Greek forces have left 81 migrants on an islet in the Meriç (Maritsa) River after mistreating them, the Turkish Defense Ministry stated Monday.
“81 irregular migrants were maltreated and kept without food and water after their belongings were taken by Greek personnel who then attempted to illegally deport them to Turkey. The immigrants were saved in the Meriç River where they were left,” the ministry said.
A similar incident happened on the weekend, when Greek authorities once again assaulted asylum seekers before illegally pushing them back toward Turkish waters Saturday.
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.
The Turkish coast guard rescued 12,655 people from the seas in 2020, 11,493 of whom were irregular migrants.
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, yet similar incidents keep occurring.
Numerous reports by journalists, researchers and witnesses have cataloged the way in which migrants and asylum-seekers have been forced back across the border to Turkey or left stranded in the Aegean Sea without aid by the Greek coast guard, despite the conservative government’s denials in Athens.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in March stated that reports from 2020 recorded multiple incidents in which Greek coast guard personnel, sometimes accompanied by armed masked men, intercepted, attacked, disabled and pushed back boats carrying migrants.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements that say people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life or safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a social or political group.
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