Wednesday, 10 February 2016
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Foreign Minister Kotzias’ statement following the informal ‘Gymnich’ meeting of EU Foreign Ministers
(5-6 February 2016)

Foreign Minister Kotzias’ statements at his joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov (Baku, 2 February 2016)

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The Headquarters of the Hellenic Coast Guard categorically denies the claims made in articles in a significant portion of the Turkish press to the effect that yesterday’s tragedy off the Turkish coast, which resulted in the loss of dozens of refugees, fellow human beings, was due to the supposed refoulement of these refugees, on the boats they were aboard, by the Hellenic Coast Guard. More specifically:

1. Following an in-depth investigation that was carried out, it arises that at the specific time at which the tragic event occurred, a few dozen meters off the Turkish coast, two (2) Frontex vessels were also patrolling in Greek territorial waters east of the island of Lesvos. The reports of these vessels indicate no involvement whatsoever in the tragedy that was taking place. Thus, the claims of a portion of the Turkish press are totally groundless and bear no relationship with the reality of the situation.

2. Regardless of the above, it is clear that every possible effort must be made to combat the organized trafficking rings, so as to prevent the embarkation of refugees on unsafe and unseaworthy vessels – in inclement weather conditions such as those currently prevailing and those prevailing at the time of the incident – and thereby avert tragedies like the one that took place yesterday.

It should be noted that, in the last two days alone, in the maritime region off the island of Lesvos – in very inclement weather conditions (6 to 8 Beaufort) – 2,156 refugees were in mortal danger but, with the assistance of the Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex, disembarked safely on the island.

Within the framework of its mission, the Coast Guard continues unabated it tireless efforts to guard our country’s maritime boarders and safeguard the highest good of human life, with total dedication to legality and full respect for fundamental human rights.

Indicatively, in the year 2015, on thousands of Hellenic Coast Guard search and rescue operations, with the assistance of vessels from the EU member states participating in operation “Poseidon”, over 103,000 refugees and migrants were rescued from the sea.

3. Finally, we consider that the attempts made by such reports to place blame on third parties do not assist the efforts being made by the whole of the international community to effectively manage issues concerning refugee flows.

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