Rights group slams Greece for ignoring migrants stranded on river

A Greece-based rights group criticized the country for ignoring dozens of irregular migrants, including children, stranded on the river border with Turkey.

The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) said it had asked officials on Monday to rescue 46 people, including 10 minors, stuck on an islet on the Evros river, but had yet to receive a reply.

In the case of another group of 37 people, Greek authorities last week said they were unable to locate them and all contact was subsequently lost, the GCR said.

The organization said that it had alerted authorities to rescue at least 230 asylum seekers from Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq in the Evros area this year.

In some cases, the authorities never responded, it said.

And in at least three cases, GCR said it had information that asylum seekers from Turkey and Syria had been sent back to Turkey without being given a chance to apply for protection.

On Sunday, a female migrant was found dead after a shooting erupted while she and others tried to cross the Evros into Greece.

Greece is often the country of choice for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East as they try to reach a better life in the European Union.

After large numbers of migrants tried to cross the border from Turkey in March 2020, Greece bolstered patrols and installed cameras, radar and a 40-kilometer (25-mile) steel fence over five meters (16 feet) high in the area.

Turkey 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.

Turkey and human 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.

Greece’s pushbacks of irregular migrants have increased by 97% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Norwegian nongovernmental organization (NGO) Aegean Boat Report, which monitors the movement of migrants in the area.

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