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Greece must immediately end its inhumane practices on land borders and at sea, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Friday after Turkish authorities found the dead bodies of 19 migrants near Turkey’s border with Greece.
“The images of migrants, whose clothes, shoes, everything was taken on their journey toward holding on to life and who lost their lives as a result of this inhumane treatment, has upset everyone,” the ministry said on Twitter.
The ministry accused Athens of failing to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adding that it believes the people of Greece watched these images with “shame” and were moved by what they saw.
“These practices must henceforth draw the attention of the EU,” the ministry said.
Turkey has blamed Greece for the deaths, accusing Greek border guards of illegally pushing the migrants back over the frontier. Greece has strongly rejected the accusation.
The foreign ministry on the same day issued a similar statement, stating that “Greece’s pushback of irregular migrants in violation of international law and human rights continue to claim innocent lives. This illegal and ruthless practice will be engraved in the memories as a shame for Europe.”
“The EU keeps silent in the face of Greece’s cruel practices against irregular migrants and turns a deaf ear to our calls. We call on the international community to investigate Greece’s actions in violation of human rights and not to remain indifferent to these despicable acts.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed on Thursday to expose Greece allegedly illegally pushing back migrants on every occasion.
Turkey’s interior minister said Wednesday that 12 migrants had died after allegedly being forced back into Turkey. He said they were found near the border, “without shoes and stripped of their clothes.” One of the migrants was found alive but later died in hospital. There was no information about the migrants’ nationalities.
A statement from the governor’s office for the border province of Edirne said seven more bodies were found on Thursday. Anadolu Agency (AA) said gendarmerie forces were searching the area with the help of drones and that medical teams were on standby.
Turkey is a major crossing point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa seeking a better life in European Union countries.
Most try to cross into Greece – a key gateway to the EU for people fleeing war or poverty – by either crossing the northeastern land border or cramming into boats headed for the eastern Aegean Sea islands.
Speaking to reporters before departing for a visit to Ukraine, Erdoğan said he would bring up the issue of Greece’s ill-treatment of migrants during every meeting he holds with world leaders. He also accused the European Union of not speaking out against illegal pushbacks and the EU’s border and coast guard agency, Frontex, of allegedly “supporting” Greece.
Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi on Wednesday described the deaths as a “tragedy” but strongly denied the claim that Greek forces had pushed back the migrants, insisting that the migrants never made it to the border.