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Greek coastguard accused of throwing migrants overboard to their deaths

Greek coastguard accused of throwing migrants overboard to their deaths
FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 29, 2016 file photo, migrants, most of them from Eritrea, jump into the water   -  
Copyright © africanews
Emilio Morenatti/Emilio Morenatti

African migrants

The Greek coastguard has been accused of the deaths of dozens of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, who were forced to turn back or were thrown overboard, an investigation found.

Over 40 migrants on small boats died due to the Greek coastguard's actions, which included forcing damaged vessels to return to sea. Nine people died after being pushed into the water by coastguard officers, according to eyewitnesses from NGOs, local media, and the Turkish coastguard.

This comes days after protests in Athens marked the anniversary of a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants off Greece, with demonstrators demanding answers.

READ ALSO: One year later, migrants who cheated death off Greece seek justice

Up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria, and Egypt were on a fishing trawler 'Adriana' bound for Italy from Libya when it capsized off southwestern Greece on June 14 last year. Although the Greek coastguard monitored it for hours, only 104 people were rescued, and 82 bodies were recovered.

This disaster, one of the worst in the Mediterranean, raised questions about the European Union's efforts to control migrant flows and the Greek coastguard's actions.

The BBC investigation found that at least 40 migrants died due to the Greek coastguard's actions in 15 incidents between May 2020 and 2023. Migrants reported mistreatment by coastguard officers and police, including being thrown into the water after reaching land.

A Cameroonian man recounted seeing a man from the Ivory Coast drown after being thrown into the sea. A Somali migrant said Greek officers zip-tied his hands before shoving him into the water, while a Syrian man reported children drowning after being left near Turkey in damaged rafts.

READ ALSO: Stranded migrants face violence as Tunisia blocks Europe route

Greece and Italy are popular destinations for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Many African migrants depart from Libya, while those from the Middle East often travel from Turkey.

In 2016, Turkey agreed to stop migrants from crossing into Greece in return for €6 billion from the EU, which was later increased to €9 billion. However, in 2020, Turkey said it could no longer enforce the deal, potentially contributing to the Greek coastguard's actions.

Meanwhile in Athens last week, survivors of the shipwreck catastrophe of last year spoke of their ordeal - and how the experience still haunts them 12 months on.

Only 104 people survived the sinking of the Adriana, a rusty metal fishing boat smuggling up to 750 migrants from Libya to Italy.

Although the vessel was clearly in bad shape, Greek officials were unable to evacuate the passengers before it sank.