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Drift-backs in the Aegean Sea



Landecker Fellow Christoffer Horlitz is part of the Forensic Architecture Team of the Drift-backs in the Aegean Sea project by Forensis, a Berlin-based non-profit building case files for exacting accountability for human rights violations.

As the project page explains, “drift-back” is a manifestly illegal protocol of abandoning asylum seekers. “Today, the scale and severity of the practice continues to increase, with ‘drift-backs’ reported from the coast of the Greek mainland, and as far south as Crete,” Forensis claims. However, “the Greek authorities deny that ‘drift-backs’ take place in the Aegean.”

In short, the Drift-backs project is an interactive cartographic platform which hosts evidence that says otherwise. “Twenty-six cases were recorded where people were thrown directly into the sea by the Hellenic Coast Guard, without any flotation device. In two of these cases, the people were found handcuffed. Eleven people were documented as having drowned during a drift-back, and at least four more went missing,” the platform reports.

Eleven people were documented as having drowned during a drift-back.

In mapping these cases, the platform is meant as a non-exhaustive and evolving tool, which is updated at regular intervals for as long as this practice continues.

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Christoffer is one of thirty 2022-2023 Landecker Democracy Fellows. This fellowship, a collaboration between the Alfred Landecker Foundation and Humanity in Action, was created to strengthen a new generation of leaders whose approaches to political and social challenges can become catalysts for democratic placemaking and community building. Read more about the fellowship here.