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Politics

Turkey Again Says Rescues Refugees Pushed Back by Greece

ATHENS – After a blistering European Union report said the bloc’s border patrol agency Frontex covered up pushbacks of refugees by Greece, Turkey’s Coast Guard said it saved 33 people forced out of Greek waters.

Turkey said that happened off the Aegean province of Izmir, which used to be Greek and was called Smyrna before being taken after the defeat of Greece forces in 1922.

Turkey’s Coast Guard said it moved into action after being notified that a group of refugees on a rubber boat had allegedly been pushed back by Greece, offering no proof, saving nine in a first operation, said the Turkish newspaper The Daily Hurriyet.

Setting out to sea once again with the second notice, Coast Guard teams rescued another group of 24 migrants in a rubber boat and took them to shore into the hands of migration officials.

The report didn’t mention that Turkey has been allowing human traffickers to keep sending them in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU and gone unpunished.

Greece has pushed back nearly 42,000 asylum seekers between 2020 and May 31, 2022, according to a report published by Turkey’s Ombudsman Institution, the paper said.

“Some 98 percent of the pushbacks involved torture and ill-treatment, and 88 percent of the 8,000 asylum seekers who came to the Greek border were beaten up,” the report said – again offering no proof.

The report stated that 53 irregular migrants in 2021 and 33 others in 2022 lost their lives, either drowned or froze to death, due to pushbacks, Turkey continually portraying itself as heroic in saving them.

The EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF said that it had found that Frontex employees were involved in covering up the illegal pushbacks of migrants from Greece to Turkey in violation of their “fundamental rights.”

The 120-page report was made public by the Germany-based freedom of information portal FragDenStaat together with media organizations Der Spiegel and Lighthouse Reports.

Top managers at Frontex committed “serious misconduct and other irregularities” in covering up pushback incidents, not investigating them or handling them correctly, the report found, but names were redacted.

“In doing so, they hindered the capacity of Frontex to fully comply with its responsibilities, namely ensuring for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights,” the report read.

It wasn’t said if anyone was punished for the infractions although Frontex’s former chief, Fabrice Leggeri resigned after an initial phase of the investigation put the onus on him but he wasn’t penalized either.

Frontex coordinates search-and-rescue and border interception operations on behalf of the 27 EU countries. Pushbacks, the forcible return of people across an international border without an assessment of their rights to apply for asylum or other protection, violate both international and EU law.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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