Far-right militants in Greece illegally ‘arrest’ migrants they blame for fires

Two videos posted online on August 23 show Greek members of the extreme right illegally “arresting” migrants in Evros, a Greek region bordering Turkey. The footage shows the militants forcing one group of men to sit in the dirt. Another group of terrified migrants have been crammed into a trailer. While members of the far right have carried out this type of illegal arrest of migrants before, it is rare to have footage of it. The attackers accuse the migrants of being responsible for the widespread fires in the region. These militiamen feel empowered by the political context hostile to migrants, say our Observers. 

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“Four more … you see? It is noon and where are the authorities? […] We will contact the police, but there is never any response,” rages the man filming a video posted online on August 27. While it is clear the video was filmed in the region of Evros, it’s not clear when it was filmed.  

The man filming points the camera at four men, migrants, sitting on the ground in the dirt behind a Land Rover. Meanwhile, at least two other men loiter alongside the vehicle – seemingly in cahoots with the man behind the camera. At the end of the video, the man turns the camera on himself and you can see that he is bearded and wearing a black tee-shirt and camouflage pants. 

The video was posted on social media by an account under the name Walandi Abrassis – likely the man who filmed it.  

A video posted online a few days earlier shows a similar scene – albeit even more disturbing. The guy filming focuses the shot on his Land Rover, which has a trailer attached. When he opens the door, there are at least four men crammed inside, looking terrified. 

“I’ve loaded up 25 of them into the trailer. Get organised, get them all out and grab them,” he says. He seems to be speaking to his cronies about the migrant men in the trailer. “The whole mountain is full, guys.”

“They swore to burn us […] They will burn us, that’s all I’ll say,” he adds, this time referring to the wildfire that has been raging across the northeast of Greece, considered to be the largest ever recorded in the European Union. According to the local press, this video was filmed in Alexandroupoli, just a few kilometres from the Turkish border, the Evros River. 

The website the Press Project later reported that these militia men had “arrested” 13 migrant men, not 25 as the man filming claimed. The victims told journalists that the militants had beaten them with metal rods. 

“They took off all of our clothes and filmed us. We stayed there a long time, sweating and unable to breathe,” said one of the 13 men who was detained. 

Greek authorities have put the man who filmed this second video under house arrest awaiting charges.

‘These militia members arrest migrants but because they can’t deport them, they hand them over to police’

Panayote Dimitras is the spokesperson for the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a human rights NGO that gathers information on migrants who have been forcibly deported from Greece either by the police or civilians:

This phenomenon has existed for decades, but this time they decided to share videos of their actions themselves. This footage illustrates things that organisations like ours have been reporting for a long time. The release of the footage resulted in a deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Court assigning a local prosecutor to deal with it. That said, nothing has been done about all of these illegal deportations orchestrated by Greece, even though they have been widely documented. So it is doubtful that people will be punished here. However, all of this information can be added to the files that we can give to international institutions like the European Court of Human Rights to show how that happens to migrants in the region. 

We know that these militias cooperate with local police. In Evros, these militia members arrest migrants but because they can’t deport them, they hand them over to police. The police don’t report the incidents because if the migrants’ presence is recorded, then they have the right to claim asylum and can no longer be illegally deported. 

Far-right parties like the Golden Dawn and the Greek Solution are trying to find support in the region and it is clear that the men in these videos have links to local far right organisations.

The man who filmed the video posted on August 27 hasn’t yet been arrested. However, he was interviewed in a far-right publication as well as on Facebook. He claimed that he was just bringing water and assistance to migrants.  

Migrants blamed

On Greek social media, citizen patrol groups have been working together to chase off migrants who have crossed the border from Turkey, as shown in a report by the Press Project, which shared screengrabs of a conversation on Viber. Leaders of the far right openly blamed the fires on migrants travelling through Evros. The chairperson of the Greek Solution party, Paris Papadakis, who comes from Alexandroupoli, wrote on Facebook: “I have information about illegals who are disrupting the work of [Canadair] pilots. We need to act! […] We are at war”. 

On August 30, the rightwing Prime Minister, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, implied that migrants were behind the fire, though there is no proof of that. 

“It is almost certain that the causes are man-made,” the prime minister said. “It is also almost certain that the fire began on routes often used by illegal migrants who have entered our country.”

However, he added that “acts of self-defence and self-proclaimed sheriffs are not tolerated by this government”,

They have a certain ideology that is not very different to that of the state: to protect the border, not letting people cross, using violence to prevent them’

Eva (not her real name) lives in Evros and has been following the situation closely. She asked to remain anonymous:

In March 2020, when Turkey opened its borders to put pressure on the European Union, police  officially asked for help from civilians in controlling the migrants who entered the country. A local organisation of fishermen on Evros, Aenisio Delta Evros, became very active in arresting migrants. Officially, that’s no longer the case and the police don’t want people to think that they tolerate that. But when you ask them if they are still doing it … they won’t respond to the question, which says a lot. 

A lot of these people have very good relations with the police and the army especially the Aenisio Delta Evros association, and also the local authorities. It’s wrong to call them vigilantes: they have an internalised ideology of protecting the border, to serve the state. In their mind, they don’t do anything to go against the interest of the Greek state. They have a certain ideology that is not very different to that of the state: to protect the border, not letting people cross, using violence to prevent them, which is a very significant pattern in Evros.

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Alarm sounded over migrants stranded in no man’s land on Europe border

What’s happening in Greece’s Evros region “shows the dark side of EU migration policy”, one analyst told Euronews.

NGOs have raised the alarm over a large group of people stranded in a de facto no man’s land on the European Union border. 


Alarm Phone, a hotline for refugees and migrants in distress, was alerted in mid-July to 52 people – including pregnant women, children as young as three years old and the elderly – stuck on a small islet in the Evros River (known in Turkish as the Meriç River), which separates Greece and Turkey. 

They have been stranded there ever since, with the group claiming to have been violently attacked each time they try to escape to either country.  

The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) on Tuesday accused the Greek and Turkish armies of playing “football” with the group, pushing them back and forth between each other’s territory, as their humanitarian situation grows increasingly “dire”.

Greece’s Ministry of Civil Protection has been approached for comment. 

In a statement published on Monday, Alarm Phone alleged the besieged group – mostly from Syria and Iraq – had suffered “barbaric violence” during the weeks-long “odyssey” – despite repeated appeals to the authorities to evacuate them.

Authorities have also been called on to urgently provide food, water and medical care, with some members of the group injured and suffering health issues.

Two members of the group are reportedly missing, presumed dead. 

