Greek coast guard units have put the lives of 46,000 migrants in danger through illegal pushbacks, Ömer Çelik, the spokesperson for Türkiye's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) said on Monday.
“They (Greece) continue to push people to death, injuries and disappearance in the waters of the Mediterranean despite all the warnings,” Çelik said following the party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting in the capital Ankara.
“When we look at the latest figures, it can be seen that in the years of 2020, 2021 and 2022, Greek coast guard forces engaged in 1,671 pushback incidents of 46,000 people, endangering their lives on purpose,” he added.
Türkiye 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.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
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.
Saying that these pushbacks are happening within the European Union’s knowledge, Çelik added, “The crimes that Frontex and the Greek coast security jointly committed, are crimes against humanity.”
Frontex supervises the 27-nation EU’s outside borders. The agency is under pressure over allegations that it was involved in the illegal pushbacks of migrants, notably in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Türkiye.
A report by the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, examined Frontex activities in Greece from spring to autumn 2020 and found that the agency was not investigating or handling evidence of migrant pushbacks correctly and at times was attempting to cover them up or not reporting them at all.