ANKARA – Turkey’s Deputy Minister of Interior Ismail Çataklı denied Turkey was behind the sending of 92 naked refugees who were found trying to cross into Greece as the two countries swapped accusations.
He said it was a 2019 photograph of refugees who Turkey said Greek security forces stripped, beat and robbed, and left to die, said Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah.
Çataklı was responding to claims made by Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis who said Turkey had sent them, with human traffickers being allowed to operate there.
Mitarachis tweeted a photograph of the men and said Turkey, which is supposed to contain 4 million refugees under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with what European Union is supposed to contain them.
Most had gone to Turkey from Syria and Afghanistan but others were fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands and were using the country as a jumping-off point to get to the EU before the borders were closed.
That has seen them mostly trying to get to Greece to seek asylum, to Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast, as well as the land border along the Evros River, treacherous waters that have claimed many lives.
“Turkey’s behavior towards 92 migrants whom we rescued at the borders today, is a shame for civilization,” Mitarachis said about the photo, adding that he expected Turkey to investigate how they got there.
Turkey has been allowing human traffickers to keep sending them and accused Greece of pushbacks, which Mitarakis has denied, and Turkey hasn’t been sanctioned over it. CNN said it couldn’t verify the photo.
Greek police said they had “discovered 92 illegal migrants without clothes and some of them with injuries on their bodies,” near the country’s northern border where Turkey in February 2020 sent 10,000 refugees and urged them to cross.
Çataklı stated, “you (Greece) are trying to make the picture of your persecution look like it was Türkiye … Try to become a little civilized!”
He said the photo was being used to falsely accuse Turkey of “mistreatment,” and added, “since you can’t find a single human rights violation in Turkey, you are trying to make the picture of your own persecution look like it was Turkey! Spend the time you spare for manipulations and dishonesty in observing human rights! Come on, it’s not hard!” stated Çataklı.
Turkey, along with a number of human rights groups, activists, and some major media reports, said Greece has unlawfully been pushing back refugees and migrants that Turkey is unlawfully sending but not being sanctioned.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized, the newspaper said, presenting a heroic picture of Turkey’s Coast Guard rescuing them.
The head of Turkey’s Migration Management Directorate, Savaş Ünlü, tweeted that, “there is no single case or report that cites such an inhumane treatment by Türkiye against innocent people.”
He said Greece was trying to conceal a damning European Union report citing pushbacks and that it’s “not surprising, but just ashaming. That can’t be a coincidence,” not mentioning Turkey’s role in sending them.
Reports that 92 naked refugees were found at the border between Greece and Turkey has upset the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR as the two countries swapped accusations over it.
“UNHCR is deeply distressed by the shocking reports and images of 92 people, who were reported to have been found at the Greek-Turkish land border, stripped of their clothes,” the agency tweeted, said CNN in a report.
“We condemn such cruel and degrading treatment and call for a full investigation into this incident,” it added.
“Following an investigation by Greek police and officials from the EU border agency Frontex, it was found that they (the migrants) were pushed into Greek territory, via Evros river, in dinghies from Turkey to Greece,” the police said.
The statement added Greek authorities had immediately provided the migrants with clothing, food, and first aid, refugees caught in a ping-pong match between the countries accusing each other of pushes and pushbacks, including at sea.
Greece’s Ministry of Citizen Protection said in a statement the migrants told them they were taken to the Evros River by vehicles belonging to Turkish authorities, where they then boarded dinghies to cross over to the Greek side.
“Turkey continues to openly instrumentalize immigrants, violate human rights, (and) violate International law,” the statement continued.