Turkish vice president slams Greece over footage of migrant pushbacks

Turkish vice president slams Greece over footage of migrant pushbacks
Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay slammed Greece over footage shared on social media showing Greek coast guard pushing back boats of migrants in order to force them into Turkish territorial waters.
3 min read
22 November, 2021
Footage from multiple occasions has captured Greek coast guards pushing migrant boats into Turkish waters, according to local media reports [source: Getty]

Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay hurled harsh criticism at Greece on Sunday after footage surfaced showing migrants, including women and children, being pushed back to Turkish waters by Greek forces. 

The videos, shared on Okaty's Twitter account, reportedly showed Greek coast guards in the Aegean Sea intimidating migrants on small boats, including hitting them and firing a gun.

Pushbacks - the forced return of migrants to another country - are illegal under international law.

However, Greece has been repeatedly accused by rights groups, including Amnesty International, of using these aggressive tactics to redirect migrants to Turkey.

"Humanity has once again been trampled on in the Aegean! Shame on you!" Fuat Oktay said in Tweet on Sunday afternoon. 

He called the pushbacks "unacceptable" and urged "Greek authorities with Frontex to fulfill their responsibility" to resolve the situation. 

Frontex is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. It has an obligation to take reasonable measures to protect people from human rights violations like pushbacks, according to Amnesty. 

Footage has repeatedly shown Greek coast guards dragging migrant boats into Turkish waters and sometimes attempting to sink the vessels, according to Anadolu Agency. 

People on the small boats have been pictured with injuries to their heads and arms after these incidents. 

Live Story

Oktay met with European Union Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas one day before he shared the video to discuss migration flow and security. 

The EU delegation to Turkey made it clear that "migration management is a shared responsibility and joint priority both for the European Union and for Turkey".

Okaty said on Twitter he "emphasised" to Schinas that Greece's pushback tactics are wrong. 

A steady stream of migrants pass through Turkey each year, travelling from countries in the Middle East and North Africa to Europe. 

Amnesty has previously documented the repeated use of pushbacks on the land border between Greece and Turkey, calling it a "de facto border policy" by Athens.   

"It is clear that multiple arms of the Greek authorities are closely coordinating to brutally apprehend and detain people who are seeking safety in Greece," said Adriana Tidona, Migration researcher for Europe at Amnesty International.

The human rights organisation called on Greece to fully acknowledge the severity of their actions and to halt pushbacks immediately when their report was released in June 2021. 

It also called on Turkey to "halt all practices forcing or pressuring individuals to return to Greece or otherwise exposing them to risks".