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<b>Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 11th of March 2021</b> <i>Case name</i>: 2021_03_11-AEG752 <i>Situation</i>: 9 people pushed back from Greece to Turkey over the land border <i>Status of WTM Investigation</i>: Concluded <i>Place of Incident</i>: Aegean Sea <i>Summary of the Case:</i> Mid-morning on Thursday the 11th of March we were contacted by worried relatives about a group of nine travellers who were stranded in the snow somewhere near the Greek Turkish land border. We were given a phone number and we made contact with the group at 12:35 CET. They had crossed into Greece with the aim of claiming asylum. They were extremely cold in at least one member of the group was in a critical condition. They were fearful of being pushed back, but had already contacted 112 to ask for rescue. We explain that we could notify the authorities of their presence and try to pressurise them to arrange a rescue. We also explained that we could let the UNHCR know that the group were in Greece and wished to claim asylum. They sent us the names, dates of birth and nationalities of the nine people, which we forwarded by email to the Greek police with UNHCR, Frontex, the Greek ombudsman and Amnesty International in cc, making them aware that these asylum seekers had entered the EU and were in need of international protection. We tried calling all police stations we could find in the area. Most of them were not reachable. The ones we did reach refused to take action and hung up on us. Same happened when we called the Southern Evros Asylum Office, and the Regional Centre for Integrated Border Management was not reachable on any number either. At 13:54 CEST we tweeted: https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1369995088626081794 SOS in the #Evros region #Greece - immediate help is needed! We received a distress call from a group of 9 people who are stranded in the snow in the municipality of #Soufli. Reportedly, one person is in critical condition. Authorities told the group that they're on their way. In the meantime we remained in contact with the group of travellers who were still left alone in the cold, awaiting help. At 14.43 CEST we finally managed to give the position of the group to the Sapes border patrol station. They advised the people to make a fire in order to keep warm, and agreed that we could call them back for news about the evacuation. At 15.20 CEST the travellers told us that they had called 112 again and been told that the police would come and pick them up within 10 minutes. The travellers told us that they would try to reach the main road by foot at the smaller road leading to where they were hiding in the forest was covered in snow. The whole group decided to move together, although it was difficult for certain individuals as they were ill. At 16.43 CEST the travellers sent us a picture showing that they had reached the main road. At 16.59 CEST we called the border patrol station in Sarpes, but the officer told us that the case would be taken over by another unit, and they gave us a phone number of the Soufli border patrol station that was supposed to be taking over the responsibility. However, it took us an hour and a half before we managed to reach anyone at the Soufli border control station who, when we reached them, told us that it was not within their area and told us to call the border patrol station in Metaxades instead. At 17.24 CEST Frontex responded to our email that they had forwarded the alert to the relevant Greek authorities. A few minutes later, we spoke to the travellers again. They were getting desperate as no help seemed to arrive. At 17.32 CEST we reached the border patrol station in Metaxades, and they told us that they had sent a van to rescue the travellers. They gave us a phone number of the driver of the van, who informed us that he had picked up the travellers and was taking them to a police station. However, he refused to tell us which police station the travellers would be taken to. After this point, we were never again able to reach the travellers. At 18.24 CEST we tweeted: "We just have been told by the authorities in Metaxades that the group of 9 people is now in a police car and will be driven to a police station! We cannot reach them anymore and hope they will be treated well and that their requests for asylum will be processed." In the meantime, we could not reach the border patrol station in Metaxades, and the border patrol station in Soufli hung up on us when we called them. For the rest of the evening and night they remained unresponsive. At 22.06 CEST we sent another email to all authorities, informing them that we had been told that the travellers were picked up, but that we still feared they would not be granted protection. Only at 09.07 CEST the next morning did we reach an officer from the Soufli border patrol station who told us that they did not know about the case. Soon after, we reached an officer at the Metaxades border patrol station who was aware of the case, but did not know that the travellers had been picked up or where they were at current. At 11.25 CEST we tweeted: WHERE ARE THEY? The border guard stations in #Metaxades, #Sapes and #Soufli tell us they do not know where the 9 Syrian refugees have been transported to. How is this possible? We fear an illegal #pushback to Turkey! At 13.03 CEST we sent an email to authorities again asking them to investigate the whereabouts of the nine travellers. During the whole case we stayed in contact with the relative of the travellers. The whole day we were not able to find out what had happened to them. Only at 00.30 CEST in the night did we learn from the relative that the travellers had been pushed back and were back in Turkey. We condemn these illegal acts carried out by the Greek authorities whilst the international society watches passively. All our solidarity is with the travellers who were denied their right to international protection and were subjected to the violent act of the pushback.
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» 11/03: 9 people pushed back from Greece to Turkey over the land border | Watch the Med | Refugee Watch | https://www.refugee.watch/2021/03/12/11-03-9-people-pushed-back-from-greece-to-turkey-over-the-land-border/ | 2022-10-01T04:47:38+00:00