Vice President Fuat Oktay strongly criticized Greece for disregarding humanity in the Aegean Sea, after footage of Greek coast guard units pushing and shooting at inflatable migrant boats emerged Sunday.
“Humanity has been disregarded once again in the Aegean! What a shame!” Oktay said on Twitter.
The vice president’s criticism came after Greek coast guard units prevented the progress of a migrant boat with dangerous maneuvers, hit the migrants with sticks, made attempts to sink the boat and fired shots in its vicinity, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry.
Oktay noted that he told European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas that Greece’s inhumane pushbacks were unacceptable and that Turkey expects Frontex and Greek authorities to fulfill their responsibilities in this regard.
Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Turkey’s five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees to leave Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants looking to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks, summary deportations and denying migrants access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. Ankara also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.
Last month, a joint investigation by leading European media outlets revealed that pushback operations by security forces had become systematic practices in violation of EU and international humanitarian law.
German weekly Der Spiegel also published videos on its website showing masked Greek officers intercepting and disabling refugee boats in the Aegean Sea, endangering the lives of vulnerable asylum-seekers.