ATHENS – Stepping up almost daily claims that Greece is pushing back refugees and migrants in the seas between the country – sent by Turkey – the Turkish Coast Guard said it rescued them.
The allegation was that in 2021, some 23,676 were saved by the Turkish Coast Guard, 15,794 of them pushed back by Greece, but offered no proof although human rights groups, activists and major media had reported pushbacks too.
Turkey didn’t mention that under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union that it’s supposed to contain more than 4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands.
They are mostly from Syria and Afghanistan but also from sub-Saharan Africa and as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh. The EU has not sanctioned Turkey for continuing to let human traffickers keep operating.
The new allegations of pushbacks were reported by the Turkish news site The Hurriyet Daily News, which noted that scores of refugees and migrants have died trying to reach Greek islands from Turkey’s coast.
Turkey also claimed that in push-back incidents, Greek authorities seized refugees belongings, ill-treated them or deflated their dinghies, before sending them back to Turkish waters.
Greece has rejected all the allegations, including that 19 refugees found frozen to death in Turkey were pushed back across the land border near the Evros River by Greek guards who took their shoes and clothing and possessions.
Turkey’s Coast Guard said that in 2021 some 15 refugees lost their lives and that it had arrested 113 human traffickers and that it conducted 848 rescue operations, claiming to be saviors.
Last year, 15 irregular migrants lost their lives while 113 people, who were involved in human trafficking, were captured by the Turkish authorities.
“Greece’s push-back of irregular migrants in violation of international law and human rights continue to claim innocent lives, the Turkish Foreign Ministry tweeted.
“We call on the international community to investigate Greece’s actions in violation of human rights and not to remain indifferent to these despicable acts,” the news site also reported.
“This illegal and ruthless practice will be engraved in the memories as a shame for Europe. The EU keeps silent in the face of Greece’s cruel practices against irregular migrants and turns a deaf ear to our calls,” the ministry also added.