This story is over 5 years old.

Greek Coast Guard Accused of Sinking Migrant Boat

Turkish fisherman shot video that they are claiming shows the Greek coast guard piercing the raft of Syrian migrants.

VICE News is closely watching the international migrant crisis. Check out the Open Water blog here.

A group of Turkish fishermen claim to have captured footage of members of the Greek coast guard intentionally sinking a migrant boat in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey.

According to the fishermen talking in the video, officials from the Greek coast guard pierced the inflatable boat, which was carrying 50 Syrian migrants on their way to the Greek island of Chios.


The news site Greek Reporter said that the boat, which started its journey from the coast of Karaburun in Turkey's Izmir province, was trying to cross into Greek waters when it sank.

The blurry footage shows what appears to be a Greek coast guard vessel approaching a rubber dinghy before leaving again. The two fishermen filming the footage can be heard saying there are "many migrants" on the boat. They then express surprise upon seeing a Greek coastguard vessel entering "Turkish waters."

In another sequence, the men accuse the Greek officers of deliberately "bursting" the dinghy with what they describe as "a lance."

Later in the footage, people wearing life vests are seen swimming away from the sinking vessel.

"Ismail, did you see any children among the migrants?" asks one of the fishermen.

"Yes," answers the other fisherman, "eight- or 10-year-old children."

The final seconds of the video show a dozen people — including women and children —being helped onto the fishermen's boat. Another boat carrying officials in uniform arrives on the scene to assist the migrants.

The video, which was shot a few days ago and released Thursday by the Turkish news site Hürriyet, clearly shows a boat approaching an inflatable dinghy that is transporting migrants. At no point does the video show members of the coast guard popping the inflatable boat.

Speaking to VICE News Friday, a spokesperson for Greece's Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping, and Tourism said that it had launched an internal investigation into the incident and declined further comment, pending the results of the inquest.


A spokesperson for the Izmir coast guard said the video was "currently being authenticated." According to the spokesperson, the footage has also triggered a Turkish investigation.

Turkey is currently home to more than 1.8 million Syrian refugees and in the last few months, the Turkish seaside resort of Izmir has become a transit migration hub for migrants headed to Europe.

The BBC has reported that "around 70,000 Syrian refugees" are lying in wait in the Turkish port city of Izmir, waiting for an opportunity to reach the shores of Europe. Many of those leaving Izmir by boat do so at nightfall.

According to UNHCR, 50,000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea in July alone, landing mainly on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Kos, Samos, and Leros. The UN's refugee agency also estimated that 2,100 people had died or gone missing while trying to reach Europe since the start of 2015.

When contacted by VICE News Friday, European border control agency Frontex said it was unable to comment on the footage in time for publication.

Related: Hundreds of Migrants Locked in Greek Soccer Stadium as Kos Crisis Hurtles 'Out of Control'

Follow Pierre-Louis Caron on Twitter @pierrelouis_c

Screenshot via DHA/Hürriyet TV