DIKILI, Turkey — Soon after hitting the Greek island of Lesbos, a bunch of Afghan migrants state their hopes for a new life in Europe were cut short when Greek police piled up them, abused them, pushed them to life rafts, and abandoned them.
Associated Press journalists onto a Turkish government-organized shore guard ride-along were aboard the patrol ship that picked the 37 migrants, including 18 children, from two orange life rafts from the Aegean Sea on Sept. 12. Two other press organizations on similar government-organized excursions in precisely the same week witnessed similar scenes.
“But they shot us and put us onto a boat. They left us on the water in a terrible manner on those boats.”
Additionally, it accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye on what it states is a clear abuse of individual rights.
Citing what they state would be credible reports, global rights groups have called for investigations.
In what seemed like a government-organized effort, tens of thousands led into the Greek border, resulting in scenes of violence and insanity. Greece closed its frontier and controversially suspended asylum software for per month.
Greece’s coast guard says Turkey’s coast guard frequently escorts migrant smuggling ships toward Greece, also has supplied movies to back its promises. It states under a 2016 EU-Turkey bargain to stem migration flows, Turkey must prevent individuals from clandestinely entering Greece.
Greek coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nikolaos Kokkalas stated its patrols often detect ships and dinghies carrying migrants attempting to enter Greece illegally, and”one of the many occasions there are also inflatable rafts like the ones described” from the AP.
The life rafts are regular security equipment on recreational boats, designed to keep passengers safe whenever they need to abandon ship. They generally don’t have any way of propulsion or steering.
“It has to be underlined that in the majority of the scenarios, the existence of the Turkish coast guard was observed-ascertained near the dinghies incoming in the Turkish shore, but with no intervening, although in some situations the dinghies are being followed by (Turkish coast guard) boats,” Kokkalas stated in a written reply to an ARP query.
Uneasy neighbors Greece and Turkey have been at loggerheads for years over many territorial problems, and asylum-seekers have found themselves swept up in the economic battle.
The tension between the two nations increased dramatically this summer over eastern Mediterranean marine boundaries, resulting in fears of warfare.
Both sides set warships as Turkish poll boats prospected for gasoline in oceans where Greece and Cyprus assert exclusive economic rights.
The persistent allegations of pushbacks of all migrants will be the most recent manifestations of those anxieties.
Additional rights groups and refugee associations, such as the U.N. refugee agency, have repeatedly called on Greece to research what they say are plausible reports and testimony of these expulsions occurring.
“UNHCR is particularly concerned about the rising reports, because March 2020, of alleged casual yields by a sea of individuals that, by their attestations or people of third persons, have disembarked on Greek beaches and have been towed back to sea,” the bureau stated in August.
UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs, reiterating the call for research, stated that”with our own eyes Lesbos, it had been quite apparent no ships had been coming via” recently.
Before this month, Greece’s Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis stated the Greek government prevented over 10,000 individuals from entering Greece by sea this season. He wouldn’t elaborate on how.
Former Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas pushed for information from the present ministry, Notis Mitarachi, at parliament Sept. 21, stating this seemed to violate Greek and global law. He asked directly if the government carries out pushbacks.
The four Afghans on the life rafts observed by AP stated they attained Lesbos from Turkey’s western Canakkale state on the night of Sept. 11-12, also so were captured by Greek law enforcement through the daytime.
Among these, Nabizada said police struck him forcing him to the raft.
“They did not say,’ there are kids, there are households, there are girls.’ … People do not do this to animals. The Greek authorities did it,” stated the 22-year-old. He explained he abandoned Kabul in 2017 and spanned to Turkey through Iran, aiming to get Europe.
Zohra Alizada, 14, said authorities took their telephones and cash, set them in the rafts, and abandoned. She had been traveling with her parents and 2 sisters after residing in Kars, in southern Turkey, for more than four decades. She stated the migrants were known as the Turkish coast guard for assistance.
Her dad, Mohammad Reza Alizada, stated Greek police inflated the rafts” and then they drove us such as creatures indoors.”
The AP wasn’t able to independently confirm their account.
Another Turkish coast guard vessel was in the region once the patrol ship carrying the AP crew came.
He said Turkey has revealed through media and government reports that Greece is pushing back refugees at sea, including that”there were many articles published”
“How can sinking boats in the center of the Aegean Sea or sending them to Turkey by pushbacks match foreign rights and international values?” Cavusoglu explained.
Greece denies sinking smuggling ships. Kokkalas noted that the Greek coast guard had saved 3,150 migrants in roughly 100 events this past year.
A separate Norway-based watchdog says it’s recorded at least 50 instances since March of migrants being set to life rafts and left adrift.
“They aren’t going into those life rafts willingly. They’re forced,” explained Tommy Olsen of the Aegean Boat Report, which tracks arrivals and rights abuses from the Aegean.
He said his team had no information concerning the rafts that the AP saw, however, it had been consistent with similar reports.
“You do not place them on life rafts and abandon them”
Fraser reported by Ankara and also Bilginsoy in Istanbul. Ayse Wieting at Istanbul, Elena Becatoros at Athens, and Nadine Achoui-Message at Geneva contributed.