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HomeBalkansGreece Pushes Back 88 Irregular Migrants to Türkiye

Greece Pushes Back 88 Irregular Migrants to Türkiye

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Greece’s illegal practice of forcibly sending irregular migrants to Türkiye continues. The Turkish coast guard said Monday that it rescued 88 irregular migrants who were illegally pushed back into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea by Greek authorities.

Turkish teams were dispatched off the coast of the Karaburun and Çeşme districts in Türkiye’s Izmir province after the coast guard received information about irregular migrants on life rafts and inflatable boats. The teams located the migrants and brought them to shore.

The Turkish Coast Guard Command said their teams also caught 75 migrants trying to cross illegally off the coast of Dikili, Çeşme and Seferihisar districts in Izmir province.

Türkiye and global rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back irregular migrants, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children. Türkiye has been a key transit point for irregular migrants wanting to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Greece has long been under fire for its illegal, often inhumane and sometimes deadly practice of pushbacks – summary deportations of migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum. The Greek government denies all allegations, despite claims to the contrary from alleged victims, rights groups, Turkish drones and even the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. “In Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become the de facto general policy,” the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, said last year. Similarly, many in the international community, including Türkiye, which attracts illegal migrants worldwide for being a key gateway to Europe, have frequently condemned the practice as a violation of humanitarian values and international law for endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants.

Greece has also been accused of deliberately and systematically cooperating with the EU’s border agency Frontex for the pushbacks, according to a 2022 investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). While the Turkish coast guard has come to the rescue of thousands sent back by Greek authorities, countless others died at sea as boats full of refugees sank or capsized, especially in the Aegean Sea where both countries share a border. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded nearly 2,000 migrants dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea last year.

A report by Türkiye’s Ombudsman Institution said in July 2022 that Greece had pushed back about 42,000 migrants since 2020. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 16, 2022, the Turkish Coast Guard Command’s Aegean Command Station saved 47,498 irregular migrants in 1,550 separate cases across its areas of jurisdiction, over 18,000 of whom were victims of Greece’s pushback policy. In early 2023 alone, the Greek coast guard pushed back hundreds of migrants trying to cross the Aegean, causing at least nine deaths in two shipwrecks near Türkiye’s western shores in March. Athens consistently denies the accusations despite abundant migrant testimonies, media evidence and international scrutiny. Since coming into office in 2019, Mitsotakis has vowed to make his country “less attractive” to asylum-seekers. The migrant crisis in the Aegean and the broader Mediterranean remains unsolved as on the other side of the issue is the persistence of migrant smugglers.

Greek authorities too have been tightening their crackdown on suspects, including police officers, linked with human smuggling networks that bring migrants mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Elsewhere, a group of irregular migrants were found pushed back to Türkiye from Greece in the country’s northwest. Walking barefoot with bruises and what’s left of their possessions, migrants were discovered in the Edirne province. Media outlets reported that 25 migrants from Morocco, Syria and Afghanistan, including women and children, were intercepted by Greek security forces as they crossed the border into Greece. They were held without food and water for two days, according to the reports. Migrants claimed Greek authorities also robbed them of their money and valuable items they carried.

Five among those, all Moroccan nationals, said they managed to swim the Maritsa (Meriç) River between Greece and Türkiye the Greek security officials pushed them into and they were unaware of the fate of others in their group. Abdullah Mujrip, one of the migrants, told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Tuesday that the Greek police stopped them after they rode a boat to the Greek bank of the river. “They seized people’s possessions and handed us over to Greek soldiers. Soldiers held us at a camp for two days and then forced us back to the water,” he said. Mujrib said he and others who knew how to swim made it back to the Turkish side and he did not know what happened to the rest. Yassin Iddizvan, another migrant, said they walked for a short distance on the Greek side before police caught them. “They beat everyone, they beat me most,” he said, showing his bruises. He said Greek officials even beat an 8-year-old child and women, hitting them with iron sticks. “They seized our cellphones and clothes. We had to swim back here,” he said.

Source : DailySabah

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