Greece has denied media reports alleging that the country might be involved in pushbacks at sea. The government has accused its neighbor Turkey of deliberately spreading fake news.
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis says reports that Greek border authorities threw migrants into the sea are part of Turkish disinformation campaign. In the last nine months, the Turkish coastguard has logged 29 such incidents of pushbacks involving people allegedly being thrown into the water, according to media reports.
"Turkey's propaganda about illegal migration often leads to false stories appearing in the media," Mitarakis stated, adding that independent investigations were still being carried out on the Greek side into the allegations.
He added that Greece is in charge of protecting the external borders of the European Union in the Aegean Sea, and that it does so in full compliance with international law.
"In the absence of any action by the Turkish authorities, the Greek coastguard continues to save the lives of thousands of men, women and children at sea every year," Mitarakis said in a statement, claiming that Greece had rescued "230,000 people from third countries in danger at sea" from 2015 to 2021.
Read more: Greek system leaves migrants out in the cold
Two dead at sea without explanation
German news magazine Der Spiegel, Dutch investigative platform Lighthouse Reports and the British daily newspaper The Guardian allege that in September 2021, Greek border guards took migrants, who had arrived on the Greek island of Samos from mainland Turkey, back onto boats and threw them overboard.
Two people were reported to have drowned during the event, though the exact nature of the incident remains unclear. The reports were corroborated by a Cameroonian migrant who accused Greek border guards of throwing him into the sea along with two other men who died. The man specified that the two victims were a Cameroon and an Ivorian national.
The journalists involved in the investigation said they had interviewed witnesses and informants from the Greek security authorities and had also analyzed medical reports, photos and videos. Two Greek officials reportedly had confirmed with the investigative team that Greek authorities had repeatedly pushed migrants into the sea, in breach of international and EU law.
UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants Felipe González Morales shared the Guardian media report on the pushbacks on Twitter.
According to Der Spiegel in particular, Greek lawyers are now preparing a complaint at a local court, and Turkish lawyers have filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights in Luxembourg.
Further allegations of pushbacks
Earlier in February, Turkish authorities found 19 bodies frozen to death close to the Greek border. Ankara accused Greece of allowing the migrants to die in the winter cold after stripping them of their clothes and forcing them back across the border.
Greece denies being involved in any such human rights abuses. In the past, the country has in turn also accused Turkey of engaging in pushbacks at sea.
with dpa, AFP, AP