ATHENS – Constant assertions that Greece is pushing back refugees and migrants at sea trying to reach Greek islands, and on land borders were repeated by Turkey’s Coast Guard which said it had saved 36 people it said were repelled by Greece.
Turkey didn’t mention it allows human traffickers to keep sending them during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union and is supposed to contain them.
Turkey is holding some 4.4 million people who fled there from war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, predominantly Syria and Afghanistan, but also from as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Turkey and activists and human rights groups – and some major media outlets – have said that Greece, trying to keep down the numbers arriving, is forcing refugees and migrants at sea to go back to Turkey, and even making them return across land borders.
Greek officials, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, keep denying the allegations although the European Parliament wants a probe, and to include the EU’s border patrol FRONTEX critics said was aiding in unlawful pushbacks.
This time Turkey’s Coast Guard said it made a rescue off the coast of the western Balıkesir province, rushing there after getting a report of refugees in a rubber dinghy in the area, no proof given.
Hundreds of people have died at sea in rickety craft and rubber dinghies that have sunk or capsized and Turkey said it has rescued thousands of others while blaming Greece, and the EU looking the other way as Turkey let human traffickers keep operating.