobilised to defend their democracy, both inside and outside the National Congress in the centre of Guatemala City. They were met with riot squads and resistance from the police, still taking orders from the outgoing government. This popular mobilisation for democracy was joined with international pressure demanding the planned inauguration of President-elect Arévalo.
After more than 12 tense hours where Semilla’s deputies-elect were blocked from taking their seats and commencing the presidential inauguration, that pressure saved Guatemalan democracy. Semilla’s deputies were sworn in as independents, elected to the Congress’s powerful executive board, and President Arévalo was inaugurated at last.
As of this writing, the Constitutional Court has once again reversed the internal election of Congress to elect its own leaders, a case aimed squarely at further targeting Semilla even as it enters its role as the governing party. The Progressive International will continue to stand with the Guatemalan people in their struggle for democracy and social progress.
The world supports South Africa’s genocide case against Israel
Over 1,500 organisations have signed a call supporting South Africa's ICJ case against Israel.
Now, the International Coalition to Stop Genocide in Palestine is issuing a global call for mobilisation. The first global day of action is Hands off Yemen! on 19 January, the second is Solidarity with South Africa! on 24 January and the third is Condemn Western complicity! on 31 January.
Taking Amazon’s developer to court
This week Save Our Sacred Lands, an indigenous Khoi and San groupcampaigning against Amazon’s Africa HQ in Cape Town, South Africa, which is built on their sacred land, filed fraud charges in a Cape Town court against the HQ’s private developer.
In the ongoing struggle of the indigenous Khoi and San, Amazon has remained completely silent. You can watch their leader Tauriq Jenkins interview about the case here.
Art: A speculative voyage from Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan exhibition, which is inspired by refugees who lost their lives trying to reach Europe.