Turkey denounces the death of 12 migrants expelled by Greece | International

The images show the bodies of 12 migrants, dressed in light clothing, lying on the side of a dirt road in the middle of the field. They froze to death after being returned to Turkey by the Greek authorities, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reported on his Twitter account on Wednesday. For his part, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis described what happened as a “tragedy”, but denied that Greece played a role in what happened.

“Twelve of the 22 migrants pushed back by the Greek border units, stripped of their clothes and shoes, froze to death. The EU is hopelessly weak and devoid of human feelings. Greek border units are thugs against victims,’ Turkey’s migration chief accused in your social media postwhich was accompanied by four photographs in which we see the alleged corpses pixelated.

The identities and origins of the victims, who were found near the town of Pasaköy – in the Turkish province of Edirne – just over 11 kilometers from the Ipsala border post, the most important between Greece and Turkey. The government delegation in Edirne issued a statement on Wednesday morning in which it said the bodies of nine migrants had been found and one person at risk of freezing had been transferred to hospital in the nearby town of Kesan. A few hours later, in a second press release, the same office explained that during the search, two other bodies had been found and that the migrant admitted to hospital had died. “The Gendarmerie teams, the border units, the police and the AFAD [La Agencia de Desastres y Emergencias] research tasks are continuing,” the provincial government delegation said.

In the images released by Minister Soylu, eight people can be made out. Four of them are lying on their backs, arms crossed, one is lying face down in the middle of a dirt road, three are prostrate near an agricultural machine. None of the deceased seen in the photographs is wearing a coat: one of them is wearing a long-sleeved checkered shirt and trousers; another, with shorts, and a third, who still has a mask on his face, with a black sweatshirt.

The testimonies collected by this newspaper from people returned by Greece to Turkey indicate that in recent months it has been increasingly common for the Greek police to force migrants to put on their coats and shoes before sending them, through boats. tires, on the other side of the river. Evros, which forms the border between the two countries. This despite the low temperatures of recent weeks – below 0°C – due to the cold and snow storm that shook the two countries.

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“The death of 12 migrants at the Turkish border near Ipsala is a tragedy. But the reality behind this incident has nothing to do with the propaganda published by my counterpart, Mr. Soylu. These migrants never reached the border. Any suspicion that they arrived or were sent back to Turkey is false,” Greek Minister Mitarakis replied in a statement: “Instead of blaming others, Turkey should fulfill its obligations and work to prevent these dangerous journeys.” .

A source from the Turkish Interior Ministry consulted by this newspaper assured that Turkey has evidence – from security sources – that the migrants were returned by Greece. In addition, he explained that the government delegation in Edirne has launched an investigation and, in the coming days, will collect statements from the survivors of the group of 22 migrants.

The Turkish government has repeatedly accused the Greek authorities of returning immigrants who arrived irregularly in the European country to Turkey, a complaint that the Greek authorities reject despite the fact that various human rights organizations have documented numerous cases and that both the UNHCR and the Council of Europe have protested against these practices. Over the past two years, the Border Violence Monitoring Network, made up of a dozen European NGOs and associations, has documented more than a hundred incidents in which more than 5,000 people were illegally expelled from Greece to Turkey via the Evros River. In addition, according to a Turkish government source, some 16,000 migrants were pushed back by Greek authorities irregularly across the Aegean Sea last year.

The Athens government denounces that Ankara refuses to return potential migrants and refugees who enter Greece through Turkish territory through legal channels, as provided for in the migration agreement signed by the European Union and Turkey in 2016 and a previous Greek-Turkish bilateral agreement.

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