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Greece says Turkey is pushing migrants into its waters

November 10, 2021

Greek officials claim Turkey is acting like a "pirate state in the Aegean Sea" in regards to migrants. Athens has called on the EU to put pressure on Ankara to meet its international obligations.

A ship with migrants near the southern Greek island of Crete
Greece is one of the top entry destinations for migrants in the EUImage: Hellenic Coast Guard/AP/picture alliance

Greek authorities have released a video of Turkish boats appearing to escort a rubber dinghy filled with migrants into Greek territorial waters.

Athens frequently blames Ankara for failing to crack down on smugglers who send out migrants in unsafe boats from its shores in breach of a 2016 accord with the European Union.

Under the accord, Turkey was to reduce the flow of migrants through its territory to EU countries such as Greece in return for billions in financial aid. 

What did Greek authorities say about the video?

"The video shows without a doubt the efforts of Turkish coast guard vessels to make dangerous maneuvers to guide the dinghy to Greek waters," the Greek Coast Guard said in a statement accompanying the video. 

The statement added that the coast guard prevented the migrants from entering Greek waters. The Turkish vessel and dinghy eventually headed back to the Turkish coast.

Greek Maritime Affairs Minister Giannis Plakiotakis accused Turkey of acting like a "pirate state in the Aegean Sea, breaching its engagements with the European Union."

Plakiotakis called on the EU to put "greater pressure on Turkey to comply with its international obligations."

Both Greece and Turkey have accused each other of failing to abide by the  2016 refugee deal with the EU

Turkey, for its part, says Greece has not been cooperative and has treated asylum-seekers in an inhumane fashion.

Greek PM spars with reporter over migration

As the Greek government slams Turkey for its approach to migrants, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistotakis is also facing criticism from the media and human rights organizations over his response to the crisis.

A Dutch journalist, Ingeborg Beugel, accused Mitsotakis on Tuesday of engaging in "narcissistic abuse" in regards to migrants. Beugel was attending a news conference between Mitsotakis and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Athens.

Beugel said the Greek leader was "lying" about the country's pushbacks of migrants. Human rights organizations, including the UN refugee agency UNHCR, have previously alleged that Greece is pushing back migrants away from its land and sea borders towards Turkey.

"I understand that in the Netherlands you have a culture of asking direct questions to politicians, which I very much respect," Mitsotakis replied. "What I will not accept is that in this office you will insult me or the Greek people with accusations and expressions that are not supported by material facts."

Beugel then called conditions for migrants in Greece "appalling," with Mitsotakis saying his government will "stand by" its "tough but fair" asylum policies.

Greece is one of the top entry points for migrants into the EU. Mitsotakis, whose centre-right New Democracy party came to power in 2019, has previously expressed frustration that other EU countries are not sharing the burden of hosting asylum-seekers.

wd/nm (Reuters, AP, AFP)