Erik Edman: Greek coast guard approached migrants in war mode

DiEM25’s political director recounted things he witnessed during his time in the Greek military that now make far more sense to him given the revelations of the Forensic Architecture/Forensis investigation

The shocking investigation by Forensic Architecture/Forensis exposed the systematic campaign of violent expulsions of migrants trying to get to Europe.

The Greek Coast Guard and FRONTEX were at the heart of an operation that saw over 27,000 migrants pushed back while trying to cross the Mediterranean within the last two years, leaving them to die in the sea.

While unaware of the extent of what was occurring at the time, DiEM25’s political director, Erik Edman, gave an insight into some of the things he witnessed during his time serving in the Greek military that now make far more sense to him given the revelations of the investigation.

Erik recalls how the Greek coast guard would be out on patrols in full military gear in warlike mode, while the details of the operations were kept behind closed circles.

“About this time last year I was doing my military service and I was stationed on one of the islands just off the coast of Turkey, so right on the border,” Erik began, during DiEM25’s panel discussion on the matter of illegal pushbacks.

“My left wing credentials were well known before I arrived so I wasn’t given responsibilities that might be crucial for the dealing of “illegal migrants” as they are referred to on the border.

“So I wasn’t responsible for taking care of radars in the middle of the night, or being up where the radars were. I was always down at the headquarters together with the officers but there were times at night when I was the only person there at the headquarters. And we used to share a building with the coast guard of that island.

“Without giving too many details, very close to where I was stationed doing my night shift… I was in the room of the special operations of the coast guard for that island. And they were every night kitted out for war: they wore bullet proof vests, they had machine guns, they had night vision goggles, they were not a coast guard – they looked every bit the part of a special forces units, and they would go out every night on patrol.

“And of course our job, being armed forces, was to not interfere with anything that we identified unless we thought it was armed forces from the other side, from Turkey, but if it’s anything else you pass on information to the coast guard – that’s where your responsibility ends.

“So seeing this report, I know now that on the island I was stationed, over 100 illegal pushbacks were conducted. And I have to think, how many of those are cases that were called in while I was doing my shift?

“It’s a very weird feeling because it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter where you stand on the political spectrum, when your government is doing these things you are an accomplice. And there are different levels of being an accomplice.

“When I was there [in the army] I was more of an accomplice than somebody on the other side of the country minding their own business because I was part of the defence mechanism that is used and weaponised against these people.

“Sometimes you see them come back having rescued people at sea and you think maybe it’s not as bad as you think – and that’s the insidious thing, that your humanity and your mind always urges you to think that it’s not as bad as you think it is, because it helps you sleep at night. It’s easier to put your mind at rest about what government you have, what elected politicians you have, who represents the country, what these people do in your name, at our borders or wherever else.

“The good news is mixed with the bad news and we try to focus on the good to water down the bad news.

“My point that I’m trying to make is that while these governments are in place, we’re all accomplices because this is being done in our names.”

Listen to Erik’s segment from our live panel discussion here:


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