“The violent act of leaving people for days being stuck on an islet not only risks physical injuries, but is a mental torment in and of itself that traumatises people,” wrote Alarm Phone. 

Following the 2015 European Migration Crisis, Greece has been routinely accused of systematically detaining migrants and forcing them out of the EU in a practice known as pushbacks. 

Greek officials deny they are happening. 

Multiple pushbacks have been recorded by the BVMN and other NGOs where migrants are loaded onto small inflatable dinghies – often by masked men –  and dumped on small barren islands within the fast-flowing Evros River.


They then remain in de facto no man’s land, outside the territory of either Greece or Turkey. Owing to the unclear status of the islets, authorities have claimed in the past they are outside of their jurisdiction, and therefore also outside their responsibility. 

Migrants have reportedly died while trying to swim off the islands or been forced to stay there for prolonged periods of time in wet clothes and freezing conditions, typically without water or supplies, after being forced to jump into the water and wade to the islands. 

“The situation at the Evros land border between Greece and Turkey is untenable,” said Hope Barker, policy analyst at BVMN. “Violence is routine and an everyday occurrence, people on the move are dying and going missing.”

“What’s happening in Evros shows the dark side of EU migration policy that has been pushed away from the eyes of Northern European states and is playing out in the shadowy militarised zones of frontline states where it can neither be seen nor heard.”

Alarm Phone said it alerted the Greek authorities on 13 July about the trapped group. Greek officials informed them on 22 July that despite “extensive searches… no human presence was found,” they said.


The BVMN called Greece’s claim “implausible” given the “extensive funding” they received from the EU to police the border, alleging they were “concealing pushback operations”. 

Days later, on 28 July, the group informed Alarm Phone they had been stormed by “police and mercenaries… [who] started to hit the world,” forcing some to flee into the water. 

The group sent a video purporting to show the abuse, though Euronews cannot verify its authenticity.

Facing an untenable situation, the group reportedly tried to leave the islet on 3 August, but were intercepted by what they called “police”. 

One woman alleged she and other female members of the group were made to strip, with the men forced to stare at them, before they were returned to the island.


The group claimed to have been assaulted once again on 7 August, which the BVMN reported put them in “extreme distress“, with some members of the group now in a “critical medical condition”.

These reports are consistent with a well-established pattern documented by BVMN and other NGOs regarding pushbacks from Greece. 

In 196 push-back victims’ testimonies collected by the BVMN since 2019, 92% contained reports of physical beatings and 58% of individuals being forcibly undressed. 

Forced stripping has also been documented by Human Rights Watch, besides assaults and theft against migrants in the Evros region by the Greek authorities. 

Greece denies engaging in illegal activity at their borders. 

All individuals inside the EU are protected from inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, under the bloc’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

Turkey, which signed a €16 billion with the EU to stop people travelling irregularly to Greece, is obligated to offer people the right to claim asylum under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population, hosting 3.7 million people according to the UNHCR. 

“Greece protects the external borders of the European Union, in total compliance with international law and in full respect of the [EU] Charter of Fundamental Rights,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi insisted early last year.

BVMN policy analyst Barker called on the EU to stem pushbacks, which the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has warned that they “risk becoming normalised, and policy based”.  

“The EU cannot wash its hands of what is happening in the Evros border region, this is a direct result of their pushback policy which has become the silent, unspoken, yet central pillar of EU migration management,” said BVMN policy analyst Barker. 

“When people are systematically not given access to asylum, have their rights violated, and are attacked, and the Commission says nothing – they are complicit.”

Strandings on these islets are far from isolated. In August 2022, the BVMN documented a case of a large group of mostly Syrian nationals, who were trapped there for weeks in the extreme heat, without access to food or water.

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This summer is what climate change looks like, scientists say

The blistering heat threatening lives and fueling wildfires across Southern Europe and North America this July would have been “virtually impossible” without man-made global warming, scientists said on Tuesday. 

Their findings come as the planet’s ocean and land temperatures hit new records in recent weeks, with waters around Florida and the Mediterranean coast surpassing 30 degrees Celsius and parts of the Northern Hemisphere baking in heat of 45C or more. 

Scientists have long warned climate change would make heat waves hotter, longer and more frequent. Tuesday’s study found that this month’s extreme temperatures are no longer an outlier now that humans have warmed the Earth by about 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.  

In fact, “it could well be that this is what will be a cool summer in the future unless we rapidly stop burning fossil fuels,” said study co-author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London. “This is not the new normal. As long as we keep burning fossil fuels, we will see more and more of these extremes.”  

The study was published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) consortium of scientists, which uses peer-reviewed methods to conduct rapid analyses of the role climate change plays in extreme weather events. 

The researchers found heat waves like those seen in mid-July can now be expected roughly once a decade in Southern Europe and every 15 years in North America. But if the global average temperature rises to 2C above pre-industrial levels, the upper limit of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, “events like this will become even more frequent, occurring every 2-5 years,” the researchers said. 

Current climate policies put the planet on track to warm at least 2.4C by the end of this century. 

China, which registered a new temperature record of 52.2C in mid-July, can already expect such heat waves to occur every five years, the WWA study found. Climate change made the Chinese heat wave 50 times more likely to occur, according to their models. 

But global warming hasn’t just made such heat waves more likely. It’s also made them more intense. 

The study found the European, North American and Chinese heat waves were 2.5C, 2C and 1C hotter, respectively, than they would have been without climate change.

On the ground, these abstract-seeming numbers translate into record-smashing temperatures. In the U.S., the city of Phoenix saw three weeks above 43C; across the Atlantic, Catalonia and Rome hit new heat records last week. Sardinia reached 46C. 

Such extreme heat is dangerous to human health. More than 60,000 Europeans died in last summer’s heat waves, a recent study found. Italian hospitals reported an uptick in hospitalizations last week; doctors in the southwestern U.S. are warning of an increase in severe, and sometimes deadly, burns from extreme surface temperatures. 

In countries like Canada and Greece, the heat contributed to tinderbox conditions allowing wildfires to spread with ease. The smoke from Canada’s fires continues to choke North American cities, while dramatic evacuation efforts are underway on several Greek islands. 

“The Mediterranean has seen a dramatic increase in the frequency of the hot-dry conditions that were considered extreme at the end of the last century, and these increases are expected to accelerate for each added degree of warming in future,” said Matthew Jones, a fellow at East Anglia University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. 

NASA scientists expect this July to become the world’s hottest month on record. 

Other parts of the Northern Hemisphere have seen flash flooding, record-breaking hail, intense storms or a combination of all three this month. Last week, a hail storm sent a flood of ice through the northern Italian town of Seregno. 

