It was a story for days that was gripping in reports that a 5-year-old Syrian girl died on an islet on the Evros River separating Greece from Turkey and it put blame on Greek authorities for not rescuing refugees there.
The problem was that the German magazine Der Spiegel got it wrong, is not apologizing to Greece for the bad publicity it brought and retracted it, although too late in the minds of many who believed it at the time.
It happened in August, 2022, playing out over a number of days with Greece and Turkey in a tug ‘o war over who was responsible for rescuing them as Greece was also denying reports of pushing back refugees and migrants.
The newspaper sided with Turkey’s take and said that Greece could have prevented the alleged death of the girl, Maria, by acting more quickly although Greek authorities said the islet was on Turkish territory.
That led to Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis writing a letter to the German magazine’s Editor-in-Chief and to Channel 4, asking for a retraction.
“Greece has been unfairly criticized and its reputation unfairly tarnished. The minister reiterated that the accusations that the 38 migrants were on Greek territory are false,” he wrote.
He said that the NGO HumanRights360, which represents the group of 38 applicants at the European Court of Human Rights, admitted that the islet where the migrants were located was on Turkey’s side of the border.
“If we had acted, Greece would have violated the Turkish border,” he said in the letter, adding that reports provided proof that “make clear from the facts and from the available photographic material that has been collected that there is no proof of either a missing child or a dead child.”
Der Spiegel said tat following complaints by readers, an investigation was also launched by the German Ombudsman, which found the reports to be erroneous and the magazine went over the report again checking the facts.
“We did not correctly describe the situation in our article,” Der Spiegel said, adding that, “We will no longer put the earlier articles on the Maria case on the online site – not even in a revised version. Too much of it needs to be corrected.”
Greece’s Minister of Citizen Protection, Takis Theodorikakos said that the major opposition SYRIZA, which jumped on the report and blamed the ruling New Democracy, should apologize.