Pandemic Collides With Europe’s Migrant Crisis to Set Off a Calamity in Greece

Frustrated asylum seekers lit fires this week in protest over lockdowns that worsened cramped and squalid conditions on Lesbos. Now 12,000 migrants are homeless.

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Nearly 12,000 refugees were left without shelter after days of fires set at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.CreditCredit...Byron Smith/Getty Images

ATHENS — The thousands of asylum seekers crammed into Europe’s largest refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos, had for years bridled at their squalid conditions and the endless delays in resolving their fates. Then came the coronavirus and its strict containment measures, which compounded their misery.

The combination proved explosive, pushing frustrations over a tipping point this week, when some camp residents burned down the Moria camp during a protest over their quarantine, a desperate act that has challenged Europe’s leaders once again to come up with a lasting solution to the migration crisis.

By Thursday afternoon, a third fire in two days had erupted at Moria, destroying what little was left untouched by arson attacks earlier in the week and stranding nearly 12,000 of its residents in the wild among tombstones in a nearby cemetery and on rural and coastal roads. One refugee in the late stages of pregnancy experienced abdominal pains on Wednesday night while sheltering on a road near the camp, and was rushed to a hospital to give birth.

N.

MACEDONIA

TURKEY

LESBOS

Aegean

Sea

GREECE

Moria

Refugee

Camp

Athens

Mediterranean Sea

100 Miles

By The New York Times

“Almost if not all of the accommodation in and around the site has been destroyed,” said Theodoros Alexellis, a Lesbos-based official for the United Nations’ refugee agency.

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Credit...Angelos Tzortzinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The camp’s destruction has prompted soul-searching among European leaders who have historically been accused of doing little to alleviate suffering in camps like Moria. On Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron of France said that his government was working with Germany to jointly welcome some of the Moria migrants.

“We must show solidarity with Greece and also live up to European values,” Mr. Macron said.

In the short term, Greek government officials and local aid organizations had yet to formalize plans to rehouse most of the camp’s former residents as of Thursday afternoon. Discussions were complicated by groups of Greek islanders who, angered by the presence of migrants on the island, set up roadblocks on Thursday morning to stop the passage of a medical team from Doctors Without Borders and Greek military personnel seeking to reach the burned-out site and its surroundings.

More than 400 unaccompanied children were transferred off the island by Thursday morning to secure accommodation on the Greek mainland. But no other former residents of Moria will be allowed to leave the island, Stelios Petsas, a Greek government spokesman, said in a news briefing on Thursday afternoon.

“They thought that if they burn Moria they would be able to leave the island undetected,” he said. “This is not going to happen.”

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Credit...Angelos Tzortzinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Around 1,000 residents will be temporarily housed on a passenger ferry, according to Notis Mitarachi, Greece’s minister of immigration and asylum. Hundreds more will be placed on two naval vessels, one of which has arrived at the island, according to Mr. Petsas.

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It was unclear where the remaining 10,000 migrants would be housed in the coming days. But in the long term, Mr. Petsas said all former residents would be held in a new, closed facility.

Amid fears over the possible spread of Covid-19 among thousands of migrants now scattered on roads and fields around Moria, Mr. Petsas said that the whereabouts of most of the 35 Moria residents who had tested positive for the virus remained unknown.

Moria first became synonymous with Europe’s approach to migration in 2015, when it was a brief staging post for a large proportion of the 850,000 mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees who sailed that year from Turkey to Greek islands like Lesbos.

Today on ‘The Daily’: The Forgotten Refugee Crisis in Europe

Conditions at the Moria center on the island of Lesbos were already dire. This year, the coronavirus compounded the misery, and then fires razed the squalid camp, leaving thousands homeless.
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transcript

Today on ‘The Daily’: The Forgotten Refugee Crisis in Europe

Hosted by Megan Twohey; produced by Daniel Guillemette, Stella Tan, Neena Pathak and Alexandra Leigh Young; and edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Lisa Chow

Conditions at the Moria center on the island of Lesbos were already dire. This year, the coronavirus compounded the misery, and then fires razed the squalid camp, leaving thousands homeless.

[street noise]

matina stevis-gridneff

Kalispera. Kalispera.

