Greece continues its pushbacks of irregular migrants while violating international law and human rights, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Tuesday, calling on the international community to put a stop to Athens' policy.
Holding a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto in the capital Ankara, Çavuşoğlu said: "Many migrants lost their lives because of the pushback, because Greece pierced the boats. The European Union is as guilty as Greece."
"Greece gets support in this regard and they have an excuse, (saying) ‘Greece protects the borders of the EU,' whereas (in fact) the borders of Europe start from Turkey in the east and south," he added.
He also touched upon the recent incident in which 19 migrants froze to death near the Turkish-Greek border.
"Greece is responsible for the death of 19 innocent people by being left in the cold," he said.
Çavuşoğlu said the migrants' deaths are part of a pattern by Greece.
"Unfortunately Greece has continued its pushback policy by openly violating human rights in violation of international law," he said, referring to thousands of asylum seekers pushed back by Greece, endangering their lives in the process.
These criticisms have nothing to do with Turkish-Greek relations, said Çavuşoğlu, adding that such acts have become Greek state policy, aided by the EU border agency Frontex.
Most recently, 19 irregular migrants were found frozen to death near the Greek-Turkish border after Greek border officials stripped them off their clothes and pushed them back into Turkish territory.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had shared several photos of the sites where the migrants were found, with the victims' lifeless bodies blurred.
Commenting on the incident, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the European Union's border protection agency Frontex for cooperating with Greece and the bloc for turning a blind eye to the deaths of migrants. "It is unacceptable to remain indifferent to such an incident," he said.
"Frontex is a useless EU organization that does nothing but provide assistance to Greece, which lets migrants die at sea, borders," Erdoğan told reporters in a news conference on Thursday before heading to Ukraine.
Greece, calling the incident a "tragedy," denied involvement, with Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi saying on Twitter that any suggestion that Greek forces had pushed the victims back would be "patently false."
Turkey called on the international community on Friday to investigate Greek pushbacks of irregular migrants after at least 19 froze to death at the border between the two countries.
"The EU keeps silent in the face of Greece's cruel practices against irregular migrants and turns a deaf ear to our calls," the Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
"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 ministry added.
In a statement, the Defense Ministry also said the migrants, whose clothes, shoes, and other belongings were allegedly confiscated by Greek border forces before being pushed back into Turkey, froze to death in the cold weather "as a result of Greece's inhumane treatment."
"Greece must immediately end its inhumane treatment both on its land borders and at sea," stressed the ministry, accusing Athens of disregarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The statement further added that Turkey believes the Greek people are ashamed of their government's practices and that their hearts ache for the migrants who are mistreated.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for asylum-seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Turkey and 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.
Greece’s pushbacks of irregular migrants have increased by 97% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Norwegian nongovernmental organization (NGO) Aegean Boat Report, which monitors the movement of migrants in the area.
Also, hundreds of people protested in central Athens Sunday against Greece's illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees after the migrants froze to death last week as a result of the practices of Greek border units.
According to Greek police, around 700 people marched from Omonia Square at the center of Athens to Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament.