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Greek Coast Guard Denies Trying To Sink Refugee Boat After Release Of Night-Vision Footage

23/11/2015 14:47 GMT | Updated 23/11/2015 14:59 GMT

The Greek Coast Guard has denied claims it deliberately tried to sink a life-raft full of refugees, after footage emerged appearing to show crew members jabbing into the inflatable boat.

The video, released by the Turkish Institute of Public Diplomacy on Friday, purportedly shows a man on board of a ship bearing Greek coast guard livery attempting to strike a raft with a long pole or lance when the refugees came alongside the vessel.

Turkish coastguards used night-vision technology to record the scenes as the boat packed with what was believed to be around 30 refugees began to capsize.

raft popping

A pole appears to be used to deflate the refugees boat

As the boat began its descent the refugees began blowing whistles and shouting for help.

The Turkish coastguard claims it then intervened and pulled the people to safety.

Amnesty International viewed the footage and said it was "profoundly concerned", urging Greek authorities to conduct a "prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the incident".

Amnesty's Greece researcher, Kondylia Gogou, told the Middle Eastern Eye (MEE) website that the organisation had been informed of four separate incidents where authorities have illegally prevented people from seeking asylum from Greece in 2015.

Reports also said the footage was also shown to the head of Greek coast guard, Vice Admiral Athanasios Athanasopoulos, during a meeting on the plight of refugees in the country last Wednesday (November 18).

Despite initially staying silent on the footage, the Hellenic Coast Guard has since denied the claims.

Its statement wrote: "The Hellenic Coastguard categorically denies the articles in the foreign press, as well as the doctored audiovisual material on a foreign website, according to which a Hellenic Coastguard vessel allegedly tried to sink a boat carrying refugees.

"Moreover, we obviously deny any effort by members of the crew to draw near to their large vessel a small inflatable craft by using a nautical hook (that is, a tool used in accordance with international shipping technique and practices for this purpose) while a nearby Turkish coastguard vessel assisted the rescue operation by lighting and facilitating all of the actions with a spotlight."

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Thousands of refugees continue to arrive daily on the small Greek islands clustered close to the Turkish coast, most of whom hope to continue their journey northwards through Europe.

Some 4,400 migrants arrived on the island of Lesbos as an average every day in October, data from the UNHCR showed.

The full statement from the Hellenic Coast Guard:

1. The Hellenic Coastguard categorically denies the articles in the foreign press, as well as the doctored audiovisual material on a foreign website, according to which a Hellenic Coastguard vessel allegedly tried to sink a boat carrying refugees. Moreover, we obviously deny any effort by members of the crew to draw near to their large vessel a small inflatable craft by using a nautical hook (that is, a tool used in accordance with international shipping technique and practices for this purpose) while a nearby Turkish coastguard vessel assisted the rescue operation by lighting and facilitating all of the actions with a spotlight.

2. We believe it to be at the very least contradictory to allege that the Hellenic Coastguard supposedly follows such practices, which are incompatible with the values of our culture and which are condemnable at a time when the Hellenic Coastguard, from early 2015 until today, has saved some 90,000 refugees from the sea in Search and Rescue operations.

3. We also categorically deny that there was an exchange of relevant dialogue between the Heads of the Coastguards of Greece and Turkey, as presented in articles in the Turkish press.