[interposing voices]

matina stevis-gridneff

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of asylum seekers sleeping rough. They’ve pitched up tents with bamboo and other dried leaves. There are a lot of children here. I can see a tiny, tiny baby, I think no older than three months that’s crying.

Some of the people here have small backpacks with whatever belongings they were able to rescue. Some are looking at their asylum papers, which are actually probably the most valuable thing they own.

[street noise]

matina stevis-gridneff

And now I think I’m entering the segment of this street that’s occupied by Afghans. I can see a mom helping her little girl pee and pouring some water on her.

And this is really, really grim.

megan twohey

From The New York Times, I’m Megan Twohey. This is “The Daily.” Today: Thousands of refugees are on the streets in Greece after a massive fire burned down their camp. My colleague, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, on how they ended up there in the first place. It’s Thursday, September 17.

Matina, tell me about Moria.

matina stevis-gridneff

Moria is a place in Greece, a vast, sprawling space in the hills of Lesbos, which is a really picturesque island in the Northeastern Aegean. Where over the years, among the olive groves, this sort of slum city of huts and tents and containers has sprung up. Where thousands and thousands of asylum seekers, coming from countries of conflict or abject poverty, or people facing other kinds of persecution in their homelands — in the Middle East, in Africa, or elsewhere — travel, go through Turkey, get on boats and end up on this island.

megan twohey

And how exactly did this happen? How did so many people end up in one place?

matina stevis-gridneff

So in order to answer that question, we need to go back to the summer of 2015 and examine what happened then. That was the height of the so-called European refugee crisis.

[music]

It was a moment when the Syrian conflict was really flaring up.

archived recording 1

Hundreds of thousands of people, fleeing violence and terror in places like Syria and Iraq.

archived recording 2

Some have come from other parts of the world and are looking for better economic opportunities in Europe.

matina stevis-gridneff

People were making their way out of Syria and other parts of the Middle East, and transiting through Turkey to the Greek islands.

archived recording 1

And in Greece, desperate people are putting their lives at risk on rubber dinghies.

archived recording 2

These people, families have just risked their lives, everything they own, everybody they love, to cross this narrow strait here to arrive here in Greece.

archived recording 3

More than 50 bodies of refugees recovered from the sea after failed attempts to get to Europe over the last three days. Once again, the Greek island of Lesbos saw the most of the misery.

matina stevis-gridneff

There were up to 3, 4,000 people arriving every day on these tiny, tiny islands.

megan twohey

Right. I remember. There was that photo of the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean.

matina stevis-gridneff

That photo was so important. It was such a turning point in the development of the early stage of the refugee crisis. Because it caused this moral pressure on richer, northern European countries — in particular, Germany — to open their doors to these people. And that’s exactly what happened.

archived recording 1

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country will not limit the number of refugees it takes in. She’s calling for other E.U. members to do the same.

archived recording 2

Germans gathered at the station to cheer and clap as refugees went through a temporary processing center set up outside.

matina stevis-gridneff

By 2016, about one million Syrian refugees had left the Greek islands, transited through Europe, and reached safe haven and a new life in Germany.

megan twohey

And how does Moria fit into these efforts?

matina stevis-gridneff

At the beginning of the crisis, the authorities thought they had to do something that normally happens when you have a humanitarian disaster of this scale flare up. They thought, we will create some basic facilities on this island, which is the first port of entry for these thousands and thousands of people. And what we’ll do is we’ll try and offer them some basic things like shelter and food. And we will register their asylum applications. And hopefully, the plan was back then, these people will then quickly transit through an asylum system to new homes around Europe.

megan twohey

And what is the attitude of the Greeks? What is their response to all of these people passing through?

matina stevis-gridneff

So one of the really heartwarming things about this was seeing Greeks step up and the people of Lesbos just really opening their arms and their hearts to the refugees who were overwhelming their island. Remember, Greece had just been through one of the worst financial crises in modern history. People were poor. They were devastated and exhausted themselves. But still, they offered everything they could. And then, in early 2016, something happens that makes things worse.

megan twohey

What is that? What happens?

matina stevis-gridneff

Well, the European Union sees a situation of dozens of thousands of asylum seekers in Greece, just as even more are continuing to arrive on Lesbos.

archived recording 1

Well, as the refugees move North through the European Union, they’re enduring terrible conditions and resistance.

