Greek Coast Guard officers rescued 47 would-be migrants off the coast of Samos, near Turkey, on Friday after receiving a distress signal from the migrants’ vessel which was taking on water.
A few days after the tragedy off the coast of Farmakonisi, where 12 migrants went missing and are feared drowned, the Coast Guard crossed into Turkish waters to rescue the migrants, sources said. The Turkish Coast Guard had been alerted originally but its delayed response, and the adverse weather conditions, prompted the Greek authorities to intervene, the same sources said.
On Thursday, suvivors of a tragic incident off Farmakonisi were transferred to Piraeus where they told reporters that coast guard officers had pushed and threatened them.
The incident prompted the United Nations refugee agency, Amnesty International and the European Council’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, to call for an inquiry. Reacting, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis insisted that the coast guard officers had tried to save the migrants and accused “Muiznieks and others” of wanting to create “a political issue in Greece.”
Speaking to Skai television on Friday morning, the media spokesman for the Greek Coast Guard, Nikos Lagadianos, said it was “outrageous” that officials of the unit, which have rescued more than 3,500 people in the Aegean in the past 18 months should be cast as criminals. He said that radar records showing the Coast Guard vessel’s coordinates proved that the rescue boat had towed the migrants toward Farmakonisi, not Turkey, as some witnesses have claimed. Lagiadanos added that there were other witnesses to the Farmakonisi incident who said they would have drowned if it wasn’t for the Coast Guard officials’ intervention.