A Cameroonian migrant said Saturday that he and two other people had been thrown off a vessel into the Aegean Sea by the Greek coast guard amid growing human rights criticisms toward Athens.
According to Turkish Coast Guard Command officials, Cameroon national I.O. said he managed to swim to the shore, but that the two people with him had drowned on the way.
I.O. said that on Sept. 14, a group of 36 people had arrived by boat at the island of Samos, where 28 people from this group were later caught by Greek security forces, after which he and seven others fled.
"They started firing left and right once they saw us. We were in two groups in the forest. After walking in the forest for an hour we were caught by the Greek police. They started punching us and they searched us. They took our phones and money, threw us into their car, telling us not to look out the window. They said they would kill anyone who lifts their head. They lifted us like animals and then threw us onto their own vessel. They kept hitting us there," I.O. said.
He recounted that the Greek forces had taken them on a sea route they were not familiar with, stopping the engine in the middle of the water.
"They took my sibling Aliya and threw her in the sea. Later, they threw Yusuf into the sea. They also wanted to throw me over, but I resisted. That's why they punched me in the head. They were able to throw me in, too, when I had no strength left," he said.
After a while, he said, he saw Yusuf's body in the sea and said he tried to drag him to the shore.
"I did CPR to see if I could resuscitate him and I also checked to see if he was alive, but I wasn't. I saw him die and attached a stick and rag to his side. I didn't know where I was. I didn't know whether to walk by the sea or go to the forest. I slept in the forest. The next day, I decided to walk by the beach. While walking, I saw a house on the hill. When I got there, I realized that the house was an old police station. I checked to see if I could find food or water, but there was none and I took the road in front of it. There, the gendarmerie came and rescued me," he said.
On Sept. 18, a lifeless body belonging to an irregular immigrant from Cameroon was found in the Kuşadası district of Aydın, in western Turkey.
On Sept. 20, the body of another Cameroonian irregular migrant was found by Turkish coast guard personnel.
The identities of both bodies were confirmed by I.O.
Turkey has 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.
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.
In a new report, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) revealed recently that the difficult conditions and violations of rights in detention and reception centers for migrants at EU borders continue. The report also noted that pushing migrants back to Turkey has become the de facto border policy of Greece and that torture, ill-treatment and pushbacks continue.