Turkey rescues more than 15,000 migrants pushed back by Greece in 2021

More than 15,000 irregular migrants pushed back by Greece into Turkish Aegean territorial waters were rescued by Turkish Coast Guard command units in 2021.

According to data provided by the coast guard, between January 1 and December 31, 2021, 15,174 irregular migrants returned to Turkish territorial waters by Greek elements were disembarked.

A total of 6,595 irregular migrants were rescued in Izmir, 2,945 in Muğla, 2,909 in Aydın, 1,570 in Çanakkale, 1,126 in Balıkesir and 29 in Antalya.

In addition, the bodies of 15 irregular migrants were found last year.

At least 629 cases of migrants being illegally pushed around Greece’s Aegean islands were reported in 2021, also said earlier this month the Aegean Boat Report, which monitors arrivals and rights violations in the Aegean Sea. .

According to the Norwegian non-governmental organization (NGO), which has been monitoring and reporting on issues related to the movement of people in the Aegean Sea since March 2020, with a focus on actual incidents of people crossing the sea and government responses, nearly 26,000 people were driven back by the Greek government into Aegean waters.

Set off to start a new life, irregular migrants’ journey of hope often ends in the blue waters of the Aegean Sea or turns into a nightmare due to the inhumane practices of Greek Coast Guard units. Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants wishing to enter Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives.

Turkey accused Greece of large-scale refoulements and summary deportations while denying migrants access to asylum procedures, in violation of international law. Turkey has also accused the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant human rights violation.

International organizations and Turkey have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values ​​and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including migrants. women and children. Turkey’s five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are favorite places for refugees leaving Turkey for the EU, with Greek islands within sight of the Turkish coast.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean Sea in an attempt to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life. Hundreds of people have died at sea as a number of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard command saved thousands more.

Refoulements are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which stipulate that people must not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety could be in danger because of their race, religion, nationality or affiliation. to a social or political group.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose center-right New Democracy party came to power in 2019, continued to defend his government’s controversial migration policy, saying it was “tough but fair,” and asserted that the Greece had saved hundreds of people at sea since 2015 when it was at the forefront of the migration crisis in Europe.

The EU’s border and coast guard agency Frontex has also been implicated in some Greek refoulements of migrants. A joint investigation by several international news organizations reported in October 2020 that Frontex had been complicit in maritime pushback operations to drive out migrants attempting to enter the EU via Greek waters. A month later, the Brussels-based EUobserver newspaper revealed that Frontex had exchanged letters with Greek authorities about orders from Athens to push migrants back into Turkish waters.

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Sharon P. Juarez