Türkiye rescues 80 migrants Greece pushed back in Aegean
The coast guard pulled to safety a total of 80 asylum seekers, all hailing from Afghanistan, who were trying to stay afloat on two rubber rafts off the coast of the Ayvacık district of western Çanakkale province, the agency said.
After the necessary procedures, the migrants who were brought ashore were transferred to the Ayvacık migration office.
Wednesday’s rescue followed a similar operation on Monday where 45 more Afghan nationals were saved in the same area.
Türkiye and global rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back irregular migrants, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children. In some cases, it ends up with the deaths of migrants, especially at the inland border of Türkiye with Greece during winter months. The Aegean Sea's treacherous waters also pose a danger for migrants who brave perilous journeys.
Last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it has long been alarmed by the "increasing frequency" of Greek migrant pushbacks. "We are aware of the recent reports from the Turkish coast guard. In terms of pushbacks in general – at both land and sea borders – we have long been sounding the alarm on the increasing frequency of expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum seekers at Europe's land and sea borders and have called on states to investigate and halt these practices," UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Her remarks came after a weekend pushback of dozens of migrants into Turkish territorial waters by Greece. "States must uphold their commitments and respect fundamental human rights, including the right to life and right to seek asylum," she urged.
In July alone, Greek naval forces pushed over 1,100 asylum seekers into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean, all of whom the Turkish coast guard rescued, adding to the thousands abandoned to their fate in the Eastern Mediterranean since the refugee crisis first gained friction in 2015.
On being asked what she thinks about the ongoing pushbacks after the June 14 deadly shipwreck off the Peloponnese, southwestern Greece, which killed at least 82 migrants as hundreds more are feared to have drowned, Mantoo said, "We are very concerned by reports and testimonies that have emerged following this tragic incident."
She welcomed the investigation into the incident, saying that it must be "impartial and independent in order to ascertain the circumstances which led to the boat capsizing and the tragic loss of life."
Greece has also been accused of deliberately and systematically cooperating with Frontex for the pushbacks, according to a 2022 investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
The Greek government denies all allegations, despite claims to the contrary from alleged victims, rights groups, Turkish drones and even the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. “In Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become the de facto general policy,” the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, said last year.
Recently reelected Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has consistently vowed to make his country “less attractive” to asylum-seekers.