BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL AUG 10, 2022 –
Turkish coast guards saved the lives of irregular migrants illegally pushed back by Greek coast guards in the Aegean Sea toward Türkiye, the country’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
“On Aug. 9, 2022, a Turkish Navy UAV detected irregular migrants being transferred to an inflatable boat and pushed back toward Turkish territorial waters by the Greek Coast Guard in the east of the island of Sisam (Samos) in the Aegean Sea. The situation was immediately reported to the Turkish Coast Guard which rescued the irregular migrants,” the Turkish Defense Ministry stated on Twitter.
The Turkish Coast Guard said in a statement on Tuesday that 54 irregular migrants who were pushed back by Greece were rescued off the coast of Karaburun in Izmir province.
Türkiye has been a key transit point 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, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Up to 50 missing after migrant boat sinks off Greece
Meanwhile, an air and sea rescue operation was underway Wednesday after around 50 people went missing when a migrant boat sank in the Aegean Sea, the Greek coastguard said.
The vessel foundered off the islands of Karpathos and Rhodes at dawn after setting sail on Tuesday from Antalya, southern Türkiye, heading for Italy.
“According to the statements of 29 rescued people, there were 80 people on the boat, so up to 50 people are missing,” a coastguard press office official told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The rescue effort, ordered by merchant shipping minister Yannis Plakiotakis, according to a coastguard statement, included four vessels already sailing in the southern Aegean, two coastguard patrol boats and a Greek air force helicopter.
However, strong winds of up to 50 kph (30 mph) were hampering the operation, coastguard spokesperson Nikos Kokalas told Skai radio.
“Many of those shipwrecked were not wearing life jackets,” Kokolas said.
Although boat appears to have been trying to get to Italy, Greece is often the country of choice for migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East to try to reach a better life in the European Union.
Thousands come to Greece via Türkiye over the narrow and perilous sea crossing separating the traditional enemies.
Sixty-four people have perished in the Eastern Mediterranean since January, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.
Eight people died off the Greek island of Mykonos on June 19 when 108 more were rescued, according to the U.N. migration body.
The Greek coastguard on Sunday said 122 migrants were rescued near Rhodes after their vessel ran into trouble after sailing from Türkiye.
Athens says migrant arrival numbers have climbed this year and accuses Ankara of not doing enough to stop smugglers from sending them across the border – often in flimsy boats that make for dangerous journeys.
Charity groups and media accuse Athens of illegally turning back migrants, a charge Greece’s conservative Greek government has denied.