Cavusoglu: “Greece, EU responsible for 19 migrants freezing to death”

Greece
Tue, 8 Feb 2022 22:09 GMT
Turkiye's foreign minister on Tuesday made clear he holds Greece, along with the EU, responsible for 19 irregular migrants who were found frozen to death near the countries' shared border last week. "As much as Greece, the EU is also to blame, because we...
Cavusoglu: “Greece, EU responsible for 19 migrants freezing to death”

Turkiye's foreign minister on Tuesday made clear he holds Greece, along with the EU, responsible for 19 irregular migrants who were found frozen to death near the countries' shared border last week.

"As much as Greece, the EU is also to blame, because we know how Turkiye would be criticized if it did one-tenth of this," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto in the Turkish capital Ankara.

"But on the contrary, Greece gets support in this regard and they have an excuse, (saying) 'Greece protects the borders of the EU,' whereas (in fact) the borders of Europe start from Turkiye in the east and south," he added.

Cavusoglu said the migrants' deaths are part of a pattern by Greece.

"Unfortunately, Greece has continued its pushback policy by openly violating human rights in violation of international law," he said, referring to thousands of asylum seekers pushed back by Greece, endangering their lives in the process.

"In the middle of the Aegean Sea, many immigrants lost their lives because of these pushbacks, even because Greece skewered these boats and pierced them with guns."

These criticisms have nothing to do with Turkish-Greek relations, said Cavusoglu, adding that such acts have become Greek state policy, aided by the EU border agency Frontex.

"If anyone is protecting the EU's borders, it's Turkiye, especially on the matter of migration," said Cavusoglu, adding that even if Athens was safeguarding the bloc's borders, this still would not "give the right to ignore or support this inhumane treatment."

"This radically contradicts the values that the EU is trying to defend," he underlined.

Pointing out that Greek security forces have been seizing the passports and clothes of migrants, even in the middle of winter, Cavusoglu said Greece's behavior was "neither lawful, conscientious, nor moral."

For his part, Haavisto sought to defend the bloc and its border agency by citing the assistance provided to Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania in the face of an "artificial" influx of migrants last year from the Belarusian border.

He said these organizations had stepped in to send back migrants who had been "misdirected and piled up on the Belarusian border," emphasizing the importance of cooperation to deal with such cases.

The Finnish foreign minister also underscored the help Turkiye has been providing for Syrian migrants.

"We know what kind of economic burden it (Turkiye) is under. The problems need to be resolved by the EU. We're talking about peace and mediation, so it should be our priority to ensure that people return to their homes safely," he added.

He also noted that the Finnish Embassy in Ankara is "the biggest bilateral embassy we have in Europe," adding that this "shows how close our relations are."

"We don't always agree and I think that is a sign of good political debate, with different political views, but we have very good spirit in our discussions," Haavisto said.

Nineteen irregular migrants were found frozen to death near the border last week, having been stripped of their belongings, including clothes and shoes, before being pushed back to Turkiye by Greek border officials.

Greece, calling the incident a "tragedy," firmly denied any involvement.

Turkiye and international human rights groups have criticized Greece’s inhumane treatment of migrants and accused it of disregarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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