While scientists say that climate change will fuel extreme precipitation or flash flooding in some parts of the globe, not all such events are attributable to global warming. A WWA study earlier this year, for example, found that climate change had no significant impact on deadly spring floods in Italy. 

Attributing heat waves to climate change is a more straightforward matter, and numerous studies have found a clear link. 

“It’s a very boring study, from a scientific point of view,” said Otto. “We see exactly what we expected to see.”

She also said that the arrival of El Niño — the warming cycle of a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean — contributed very little to the high temperatures seen across the Northern Hemisphere. 

“Increased global temperatures from burning fossil fuels is the main reason the heat waves are so severe,” the study authors noted. 

Scientists have also said that El Niño, whose full warming effect won’t be felt until later this year, also isn’t to blame for current sea temperature anomalies in the North Atlantic. 

Coastal waters in Florida have reached about 35C — an existential threat to coral reefs — while last month, the sea around the British Isles registered temperatures 5C above normal. 

The EU’s Copernicus climate change service, which described the North Atlantic heating as “off the charts,” says a mix of global warming and “unusual” atmospheric circulation is driving the anomaly. Scientists also point to a reduction in shipping pollution and an absence of Saharan dust over the Atlantic as contributing factors. 

While the North Atlantic’s temperature spike looks especially dramatic, global sea surface temperatures have hit record highs in recent months. 

The arrival of El Niño will fuel warming both in the oceans and on land, boosting the likelihood of extreme weather events, according to the World Meteorological Organization, whose scientists have warned that the planet is entering “uncharted territory.” 

As the Northern Hemisphere’s extreme summer goes on, all’s not well on the other side of the planet, either. 

Antarctica’s sea ice is in sharp decline, setting new records at such a pace that scientists are increasingly fearing for its capacity to recover in the winter. 

Oceanographer Edward Doddridge told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this weekend the unprecedentedly low sea ice extent “is a five-sigma event. So it’s five standard deviations beyond the mean. Which means that if nothing had changed, we’d expect to see a winter like this about once every 7.5 million years.” 

Doddridge added the root cause of the decline is likely climate change, although he cautioned that other factors can’t yet be ruled out. 

But there’s no doubt that ice loss at the poles further accelerates climate change. The bright ice caps reflect the sun’s warming rays back into space, while the dark polar waters absorb them. Less ice means the planet absorbs more heat. 

Earlier this year, a study found the rapidly melting Antarctic ice is slowing deep ocean currents, with potentially devastating consequences for ecosystems and the broader climate. 

The authors of Tuesday’s heat study stressed that governments now have to take urgent action on two fronts — reducing emissions to avoid disastrous climate change and enacting measures to adapt to rising temperatures. 

“Even if we stop burning fossil fuels today, temperatures will not go down. They will just stop getting even higher,” said Otto. “And so the heat waves we are seeing now, we definitely have to live with that.”

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Timeline of how migrant boat tragedy off the coast of Greece unfolded

A timeline of events that led up to one of the worst shipwrecks in recent Mediterranean history as hundreds of migrants are still missing off the coast of Greece.

Some 200 people in the Greek port city of Piraeus marched to the offices of European border agency FRONTEX and the Hellenic Guard on Sunday, protesting their handling of last week’s deadly shipwreck off the coast of Pylos. 

There are mounting questions as to whether the Greek coastguard should have intervened earlier to help get the migrants onboard to safety.

There are still more questions than answers about what led up to one of the worst shipwrecks in recent Mediterranean history. Critics say the Greek coastguard and Frontex should have intervened earlier

Up to 750 men, women and children from Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan were on board the vessel trying to reach Europe when it sank.

Below is a timeline of events based on reports from Greek authorities, a commercial ship, and activists who said they were in touch with passengers. They describe sequences of events that at times converge, but also differ in key ways.

All times are given in Greece’s time zone.

Around 11 am on Tuesday

Italian authorities informed Greece that a fishing trawler packed with migrants was in international waters southwest of the Peloponnese. Greece said the Italian authorities were alerted by an activist.

Around the same time, human rights activist Nawal Soufi wrote on social media that she had been contacted by a woman on a boat that had left Libya four days earlier.

The migrants had run out of water, Soufi wrote and shared GPS coordinates through a satellite phone showing they were approximately 100 kilometres from Greece.

Over the course of the day, Soufi described some 20 calls with people on the trawler in a series of social media posts and a later audio recording. 

11:47 am

A surveillance aircraft from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, commonly known as Frontex, spotted the overcrowded trawler and notified Greek authorities. On Saturday, Frontex said that its plane had to leave the scene after 10 minutes because of a fuel shortage, but that it had also shared details and photos of the “heavily overcrowded” trawler with Greece.

2 pm

Greek authorities established contact with someone on the trawler. The vessel “did not request any assistance from the coast guard or from Greece,” according to a statement.

But activists said that people on the boat were already in desperate need by Tuesday afternoon.

3:11 pm

Soufi wrote on social media that passengers told her that seven people were unconscious.

Around the same time, Alarm Phone, a network of activists said they received a call from a person on the trawler.

“They say they cannot survive the night, that they are in heavy distress,” Alarm Phone wrote.

3:35 pm

A Greek coast guard helicopter located the trawler. An aerial photo released showed that it was packed, with people covering nearly the entire deck.

From then until 9 pm, Greek authorities said, they were in contact with people on the trawler by satellite phone, radio, and shouted conversations conducted by merchant vessels and a coast guard boat that arrived at night. They added that people on the trawler repeatedly said they wanted to continue to Italy and refused rescue.

5:10 pm

Greek authorities asked a Maltese-flagged tanker called the Lucky Sailor to bring the trawler food and water.

According to the company that manages the Lucky Sailor, people on the trawler “were very hesitant to receive any assistance,” and shouted that “they want to go to Italy.” Eventually, the trawler was persuaded to accept supplies, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Ltd. wrote in a statement. 

Around 6 pm

A Greek coast guard helicopter reported that the trawler was “sailing on a steady course and heading.”

6:20 pm

Alarm Phone said that people on board reported that they weren’t moving and that the “captain” had abandoned the trawler in a small boat.

“Please any solution,” someone on board told Alarm Phone.

The Greek authorities’ account suggested the trawler stopped around that time to receive supplies from the Lucky Sailor.

6:55 pm

Soufi wrote that migrants on board told her that six people had died and another two were very sick. No other account so far has mentioned deaths prior to the shipwreck. 

Around 9 pm

Greek authorities asked a second, Greek-flagged, merchant vessel to deliver water, and allowed the Lucky Sailor to leave.

Around 10:40 pm

A coast guard boat from Crete reached the trawler and remained nearby until it sank. According to the coast guard, the vessel “discreetly observed” the trawler from a distance. Once again, the coast guard said, the trawler didn’t appear to have any problems and was moving “at a steady course and speed.”

According to Soufi, attempts to deliver supplies may have contributed to the trawler’s troubles.

Around 11 pm

Soufi wrote that the trawler began rocking as its passengers tried to catch water bottles from another vessel. According to people on board, ropes were tied to the ship, destabilising it and causing a “state of panic,” she said.

The report from the Lucky Sailor said that no lines were tied to the trawler, and supplies were delivered in watertight barrels tied to a rope.

“Those on board the boat caught the line and pulled,” the company managing the Lucky Sailor said. 

The Greek coast guard said that its vessel had briefly attached a light rope to the trawler. A spokesperson stressed that none of the vessels had attempted to tow the trawler.

Commander Nikos Alexiou told Greek channel Ant1 TV that the coast guard wanted to check on the trawler’s condition, but people on board again refused help and untied the rope before continuing the course.

Soufi’s last contact with the trawler was at 11 pm. She said later in a voice memo that “they never expressed the will to continue sailing to Italy,” or refused assistance from Greece. “They were in danger and needed help.”

The captain of the coast guard vessel that reached the trawler less than three hours before it sank has testified to investigating authorities that the passengers refused any help. 

11:40 pm

The captain said that during the first approach, the passengers didn’t respond to his call and that he was ready to provide assistance.

Five minutes later, he said, the vessel stopped moving. His vessel inched closer and tied a rope to the ship’s bow but some passengers responded in English “No Help” and “Go Italy,” according to the news website kathimerini.gr which quotes from the captain’s deposition. Soon after, the migrants untied the rope and restarted the engine.

1:40 am Wednesday

According to authorities, the trawler kept moving until Wednesday morning when its engine stopped. The coast guard vessel then got closer to “determine the problem.”

A few minutes later, Alarm Phone had a final exchange with people on the trawler. The activists were able to make out only: “Hello my friend … The ship you send is …” before the call cut off.

In the Greek captain’s leaked testimony, he said that he was informed that the trawler’s engine had stopped again. The coast guard vessel then approached within 70 metres of the boat for an inspection. 

2:04 am

More than 15 hours after Greek authorities first heard of the case, the coast guard reported that the trawler began rocking violently from side to side, and then capsised.

People on deck were thrown into the sea, while others held onto the boat as it flipped. Many others, including women and children, were trapped below deck.

Fifteen minutes later, the trawler vanished underwater.

In the darkness of night, 104 people were rescued and brought to shore on the Mayan Queen IV, a luxury yacht that was sailing in the vicinity of the shipwreck. Greek authorities retrieved 78 bodies. No other people have been found since Wednesday.

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Questions mount over latest migrant tragedy in Mediterranean

Anger is growing over the handling of a migrant boat disaster off Greece last week that has become one of the biggest tragedies in the Mediterranean in years. The calamity is dominating the country’s political agenda a week ahead of snap elections.

The Hellenic Coast Guard is facing increasing questions over its response to the fishing boat that sank off Greece’s southern peninsula on Wednesday, leading to the death of possibly hundreds of migrants. Nearly 80 people are known to have perished in the wreck and hundreds are still missing, according to the U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies.

Critics say that the Greek authorities should have acted faster to keep the vessel from capsizing. There are testimonies from survivors that the Coast Guard tied up to the vessel and attempted to pull it, causing the boat to sway, which the Greek authorities strongly deny.

The boat may have been carrying as many as 750 passengers, including women and children, according to reports. Many of them were trapped underneath the deck in the sinking, according to Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. “The ship was heavily overcrowded,” Frontex said.  

About 100 people are known to have survived the sinking. Authorities continued to search for victims and survivors over the weekend.

The disaster may be “the worst tragedy ever” in the Mediterranean Sea, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Friday. She said there has been a massive increase in the number of migrant boats heading from Libya to Europe since the start of the year.

Frontex said in a statement on Friday that no agency plane or boat was present at the time of the capsizing on Wednesday. The agency said it alerted the Greek and Italian authorities about the vessel after a Frontex plane spotted it, but the Greek officials waved off an offer of additional help.

Greece has been at the forefront of Europe’s migration crisis since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa traveled thousands of miles across the Continent hoping to claim asylum.

Migration and border security have been key issues in the Greek political debate. Following Wednesday’s wreck, they have jumped to the top of the agenda, a week before national elections on June 25.

Greece is currently led by a caretaker government. Under the conservative New Democracy administration, in power until last month, the country adopted a tough migration policy. In late May, the EU urged Greece to launch a probe into alleged illegal deportations.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is expected to return to the prime minister’s office after the vote next Sunday, blasted criticism of the Greek authorities, saying it should instead be directed to the human traffickers, who he called “human scums.”

“It is very unfair for some so-called ‘people in solidarity’ [with refugees and migrants] to insinuate that the [Coast Guard] did not do its job. … These people are out there … battling the waves to rescue human lives and protect our borders,” Mitsotakis, who maintains a significant lead in the polls, said during a campaign event in Sparta on Saturday.

The Greek authorities claimed the people on board, some thought to be the smugglers who had arranged the boat from Libya, refused assistance and insisted on reaching Italy. So the Greek Coast Guard did not intervene, though it monitored the vessel for more than 15 hours before it eventually capsized.

“What orders did the authorities have, and they didn’t intervene because one of these ‘scums’ didn’t give them permission?” the left-wing Syriza party said in a statement. “Why was no order given to the lifeboat … to immediately assist in a rescue operation? … Why were life jackets not distributed … and why Frontex assistance was not requested?”

Alarm Phone, a network of activists that helps migrants in danger, said the Greek authorities had been alerted repeatedly many hours before the boat capsized and that there was insufficient rescue capacity.

According to a report by WDR citing migrants’ testimonies, attempts were made to tow the endangered vessel, but in the process the boat began to sway and sank. Similar testimonies by survivors appeared in Greek media.

A report on Greek website news247.gr said the vessel remained in the same spot off the town of Pylos for at least 11 hours before sinking. According to the report, the location on the chart suggests the vessel was not on a “steady course and speed” toward Italy, as the Greek Coast Guard said.

After initially saying that there was no effort to tow the boat, the Hellenic Coast Guard said on Friday that a patrol vessel approached and used a “small buoy” to engage the vessel in a procedure that lasted a few minutes and then was untied by the migrants themselves.

Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Alexiou defended the agency. “You cannot carry out a violent diversion on such a vessel with so many people on board, without them wanting to, without any sort of cooperation,” he said.

