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Politics

Turkey Says Greece Pushed Back More Refugees That Turkey Sent

ATHENS – Repeating what has become a mantra, Turkey’s Coast Guard again accused Greece of pushing back refugees and migrants that Turkey is allowing human traffickers to keep sending – which is in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union under which Turkey is supposed to contain some 4.4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.

But they came from sub-Saharan Africa and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh, stuck in Turkey after the EU closed its borders to them, leaving most with the option of trying to reach mainly Greece and seek asylum there.

After dozens more have died in the summer and early autumn trying to cross the Aegean to get to Greek islands, Turkey’s Coast Guard said it rescued 30 more pushed back by Greece off the coast of the Aegean province of İzmir.

The Turkish newspaper The Hurriyet Daily News, in a country where independent media is stifled by the government, said that Coast Guard units declared the refugees were pushed into Turkish territorial waters by being put on life rafts and rubber boats by Greece.

It didn’t mention how they got into the waters, although traffickers charge them thousands of euros each and put them into overcrowded rubber dinghies that are escorted to Greek islands.

Some 130 migrants who were stranded off İzmir’s Çeşme, Dikili, and Menderes districts were taken to the shore and sent to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management, the newspaper claimed without proof.

Greece pushed back nearly 42,000 asylum seekers between 2020 and May 31, 2022, according to a report published by Turkey’s Ombudsman Institution, which didn’t mention that Turkey sent them and went unsanctioned.

“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, but offering no evidence.

The report stated that 53 irregular migrants in 2021 and 33 others in 2022 lost their lives, either drowned or frozen to death, due to pushbacks that Greece has denied although human rights groups and activists said it was being done.

Between January and Sept. 15, 2022 more than 200,000 refugees and migrants were trapped in Turkey while the number deported jumped to nearly 100,000, the migration department also said.

A much-anticipated report by the European Union’s anti-fraud watchdog into the EU border agency Frontex has concluded 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 OLAF report was made public in October 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.

OLAF investigators poured over information from open sources and media reports, sought documents from Frontex and the European Commission, and interviewed 20 witnesses to investigate accusations of possible involvement or covering up of illegal pushbacks and accusations of misconduct or irregularities.

“OLAF concludes, based on the evidence collected during the investigation, that the allegations are proven,” the report read.

 

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

 

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