ISTANBUL — Twelve migrants died on Wednesday in Turkey, most of them discovered with little clothes in a freezing discipline close to the border with Greece, in keeping with a number of Turkish officers.
A Turkish authorities minister stated they froze to loss of life and accused Greek border guards of stripping the migrants and forcing them again throughout the frontier earlier than they died.
The Greek migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, stated the deaths have been a tragedy however denied the Turkish accusations, calling them “false propaganda.”
Turkey’s inside minister, Suleyman Soylu, stated in a Twitter post written in English: “Twelve of the 22 migrants pushed again by Greek Border Items, stripped off from their garments and footwear, have frozen to loss of life.”
He added that the European Union was “remediless, weak and void of humane emotions,” calling the Greek border guards thugs.
Greece has all the time denied pushing migrants again after they’ve crossed from Turkey, even after the United Nations documented such instances.
“These migrants by no means made it to the border,” Mr. Mitarachi, who was in Lille, France, for an off-the-cuff E.U. summit on migration, stated in an announcement. “Any suggestion they did, or certainly have been pushed again into Turkey, is utter nonsense.”
Turkey is a serious route for migrants from Asia, Africa and the Center East attempting to achieve European nations and since 2015, when greater than one million migrants crossed into Europe, they’ve been touring by way of Greece. Some come by sea utilizing dinghies and attain Greek islands simply miles from Turkey’s shores. Others attempt to sneak throughout the land border, which is demarcated by a river.
For greater than a yr, Greece has been taking harder measures to maintain migrants out. It constructed a fence and policed the land border, forcing migrants who got here from Turkey again throughout the river. Greek authorities have additionally towed migrants arriving by sea again into Turkish waters.
Relations between Turkey and Greece are continuously strained, however refugee officers from the United Nations and different worldwide organizations have additionally criticized Greece for the pushbacks, that are unlawful beneath worldwide regulation and which they are saying place migrants in danger.
4 Turkish officers confirmed that the 12 migrants had died and that they appeared to have frozen to loss of life.
Mr. Soylu, the Turkish inside minister, posted blurred footage of eight males mendacity beside a muddy street, some with out shirts and others in shorts. He stated their our bodies have been discovered close to the Turkish border city of Ipsala.
In his tweet, the minister described the 12 migrants who died as half of a bigger group of twenty-two. The destiny of the opposite 10 was not instantly clear.
This space, together with many of the nation, was hit by a harsh snowstorm and freezing temperatures final week, although the chilly snap had eased in latest days.
The mayor of Ipsala, Abdullah Naci Unsal, stated these migrants had in all probability died in a single day between Tuesday and Wednesday. The governor’s workplace for the Turkish province of Edirne, which borders Greece, stated in an announcement that 11 of the migrants have been discovered frozen to loss of life and one other died later after being taken to a hospital.
Emergency models and safety forces have been nonetheless scanning the world for extra migrants, the assertion stated.
The Ipsala mayor stated pushbacks from Greece — typically at night time — had elevated since 2020, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that he was opening the border gates to refugees.
“It was raining final night time,” he stated in a phone interview on Wednesday. Temperatures within the space may fall to freezing level, he added, noting that it will really feel even colder if an individual have been moist.
“They’re usually deported at night time,” he stated. “They collect them there, take all the pieces they’ve, telephones and so forth, throw their garments into the water after which push them again,” he stated of the Greek border guards.
The border space is agricultural, crisscrossed with canals and the Evros River, and migrants continuously get soaked whereas attempting to cross. Migrants die virtually each week whereas trying to cross the border or being pushed again, the mayor stated. Others drown within the river and are swept out to sea.
Worldwide refugee officers have drawn consideration to instances of migrants, amongst them Syrians and Afghans, who’ve been detained in Greece, robbed of their belongings, and generally stripped to their underwear earlier than being compelled again throughout the river that divides the 2 nations. Some have described in interviews being overwhelmed and detained by border guards and cops, or by teams of males in plain garments.
Turkey is host to greater than 4 million refugees, nearly all of them Syrians, but in addition together with a number of hundred thousand Afghans. In 2020, Mr. Erdogan introduced he was opening the borders for migrants to enter Europe, saying that his nation may not deal with the massive numbers of individuals fleeing regional wars.
He accused European leaders of failing to maintain their promise to assist Turkey bear the load of internet hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees. The European Union agreed to a take care of Turkey in 2016 to supply 6 billion euros, about $6.7 billion, over a number of years to manage the flows of migrants and settle them in Turkey.
Greece has accused Turkey of utilizing the migrants for political leverage in its dealings with the European Union and took measures to strengthen its border controls. The numbers of migrants arriving in Greece have declined within the final two years, however the quantity arriving in Turkey has continued to rise.
Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Athens.