From file: A screenshot taken from the Aegean Boat Report Blog of the group of Afghan migrants about to be rescued by the Turkish coast guard from the Aegean Sea | Source: Aegean Boat Report Blog
From file: A screenshot taken from the Aegean Boat Report Blog of the group of Afghan migrants about to be rescued by the Turkish coast guard from the Aegean Sea | Source: Aegean Boat Report Blog

Turkey’s defense ministry announced on Sunday it had filmed footage of Greek pushbacks. The news was reported by the Turkish Anadolu Agency.

On July 17, the Turkish defense ministry released a statement saying it had filmed footage of a Greek pushback and a "territorial water violation" in the Dilek Strait between the Turkish coast and the Greek Aegean island of Samos.

The news was reported by Middle East Monitor, quoting the Turkish news agency Anadolu. The news sources said that the defense ministry had footage showing two life rafts with migrants on board being pushed back towards Turkish waters.

The drone was reportedly flying above the sea, about 1.5 kilometers from the Turkish coast. It said it had picked up a Greek coast guard boat operating the pushback. According to Turkish sources, the coast guard boat’s registration number was LS-930.

Greece warns against instrumentalization of migration by Turkey

According to Middle East Monitor, the events were reported to the Turkish coast guard, which sent out a boat to rescue the migrants.

This is not the first time that the Turkish authorities and NGOs operating the area have accused the Greek authorities of operating pushbacks in the Aegean. It is a charge the Greeks repeatedly deny, saying they comply with all European and international laws.

On July 15, the investigative website Forensic Architecture issued a new interactive platform detailing two years of alleged "drift backs" of migrants at the hands of the Greek authorities. In the time between 2020 and February 28, 2022, Forensic Architecture has detailed over 1,000 such incidents.

So far, the Greek authorities don't seem to have responded directly to this latest accusation from Turkey. However, on July 15, the Greek Migration Minister, Notis Mitarakis, tweeted that they should not allow Turkey to "instrumentalize migration."


In another tweet on the same day, he added that he had been speaking about the tensions with Turkey in an interview he gave to the Greek channel Mega TV.

The Greeks have also been using drones to monitor migration on their borders, including in the Aegean, since at least 2014.

According to NGOs operating in the area, like Aegean Boat Report, the Greek coast guard sometimes places migrants on rescue rafts before sending them back to Turkish waters | Source: Twitter account Aegean Boat Report @ABoatReport
According to NGOs operating in the area, like Aegean Boat Report, the Greek coast guard sometimes places migrants on rescue rafts before sending them back to Turkish waters | Source: Twitter account Aegean Boat Report @ABoatReport

European Court rules against Greece in previous incident

Two weeks ago, on July 7, the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, ruled that Greece had violated the European Convention of Human Rights over the sinking of a migrant boat.

In that incident, which took place on January 20, 2014, the court found that 27 foreign nationals had been transported in a fishing boat off the island of Farmakonisi. The incident resulted in the death of 11 migrants.

The migrants on board accuse the Greek authorities of a pushback in this instance, it is a claim the Greeks deny, saying they were trying to rescue the migrants. What is not disputed is that a Greek coast guard vessel was towing the fishing boat with migrants on board.

The court found that there had been three violations, two of Article 2, the right to life and one of Article 3, the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. In its judgement, the court laid out the "principle facts" of the case. They said that the case had been lodged by 16 applicants, including "13 Afghan nationals, two Syrians and a Palestinian national."

The applicants, stated the court, claimed that "the coastguard vessel [which was towing their vessel] was traveling at a very high speed in order to push the refugees back towards Turkish waters, and this caused the fishing boat to capsize."

However, Greek authorities claim that the "boat was being towed towards the island of Farmakonisi in order to rescue the refugees, and it capsized because of panic and sudden movements among those on board."

Lives 'put in danger'

The court found that because of the "actions and/or omissions of the coastguards" the lives of the migrants on board the fishing vessel had "been put in danger when the boat had sunk."

The applicants subsequently alleged that they had also been subjected to "inhuman and/or degrading treatment" when brought to the island of Farmakonisi.

In the end, the court ruled that it "could not express a position on a number of specific details of the operation that had taken place, ...or on whether there had been an attempt to push the applicants back to the Turkish coast."

However, it observed that "some of the facts were not disputed between the parties, or were undeniable apparent." Finally, it concluded that the Greek government had "not provided an explanation as to the specific omissions and delays in the present case and that serious questions arose as to the manner in which the operation had been conducted and organised."

'Degrading treatment'

The court said that the "Greek authorities had not done all that could reasonable be expected of them to provide the applicants and their relatives with the level of protection required by Article 2 of the Convention."

With respect to the accusation of degrading treatment at the hands of the Greek authorities, the Court found that "the strip search could have caused these applicants to experience feelings of aribrariness, inferiority and anxiety resulting in a degree of humiliation." Therefore the search had "amounted to degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention."

The court ordered Greece to pay a total of €330,000. The sum would be broken down, awarding €100,000 to one of the applicants, €80,000 to three of the applicants jointly and €40,000 to another of the applicants and €10,000 to each of the remaining 11 applicants.

 

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