Three Migrants Freeze to Death on Turkish Border with Greece

FILE - The river Evros is seen from a spot near the Greek town of Didymoteicho, at the Turkish border. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

With human rights groups warning of dire conditions in Greek refugee detention centers and camps on islands, three migrants were found frozen to death on Turkey’s border near a key crossing point for those trying to get into Greece.

The official Anadolu news agency said the bodies were found separately in three villages in the western Edirne province, one an Afghan national while the other two weren’t yet identified. ,

An Afghan migrant who was caught by Greek and Turkish authorities told journalists that Greece was sending back illegal migrants via small boats on the Maritsa river, which crosses both countries but there was no initial response from authorities.

Migrants have been using the Aegean Sea route and land routes to cross into Greece, a member of the European Union. A 2016 deal between Turkey and the EU significantly curbed numbers but migrants still attempt the perilous journey to reach Europe, most still trying the sea route to get to nearby Greek islands but growing numbers trying the land border, especially around the treacherous Evros River where a number of the have died while trying to cross.

The European Union’s Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs said repeated visits to the refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos revealed despicable conditions and overcrowding even worse than the notorious facility on Lesbos that the BBC called “the worst in the world.”

Vivi Michou said she’s gone since March and seen little progress although the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has had three years to try to deal with the crisis that has seen more than 15,000 refugees and migrants stuck on islands, and another 50,000 in mainland camps.

They were abandoned by the EU and left to Greece to deal with during an ongoing economic and austerity crisis as other countries closed their borders to them and reneged on promises to help take an overload.

Greece could face sanctions – but not for another 10 months – if conditions in the camps aren’t improved, not quick enough to head off what activists said could be a disastrous winter with people stuck in flimsy summer tents and facilities without enough toilets, doctors or basic needs.

Michou said the situation at the Moria camp, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras having said he was “proud” of conditions in which the refugees and migrants were living, has improved only marginally, the paper reported, with 3,000 of the 10,300 living in the overcrowded camp in September relocated in central Greece. But there are another 4,000 outside facing prospects of a chilling winter with little help.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)