07 October 2020
The Greek police recruited two undocumented migrants as informers in an operation which has led to multiple accusations of criminality against a number of NGOs, whom the police argue have assisted in migrant smuggling. According to a report in Greek paper Kathimerini, the investigation revolves around the use of the AlarmPhone service - which exists precisely to help to people in distress at sea, and whose work has saved thousands of lives in recent years.
Operation points to NGO smuggling role (Kathimerini, link):
"A clandestine operation staged by the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) and the Hellenic Police (ELAS) in August, involving two undocumented migrants who worked as undercover agents, was what led authorities to the conclusion that members of four nongovernmental organizations active on the island of Lesvos engaged in people smuggling, Kathimerini understands.
The operation code-named Alcmene – after the mother of the mythological hero Hercules – was completed on August 12 at the height of the Greek-Turkish standoff as warships from both countries patrolled the eastern Aegean.
It essentially entailed “directed smuggling” overseen by Greek authorities, with the two migrants recruited by EYP arriving in Izmir, Turkey, and then boarding a boat with undocumented migrants destined for Lesvos.
The two agent migrants subsequently detailed what happened during the transfer, shedding light on how the NGOs allegedly operate. The conclusions from the descriptions and information provided by the two migrants will be evaluated in a criminal investigation launched by a Greek prosecutor.
The classified ELAS documents revealed that the four NGOs make use of the AlarmPhone application – an emergency telephone number used by refugees and migrants crossing the sea from the coast of Turkey to the Greek islands. The app is also used by migrants traveling from Libya to Malta and Italy."
AlarmPhone have issued a statement in which they make no comment on the ongoing investigation, but instead say they wish to point out the real crimes that are being committed as part of Greek migration policy:
"...push-backs, heavy forms of violence including beatings, robbery and shootings, non-assistance, forcing refugees on life-rafts and leaving them drifting in the middle of the sea. These crimes are carried out by bodies obviously belonging to the Greek state. We are not the only witnesses of this alarming development. Several actors have publicly reported about these unlawful actions carried out by the Hellenic Coast Guard at sea and border guards on land: the UNHCR, the Greek Council of Refugees, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations, NGOs, and media outlets."
The organisation also states:
"We have to note that since the founding of the Alarm Phone six years ago, our relationship with the Hellenic Coast Guard has never been as complicated as it is right now. Since October 2014, we have referred approximately 1,975 cases of people in distress to the Greek Coast Guard and other Greek authorities. On several occasions, our experience was that the Coast Guard tried their best to rescue as quick as possible. We had established a quick and efficient communication that led to rescue operations, which was crucial in times when we received as many as 23 calls per day from boats in distress in the Aegean Sea, and which remains crucial to this day."
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