Backing Turkish claims, Amnesty International said two migrants trying to cross into Greece at the border in February were shot dead and that a third is missing and presumed dead after trying to cross the treacherous Evros River there.
The rights group said that Turkey “recklessly encouraged” thousands of migrants to cross the border at the European Union’s furthest outpost but were stymied when Greece closed its entry point and sent riot police and Army units to repel them.
Amnesty’s Turkey Research Director Andrew Gardner said it was not confirmed who fired the shots that killed the migrants but they were hit in areas where Greek security personnel were present, and he urged Greek authorities to find those responsible.
Amnesty said Greek efforts to repress the migrants’ movements included the use of live ammunition but offered no proof, after Turkey said migrants were killed without offering any evidence either.
Greece’s ruling New Democracy has repeatedly denied the assertions any migrants were killed after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, breaking a 2016 swap deal with the EU, sent them there late in February and urged them to cross over.
That was in response to the deaths of 33 Turkish soldiers in an area of northern Syria they had invaded, making him fear that more refugees would come to Turkey, which was already holding 3.6 million of them from Syria and 2.2 million others.
“Greece categorically denies the Amnesty International Turkey report, which cites allegations that have already been officially dismissed by Greek authorities. Greece never used live ammunition,” a government official in Athens said, reported Reuters.
Amnesty said one of the migrants was a 43-year-old man who was shot in the chest as he tried to cross into Greece on March 4. It said five others were treated for gunshot wounds. Greece then dismissed as “fake news” Turkish accusations any were shot.
Turkey withdrew the migrants from the border as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out but Greece is keeping forces there, anticipating that there may be yet another attempt and that Turkey will send more to five Greek islands near the Turkish coast.