Watching deportations – An activist’s account

Migrants are deported from Lesvos to Turkish prisons on a weekly basis. In some cases, there are clear violations of the law and it is possible to intervene and stop unlawful deportations of certain individuals. However, in most cases deportations are simply happening as if it was normal to deprive people of basic rights and imprison them, just because they came from another country. We can do nothing but watch what is happening. An activist reflects on this normal insanity:

On a Thursday like this, the official departure of the Turkish ferry Esref Jale from Lesvos is at six pm. But there is another departure scheduled at one o’clock, which is not on their homepage. It will carry some Frontex officers who are forcibly taking migrants back to Turkey.

I am at the port. I see the Lithuanian coast guards passing by. One of them has a Viking beard and shaved head. If I saw him with civilian clothes anywhere else in Europe, I would assume that he belonged to a fascist militia. Here in Mytilene, he represents the extended hand of every member of the EU, every citizen who thinks that borders are natural and justified, everyone in the world who benefits from the existence of borders. He is their extended hand and with his colleagues, he is going to deport some people today. The Frontex officers pass by, heading to the port of Mytilini to prepare the deportation.

 Yesterday, there were dark clouds in the sky but today is the first day of spring, which feels like summer. Probably everyone involved thinks that the weather is nice to get this job done; the ferry crew, the coast guards, the police and the bus driver. All probably think it is a nice day but the ones who will be forced onto the ferry Esref Jale and then be handed over to the Turkish authorities on the other side. There, the people will be given the choice to either be deported to their country of origin or to stay in prison for up to one year.

I see the blue police minibus accompanied by another police car entering the port. I watch a bold blonde man from the Esref Jale ferry crew with a dark tan, who comes out of the ferry station and stands in my sight. A local woman of the same age approaches him, hugs him, and they flirt and say sweet nothings to each other, while the Lithuanian Frontex along with their Greek colleagues prepare the deportation. One is smoking a cigarette, the other is slapping the guy beside him on the back and some are just standing around, or going on-board the ferry and walking out again. Some of them only wear blue police uniforms, some orange vests and others carry orange bags.
The man from the Esref Jale ferry staff with an orange T-shirt is telling his Greek lover how many times he will be coming to the island and when they can meet the next time. Another young woman comes up to him and starts speaking Turkish to him. He tells her about Pangiouda and other touristic areas on Lesvos.

I do not know how many persons are waiting for their deportation in the blue police minibus.
The first time I witnessed a deportation was in summer 2016. It was the same brutal ritual. There were at least ten deportees. A ferry named Sunrise Lines was waiting for them. The people were taken out of the tourist bus individually. Right before they exited the bus, one of the Frontex men pushed their heads down and then two of them escorted each person to the ferry, handcuffed, bowed, as if they would be taken to an execution. I have seen several deportations from Lesvos since then, but I never got used to them. Every time, I feel horrified again.

All of a sudden, the blonde Esref Jale man interrupts his sweet nothing sayings with his Greek sweetheart and looks back while two Frontex men take a migrant off the blue police minibus. I try to register his appearance. Short curly hair, beard and moustache, around 170 cm tall. He looks nervously around at the shining sun and the ferry which will take him all the way back to Turkey. He does not look to his right where the blonde ferry personnel and I stand for different purposes. He lets himself to be taken to his destiny by the Lithuanian Frontex members. After a few long minutes, they take another migrant. Appearance: Black hair, combed back, looking Asian. He is also around 170 cm tall.

I go in a little further to see better. A police man looks at me with suspicious eyes. Another person leaves his car. He enters the port, probably to pay parking fines. He does not even look at what is going on four metres from where he stands. They take the third man off the blue police minibus. His hair is rather long, covering half his neck. He also looks to the left side so that I cannot see his face properly. He could be 175 cm. The blonde man kisses his Greek sweetheart on the lips. He enters the port. The police minibus leaves the port and all the Frontex men go on-board.

I feel angry. The fascist looking Lithuanian is right now on the Esref Jale ferry, he looks at his watch and waits for the departure, while he feels satisfied that he is fulfilling the duty to keep the illegal immigrants out of the white continent of Europe. He probably caresses his Viking beard without thinking that what he is doing right now will once be considered a crime against humanity, and that one day all of those who are committing this crime with him will be held accountable for their actions.