archived recording 2

Germany has just registered its one millionth refugee. [CROWD CHANTING] And these people want to send them home.

archived recording 3

Germany, which had opened its doors, now appears to be closing them.

matina stevis-gridneff

And Germany, as well as other countries, they don’t want to take more people in. So they start to close their borders. And collectively, they’re looking for a way to just lessen the flow of refugees and asylum seekers into Europe. And what they do is they strike a deal with a country that these people are arriving through, which is Turkey.

archived recording

It’s a deal that will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of stranded refugees and migrants, a game changer in a crisis that’s shaken the very foundations of the European Union.

matina stevis-gridneff

This deal is struck in April 2016. And —

archived recording 1

Under the plan, starting at midnight on Sunday, all migrants who reach Greece will be sent back to Turkey if their asylum claim is rejected.

archived recording 2

In return, Turkey gets political and financial rewards.

matina stevis-gridneff

Basically, what it is is that Europe hands a few billion dollars to Turkey to help them fund facilities and services for the more than three million refugees they’re hosting, to stay there instead of coming to Greece and moving on into Europe. And Turkey starts to slow down this flow of migrants into Greece. But it doesn’t entirely stop. People still do cross over to Greece and end up in Moria. So they’re just stuck. And by the beginning of 2020, it already looks like something is going to go terribly wrong.

archived recording

President Erdogan says the E.U.‘s aid has been slow to come. But Angela Merkel says more than three billion euros have been paid out. And she expects Erdogan to uphold the deal.

matina stevis-gridneff

Tensions between Greece and Turkey and the European Union and Turkey begin rising. And Turkey, at the very end of February 2020, says we’ve had enough. We’re opening our borders. If you’re a refugee, if you’re a migrant, please go to Europe. Our doors are wide open.

megan twohey

Wow.

matina stevis-gridneff

And not only that, but it actually helps people get to the border with Greece. It buses thousands of people from Istanbul and other parts of the country into Greece. And the people on Lesbos are looking at this situation unfolding. And they’re thinking, Turkey is going to start releasing boats full of more asylum seekers who will come here. And our island is already overwhelmed. By the time I visited Lesbos in March this year, the camp had swelled to more than 20,000 people.

megan twohey

And how are things for the migrants in the camp? I mean, that sounds like an absolutely chaotic, difficult combination of forces that these migrants are dealing with on the island.

matina stevis-gridneff

Well, of course, they’re extremely frustrated and living in these squalid conditions. But they don’t realize it’s actually about to get worse. Because Covid hits. The first case of Covid-19 is detected in Moria. And in response, the Greek authorities put the whole camp on lockdown. And that sets off a lot of anger and a lot of fear in an already really tense environment. And then it all comes to a head. A small group of migrants set fire to the camp. And everything burns to the ground.

megan twohey

We’ll be right back.

archived recording 1

[SIRENS BLARING]

archived recording 2

[COMMOTION]

archived recording 3

What is the situation in Lesbos tonight?

archived recording 4

It’s very, very, very, very, very, very difficult. They see the smoke. The situation is very bad.

archived recording 5

A massive fire has almost completely destroyed Greece’s largest refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

archived recording 6

[FLAMES BLAZING]

megan twohey

Matina, what happened with this fire?

matina stevis-gridneff

It was scenes of complete chaos.

archived recording 1

The fire start to come on this side. Look, even on the floor. There is little fire. Ah! Ah! Come back!

archived recording 2

[PEOPLE YELLING]

archived recording 3

Come back! Come back!

matina stevis-gridneff

Of course, flames engulfing this really combustible set of materials — you know, you have tarpaulin, gas canisters at nearly every tent used for cooking and sometimes heating. And these thousands of people just grabbing everything they could and running out of the camp.

And it went on for two nights as the first big blaze on the first night burned down the majority of the camp, and then additional fires the second night finished it.

archived recording

My house is finished. House fire is many — all finished. [FLAMES BLAZING]

megan twohey

And what caused this fire?

matina stevis-gridneff

Based on testimonies, both from Greek officials but also other asylum seekers and aid workers, what happened was that a small group of irate, angry asylum seekers who were being asked to quarantine themselves because members of their family had tested positive for Covid, they started rioting. And according to these witnesses, this is how the fire started.

megan twohey

And why would this group of migrants set fire to their own camp?

matina stevis-gridneff

People were just extremely upset. Not only about the overall poor conditions of the camp, but because they felt that Covid was being used to hurt them even more. The authorities had tried to prepare some plans for a Covid response at the camp. But at the end, not much seemed to really be there.

