Greece: conflicting statements following the fatal shooting of underage refugee by FRONTEX

Lucas Stamellos

An underage refugee on a boat off the coast of Symi island was shot dead during a Frontex operation that was carried out on the 29th of August. Following the boy’s death a number of inconsequential and contradictory versions of the chronicle of events have circulated through media.

The initial news report on local media was the following:

During clashes between traffickers and the coastguard that took place a while ago in St. George of Symi, an immigrant man died while a member of the coastguard and a trafficker were seriously injured.

According to information, a suspicious boat with a high number of irregular migrants aboard was discovered in the context of strict controls deployed by the Greek coastguard. Traffickers opened fire against the coastguard as soon as they realised their presence.

The scenes that followed, reminiscent of action films, are unprecented in our region.  

In the investigation carried out by the coastguard a 15 year old immigrant was found dead inside the boat’s hold  and a member of the coastguard has allegedly sustained head injuries, while a trafficker was injured on his foot. 


The second version of the story, came from the Athens News Agency and presented a completely altered version of the initial story:

A serious incident that took place at noon off the coast of Symi and involved a boat carrying sixty irregular immigrants and three traffickers, led to the serious injuries of a member of the coastguard. The body of a 15 year-old migrant who died from suffocation was also found.

According to initial information from the coastguard HQ, a Frontex boat patrolling the area discovered a boat moving in a suspicious way and requested that it stopped in order to conduct a search. The boat then increased its speed and during the chase that followed it crashed the coastguard patrol causing minor injuries to a member of the coastguard.

The harbourmaster of Symi was transferred to the area where the chase took place with a private yatch and until now three traffickers have been identified. 


A third version followed, again from the previous source, featuring a change in the story:

According to the coastguard, the incident took place when  a Frontex border patrol boat located a ship moving suspiciously and asked the ship to stop in order to conduct a search.

The ship that carried irregular migrants did not follow the orders and started to manoeuvre in order to get away. The ship was immobilized after warning shots were fired. The port authorities went aboard the ship which resulted in clashes with the traffickers and a member of the coastguard sustained mild injuried after being hit with a baton.

According to information, the port authority has started an inquiry to discover  the cause of death of the 17 year old, without excluding any possible scenario. 


The different variations of the story have continued and a fourth version, essentially different than the previous ones, appeared on a press release issued by the coast guard at 21:24:

As the operation of the pursuit was taking place and the port authorities along with a Latvian border patrol of Frontex were trying to stop the boat, the traffickers attempted to escape to Turkey and persistently tried to ram the Latvian patrol.

According to initial information, the Turkish man, who admitted being a trafficker in a statement, had attacked, injured and temporarily disarmed a member of the coastguard in Symi.

Shots were fired during the clashes with the traffickers. According to information provided by a doctor at the Symi Healthcare Centre, gunshot wounds are a probable cause of death of the 17 year-old.

The body of the 17 year-old was transferred to Rhodes for a post-mortem examination.


The main contradictions prevalent in the press release of the Greek coastguard are the following:

Why would a boat attempting to avoid inspection by returning to Turkey would simultaneously attempt to ram the Latvian Frontex patrol?
What exactly constitutes the ”initial information” gathered by the coastguard, which is the official government authority that was directly involved in the incident? At 21:24 in the evening, 7-8 hours after the incident took place wasn’t there already enough information regarding the actions of the coastguard men and the conditions surrounding the incident?
If the body of the dead boy was found in the hold (whatever that is, possibly a space below deck) how did his fatal injuries occur from shots fired by the coastguard?
Why is there the vague reference ”shots were fired”? By whom?

Source: OmniaTV

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