From file: Image from an alleged maritime pushback incident in the Aegean Sea | Photo: Aegean Boat Report
From file: Image from an alleged maritime pushback incident in the Aegean Sea | Photo: Aegean Boat Report

Turkish officials say they have rescued another 67 migrants in Aegean waters. The migrants were pushed back by Greek forces patrolling the waters, Turkish authorities claim. Greece denies being involved in pushbacks.

Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet reports that the Turkish coast guard rescued 67 migrants in the Aegean Sea in two operations, who it claims had suffered pushbacks at the hands of Greek authorities.

The rescue teams first came to the rescue of 49 migrants, and later saved another 18 migrants in a rubber boat.

The newspaper said it was "determined" that the migrants had been "pushed back into Turkish territorial waters by the Greek forces," but did not specify how this information was ascertained.

Once taken to shore the migrants were reportedly handed over to the Regional Directorate of Migration Management.

The incidents at sea took place near the coast of the Balikesir province, located further north than most of Turkey's coastline where migrant-related events occur.

Read more: Athens calls on Turkey to stop migrant departures

Murderous tactics or smear campaign?

Hurriyet states that Greece is responsible for the alleged pushbacks of about 42,000 asylum seekers since 2020, citing a report published by Turkey's Ombudsman Institution.

That document claims also that "some 98% of the pushbacks involved torture and ill-treatment," adding that 53 migrants lost their lives in 2021 alone, having either drowned or frozen to death following such alleged pushbacks. 

The report even alludes to supposed incidents of individuals being thrown back into the sea after being intercepted by Greek officials, with their wrists in handcuffs.

Read more: 92 migrants found naked and bruised at Greece-Turkey border

Greece denies its involvement in pushbacks, which are illegal under international law. There have been mounting reports from the EU's external border agency Frontex, however, showing that migrants and refugees on the Turkish-Greek border -- especially at sea -- have indeed been rejected and sent back this way.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Felipe Gonzalez Morales meanwhile believes there could be truth to the report, and has said that "in Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy."

Read more: EU report reveals systematic cover-up by border agency


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