Migrant charity Aegean Boat Report claims that the Greek coast guard has pushed back scores of migrants in a rubber boat off the island of Rhodes. A video posted by the NGO allegedly shows masked men redirecting the rubber boat as people can be heard shouting in distress.
A rubber boat carrying 35 people was allegedly pushed back outside Rhodes on Sunday by hooded men wearing what appear to be Greek navy uniforms belonging to the Greek coast guard, the Aegean Boat Report, operated by a Norwegian NGO, said on Monday (19 September).
The migrant charity tweeted a video claiming to show the illegal pushback off the southern Greek island of Rhodes. A boat with three people in balaclavas can be seen attempting to redirect the rubber boat's path as several men can be heard shouting in distress.
"In the video we can clearly see three masked men, in what appears to be Greek naval uniforms, in a RIB," the NGO wrote, referring to rigid inflatable boats, which it said belonged to the Greek coast guard. The NGO also pointed out that the ID number of the vessel was visible -- indicating it is stationed in Rhodes.
Testimonies of illegal pushbacks
Despite numerous testimonies from migrants, Greek authorities have denied the pushback of migrants at sea.
Brian, a Cameroonian who left with other migrants from Turkey, told InfoMigrants in May that their boat was pushed back when it approached the Greek island of Samos.
"We were going to dock quietly, but suddenly a white boat came straight at us. On it, there was a badge in the shape of the Greek flag, and another of Frontex," he said.
"When it arrived near us, it made waves, our boat rocked. On board were three men in uniform. Two had masks on their faces, we could only see their eyes. They shouted at us and pointed their weapons at us. They ordered us to turn off the engine."
Brian said he and the other migrants were then forced into a Greek coast guard boat, which took them to Turkish territorial waters. He said they were then put back on their original boat which the Greek coast guards had transported with them.
Six bodies found off Rhodes
Last Tuesday (September 13), the Turkish coast guard rescued a group of 73 migrants in four life rafts between Turkey's Marmaris and the Greek island of Rhodes. They recovered six bodies -- two infants, three children and an adult woman -- and continued rescue operations for five missing people, according to a statement from Turkey's coast guard.
A survivor who spoke with Turkish authorities said the group had departed by wooden boat on September 10 from the coast of Tripoli in Lebanon to reach Italy. But when the boat almost reached Rhodes, it ran out of fuel and a Greek patrol boat put them in four life rafts, took their valuables and set them adrift in Turkish territorial waters, the survivor said in a video released by Turkish authorities.
In a statement, the Greek coast guard said it "categorically denies'' the Turkish claims of its "alleged involvement in an alleged pushback incident that resulted in the death of six immigrants in the sea area of Marmaris, within Turkish territorial waters.''
More than 33,400 migrants have been intercepted in Aegean waters by Turkish officials so far this year, according to the Turkish coast guard's website.
Both Turkey and Greece have accused one another of illegal pushbacks of migrants at sea.