KAYIKI Press Release
End death at border now! Respect human life and death!
We, the inhabitants of both sides of Aegean Sea, express our anger and our shock about the thousands of deaths of refugees and migrants in their effort to cross Europe. They are a direct result of the Europe Fortress policy: The sealing of the borders and the lack of any other way for these people to seek protection.
Dozens of tragic shipwrecks have taken place on both sides of the Aegean Sea since August 2012 after the completion of the border fence in Evros, the land borders between Greece and Turkey: In Farmakonisi, in Lesvos and in Samos, near and some along the border river Evros.
Small children, women and men; refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea died in the Aegean Sea and in Evros trying to escape war, poverty and political persecution in their effort to cross the European borders. Their dead bodies were either found near the coastlines either they disappeared in the Aegean. Many of them were never identified, buried in unmarked graves in remote cemeteries and not according to their cultural and religious traditions. Family members who survived are weeping silently for the loss of their beloved. Others are still trying desperately to locate their missing ones.
The mainstream media talk about these tragic incidents in a dehumanizing way as “deaths of illegal migrants” presenting them as inevitable or fatal. As they seem unwanted by our society both in life and death everyone remains silent.
In the same period, there are many documented allegations of pushbacks in the Aegean Sea. Despite public accusations and international criticism they continue until today unhindered. There are repeated reports of ill-treatment, shootings, theft and violations of the rescue protocols.
On January 20th, 2014 a shipwreck took place near Farmakonisi island during an operation of the Greek coast guard. Three Afghan women and eight children died. All the survivors told in public that the shipwreck and the death of their women and children was a consequence of a push-back operation of the Greek coastguard. At the meantime the coast guard claims it was rescue operation, but they couldn’t explain why their vessel didn’t even have life jackets on board. The survivors of the shipwreck including the fathers of the tragically lost children were detained, allegedly ill-treated upon their arrival in the island of Leros and then released on the condition to leave the country within one month. The tragic images of the father who lost all his children standing in a cue with the other survivors upon arrival in Leros island as detainees and the pain and suffering inscribed in his face have marked our hearts.
On March 6th, 2014 in Chios island the Greek coast guard shot a refugee boat resulting in the injury of three Syrian refugees. They claimed that the refugee boat had rammed the Greek coast guard vessel (!).
These incidents are only a few recent examples of the shameful practices followed by the Greek coast guard in Aegean Sea and inside the operational area of Frontex. In public the EU hypocritically criticizes Greece for human rights violations but in practice it orders secretly the refoulement of people in need of protection.
In the end of the day, Greek as well as Turkish authorities’ practices of hunting down refugees along this border in order to keep the gate to Europe closed is endangering lives.
Even worse, the authorities on both sides ignore the immediate need and the survivors’ basic human right to bury their children, spouses, mothers, husbands and fathers; to weep and to mourn them.
One recent example from the Greek side: On May 5th, 2014 a shipwreck near Samos was reported: 22 dead refugees (among them two pregnant women and four children) and 36 the survivors. The first actions taken by the authorities were an interrogation of the survivors about the incident and that a removal order was issued against them. The traumatized survivors were detained during the first days in the detention cells of Samos’ coast guard, where neither local nor international organizations could access them and they lacked any form of support. No protection status was granted to them, except the temporal suspension of their removal.
How does it feel to lose your family in one moment and in the next second you find yourself locked up in a cage? Weeping and honoring the dead is unfortunately not allowed equally to all people in this world.
The Aegean is supposed to be a friendly sea connecting people and nations and so is Evros river, but due to specific policies and practices they have been turned into nothing less than a big graveyard. We, the inhabitants of the both sides of Aegean Sea and Evros river, cannot accept this any more. We do not accept to just count the corpses in numbers and bury them silently. Our rage and our pain grow day by day. We want to see a change now. Europe has to offer secure procedures for protection seekers to come and find a safe place.
END THE DEATHS IN THE AEGEAN SEA AND ON THE LAND BORDER NOW!
Info about KAYIKI
In August 2008, academics, human rights activists and artists from Turkey, Greece, Austria and Germany held a series of meetings in the Greek island of Chios and Dikili. The group later named itself “Kayiki”.
The main theme of these meetings were to seek for ways to enhance the living conditions of the refugees who are trying to reach Greece via the Aegean Sea almost every day and to raise the voice against the deaths occurring during their “journey for hope”.
As a result of these meetings, The Kayiki Group took some concrete decisions such as to increase the interaction of both countries’ NGOs, to better keep track of the refugees and violations against these in order to take necessary precautions and to raise a campaign to increase awareness. The movies, postcards and the radio spots are available in Turkey and Greece primarily, as well as the whole Mediterranean countries and other countries.
Pırıl Erçoban 0090 549 483 54 22 (Turkey)
Efi Latsoudi 0030 697 623 46 68 (Greece)
Marieke Wissink 0031 614 37 78 85 (Netherlands)
Salinia Stroux 0049 176 65 42 91 44 (Germany)