So when the outbreak started growing in the camp, and 35 people were tested positive for Covid, and many more people were told they have to quarantine, not in an isolation clinics, but in some container, people were very angry. And so after the fire has decimated Moria, I go to Lesbos to see what’s happened.

[crowd commotion]

matina stevis-gridneff

So we’ve just arrived at one of the spots where asylum seekers who have been displaced by this fire have gathered.

They’re being blocked by the riot police from going further into town. There are people coughing. There are people who have clearly slept here for the last three nights and are just waiting to see where they’re going to go next.

matina stevis-gridneff

And it was just thousands and thousands of people on the street. I remember quite immediately seeing a mother with a very small baby on the street. They had put down a few blankets that they were using as mattresses. And that’s where they had spent the night before. And that’s where they were going to spend the night after.

matina stevis-gridneff

And others are trying to clean their tiny piece of street that they’re sleeping on with makeshift brooms.

crowd commotion

matina stevis-gridneff

Yes.

car honking

matina stevis-gridneff

So a woman on a scooter just drove past and screamed, “filthy dogs” at the asylum seekers.

How are you?

speaker

I’m fine, thank you.

matina stevis-gridneff

You’re OK? What’s your name?

speaker

My name is [INAUDIBLE].

matina stevis-gridneff

What was the last name?

speaker

[INAUDIBLE].

matina stevis-gridneff

And I stopped in front of one family. It was a dad, actually, with his little girl and —

speaker

One baby, 13 months.

matina stevis-gridneff

Uh huh. It’s a tiny little girl who’s walking very well.

speaker

Thank you.

matina stevis-gridneff

Well done. Oh, you’re beautiful.

speaker

Thank you.

matina stevis-gridneff

I love her shoes. Very nice shoes.

matina stevis-gridneff

And he said to me, when the fire started I just grabbed her and took my wife and we just ran.

matina stevis-gridneff

I see. And you just ran?

speaker

Yes, yes. Running fast, baby, my wife, running in the outside, away from area.

matina stevis-gridneff

And what do you think will happen now?

matina stevis-gridneff

And within 10 minutes, our tent was burned. The fire was everywhere.

speaker

We want just freedom.

matina stevis-gridneff

Where do you want to go?

speaker

I don’t want a new camp. I don’t want Moria now.

matina stevis-gridneff

You don’t want —

speaker

I just want freedom.

matina stevis-gridneff

And at that point, this family, with some of their relatives and other people they knew, they had been sleeping on that road for four nights. But he tells me that he’s been in Moria for a year. And he’d actually rather stay on the streets.

crowd talking and children screaming

matina stevis-gridneff

Good luck.

speaker

Thank you.

matina stevis-gridneff

Thanks for talking to me.

speaker

Glad to meet you.

matina stevis-gridneff

And you.

speaker

Goodbye.

matina stevis-gridneff

Take care.

megan twohey

What does that mean when he says he wants to sleep on the street? Why would he want that?

matina stevis-gridneff

The Greek authorities had been feverishly putting together a temporary tented shelter for these people so they wouldn’t have to sleep on the street. But people were so suspicious, so angry, so traumatized by living in Moria and by the fire that they just didn’t want to go to the new camp. This man told me, I am not going to this new camp. And this was something I heard over and over again.

speaker

From Turkey?

iram

Yeah.

speaker

And your English is not bad, huh?

matina stevis-gridneff

Very good English.

interposing voices

matina stevis-gridneff

What’s your name?

iram

My name is Iram (ph).

speaker

Iram?

matina stevis-gridneff

Iram.

iram

Yeah.

matina stevis-gridneff

I remember this 13-year-old girl —

matina stevis-gridneff

Ayyubi? (ph)

iram

Yeah.

matina stevis-gridneff

— who was carrying her little brother. And then she was actually very upbeat and quite enthusiastic.

matina stevis-gridneff

He is very, very cute. You look similar.

iram

Not cute.

matina stevis-gridneff

Very cute. So how long have you been on the island?

iram

The Lesbos?

matina stevis-gridneff

Yes.

