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Turkey’s Coast Guard Attempts to Push Migrant Dinghy to Greece

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A tense stand-off between Greek and Turkish Coast Guard vessels east of Lesvos occurred on Tuesday morning. Credit: Greek Coast Giard

Turkey’s Coast Guard attempted to escort a dinghy with about 40 migrants on board to Greece’s Lesvos island, Greek authorities announced on Tuesday.

The incident occurred early in the morning in the sea area east of Lesvos.

According to the Hellenic Coast Guard, two Turkish Coast Guard vessels escorted the dinghy with the intention to help it cross into Greek territorial waters.

Greek officers demanded via radio that their Turkish colleagues push back with the dinghy, but they received no reply. Instead, according to the Greek Coast Guard, they indulged in dangerous maneuvers in close proximity with the Greek vessels which were monitoring the situation.

After a tense stand-off, the Turkish vessels turned back towards the Turkish coast accompanied by the migrant dinghy.

In an announcement, the Greek Coast Guard said: “[We] take all necessary measures, with determination, respect for international law, and sensitivity to human life, for the effective surveillance and protection of the maritime borders of Greece and the EU.”

It adds: “[Our] efforts are reflected by the rapid reduction in the number of illegal crossings of our maritime borders by third-country nationals.”

Turkey behaves as a pirate state, Greece says

The Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Giannis Plakiotakis, slammed Turkey saying that it behaves like a pirate state in the Aegean.

“Once again, Turkey behaved like a pirate state in the Aegean. In violation of its commitments to the European Union, this morning, Turkish coastguards accompanied a boat with dozens of people who tried to violate the maritime borders of our country.

“The timely and calm reaction of the officers of the Coast Guard prevented the violation of our borders and stopped the development of the episode. The European Union must put much more pressure on Turkey to comply with its international obligations,” Plakiotakis said.

Greece is accusing Turkey of using the migrants as a tool to blackmail Greece — and by extension, the European Union. Hundreds of migrants have perished in the Aegean since the migrant crisis erupted in the early 2010s.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 2,500 people have crossed the Aegean from neighboring Turkey this year, compared to over 9,700 in 2020. Over 100 people died or are missing in migrant boat sinkings last year, the agency’s data shows.

In the latest incident on October 26, the Greek Coast Guard recovered the bodies of four children and a woman, all migrants, after their boat sunk in the sea off Chios Island.

Greece has been accused of illegal pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers. In early October, the EU executive called for an investigation, which Athens is flatly denying.

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