A damning investigative report posted online by BBC TV Current Affairs sheds light on the plight of the migrants trying to cross the Aegean Sea into Greece, claiming the Greek coast guard caused the deaths of hundreds of people in the sea over the past three years.

The piece includes the moment when a former Greek senior coast guard officer, who the BBC was interviewing on camera, admits off camera, while his mic is still on, that the actions of his colleagues caught on a video he was presented with were, in fact, a blatant violation of international law.

During the 1.33-minute-long video interview, the interviewee was shown footage of Greek coast guard officers loading would-be migrants, including a small child, back into a boat after they arrived on a Greek island. While on camera the interviewed ex-officer can be seen saying “It doesn’t seem like it’s forceful”. He goes on to say that the “migrants don’t seem to have the same affection for children as we do,” while claiming they [migrants] often abandon them.

When the crew stops for a short break, and while the camera is still recording the officer can be heard responding to a phone call saying “I haven’t told them too much”. “It’s crystal clear. It’s an international crime”, he says referring to the reloading of migrants back into the boat.

As the piece notes 40 people have died as a result of being forced out of Greek territorial waters, or taken back out to sea after reaching Greek islands.
The BBC reporters said the Greek coastguard told them it strongly denied all accusations of illegal activities.

The article claims that the Greek government has long been accused of forced returns to where they have crossed from, which is illegal under international law.
The BBC team analyzed 15 cases of alleged fatalities as a result of the Greek coastguard’s actions which resulted in 43 deaths. To analyze that incidents the investigative team used initial sources, primarily local media, NGOs and the Turkish coastguard.

The BBC piece continues by presenting one of the most chilling accounts of a Cameroonian man who claims he was hunted by Greek authorities after landing on the island of Samos in 2021.

“We had barely docked, and the police came from behind,” he told us. “There were two policemen dressed in black, and three others in civilian clothes. They were masked, you could only see their eyes.”
He and two others – another from Cameroon and a man from Ivory Coast – were transferred to a Greek coastguard boat, he said, where events took a terrifying turn.
“They started with the [other] Cameroonian. They threw him in the water. The Ivorian man said: ‘Save me, I don’t want to die… and then eventually only his hand was above water, and his body was below.
“Slowly his hand slipped under, and the water engulfed him.”

Human rights groups allege thousands of people seeking asylum in Europe have been illegally forced back from Greece to Turkey and denied the right to seek asylum, which is enshrined in international and EU law.

Commenting on the BBC report, the Greek government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis said the allegations presented in the piece have not been proven. “Every complaint is investigated at the judicial level”, referring to the eyewitness accounts cited in the report.

Greece on its part, claims Turkey has weaponized migrants starting their journey from its territory into the EU as a means to put pressure on the European Union to receive more funding, accusing Turkey of often collaborating with human trafficking smugglers and questionable NGOs.