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Who are these “armed, masked men in uniforms attacking migrant boats off Greece”?

I head of such incidents in the past and I read it also yesterday. Human Rights Watch published a report about these alleged incidents where mysterious, masked and armed men in uniforms on board of speed boats attack boats with migrants and refugees trying to reach Greece.

Armed Vigilantes Attacking Migrant Boats off Greece – HRW

Armed masked men have been disabling boats carrying migrants and asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea and pushing them back to Turkish waters, Human Rights Watch said today.

A screenshot from CBS that caught an attack on a migrant boat off Greece on September 8.

Nine witnesses described eight incidents in which masked assailants, often armed, intercepted and disabled the boats carrying asylum seekers and migrants from Turkey towards the Greek islands. The most recent case took place on October 7 and 9, 2015. The witnesses said that the assailants deliberately disabled their boats by damaging or removing the engines or their fuel, or puncturing the hulls of inflatable boats. In some cases, the boats were towed to Turkish waters.

“Disabling boats in the Aegean makes an already dangerous journey even more likely to result in death,” said Eva Cosse, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch. “These criminal actions require an urgent response from the Greek authorities.”

Human Rights Watch also found new cases in which Greek border guards summarily returned migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey across the land border at Evros.

On October 9, Human Rights Watch staff witnessed an overloaded inflatable rubber boat adrift in the waters between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos for more than an hour, until a group of Spanish lifeguard volunteers set off on their own boat to rescue them.

Asylum seekers and migrants arrive at the Greek island of Lesbos after being rescued by volunteer Spanish lifeguards when their lives were put at risk by masked men in black uniforms in speedboats who rammed into their rubber raft and removed and threw the engine into the sea. Oct 9, 2015. Photo: Zalmaï / Human Rights Watch

Right after the rescue, Ali, a 17-year-old from Afghanistan told Human Rights Watch their boat had taken off eight hours earlier for Lesbos from the Turkish shore at Assos, packed with men, women, and children. But 30 minutes into their journey, a speedboat suddenly rammed their rubber dinghy. On board were five men dressed in black, their faces covered with balaclavas, armed with handguns.

“At first when they approached, we thought they had come to help us,” Ali told Human Rights Watch. “But by the way they acted, we realized they hadn’t come to help. They were so aggressive. They didn’t come on board our boat, but they took our boat’s engine and then sped away.”

The vigilantes attacked three other boats in quick succession before speeding off toward the Greek coast, Ali said. The boats were packed with asylum seekers mostly from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. The men wore no insignia on their black clothing. “They spoke a language we didn’t know, but it definitely was not Turkish, as we Afghans can understand a bit of Turkish,” Ali said.

Ali, a 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker stands wrapped in an emergency thermal blanket on the shore of Lesbos island, having being rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat which was attacked by masked, uniformed men and had its engine removed and thrown into the sea. October 9, 2015. Photo: Zalmaï/ Human Rights Watch

Three of the incidents involved more than one witness. The accounts bore many similarities. In two instances, people described seeing the boat with the vigilantes  being lowered from a bigger vessel. In three of the cases, the people interviewed said they had seen the Greek flag on the boat carrying the masked assailants.

Questions have been raised concerning the identity of the assailants with and whether they could actually form part of the Greek Coastguard. On September 8, CBS managed to film such an attach by a boat of unidentified men who cut off the fuel lines of a boat full of asylum seekers off Greece. CBS had then asked the Greek coastguard to confirm or deny that these were it’s officers. They did neither.

However, in a letter to HRW, the Hellenic Coast Guard (HGG) said it too had received similar allegations, concerning “=men with law enforcement officer uniforms resembling the uniforms of the Special Units of the HCG.”

The letter says that the coast guard had “repeatedly initiated investigations involving Greek private nationals pretending to be law enforcement authorities and exploiting migrant populations with the aim to illegally acquire their vessels and equipment.”

On July 30, three Greek nationals wearing uniforms resembling those of a law enforcement body were arrested and “brought to justice,” and it was determined that they were not coast guard members. However, it was not specified whether or what charges were issued and whether they were convicted. (full article Migrantreport.org)

Speedy boats? Arms? What are the financial sources for such actions?

I wonder whether there is a full investigation on the issue by the Greek authorities.

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4 comments

    • They are not heroes just cowardly hateful thugs that are a disgrace to humanity.

      • Absolutely correct. It is incredible to think that people are sadistic and nasty enough to try to kill children and women refugees — and it is clear that most are genuine refugees from war zones.

        And then, for some idiot to acclaim these thugs as being “heroes”?!

  1. What if a cholera breakout spreads throughout Europe ?
    What then ?