Five children and a woman have reportedly drowned in the Aegean Sea, while five people remain missing. Turkish authorities have accused Greek officials of pushing the migrants back towards Turkey.
The Turkish coast guard said in a statement published Tuesday (September 13) that they rescued 73 people in the Aegean, while help came too late for six people -- a woman and five children, including two babies. Five people are still missing -- two children and three men, according to Turkish officials.
Turkish authorities said that the incident happened in the Aegean Sea between the Turkish seaside resort of Marmaris and the nearby Greek island of Rhodes, and that a plane, a helicopter and another boat were involved in the initial rescue mission.
According to a Turkish coast guard statement, the migrants' boat had left Lebanon on September 10 and was heading past Turkey and Greece to Italy. Survivors said that they called for assistance from the Greek authorities when they ran out of petrol near Rhodes.
The migrants claimed they were taken aboard a Greek coast guard vessel, where their valuables were taken away from them and where they were moved onto four life rafts and left to float adrift, Turkish media reported.
In a statement, the Greek coast guard "categorically" denied the claims publicized in Turkey, saying there was no "involvement in an alleged pushback incident that resulted in the death of six immigrants in the sea area of Marmaris, within Turkish territorial waters."
'Massacres' at sea
Greece has faced repeated accusations of engaging in such pushbacks at sea, which are illegal under international law, as they don't allow people to apply for asylum before potentially being rejected. The Greek government says it is merely protecting its borders but not engaging in pushbacks. Meanwhile, Greek officials have also accused Turkey of trying to push migrants towards Greece.
Following the recent rescue operation in the Aegean, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu shared a video allegedly showing the incident on Twitter, saying that Europe and Greece held the blame for "these massacres."
More than 33,400 migrants have been intercepted in Aegean waters by Turkish officials so far this year, according to the Turkish coast guard's website. The figure for the whole of last year was 12,600.
with AP, Reuters