Migrants in Turkey have told ANSA they were refused entry by Greek authorities as they were trying to reach the island of Lesbos. Illegal pushbacks against migrants at the hands of Greek authorities are well-documented.
Several migrants told ANSA they were intercepted and stopped by the Greek coast guard as they were trying to reach Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. Their dinghy was abandoned in the middle of the night at sea, they said, where the Turkish coastline is only a few kilometers away from the Greek island of Lesbos.
22 people were crammed together on the dinghy, reported the migrants, who said the passengers hailed from Liberia and Eritrea. The oldest person was 35, and the youngest 19. One of them was a pregnant woman, according to the migrants.
The Greek coast guard proceeded to leave them at sea after removing the engine from their boat so they wouldn't enter Greek territorial waters, the migrants reported. The dinghy was later found by Turkish authorities who patrol the area.
The migrants were then taken to a place near port of Kücükkuyu, where they were given water and food. They also had to undergo a health and identification checks prior to being transferred to repatriation centers.
According to the Turkish government, similar scenes are recurring nearly every day. Most of the time, migrants are blocked by the Greek coast guard, who then remove the engine from the dinghy or transfer the migrants onto life rafts, Ankara said.
Greek authorities then communicate the migrants' presence at sea to Turkey, whereupon the rescue operation typically begins.
'I want to go to Europe and change my life'
According to Turkish government figures, 29,918 persons have been rescued in the Aegean Sea by the Turkish coast guard since the beginning of the year. Greece allegedly denied entry to 16,348 of them.
In 2020, the majority of migrants who attempted to reach European shores irregularly from Turkey came from Afghanistan, which has been under Taliban control since August last year. A few hailed from Syria, and most of the others came from Yemen, Palestine and the Horn of Africa.
"I want to go to Europe to change my life", said Idris, a 19-year-old who fled from Eritrea where "the problems are too plentiful to survive". Speaking to ANSA, Idris said he would like to send money or medicine from Europe to his sick mother.
According to the Turkish government, Turkish, Russians and Ukrainians smugglers are often arrested. Arresting them, however, can be difficult as they often abandon migrants at sea and force some of them to steer the boat, allowing the smugglers to leave the scenes.
Hundreds attempt to leave Turkey every day
According to representatives of the United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM), hundreds of migrants leave the the Turkish coast every day in an attempt to reach the European Union (EU).
During the so-called migration crisis in 2015, in comparison, thousands left Turkey for Greek islands each day.
In 2016, the EU and Turkey signed an agreement whereby Turkey committed itself to stop those attempting to leave in exchange for funds to support Turkish authorities to host migrants entering the country.
Turkey is the country that hosts the highest number of migrants and refugees in the world. Most of them are Syrians. From 2016 until now, the EU has sent approximately €6 billion to Turkey.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked for additional financial support on several occasions. At the beginning of 2020, he temporarily opened the land borders between Greece and Turkey. As a result, thousands of migrants arrived in the area and tried to reach cross into Greece, only to be blocked by Greek boarder guards.