EVROS – A migrant woman trying to get across the Evros River into Greece was found dead after Greek border guards said there was a fusillade of gunfire from the Turkish side near a spot where human smugglers try to sneak people in.
It wasn’t immediately clear who fired the shot that killed the woman but an autopsy said she was struck in the back with a small-caliber weapon after the incident that came as Greece was rejecting claims of pushing back refugees.
Greek police were patrolling the area where the treacherous river narrows to about 200 feet across, currents so swift that dozens have died in the past seven years trying to get across into Greece.
Turkey hasn’t stopped human smugglers from continuing to ferry refugees and migrants across land, and sea borders to five Greek islands near Turkey’s coast, despite an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Turkey is supposed to contain some 4.4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily from Syria and Afghanistan but also sub-Saharan Africa and other regions.
They began coming in 2015 but after the EU closed its borders to them they were left to try to get into mainly Greece, Spain, Italy and Malta and the river crossing is still being used despite Greek patrols and fences.
Police officers not identified told The Associated Press that they saw many refugees on the Turkish side the night of April 16 and that 11 of them got into an inflatable dinghy and tried to cross.
The Greek border guards said they shined flashlights at them and shouted, “Police, go back!” They said that was followed by a barrage of shots from the Turkish side but it wasn’t indicated who fired.
The Greek police patrol couldn’t detect the source of the shots in the darkness and fell to the ground to protect themselves, shooting warning shots in the air, according to the statement which the officer corroborated.
There was no immediate comment on the incident from the Turkish side but Greece’s state-run ERT TV said the woman was from Africa and her wound indicated that she was shot with a gun not normally used by the Greek border police, suggesting that her smuggler may have shot her.
Those rescued, a child among them, told the authorities, according to a statement from the Greek police, that they had paid 2,000 euros ($2158) each to smugglers in Istanbul to carry them to Athens, said Agence France-Presse (AFP.)
After large numbers of migrants tried to cross the Evros River from Turkey in March 2020, Greece bolstered border patrols and installed cameras, radar and a 40-kilometre (25-mile) steel fence over five metres (16 feet) high in the area where shooting incidents occur, the site said.
“A group of ten people were found trying to cross into Greek territory by boat from the area of Soufli,” a police spokesman in the region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace told AFP.
“The Greek police signalled for them to stop but they did not obey. Shots were heard from the Turkish side. Greek border guards fired into the air to protect themselves,” the spokesman told the news agency.