At least 12 irregular migrants were found frozen to death in northwestern Turkey after they were pushed back from neighboring Greece, Turkey's interior minister said Wednesday.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on social media that a total of 22 migrants pushed back by Greece were found near the Turkey-Greece border in the northwestern Edirne province.
Sharing several photos of the site where the irregular migrants were found, Soylu wrote: "Place: Ipsala Greek border. 12 of the 22 migrants whose shoes were taken off, their clothes were stripped and pushed back by the Greek border troops froze. The EU is remediless, weak and void of humane feelings. Greek border troops are murderous to the victim, kind to FETÖ (Gülenist Terror Group)."
Greece is known for hosting many FETÖ fugitives wanted by Turkey. FETÖ orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, which left 251 people killed and 2,734 injured. It was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Earlier, the governor's office of Edirne province released a statement saying that the bodies of migrants were found in the Paşaköy village of Ipsala district, less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Greek border.
The regional governor's office said 11 of the migrants were discovered frozen to death. Another migrant who was rushed to hospital with severe frostbite "could not be saved and died", the governor's office said.
It was stated that search and scanning activities continue in the region where 12 migrants who were pushed back by Greece froze to death.
Later in the day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized Europe and said: "Those who come to our country come to save their lives. Europe has no such issue. They don't have an issue like Aylan baby but we have. We can't throw refugees out."
It has been more than six years since the body of the 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed ashore, making headlines worldwide and becoming a symbol of the refugee crisis due to the war in Syria.
The toddler had been on board a boat carrying 14 irregular migrants, five of whom died when it sank. The picture of his lifeless body jolted the world, giving a face to the humanitarian crisis caused by the civil war in Syria.
Communications Director Fahrettin Altun also condemned the incident.
"This heartlessness is happening before the eyes of the entire world," Altun said on Twitter.
Noting that Greece was "not alone in this crime," Altun added: "The Western world is not telling Greece to stop, on the contrary, it is encouraging it."
"It may be bodies that have frozen, but it is the West's humanity that has died," he added.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran also took to Twitter to condemn the incident.
"Turkey has repeatedly warned the international community about dangerous push-backs of refugees by Greek coastal authorities," Kıran said.
"These pushbacks yield especially tragic results in times when the temperature is so low. Greece must immediately put an end to such illegal actions!"
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) spokesperson Ömer Çelik also said that the Greek authorities patronize and encourage these atrocities.
In another incident, activists said Wednesday they filed a U.N. complaint on behalf of an Iranian asylum-seeker who alleged she was tortured and beaten during several detentions in Greece before being repeatedly deported to Turkey.
Parvin A., an asylum-seeker who now lives in Germany, alleged she not only suffered abuse but also witnessed the beating of children and a pregnant woman during six detentions in Greece.
Recent years have seen multiple reports of Greek forces illegally pushing back boats of asylum-seekers, endangering the passengers in the process.
Turkey and international human rights groups 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 women and children.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid 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 has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.