At least three people – two women and one man – drowned after a migrant boat capsized off the coast of Mykonos, Greece on Friday.
After the incident, coast guard officers had observed two migrants swimming near the shores of the Cycladic island. Following their rescue, the men – a Syrian and a Palestinian – informed the authorities about a shipwreck, stating that a total of 17 people were onboard the vessel, which sank under unknown circumstances.
In response to the event, four coast guard vessels, along with three helicopters and ground units, are presently engaged in a search-and-rescue operation to locate the missing migrants.
Greece has long been one of the main entry points into the European Union for refugees and migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Most cross on inflatable boats from Turkey to outlying Greek islands, a short but perilous journey during which thousands have died.
Greece blasted over treatment of migrants
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, blasted Greece over its treatment of asylum-seekers on the island of Lesvos, repeating allegations of illegal deportations back to Turkey and claiming authorities are using hunger as a weapon against some migrants.
“Many people there have been exposed to violence and have alleged abductions by unidentified masked people, pushbacks that forced them out of Greece, arbitrary detentions, and deprivation of food and shelter,” it said.
Last week’s New York Times report claimed that the migrants were taken onto a Greek coast guard boat that left them in a raft at sea to be picked up by the Turkish coast guard, which returned them to Turkey.
The Greek government has ordered an investigation into claims that a group of migrants was illegally deported from Lesvos back to Turkey.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis responded to the video purportedly showing the forced expulsion of migrants at sea from Greek territory calling the incident unacceptable and confirming an ongoing investigation.
In his first television interview since his party’s landslide victory in the Greek elections on May 21, Mitsotakis told CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour that he has already ordered an investigation into the incident.
“I take this incident very seriously,” the Greek premier said.
Asked if Greece was wittingly engaging in pushbacks, Mitsotakis said: “Absolutely not.”
Athens has repeatedly denied persistent allegations that it engages in such deportations, known as pushbacks.
Lesvos is a major landing point for thousands of people seeking a better life in Europe, who cross illegally from Turkey in small boats provided by smuggling gangs.
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