Alexiou said there is no video of the operation available.

Nine people, most of them from Egypt, were arrested over the capsizing, charged with forming a criminal organization with the purpose of illegal migrant trafficking, causing a shipwreck and endangering life. They will appear before a magistrate on Monday, according to Greek judicial authorities.

“Unfortunately, we have seen this coming because since the start of the year, there was a new modus operandi with these fishing boats leaving from the eastern part of Libya,” the EU’s Johansson told a press conference on Friday. “And we’ve seen an increase of 600 percent of these departures this year,” she added.

Greek Supreme Court Prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos has urged absolute secrecy in the investigations being conducted in relation to the shipwreck.

Thousands of people took to the streets in different cities in Greece last week to protest the handling of the incident and the migration policies of Greece and the EU. More protests were planned for Sunday.

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Eva Kaili is back with a new story: There’s a conspiracy

ATHENS — Eva Kaili is spinning up a new, eyebrow-raising narrative: Authorities might have targeted her because she knew too much about government spying.

After months of silence during her detention and house arrest, the most high-profile suspect in the cash-for-influence Qatargate scandal was suddenly everywhere over the weekend. 

Across a trio of interviews in the European media, the Greek European Parliament member was keen to proclaim her innocence, saying she never took any of the alleged bribes that authorities say countries such as Qatar and Morocco used to sway the Brussels machinery. 

But she also had a story to tell even darker than Qatargate, one involving insinuations of nefarious government spying and suggestions that maybe, just maybe, her jailing was politically motivated. Her work investigating the illegal use of Pegasus spyware in Europe, she argued, put her in the crosshairs of Europe’s own governments. 

“From the court file, my lawyers have discovered that the Belgian secret services have allegedly been monitoring the activities of members of the Pegasus special committee,” she told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

“The fact that elected members of Parliament are being spied on by the secret services should raise more concerns about the health of our European democracy,” she added. “I think this is the ‘real scandal.’”

As Kaili reemerges and starts pointing the finger back at the government, the Belgian prosecutor’s office has decided to remain mum. A spokesperson on Monday said the prosecutor’s office was “not going to respond” to Kaili’s allegations. 

“This would violate the confidentiality of the investigation and the presumption of innocence,” the spokesperson added. “The evidence will be presented in court in due course.”

But her PR blitz is nonetheless a likely preview of Qatargate’s next chapter: The battle to win the public narrative.

A European media tour

In addition to her interview with the Italian press, Kaili also appeared in the Spanish and French press, where she expanded on her spying theory. 

In a video interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Kaili said her legal team has evidence the entire PEGA committee was being watched illegally, arguing she does not know how the police intercepted certain conversations between her and other politicians. 

“I was not spied on with Pegasus, but for Pegasus,” she said. “We believe Morocco, Spain, France and Belgium spied on the European Parliament’s committee,” she told El Mundo.

Kaili’s assertions have not been backed up by public evidence. But she didn’t equivocate as she pointed the finger.

“The fact that security services surveilled elected members of Parliament should raise enormous concerns over the state of European democracy,” Kaili said. “This goes beyond the personal: We have to defend the European Parliament and the work of its members.”

Kaili was jailed in December as part of a deep corruption probe Belgian authorities were conducting into whether foreign countries were illegally influencing the European Parliament’s work. Her arrest came after the Belgian police recovered €150,000 in cash from her apartment — where she lived with her partner, Francesco Giorgi, who was also arrested — and a money-stuffed bag her father had.

The Greek politician flatly dismissed the charges across her interviews.

“No country has ever offered me money and I have never been bribed. Not even Russia, as has been alleged,” she told El Mundo. “My lawyers and I believe this was a police operation based on false evidence.”

According to her arrest warrant, Kaili was suspected of being “the primary organizer or co-organizer” of public corruption and money laundering.

“Eva Kaili told the journalist of ‘El Mundo’ not to publish her interview, until she gave them the final OK; unfortunately, the agreement was not honored,” her lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said on Monday.

Flying in on a Pegasus (committee)

The allegations — Kaili’s first major push to spin her arrest — prompted plenty of incredulity, including from those who worked with her on the Pegasus, or PEGA, committee. It especially befuddled those who recalled that Kaili had faced accusations of undermining the committee’s work. 

“I have absolutely no reason to believe the Belgian intelligence services spied on PEGA,” said Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who helped prepare the committee’s final report. “Everything we do is public anyway. And we have our phones checked regularly, it makes absolutely no sense.”

Kaili’s decision to invoke her PEGA Committee work is intriguing as it taps into a controversial period of her career. 

While the panel was deep into its work in 2022, Greece was weathering its own persistent espionage scandal, which erupted after the government acknowledged it had wiretapped the leader of Kaili’s own party, Pasok. 

Yet Kaili perplexed many when she started publicly arguing in response that surveillance was common and happens across Europe, echoing the talking points of the ruling conservative government instead of her own socialist party. She also encouraged the PEGA panel not to visit Greece as part of its investigation.

The arrest warrant for MEP Andrea Cozzolino also mentions the alleged influence ringleader, former Parliament member Pier Antonio Panzeri, discussed getting Kaili on the PEGA Committee to help advance Moroccan interests (Morocco has been accused of illegally using the spyware).

A war of words?

Kaili’s media tour raises questions about how the Qatargate probe will unfold in the coming months. 

Eventually, Kaili and the other suspects will likely face trial, where authorities will have a chance to present their evidence. But until then, the suspects will have a chance to shape and push their preferred narrative — depending on what limits the court places on their public statements.

In recent weeks, Kaili has moved from jail to house arrest to an increasingly unrestricted life, allowing her more chances to opine on the case. Her lawyers also claim she will soon be back at work at the Parliament, although she is banned from leaving Belgium for Parliament’s sessions in Strasbourg.

Pieter Haeck, Eddy Wax, Antoaneta Roussi and Barbara Moens contributed reporting.

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Greek PM’s wiretapping admission begs the question of further secrets

By Georgios Samaras, Assistant Professor, King’s College London

The upcoming election provides an opportunity for Greeks to demand a government that respects their fundamental rights and values their privacy, Dr Georgios Samaras writes.

Greek society has been rocked by a scandal involving an unprecedented number of phone taps over the past year, which appears to be one of the most significant departures from the rule of law in the country’s modern history.

Ahead of legislative elections, the scandal has once again reached boiling point.

During the official debate between Greek political leaders on 10 May, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis shocked everyone by admitting that he knew the reason behind opposition leader Nikos Androulakis’ surveillance. 

However, he did not provide any further details, only stating that Androulakis, the leader of the centre-left PASOK party, was not a “national threat”. 

