Greece and Turkey trade accusations over migrant boat push backs

Greece accused Turkey on Friday of pushing migrant boats back into Greek waters, “in an effort to provoke an escalation”. Ankara rejected the claims, blaming Athens for distorting the events with lies. 

“We call on Turkey to stand down and stop this unwarranted provocation,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said via a video statement on social media.

“That’s a crime against humanity to slander the Turkish Coast Guard saving people you left to death,” said Turkish Deputy Interior Minister İsmail Çataklı, via his Twitter account in response to Mitarachi.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have deteriorated in recent years over a range of issues including overlapping territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean and access to recently discovered hydrocarbons in the region.

A rise in the number of people crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey to seek asylum in the European Union at Greece’s borders has exacerbated tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

“Greek Coastguard reported multiple incidents of the Turkish Coastguard and Navy accompanying flimsy migrant boats to the border of Europe,” Mitarachi said, adding that without no doubt, these migrants had “departed from Turkish shores and were not at risk.”

Meanwhile, Greece pushed back 231 migrants in seven incidents on Friday, Çataklı stated, “Turkey rescued them,” the Turkish deputy minister said.

Mitarachi called on Turkey to “live up” to the 2016 EU-Turkey joint statement on migration.

Under the deal signed in 2016 between Turkey and the European Union, Ankara agreed to curb the flow of migrants and refugees into the EU in exchange for six billion euros to support refugee-related services, and the promise of visa-free travel in the EU for Turkish citizens.