Saturday 24 June 2017

Greece accused of sinking migrant boat

A boy looks through a fence as other migrants and refugees wait to board an Athens-bound ferry at the southeastern island of Kos in Greece this week
A boy looks through a fence as other migrants and refugees wait to board an Athens-bound ferry at the southeastern island of Kos in Greece this week

Henry Samuel

Greek coast guards in the Aegean deliberately sank a migrant boat in Turkish waters laden with men, women and children and left it to founder, a film shot by local fishermen suggests.

The film, released by Turkish news websites 'Hürriyet' and 'Daily Sabah', was shot "a few days ago" by two Turkish fishermen.

It shows them approaching an inflatable boat overloaded with migrants - reportedly around 50 Syrians - and a Greek coastguard vessel nearby.

The inflatable had recently left the shores of Turkey's westernmost Karaburun peninsula - a few miles from the Greek islands of Kos and Lesbos.

As the Greek boat slows and moves away, one fisherman can be heard saying: "The boat is deflating, the boat's taking water and there are people on board." The Greek coastguard vessel is nearby as the boat with Syrian migrants sinks.

Although the footage is at times blurry as it is shot on a mobile phone, the fisherman adds: "The boat was pierced by what looks like a long lance."

The next shots show migrants in the water as the boat gradually sinks. Children are kept on the part of the boat that is still above water.

"The passengers are floating in the water. They are barely 200-300 metres from the coast guards and are afraid of being attacked," according to France Info, the French radio news channel that spotted the film on the Turkish site.

Eventually, the fishermen move in to help and call the Turkish coastguard to come and pick up the stricken migrants and take them back to Turkey.

The number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greece's shores has exploded this year, with some 50,000, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, reaching its shores in July alone, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

The Mediterranean country provides virtually no reception facilities and leaves refugees wallowing in "totally shameful" conditions, a UN official said.

Earlier this week, Greece sent riot police to the island of Kos as security forces used fire extinguishers for the second day running to control a huge crowd of refugees.

The tiny holiday island is struggling to deal with around 7,000 migrants who have arrived in the last month, as humanitarian groups said they were "appalled" at the treatment meted out by the Greek authorities.

An unprecedented 125,000 have reached a string of eastern Aegean islands so far this year - a 750pc increase on last year.

The route into Greece from the coast of Turkey has become more popular in recent months because fighting in Libya has made the crossing from there to Italy more dangerous.

The refugees, many of them Syrians and Afghans fleeing war in their home countries, were herded into an old football stadium as the authorities attempted to register them and issue official travel documents which will enable them to take ferries to the mainland and from there head to other parts of Europe.

Progress was painfully slow. Inside the stadium, three police officers struggled to register hundreds of refugees who queued for hours in baking temperatures.

The refugees are enduring appalling conditions - with the authorities providing no food, drinking water, shelter or lavatories, they have been sleeping in makeshift camps and in public parks and squares.

The emergency has brought surreal sights to the popular holiday destination - refugee families sleep on the ground, as late-night revellers tumble out of nightclubs and bikini-clad women jog along the seafront.

More than 7,000 migrants reached Kos in July alone.

Police used force to control a crowd of around 2,000 people at the stadium on Tuesday, spraying them with fire extinguishers and beating them with batons.

The refugees held at the football stadium include women, children and babies.

Brice de le Vingne, MSF's director of operations, said: "What was previously a situation of state inaction is now one of state abuse, with police using increasingly heavy-handed force against these vulnerable people" (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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