Until last week, Mitsotakis claimed he had no knowledge that Androulakis had been targeted. “When I was informed of it, I didn’t hesitate to admit that it was wrong,” he said in a televised speech as the story that first emerged in the spring of 2021 gained traction abroad last year.

This latest statement, however, has raised serious questions about Mitsotakis’ explanations until now, and some might wonder whether he was being ignorant or apathetic. Also, in some other countries, such remarks could have resulted in immediate legal action.

A serious problem either way

Mitsotakis considered the matter closed after his nephew and top aide, Grigoris Dimitriadis, stepped down due to his connections to Predator — a mobile phone hacking spyware said to have been used by the Greek authorities in the wiretapping.

The software, believed to have been developed in neighbouring North Macedonia, can access everything on a target’s phone, including messages, photos, and passwoords, while it can also take control of the phone’s camera and microphone, allowing it to be turned into a 24/7 surveillance tool. 

Members of the European Parliament participating in the PEGA inquiry committee have spent over a year looking into the use of Pegasus and equivalent spyware. 

The publication of the committee’s findings on 8 May 2023 confirmed that Predator was used against politicians, journalists, and citizens and that the Greek government led by New Democracy had even exported the technology to other countries, such as Madagascar and Sudan.

During PEGA’s press briefing, chair Jeroen Lenaers (EPP) and rapporteur Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew) strongly condemned the use of Predator in Greece. This marks the committee’s first serious alert on the threat to democracy, which underscores an urgent need for action.

In ‘t Veld was questioned about the possible connections between Mitsotakis and the use of Predator. 

In her scathing response, she stated, “If he was aware of it, then we have a very serious problem. If he was not aware, then that is also a serious problem, because he should have been.” 

Well, the question has now been answered, and it leads to the conclusion that Mitsotakis knew yet still chose to hide the truth from the Greek public.

Who are the victims of New Democracy’s dark arts?

PEGA’s findings fully contradict the government’s statements until now, which had dismissed allegations of either using or exporting it. 

Greek officials have yet to provide a satisfactory explanation for their use of Predator to conduct surveillance on citizens. 

Those affected by the illegal practices have been left in the dark, and it is unclear whether this violation of privacy will persist under a new administration.

Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, is among those who have been targeted by the surveillance measures. 

Similarly, Thanasis Koukakis, a financial reporter, was targeted by Predator but has been unable to obtain any information about the extent of the surveillance. 

Another victim is Artemis Seaford, a former security policy manager at Meta. Her mobile phone had been hacked in September 2021 for at least two months. 

These cases demonstrate that the use of illegal spyware is not limited to high-profile individuals but can also affect ordinary citizens.

Trying to conceal the scandal has further worsened Greece’s political climate

Amid the Covid pandemic in March 2021, the Greek government quietly passed new legislation that made it impossible for individuals under government surveillance for national security reasons to obtain information about the surveillance or seek a remedy. 

In response to the widespread public outcry, the government introduced an amendment in late 2022 aimed at providing individuals with information about their surveillance three years after its completion.

The 21 May national election in Greece is taking place amid a highly polarised political climate, which has been exacerbated by the government’s efforts to conceal a major scandal and its aftermath.

Despite the recent revelations and the opposition’s calls for the government to come clean, Mitsotakis has managed to weather the storm, survive a no-confidence vote in January 2023, and is currently projected to win the election. 

Recent polls even suggest that Mitsotakis’ popularity is on the rise, as most Greeks appear unconcerned about the revelations.

Will the Greek voters punish Mitsotakis?

If New Democracy and PM Mitsotakis retain power, will state surveillance persist? 

Nobody knows, but Predator is a tool against democracy, while the use and export of such technology to developing countries are serious violations of international law and human rights. 

The Greek government must be held accountable for its actions and provide transparency and accountability to its citizens. 

The upcoming election provides an opportunity for Greeks to demand a government that respects their fundamental rights and values their privacy. 

And now, the question of whether Mitsotakis will be punished for his year-long deception will be answered in a matter of days.

Dr Georgios Samaras is an Assistant Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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In Greece, an extremist party’s rise risks bringing back neo-Nazism

By Georgios Samaras, Assistant Professor, King’s College London

The upcoming Greek legislative election, set for 21 May, is taking place in an extremely polarised atmosphere. 

Over the past two years, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the New Democracy party, has been accused of various transgressions, such as engaging in systemic corruption, violating human rights, 

He was also involved in several scandals, including the 2022 revelations of systematic wiretapping that have been dubbed Greek Watergate. 

These accusations have had a significant impact on his approval ratings, and the far-right is the one capitalising — again.

A party that was a criminal organisation guilty of murders

In the 2012 election, a comparable scenario unfolded as New Democracy was confronted with a crisis of confidence amidst a period of coalition governance. 

The government suffered a loss of support as a considerable number of voters defected to far-right groups — in particular, the nefarious Golden Dawn. 

In light of Golden Dawn’s conviction for running a criminal organisation in 2020, the party has been expunged from the political landscape, as its leader and MPs were found guilty of murders.

Golden Dawn, which was formed in 1985 by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is a neo-Nazi party that gained traction in Greece during the fiscal crisis. 

It was able to capitalise on the severe socioeconomic deprivation that plagued the country for several years, eventually securing its first parliamentary seats in 2012.

The party’s ideology emphasises ethnic purity and is heavily steeped in neo-Nazi rhetoric, with a manifesto that actively promotes hatred for immigrants and minorities.

Golden Dawn opens the door to Greek Solution

One of the political entities that emerged was Greek Solution, a small far-right party led by senior MP and vaccine sceptic Kyriakos Velopoulos, which replaced Golden Dawn in the Greek parliament after it lost all its seats in the 2019 legislative election. 

Velopoulos managed to cross the 3% threshold with ease, while recent polls indicate his party’s support to be at approximately 5-6%.

Aside from Greek Solution, polls have shown a significant surge in popularity for the relatively new far-right party, Hellenes or “Greeks”, which was founded by Ilias Kasidiaris, a former MP and spokesperson of Golden Dawn. 

Despite Kasidiaris’ currently serving 13 years and six months in prison for his role in running the criminal venture, he has managed to maintain control of the party through social media.

Hellenes’ manifesto espouses an extreme ideology of xenophobia and closed borders while also highlighting the perceived threat of Islam in Greece. 

Notably, the party formerly known as Greeks for the Fatherland has recruited several former members of Golden Dawn, including former MP Konstantinos Barbaroussis, who has been released from prison, and former MEP Lampros Fountoulis.

