Greece has accused Turkey of trying to help migrant boats in the Aegean Sea to reach Europe. The Greek coast guard claimed that in one incident, two Turkish patrol vessels "tried to push" a migrant dinghy into Greek territory.
The Greek (Hellenic) coast guard said that in at least three incidents between Thursday night and Friday morning, Turkish patrol vessels escorted dinghies filled with migrants attempting to enter Greek territorial waters. It said that in another incident, a Turkish vessel harassed a Greek coast guard vessel. A video released by the coast guard appears to show the Turkish boat speeding past dangerously close to the Greek vessel.
The incidents reportedly happened northeast of Lesbos, an Aegean island where irregular migrants commonly arrive from Turkish shores.
The Hellenic coast guard said that none of the migrant dinghies, which had been carrying around 300 people in total, managed to enter Greek territorial waters, and all the migrants were eventually picked up by the Turkish coast guard.
Greece accuses Turkey of provocation
"This morning, the Hellenic Coast Guard reported multiple incidents of the Turkish Coast Guard and Navy accompanying flimsy migrant boats to the border of Europe in an effort to provoke an escalation with Greece," Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said in a statement.
"It is beyond doubt that these migrants departed Turkish shores and given the fact they were supported by Turkey, were not at risk," he said, adding that Turkey should "stand down and stop this unwarranted provocation."
There was no immediate response from Turkish authorities.
EU leaders’ visit
Turkey and Greece have long traded accusations over migrants attempting to cross the Aegean. Turkey claims that Greece engages in illegally pushing back migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum. Greece denies involvement in pushbacks and accuses Turkey of actively encouraging migrants who seek to enter Greece illegally. Both sides have previously accused each other of dangerous provocation.
Greece has said repeatedly that Turkey must take back nearly 1,500 asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected. In a visit to Lesbos this week, the EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, also called on Turkey "urgently" to resume migrant returns from Greece.
European Union leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel are set to visit Turkey next week to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over migration and other regional issues.
With AP, AFP