The Greek coastguard has been accused of causing the deaths of dozens of migrants in the Mediterranean over a three-year period, according to witnesses. Among the allegations is that nine migrants were deliberately thrown into the water. More than 40 people are said to have died as a result of being forced out of Greek territorial waters or taken back out to sea after reaching Greek islands.

The Greek coastguard has denied all accusations of illegal activities. However, a former senior Greek coastguard officer, upon viewing footage of 12 people being loaded into a Greek coastguard boat and then abandoned on a dinghy, described the actions as “obviously illegal” and “an international crime.”

The Greek government has long faced accusations of forced returns, which is illegal under international law. The BBC’s analysis of 15 incidents dated between May 2020-23 revealed 43 deaths. In some cases, migrants reported being thrown directly into the sea by Greek authorities or placed on inflatable rafts without motors that deflated or appeared to have been punctured.

One harrowing account came from a Cameroonian man who claimed he was thrown into the sea by the Greek coastguard, resulting in the deaths of his two companions. Another man from Somalia said he was tied up by the Greek coastguard and thrown into the water, causing the deaths of three people in his group.

The BBC’s research, featured in the documentary “Dead Calm: Killing in the Med?”, highlighted a disturbing pattern of actions by the Greek coastguard. Despite Greece denying the existence of so-called “pushbacks,” witnesses and survivors continue to come forward with their accounts.

The Greek coastguard maintains that its staff operate with professionalism, a strong sense of responsibility, and respect for human life and fundamental rights. It stated that from 2015 to 2024, the Hellenic Coast Guard rescued over 250,000 refugees and migrants in over 6,000 incidents at sea, in compliance with international obligations.

The Greek coastguard has faced previous criticism, including its role in a major migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean last June. Over 600 people are believed to have died after a boat sank in Greeceā€™s rescue area. Greek officials claimed the boat was not in distress and was en route to Italy safely, justifying the lack of a rescue attempt.

As the investigation continues, human rights groups and activists are calling for accountability and justice for the victims of these tragic incidents. The international community is closely monitoring the situation to ensure the protection of migrants and refugees attempting perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.