Greek police have reportedly rescued a group of asylum seekers, among them 10 children from a tiny island in the Evros river. This comes days after a woman was shot dead at the river separating Turkey from Greece.
Greek police announced on Thursday (April 21) that they rescued 64 people from a river island at the Turkish-Greek border, according to reports by news agency AP and local Greek media.
The police reportedly located them on Wednesday night after they had been informed of their situation, but police sources claim that the asylum seekers refused to enter the police boats at the time. When officers traveled to the island again during the day on Thursday, the asylum seekers reportedly agreed to enter the boats. They were then brought to the Greek side of the Evros River.
Syrians seeking asylum
Among the group were 46 men, eight women and ten children, according to Greek officials. All 64 reportedly said that they were Syrian nationals seeking asylum.
The group said that they had been left on the island, near the northeastern Greek town of Didymoteicho, by smugglers who took them there by boat from the Turkish side, Greek police reported.
The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that it had asked local officials to rescue a group stuck on a small island in the Evros on Monday, but had not received any reply. It was not immediately clear whether the rescue operations that followed on Wednesday night and Thursday concerned the same group, though it is likely given the circumstances. (GCR said that there were 46 people – not 64 -- stuck on the island, but this could have been due to a numbers mix-up.)
Deadly shooting, pushback accusations
Thursday's rescue operation follows the deadly shooting of a woman in the Evros border area last weekend. The death triggered protests by migrant and refugee advocates, who have repeatedly criticized Greek authorities for what they perceive to be the mistreatment of migrants and refugees.
Investigative journalists, NGOs and the UNHCR have reported repeatedly that illegal pushbacks have been carried out by Greek border officials – with asylum seekers being pushed back across the land border or onto the sea towards Turkey. Greek authorities have continually rejected these reports, saying that there is no evidence of pushbacks.