ATHENS – Greece has once again rejected allegations that boats carrying refugees and migrants from Turkey's coast to Greek islands are being kept away and forcibly pushed back into the Aegean Sea.
“The Greek Coast Guard always operates in accordance with the principles of international law,” Shipping Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said during a press conference, accusing the Turkish Coast Guard of trying to escort migrant boats.
“It really makes us wonder when people try to play the game of Turkey … which is using desperate people to promote its own ends,” he said.
But in April, Greece's Coast Guard, using guidelines under the New Democracy government not to allow more refugees and migrants into the country, kept an inflatable boat full of them from reaching the island of Lesbos.
Also forced back, said Kathimerini, was a Turkish Coast Guard boat said to be escorting the migrants, again violating terms of an already essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Greek authorities had been on alert for Turkey using the cover of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic to try to flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants as they struggle to deal with some 42,000 in detention centers and camps.
After a while, the Turkish boats accompanied the migrants back to the Turkish boat, without ever crossing into Greek territory, the paper said.