ANKARA – Several days after 30 refugees and migrants drowned and dozens were missing in three separate incidents in the Aegean trying to reach Greek islands, Turkey’s Coast Guard said it saved 229 it claimed were pushed back by Greece’s Coast Guard.
A report in Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah that’s a mouthpiece for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s Coast Guard got a tip that at least 102 people on a rubber boat were pushed back into Turkey’s waters.
The paper didn’t mention that Turkey has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union that intead of penalties has rewarded Turkey with more money to hold them although it hasn’t.
In the district of Dikili, also in Izmir, Turkish teams rescued 59 more irregular migrants in a rubber dinghy, the paper said, adding that Turkey’s Coast Guard also saved 68 more when they asked for help due to engine failure in their boats.
All migrants were transferred to the provincial migration office but it wasn’t said if human traffickers were on board after Greece arrested three and charged them with murder in the three capsizing incidents.
Turkey, as well as activists, human rights groups and international media reports have also accused Greece’s New Democracy government, which has taken a hard line on refugees and migrants, of pushing the back, which was denied.
Pushbacks are in violation of international laws which state that refugees and migrants can’t be expelled or returned to a country where their life is in danger, the paper said.
Greeece is holding scores of thousands of them, most seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them, leaving no choice but to hope for sanctuary or be sent back to Turkey where they first went fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.