iram

The Lesbos is nine months.

matina stevis-gridneff

OK. Nine months. And were you with your family when the fire started?

iram

Yeah. When the fire starts, we come to here.

matina stevis-gridneff

I heard that they are making new tents for you. Do you want to go there?

iram

No, no, no. The tent is not good. I want to go to [INAUDIBLE] and the Germany and the France.

matina stevis-gridneff

But until you go there, should you not have somewhere to sleep where you’re covered and safe?

iram

No problem.

matina stevis-gridneff

And she said to me, listen. I don’t want to go to this new camp. I don’t want to go to this place that the Greek government is building.

iram

I don’t like the tents. We don’t. We don’t — we don’t go to the tents.

matina stevis-gridneff

You don’t —

iram

The tent is the problem.

matina stevis-gridneff

And Moria, you did not like living there?

iram

No, no, no. I don’t like. I don’t like living here. Because here is where problem is. And you understand? It’s not good. It’s very problem here.

matina stevis-gridneff

I understand. I’m sorry. Thank you very much. Good luck.

megan twohey

So these refugees are desperate not to end up back in a camp. And so how is this resolved and who resolves it?

matina stevis-gridneff

It’s not resolved, Megan. It’s not resolved. The only positive news has been that 400 unaccompanied minor refugees, children that had arrived in Greece on their own and had been living in Moria on their own without parents or other family, they have been taken to other European Union countries where, hopefully, they’ll start a life. And Germany stepped up and said they would relocate 1,500 people. That leaves around 10,000 people still in need of resettling.

But what’s also been clear, as a message from the Greek authorities, is that they’re also not in a rush to get people off Lesbos, which is what both the locals and the migrants themselves are demanding. The reason for that is they don’t want to send a message that, if a refugee camp burns down, then you get to be relocated to Germany or another country.

So there is clearly an element of management — and some say punishment — in this pace at which people are being resettled.

megan twohey

And Matina, you’ve covered the refugee crisis and Moria since 2015. I mean, seeing what it’s come to now, what do you think happens next? Well, part of me thinks that, if in 2015 and 2016 Europe was able to deal with more than one million refugees arriving, then surely it can humanely handle 10,000 people. This isn’t the same kind of crisis. But the cynical side of me wonders if this new tented camp on Lesbos will just become another purgatory.

There’s this Greek proverb that goes a bit like this: It says, there is nothing more permanent than what’s temporary. And I think of that when I think of Moria.

mahbube

You can get selfie here?

matina stevis-gridneff

Ah, yes. How are you? You speak some English?

mahbube

Yes.

matina stevis-gridneff

Oh, very good. What’s your name?

mahbube

Mahbube (ph).

matina stevis-gridneff

Mahbube. What’s your family name?

mahbube

Afzali (ph).

matina stevis-gridneff

Afzali. How old are you? You’re very young?

[yelling in background]

mahbube

15.

matina stevis-gridneff

15. And you’re from Afghanistan?

mahbube

Yes. And you?

matina stevis-gridneff

I’m from Greece, actually.

mahbube

Greece.

matina stevis-gridneff

Yes.

matina stevis-gridneff

I interviewed this really dynamic 15-year-old girl. And she was full of energy.

matina stevis-gridneff

How many months have you been on the island?

mahbube

10 months.

matina stevis-gridneff

10 months?

mahbube

Yeah.

matina stevis-gridneff

OK.

matina stevis-gridneff

She said she’d been on Lesbos for 10 months. She came from Afghanistan.

mahbube

And we are coming in here because we want a future. And we are waiting because Moria, it’s building again.

matina stevis-gridneff

You don’t want to go back to Moria?

mahbube

No, I don’t want.

matina stevis-gridneff

And what about the new tents that they’re making, do you want to go there?

mahbube

No, I don’t want anymore.

matina stevis-gridneff

She said she wanted to go to Germany to have a future, to build a life.

mahbube

I want to go to Germany, French. Like, country I can make a future. I want to go. And I think Greece not lot like me.

matina stevis-gridneff

But what struck me was that even someone this young, who clearly had so much hope for the future, in that moment in time, she was beginning to give up on that hope.

mahbube

And coming in here, but I think now, I wish had not come.

matina stevis-gridneff

You wish you had not come to Greece?

