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Pushed Back by Greece, Migrants Saved by Türkiye Recall Ordeal

A group of Liberian irregular migrants was among the latest victims of Greece’s controversial pushback practice earlier this week. Four among them were found dead.

Rescued by the Turkish coast guard after Greece pushed their boat back into Turkish waters in the Aegean Sea on March 14, three women among the migrants said they would not have “survived” if it was not for rescuers.

The coast guard spotted 56 irregular migrants aboard a rubber boat off the coast of Kuşadası, a resort town in the western Turkish province of Aydın. The victims were taken ashore, visibly shaken by the experience. Julie Johnson, a 23-year-old pregnant Liberian woman among the survivors, told reporters on Friday that Greek forces intercepted them and started hitting migrants aboard their boat.

“I was screaming ‘please do not kill me’ but they pushed me into the water. My husband threw me a life vest and I started swimming. I saw a Turkish gendarmerie on (the Turkish) shore from afar and started shouting for help. They took me to the coast and later to the hospital. I am grateful. If it were not for them, I wouldn’t be alive,” she said, narrating her ordeal.

Meanwhile,19-year-old Destiny Gekor said Greek sea police took all her possessions, including money and cell phone. “They then started hitting my stomach. I begged them to stop and cried. They pushed others into the sea,” she said. “I saw a friend dying,” she said amid tears. Gekor thanked Turkish officials for coming to their rescue and treating them for their wounds.

Hawa Johnson, an eight-month pregnant woman, 25, said she told Greek police she was pregnant, and they should not hit her but they shoved her and pushed her into the water.

Türkiye is a critical transit route for asylum-seekers hoping to cross into Europe in search of better lives, especially those fleeing war and prosecution in the larger Middle East and Northern Africa. Both human rights groups and media outlets have widely documented Greece’s human rights breaches and violent anti-migrant policy.

Ankara too has repeatedly condemned Athens’ illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, stressing that it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children. While the Turkish coast guard has come to the rescue of thousands sent back by Greek authorities, countless others died at sea as boats full of refugees sank or capsized, especially in the Aegean Sea where both countries share a border.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded nearly 2,000 migrants dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea last year. A report by Türkiye’s Ombudsman Institution said in July 2022 that Greece has pushed back nearly 42,000 migrants since 2020. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 16, 2022, the Turkish Coast Guard Command’s Aegean Command Station saved 47,498 irregular migrants in 1,550 separate cases across its areas of responsibility, over 18,000 of whom were victims of Greece’s pushback policy.

Athens consistently denies the accusations despite abundant migrant testimonies, media evidence and international scrutiny. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government since coming into office in 2019 has vowed to make his country “less attractive” to asylum-seekers.

The migrant crisis in the Aegean and the broader Mediterranean remains unsolved.

Source : DailySabah