And now, it’s Hellenes

The resurgence of Kasidiaris on the political scene has caused concern within the Greek government, prompting Minister of the Interior Makis Voridis to introduce legislation aimed at completely banning political parties led by convicted individuals who have been previously involved with Golden Dawn. 

In response, Kasidiaris announced his resignation as leader of Hellenes and as a parliamentary candidate.

However, the move to step down was likely a strategic one. What is particularly alarming is that Kasidiaris “sacrificed” himself to save the party and was replaced at the helm by Anastasios Kanellopoulos, a former assistant Supreme Court prosecutor. 

Adding to this intrigue, Kanellopoulos’ brother currently holds the position of Vice President of the Supreme Court.

To make matters even more dubious, Kanellopoulos was appointed as the new leader due to his prior position as the head of an inactive far-right party named EAN — a move most likely engineered by Kasidiaris as a workaround if the Supreme Court ultimately bans Hellenes from participating in the election. 

If that were to happen, Kanellopoulos could potentially reactivate EAN just before the upcoming election, allowing him to absorb Hellenes and run without any legal impediments. 

Indicatively, the website of EAN seems to have reappeared online in recent days, possibly in preparation for the bait-and-switch.

In Greece, anger propels the vote — and it might do so again

This case brings to mind the events of 2013 when members of Golden Dawn were arrested for their involvement in the murder of left-wing hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas. 

Following this, in the 2014 European election, the anger of Golden Dawn supporters propelled the party to almost 10% of the vote. 

The similarity of circumstances raises the question of whether history will repeat itself and fuel public sentiment towards Hellenes in the upcoming election as a result of the last-minute suspension.

Despite the Greek government’s efforts to prevent Hellenes from participating in the upcoming election, all their attempts have proven to be extremely ineffective. 

This is due to the fact that the three legal amendments were specifically designed to target Kasidiaris rather than considering the possibility of his party merging with other political entities to participate legally in the election.

An inquiry is currently looming over the state of democracy in Greece as the country faces the potential resurgence of far-right extremism for the second time within two decades. 

The rise of the extreme right should be cause for concern

Despite this threat, Mitsotakis’ government appears unfazed and has shown slow reflexes in attempting to prevent Kasidiaris from running in the upcoming election, which is only weeks away.

Instead of opposing the far-right, New Democracy has taken a conflicting stance by aligning itself with far-right views. 

This shift has also been demonstrated by New Democracy’s recent calls to recruit Greek Solution MPs.

The rise of extreme-right politics is alarming, and the lack of concern from the government raises serious questions about their commitment to preserving the quality of democracy in Greece in this highly polarised environment.

It is of utmost importance that the country demonstrates an unwavering determination to eradicate the influence of neo-Nazism. 

To effectively combat the dangerous threat, a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory framework must be established after the May election, leaving no room for the remnants of Golden Dawn and its abhorrent legacy.

Georgios Samaras is an Assistant Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Political Economy, King’s College London.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Not just Qatargate: Eva Kaili also faces probe into EU kickbacks scheme

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Voiced by artificial intelligence.

Qatargate aside, Eva Kaili is facing a world of pain for a different reason altogether. 

Documents seen by POLITICO reveal fresh details about a separate criminal investigation that the Greek EU lawmaker is facing regarding allegedly fraudulent payments involving four former assistants in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2020. 

The probe is looking at Kaili for three potential fraudulent activities: whether she misled Parliament about her assistants’ location and work activities; took a cut of their reimbursements for “fake” work trips she orchestrated; and also took kickbacks from part of their salaries, according to a letter from the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to Parliament President Roberta Metsola, seen by POLITICO. 

Another Greek EU lawmaker, Maria Spyraki, has also been part of the same probe. Investigators accuse her of misleading the institution about her assistants’ activities and of telling them to file expenses for fake work trips. However, the documents do not allege that Spyraki took kickbacks from salaries or false reimbursements.

In total, investigators say Kaili owes the European Parliament “around €100,000,” according to a person familiar with the case.

The details offer the first real insight into the inquiry since it became public in December, only days after Kaili was put in jail under suspicion that she was involved in an even bigger scandal, Qatargate — the alleged bribery ring that prosecutors say involved countries such as Qatar and Morocco paying off European Parliament members.

And with all Qatargate suspects now out of detention, and no new arrests since February, attention is now shifting to the fraud case. MEPs in the Parliament’s legal affairs committee will discuss Kaili’s case behind closed doors for the first time on Tuesday. 

Kaili, who was moved to house arrest earlier this month, is currently fighting the prosecutor’s request to strip her immunity — a privilege afforded to EU lawmakers. But the EU prosecutor’s office, which investigates criminal fraud linked to EU funds, has argued its probe is on solid ground.

“The current investigation pertains to strong suspicions of repeated fraud and/or other serious irregularities,” European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi said in the letter seen by POLITICO, which was sent to Parliament in December and requested both Kaili and Spyraki be stripped of their immunity. 

EPPO declined to comment on the case for this article. Kaili, through an attorney, said she has promised to pay back any money owed and to comply with any recommendations. Spyraki told POLITICO that her case has nothing to do with Kaili, and she confirmed she has never been accused of taking kickbacks.

“I have no dispute on the budget based on my responsibility as supervisor,” she said. “I have already paid the relevant amount and I have already asked the services to reassess my case financially.”


The European prosecutor went public about the fraud inquiry on December 15, just days after Kaili had been arrested in Brussels in connection with Qatargate. 

The notice named both Kaili, who belonged to the center-left Socialists and Democrats grouping, and Spyraki, a former journalist and former spokesperson for the center-right Greek party New Democracy, which is affiliated with the large European People’s Party group in Brussels.

The announcement came the same day Kövesi sent her immunity-lifting request to Metsola. The documents also named four former staffers of Kaili and two former assistants to Spyraki as potentially participating in the different schemes. 

But officials publicly offered few specifics about the inquiry, only noting that it was unrelated to the Qatargate affair, which had also ensnared Kaili’s life partner Francesco Giorgi, as well as several other current and former EU lawmakers. 

Now the details are starting to emerge. 

According to the letter seen by POLITICO, the EPPO probe is examining both Kaili and Spyraki over irregularities regarding their assistants’ “physical presence at the place of employment” and “related European Parliament decisions on working time.”  

According to the same letter, another line of inquiry is “fake missions, submission of false supporting documents and undue reimbursement claims for missions expenses by the APAs on the request of Ms Kaili and Ms Spyraki.” APA is an acronym for accredited parliamentary assistant.

Eva Kaili poses for the “MEPs for #millennialvoices”campaign in 2016 | European Parliament

Kaili specifically is also under investigation for receiving “payback” from her assistants’ salaries and the falsified expenses.

