Turkey seeks to escort migrants into Greek waters, Greece says

Greek authorities said the Turkish coast guard tried to escort a boat containing migrants into Greek waters on Wednesday, the New York Times reported.

The Greek coast guard said a migrant boat was seen in Turkish waters off the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, and that nearby Turkish patrol boats ignored repeated appeals to intercept it before eventually picking up the migrants several hours later, the New York Times said. 

“The boat did not enter Greek waters at any point, despite efforts by the Turkish patrol boats to escort it in,” a statement by the Greek coast guard said.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been tense over recent weeks due to a dispute over gas exploration rights off the coast of Cyprus, Turkish claims to Greek waters, and Turkey’s decision to open its land borders in late February to migrants and refugees seeking to enter Greece. 

Greece sealed its land border after thousands of people were bussed to the Turkish side, and weeks of tension followed as Athens accused Turkey of encouraging and aiding migrants and refugees as they attempted to cross the border. 

The New York Times reported in March that the Greek authorities were violating international law by holding migrants at a secret extrajudicial location before illegally expelling them to Turkey without the chance to claim asylum or speak to a lawyer.

Turkey has accused the European Union of failing to keep to pledges under a refugee deal signed in 2016, in which Ankara would receive financial aid in return for curbing the flow of migrants and refugees into the EU.