ATHENS – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency (UNHCR) said it wants an urgent investigation of whether Greece pushed refugees back across the border into Turkey, where 19 of them froze to death.
Turkey claimed that Greek border guards made them take off their shoes and some of their clothing but the New Democracy government denied it happened as it has about pushbacks reported by human rights groups, activists and major media.
European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson expressed “shock” over the deaths and said would talk with Greece’s government, but no report whether she did.
“People were stripped of their clothes and their belongings were taken. They were left to die and the whole world remains silent about this,” said chairman of the humanitarian aid group IHH.
He called on the European Parliament to:“take action on this issue as soon as possible and stop this cruel attitude that commits these crimes against humanity,” reported the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE.)
Greece’s Universal Periodic Review, which happens each five years to check on human rights, the government was given a list of recommedations from more than 10 countries amid allegations of pushbacks, the agency said.
The NGO Aegean Boat Report has released video material of around 30 people, including many children, pushed back getting to the island of from Kos, although Turkey isn’t being chided for allowing human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrants to Greece, especially its islands.
That violates the terms of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union under which Turkey is supposed to hold some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.
“The Greek Coast Guard who forced them in these life rafts didn’t even have the courtesy to provide them with life jackets before they left them adrift,” the NGO alleged.
Six weeks after shipwrecks off the Greek islands of Folegandros, Paros and Crete that led to the loss of at least 30 lives, the decomposed bodies of another three people have been recovered, it said.