The public prosecutor’s probe follows an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office, known as OLAF, which was completed on November 23 of last year. OLAF then transferred its case to EPPO, it said in a December statement.

OLAF said it would leave any follow-up to the public prosecutor’s office, declining to comment beyond its statement four months ago. 

Immunity fight

The EPPO case is also becoming entangled in the fight over whether to lift Kaili’s immunity.

Immunity is a special privilege MEPs enjoy that is intended to protect them from being arbitrarily prosecuted for what they say or do as EU lawmakers. It can be waived following a recommendation by the legal affairs committee and a vote by all MEPs.

Parliament is now starting that process for Kaili, having already kicked it off for Spyraki. MEPs will discuss Kaili’s immunity at the legal affairs committee gathering on Tuesday.

Investigators say Kaili owes the European Parliament “around €100,000” | European Parliament

Spyros Pappas, Kaili’s lawyer, argued that typically, such fraud cases are closed after OLAF finishes its probe — as it did with Kaili — with the lawmaker paying back whatever the office says is owed. He also questioned how officials could justify lifting immunity for actions that stretch back to 2014. 

“One cannot but question both the legality and the opportunity of the initiative taken by EPPO,” he said. “The answer can only be given by the General Court of Justice of the EU.”

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Being a digital nomad isn’t just for singles. Here’s how families make it work

To many, the lifestyle of a “digital nomad” is an aspirational one — you can live anywhere in the world, visa permitting, with your laptop as your office.

Forget the daily grind of the rush hour commute. As long as there’s decent Wi-Fi, simply pick a coffee shop, park or pool and get to work.

The lifestyle has become more popular in the wake of the Covid pandemic, which accelerated the trend of remote working. The number of American digital nomads increased 9% in just 12 months from 2021 to 2022, to a total of almost 17 million, according to the jobs platform MBO Partners.

But one factor deters many from the lifestyle: kids.

Whether it’s schooling, health and safety concerns, or the question of a child’s ability to develop lasting friendships, parents face multiple barriers.

But some have taken the plunge anyway. Two families tell CNBC Travel how they’ve made it work.

Working Without Borders, which calls itself “the world’s first company providing coworking retreats for families with culturally immersive programming for kids and teens.” 

He’s also a dad of two kids under the age of 12.

Sam Keller, founder of Working Without Borders, which organizes coworking retreats for families.

Working Without Borders

“My wife and I each had living abroad experiences, but we couldn’t figure out how to make it happen” again, he said. “Then we had kids.”

The couple scoped out a school while on vacation in French Polynesia, thinking it could be “the place where we can go live,” he said.

Another factor worked in their favor: Keller’s wife Pascaline Cure works for Airbnb, which allows her to work anywhere she wants.

So together they made a big move from California to French Polynesia. And not just at any time — they moved during the pandemic.

“The stars aligned, we made it onto the plane and decided we’re going to make lemonade out of lemons of this pandemic.”

Sam Keller with his family in Bora Bora.

Working Without Borders

Education is regularly cited as the biggest challenge for digital nomads with children. Navigating an unfamiliar school system, often in an entirely new language, can be a struggle.

“We found that [in French Polynesia] there are a fair number of private schools that will accept kids for as short a time as a couple of weeks or a month. Then there are plenty of schools set up to provide online support, or online-only schools with really good teaching and instruction and curricula,” Keller said.

Homeschooling is another option for some, but Keller prefers to call it “world schooling,” which he says “embraces this notion of viewing the world as your classroom.”

“From the playground you could see stingrays swimming by,” he said. “Kids are out as part of the curriculum, so we’re paddling outrigger canoes in the lagoon, seeing sea turtles and dolphins. It was just magical in so many respects.”

He added that now more resources exist to help people learn about the digital nomad lifestyle, thanks to its growing popularity. Companies, like this own, let families “dip their toes in the water,” and some Facebook groups for world schooling have more than 50,000 members — so there’s always someone to answer a question, he said.

Quartier Collective call it home, along with their three children, aged between seven and 12.

Since leaving Seattle in 2018, the family has visited nearly 20 different countries, including Japan, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Sometimes they stay a few weeks, but typically they’re in one place for one to three months.

Taryn Elledge-Penner and her son Viggo in Ahangama, Sri Lanka.

Quartier Collective

Penner said his children were part of the reason they decided to leave the United States.

“We traveled a lot as individuals and just felt that the world was this big, wild place — and that our world in Seattle had shrunk in a way,” he said. “We had to show them the world and didn’t want to miss this connection to something bigger.”

Elledge-Penner said they wanted more time with their kids, to make their journey sustainable and, critically, to connect with other families.

“When we left it was lonely for families like ours on the road,” she said. “Now that has really changed and a lot of families have realized this is an option, going longer and deeper.”

The family of five have enjoyed a range of experiences: living on a farm in Japan where they slurped soba noodles from a 30-foot hollowed-out bamboo pole; making pottery in Mexico; and taking in a shadow puppet show in the Cyclades in Greece — though they didn’t understand a word.

Penner said the key to making the lifestyle work for them is “connecting with people” and not approaching places “as a travel highlight hit list.”

Martin Penner walking with two of his children in Japan.

Quartier Collective

But it’s not all fun and games. There are also practicalities to be reckoned with, Elledge-Penner said.

“One of the challenges has been finding a balance with time and space on our own — and away from each other and the kids,” she said. “We’ve gone such long periods being together, every waking moment of a day.”

“We all need a break and space, normally by going to work or school. Even though this is what we’re choosing, it still requires some balance and that can be difficult to find and that can lead to tension.”

The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount.

She also touches on what she calls “decision fatigue.”

“The time to plan out the logistics, getting from A to B, where to stay, it can literally be a full-time job and really exhausting,” she said.

Once again, education is one of the biggest questions for global nomads with kids, but — like Keller — Elledge-Penner said there are plenty of options.

“Things have changed a lot from when we first set out. It’s tenfold the number of options you can find and plug into as a world schooling family,” she said.

“We’ve dropped into schools in different countries around the world. There are accredited distance learning programs too and home-schooling pods. For literally anybody who wants to untether from their current school system, it’s totally possible to find whatever you’re looking for.”

The couple noted that the family dynamic has changed since they started traveling in 2018. Their daughter, for example, now wants more long-lasting friendships, while the idea of having a dog — and a bedroom she doesn’t have to share with her brothers — is a big draw.

“The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount. Lots of families we see stop traveling when [kids] are that age. Now they want to spend more time around friends [which is] a big shift from when we started out.”


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