A group of nearly 40 migrants reportedly stranded on an islet in Evros River, where the borders of Greece and Turkey meet, have continued to plead for help as none of the two countries assumes responsibility for their rescue.
The islet is not on Greek territory, the Hellenic Police Directorate said on Thursday and Sunday, adding that Turkish authorities have been notified to provide emergency help and evacuation.
A tweet by Notis Mitarachi, Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, reaffirmed Sunday afternoon that repeated searches had been conducted by Greek authorities, without detecting human presence on the islet.
As announced by @hellenicpolice regarding #Evros, we conducted repeated searches, with suitable technical means, without detecting any human presence in the islet. It has been confirmed that this is a point outside Greek territory so immediately we notified Turkish authorities.
— Νότης Μηταράκης – Notis Mitarachi (@nmitarakis) August 14, 2022
Migrants’ drama on Evros islet
The dramatic situation of the group has attracted international attention.
According to Al Jazeera, the migrants are asylum seekers from Syria and say they were forced on the islet by Turkish authorities on August 7 after repeated alleged pushbacks between the two countries.
27-year-old Baida has been trying to get help from humanitarian organizations and journalists, she says, since a child in their group died from a scorpion bite and at least another is in need of urgent medical help -as is a pregnant woman with them.
"No one wants us. No one hears us. No one wants to help."
Baida is one of dozens of Syrian refugees stranded on a Greek islet. She sent out this voicemail. pic.twitter.com/hVMn43cs1i
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 13, 2022
“According to reports received, a child has tragically already died. Unless urgent action is taken, we fear further lives remain at stake,” the UN Refugee Agency’s official account for media professionals wrote Saturday on Twitter.
It urged the authorities of both countries do “everything possible to rescue the group immediately.”
“We are also deeply concerned about migrants stranded by smugglers near our borders. The incident however, as reported by the Hellenic Police, is outside Greek territory,” Minister Mitarachi said in reply.
UNHCR and it’s partners do not have access to the area but continue urging the authorities of both countries to do everything possible to rescue the group immediately.
— UNHCR News (@RefugeesMedia) August 13, 2022
Greece notified Turkey for search and rescue
Hellenic Police had initially stated it was unable to locate the group of migrants.
In a later statement, it said that the islet coordinates -provided by refugees’ rights organizations which alerted them on the issue- proved the islet was outside of Greek territory.
Hellenic Police forwarded the coordinates to Turkish authorities at the Evros Trilateral Contact Center at Kapitan Andreevo, notifying them to evacuate the migrants, some of whom are in urgent need of medical attention.
The center was set up in May 2015 between Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria, where three borders meet, to help in police and customs coordination and in collaboration during emergencies including natural disasters. Authorities of each country are housed in the same center, but consult their individual databases, and observe their national laws.
Refugees’ rights organizations and Greek opposition have nonetheless critisized the Greek authorities for indifference as the migrants’ drama on the Evros islet unfolds.
In a joint announcement, SYRIZA MPs Anastasia Gara, Andreas Xanthos and Giorgos Psychogios, said Greece should put pressure on the highest political level to get both Turkey and the EU activated to rescue the migrants, and demand that Turkey provides immediate healthcare to the group, in the context of the two countries’ cooperation agreement in immigration.
The latest statement by Hellenic Police, published Sunday, said that the Turkish authorities had indeed been notified twice to help the stranded migrants.
“Every day and each moment, the Forces of the Hellenic Police protect the Greek and European borders, and certainly the human life, which is the prime value,” it concluded.