ATHENS – 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.
Greece’s Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, 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,” Mitarachi tweeted, alongside the photograph, 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.
“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 that 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 instrumentalise immigrants, violate human rights, (and) violate International law,” the statement continued. Turkey has denied involvement in the incident.
“As you couldn’t find one single case of human rights violation by (Turkey,) you just seek to expose (the] image of your cruelty you’ve inflicted as if (Turkey’s) done (it,)” Turkey’s Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Catakli tweeted.
Catakli also accused Greece of “manipulations and dishonesty,” in his tweet.
Greece, which initially welcomed refugees and migrants when they began coming in 2015, is now desperately trying to keep them out and has built a 25-mile long wall on the border while keeping scores of thousands in detention camps.