GR US

Turkey Again Says Greece Pushed Back Rubber Boat Holding Refugees

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, File)

Turkey repeated constant claims that the Greek Coast Guard has pushed back toward Turkey - which let them be sent by human traffickers - more refugees and migrants, this time off the island of Lesbos.

Turkey’s pro-government The Daily Sabah newspaper said Turkish security forces had video footage they asserted proved the pushback, although it's unclear, nor did it state that Turkey's Coast Guard let human traffickers send them.

That's in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union under which Turkey is supposed to contain 4. 4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war and strife and economic hardships in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and Syria.

There have been repeated claims by Turkey and human rights groups, as well as major media such as The New York Times, of pushbacks but the head of the EU's border patrol agency FRONTEX said there weren't any and there were calls for him to be investigated for that.

This time, the newspaper said, the Greek coast guard pushed a group of migrants and refugees, including children, on a rubber boat toward Turkish waters and abandoned them in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

The Greek units forcefully transferred the migrants who had entered Greece to a rubber boat and left them after they arrived on the southern edge of the island of Lesbos without advance authorization, the paper said, without explaining what other kind of vessel the had been one and why they would be put on another.

The Turkish Naval Forces Command (DzKK) recorded the incident during reconnaissance and surveillance missions in the Aegean Sea  and said it rescued them while they were on the brink of death because of rough conditions on the seas, although the video showed calm waters and a rubber dinghy.

Turkey accused Greece of inhumane treatment of migrants, large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to what it says is a blatant abuse of human rights, the paper added.

In October, nearly 30 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) called on Greece to open an "urgent inquiry" into allegations that it was systematically pushing migrants back toward Turkey but New Democracy denied it ever happened.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also has accused Greece of returning migrants across Turkish land and sea borders, citing interviews with asylum-seekers. Other rights groups and refugee organizations, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have repeatedly called on Greece to investigate what they say are credible reports and testimony of expulsions.

The Turkish coast guard said it rescued over 300 migrants “pushed back by Greek elements to Turkish waters” in September but there have been no investigations of Turkey letting human traffickers keep sending them.