The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued 5,693 irregular migrants that were pushed back by Greek forces in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas in the first half of 2021. According to data from the coast guard’s website, 4,670 irregular migrants that were pushed into Turkish waters by Greece were rescued in the period between January and June 2021 while 1,023 migrants that were stranded while attempting to cross abroad were similarly saved.
Authorities have also caught 29 people suspected of organizing the illegal transit of irregular migrants.
Most of the operations to rescue migrants at sea took place in Turkey's western Izmir province. While 261 migrants that were stranded were rescued by Turkey, the coast guard also rushed to the aid of 2,120 migrants including children and women who were left to die in the sea or on rubber boats by Greek elements.
Some 434 irregular migrants and six Turkish citizens were caught trying to illegally go abroad from Izmir’s coasts.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which say 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.
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 also 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 European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Most recently, Amnesty International criticized Greek authorities for the torture, ill-treatment and illegal pushback of migrants and refugees to Turkey, saying that the country's practice had become its "de facto" border policy.
In a new report, the rights group described 21 incidents that involved around 1,000 people. Many had been subjected to violence before being transferred back to Turkey, Adriana Tidona, migration researcher for Europe at Amnesty, said in the report. The pushbacks, on land and at sea, sometimes involved people apprehended as far as 700 kilometers (435 miles) inside Greek territory, said Amnesty International.
Furthermore, a joint investigation by several international news outlets reported in October that Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, had been complicit in maritime pushback operations to drive away migrants attempting to enter the EU via Greek waters. A month later, Brussels-based news outlet EUobserver revealed that Frontex exchanged letters with Greek authorities on Athens' orders to push back migrants to Turkish waters.