Turkey says it rescued 15,794 refugees pushed back by Greece

ATHENS – Stepping up to almost daily claims that Greece is pushing back refugees and migrants in the seas between the country – sent by Turkey – the Turkish coastguard says it rescued them.

The allegation was that in 2021 some 23,676 people were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard, including 15,794 pushed back by Greece, but provided no evidence although human rights groups , activists and mainstream media have also reported pushbacks.

Turkey failed to mention that under an essentially suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, it is supposed to contain more than 4 million people who have traveled there to flee war, conflicts and economic difficulties in their country of origin.

They come mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, but also from sub-Saharan Africa and as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh. The EU has not sanctioned Turkey for continuing to let human traffickers continue to operate.

The new pushback allegations were reported by Turkish news site The Hurriyet Daily News, which noted that dozens of refugees and migrants have died trying to reach the Greek islands from the Turkish coast.

Turkey has also claimed that in push-back incidents, Greek authorities seized refugees’ belongings, mistreated them or deflated their dinghies before returning them to Turkish waters.

Greece has dismissed all allegations, including that 19 refugees found frozen to death in Turkey were pushed back across the land border near the Evros River by Greek guards who took their shoes, clothes and their property.

The Turkish Coast Guard said that in 2021, some 15 refugees lost their lives, arrested 113 human traffickers and carried out 848 rescue operations, claiming to be rescuers.

Last year, 15 irregular migrants lost their lives while 113 people involved in human trafficking were captured by Turkish authorities.

“Greece’s pushback of irregular migrants in violation of international and human rights law continues to claim innocent victims,” ​​the Turkish Foreign Ministry tweeted.

“We call on the international community to investigate Greece’s actions in violation of human rights and not to remain indifferent to these despicable acts,” the news site also reported.

“This illegal and ruthless practice will be remembered as a disgrace to Europe. The EU remains silent in the face of Greece’s cruel practices against irregular migrants and turns a deaf ear to our pleas,” the ministry also added.

Sharon P. Juarez