BY DAILY SABAH WITH AA
Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on Sunday warned Greece to stop its “harsh” treatment of refugees after the Greek immigration minister leveled accusations at Türkiye on Twitter.
“We warn Greece to abandon its harsh treatment of refugees as soon as possible, to cease its baseless and false charges against Türkiye, and to deliver the dignity of government,” Altun said on Twitter.
The official said that “the Greek machine of fake news is back at work” after the Greek minister for immigration “attempted to cast suspicion on our country by sharing false information.”
His remarks come a day after Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi accused Türkiye of mistreating 92 refugees on the Greek-Turkish border, tweeting a photograph from 2019 of migrants who were in reality robbed, stripped naked and left to die by Greek security forces at the border.
“With these futile and ridiculous efforts, Greece has shown once again to the entire world that it does not respect the dignity of refugees by posting these oppressed people’s pictures it has deported after extorting their personal possessions,” Altun said.
“The Greek authorities must first account for the infants they caused to drown in the Aegean, as well as the people they stripped naked, beat with belts, and left to freeze to death in Maritsa through their complicity with Frontex,” he added, referring to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
Frontex has been covering up illegal pushbacks of migrants by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters, a report by the bloc’s anti-fraud office revealed Thursday.
According to the report by OLAF, which was made public by the Germany-based freedom of information website FragDenStaat, Der Spiegel and Lighthouse Reports, Frontex has been withholding cases of possible human rights violations from its own fundamental rights officers, suspending aerial surveillance to avoid recording illegal activities, co-financing Greek units that carried out pushbacks, and misleading the authorities responsible for overseeing the agency.
The report highlighted that principal Greek officials claim they haven’t read the report and European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas of Greece, whose portfolio includes migration, declined to comment on whether he was informed himself of the allegations.
Human rights defenders, however, call on the EU to officially release the report to allow pushback victims to use its findings in court cases, it added.
“The question in the coming years will be whether taxpayer money will continue to be used to help break the law at the EU’s borders — or whether Frontex will be forced to comply with European law. The Schengen states, which control Frontex through the Management Board, apparently have little interest in such compliance,” said the report in Der Spiegel.
Human rights groups have also documented other human rights violations on EU borders where Frontex operates.
“Frontex has repeatedly failed to take effective action when allegations of human rights violations are brought to its attention,” said Eva Cosse, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Its rapid growth into an executive agency of the EU, with increased powers, funding, and legal responsibilities, makes it all the more urgent for Frontex to put in place effective tools to safeguard fundamental rights.”
Türkiye and Greece have been key transit points for asylum-seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Ankara and global rights groups have 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.
In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called out Greece for its “persecution” of migrants in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.
“While we struggle to prevent other babies, like Aylan, from washing up on the shores, Greece is turning the Aegean Sea into a graveyard for refugees with its unlawful and reckless pushbacks,” said Erdoğan.
Aylan Kurdi was a 3-year-old Syrian refugee whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach in 2015, with his photo becoming the defining image of the global refugee crisis.
“The refugee crisis cannot be solved by sinking the boats of innocents who set out to seek a better future, leaving them to die, and by building walls on borders, and filling concentration camps with people,” he said.
“It is high time for Europe and the United Nations to put an end to these atrocities that constitute crimes against humanity.
“We expect Greece to shun its politics of provocations and heed our calls for cooperation,” Erdoğan said.
Besides its inhumane pushbacks of irregular migrants, Greece also pursues “discriminatory and oppressive policies” against the Muslim Turkish minority in Western Thrace, he added.
Türkiye hopes that Greece will stop these problematic actions and that international organizations, particularly the European Union, will stop turning a blind eye to its “inhuman and unlawful practices,” Erdoğan stressed.