mahbube

Yeah.

matina stevis-gridneff

You wish you were back in Afghanistan?

mahbube

Yeah.

matina stevis-gridneff

She felt that after living in Moria for 10 months without school, after this fire, after everything that had happened to her, she just wasn’t sure it had been worth leaving Afghanistan in the first place. Good luck. Thanks for talking to me.

mahbube

Thank you.

matina stevis-gridneff

I think I feel two things about the situation I witnessed. The one is that there’s just so much human energy and potential among these people that no country will accept. And they’re stuck in some of the worst conditions. And the other thought was that precisely because no country will accept them, Moria, which was supposed to be this transitory place, will never really be a transitory place. There’s always going to be these places where hopes end rather than begin.

megan twohey

Well, thank you so much, Matina.

matina stevis-gridneff

Thanks for having me.

megan twohey

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording (dr. robert r. redfield)

Today, and even after we have a vaccine, C.D.C. encourages all Americans to embrace the powerful tools that we have right now, to wear a mask, particularly when they’re in public.

megan twohey

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, the Director of the C.D.C., Robert Redfield, told lawmakers that wearing masks is the single best way to slow and potentially even stop the spread of the coronavirus.

archived recording (dr. robert r. redfield)

I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine. Because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent. And if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will.

megan twohey

Redfield also said that a vaccine could be available for limited use by the end of the year and for wider distribution by the middle of 2021. This contradicted what President Trump said the day before during an ABC town hall event, when he claimed a vaccine could be ready in three to four weeks. And —

At that time, migrants moved swiftly through Moria and its equivalents on neighboring islands, with the Greek government allowing them to easily cross to the country’s mainland and then onward by land toward northern Europe.

But that laissez-faire approach was reversed in 2016, when the rest of Europe closed its borders to refugees, prompting Greece to stop most new arrivals from leaving the islands, housing them instead in camps.

Built for only 3,000 people, Moria quickly became overcrowded, its population sometimes swelling to more than 20,000. Conditions became notoriously squalid, with residents given limited access to health care and sanitation, and forced to line up for hours in the sun each for food that was sometimes moldy.

Image
Credit...Angelos Tzortzinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As access to asylum became increasingly slow and restricted, aid groups recorded a spike in suicide attempts among residents of Moria, amid what doctors termed a mental health crisis at the camp.

Tensions both within the camp and between refugees and Greek islanders have grown in recent years. They reached a boiling point in recent days when the authorities placed the entire camp under a medical lockdown after at least 35 residents tested positive for the coronavirus. That led to protests by camp residents, some of whom lit fires on Tuesday night, leading to its destruction.

Moria first became notorious throughout Europe during Greece’s previous leftist government, but the new right-wing Greek administration has taken an even harder line against migration. To deter future arrivals, the Greek authorities have in recent months illegally expelled more than 1,000 recently landed refugees by abandoning them in the open sea in life rafts with no motors or rudders.

The most recent reported expulsion occurred while Moria was on fire. Sixteen migrants were apparently abandoned at sea on Tuesday after landing that morning on the Greek island of Samos, and were later intercepted early on Wednesday by the Turkish Coast Guard and returned to Turkey.

Image
Credit...Byron Smith/Getty Images

Photographs, videos and geolocations sent that morning by the migrants to Aegean Boat Report, a Norway-based independent watchdog that documents rights abuses in the Aegean Sea, show that the group arrived on a remote coastline on the north of the island. A member of the Aegean Boat Report then called coast guards on Samos to request help in bringing the group to shelter, phone records confirm.

Photographs sent by the migrants later that afternoon show the arrival of a Hellenic Coast Guard boat. The migrants then next appear in photographs taken by the Turkish Coast Guard, who rescued the group early on Wednesday from a life raft that had been left floating on the maritime border between Greece and Turkey.

“This isn’t an isolated incident,” said Tommy Olsen, the director of the Aegean Boat Report, who alerted the Greek authorities to the migrants’ arrival on Samos. “It’s happening everywhere, all the time. The Greek government says there are no arrivals. But there are loads of arrivals — they’re just sending them back.”

The Greek shipping ministry and the Samos port authority did not answer requests for comment.

Image
Credit...Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press


Niki Kitsantonis reported from Athens, and Patrick Kingsley from Berlin.