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Greece and Turkey argue on Twitter after 92 refugees are found robbed | News

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Athens, Greece – After 92 asylum seekers were found naked on the Greek side of the Evros River on Friday, Athens and Ankara are again debating accusations of ill-treatment of refugees and making their fight public on Twitter.

The river forms part of the border between the two countries, and the all-male asylum seekers are mostly from Afghanistan and Syria. Some have roots in Iran, Morocco, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Greek police and European border guards affiliated with the EU border agency Frontex found them “abandoned, completely naked and completely unequipped” on the riverbank on the morning of 14 October, the Greek police said in a statement.

The men were held for three nights at the Feres police station, five kilometers (3 miles) from the border, before being taken to the Fylakio First Reception Center for registration and asylum.

The Greek Army and Police guard the border crossing in Kastanies village as migrants trying to enter Greece through the Pazarkule border crossing on the Greece-Turkey border.
Migrants trying to enter Greece through the Pazarkule border gate on the Greek-Turkish border, the Greek Army and Police guard the border gate in Kastanies village. [File: Giannis Papanikos/AP Photo]

Greek police said the men said the men had driven them to the border in official vehicles before Turkish authorities put them on rubber boats and told them to cross.

“They told us that it took 24 hours for the Turkish military police to gather everyone by the river, it was an ordeal because people had no food or water at that time, and then they robbed them and then forcibly crossed the street,” Manos said. Logothetis, head of Greece’s First Reception Service, told Al Jazeera.

“I have requested and will see the UN General Assembly President in New York, I will inform the Commission and show photos and videos,” Greek Immigration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Twitter.

“[Turkey’s] “The behavior towards the 92 immigrants we rescued at the borders today is a disgrace to civilization,” he said. “We expect Ankara to investigate the incident and eventually protect its borders with the EU,” he said.

Turkey has an agreement with the EU in 2016 to detain refugees trying to cross into Europe.

The Turkish presidential office said Mitarakis was “once again conducting perception management tactics using photographs of stripped naked immigrants whose location and date are not specified”.

Turkish government spokesman Fahrettin Altun tweeted in Greek, “We warn Greece to stop its harsh treatment of refugees as soon as possible and to put an end to its baseless and unfounded accusations. [Turkey]and surrender the dignity of the government.”

Turkey has also published a lengthy statement on its official website accusing Greece of regularly harassing refugees and posting photos it claims are evidence.

Greece’s immigration ministry told Al Jazeera that evidence of the latest incident cannot be made public as it is part of a legal filing at the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection.

The UN issued a statement saying it “deeply regrets such cruel and degrading treatment” and called for an investigation.

A troubled border

Greece and Turkey have been in a complete information war over who has been mistreating refugees since March 2020.

That’s when Turkey said it unilaterally abandoned its 2016 obligation to detain or readmit asylum seekers, accusing the EU of not fulfilling its own obligations under the agreement.

Turkey encouraged refugees to attack the Greek border and took many of them to Eastern Thrace at state expense. Greece has since built a steel fence along 12 km (7.4 mi) of its land border with Turkey and announced that it will extend it for 140 km (87 mi).

The EU has also spent millions of euros to set up experimental surveillance systems along this border.

It is unclear why the incident took Greek authorities by surprise, as the 92 men were rounded up over a 24-hour period.

Turkey routinely accuses Greece of pushing refugees back without processing their asylum claims, which is illegal under the 1951 Geneva Convention. Greece also accuses Turkey of pushing refugees forward to further blackmail Europe into looking after them.

Apostolos Veizis, head of Intersos Hellas, an NGO that takes care of refugee children, points out that 92 men landed in Greece on a particularly humiliating day for Greece and the EU.

On 14 October, the European anti-fraud authority OLAF published a report in which individuals at the European border and coast guard Frontex found complicit in the Greek pushbacks.

Frontex replied that it had taken corrective action, but did not refute the accusations.

Refugees and migrants await transfer to camps on the mainland after arriving from the Greek island of Lesbos.
Refugees and migrants await transfer to camps on the mainland after boarding a passenger ferry from Lesbos at the Greek port of Lavrio. [File: Costas Baltas/Reuters]

Robbery of refugees or demanding that they take off some of their clothes were previously used as intimidation tactics.

Al Jazeera reported the story of Parvin, an Iranian psychologist who tried to enter Greece six times this year. He stated that the police in the Evros area took his jacket and the men who were sent back to Turkey with him were left with T-shirts in the almost freezing weather.

NGO Human Rights Watch says Bulgarian authorities robbed asylum seekers before they were sent back to Turkey.

Stripping has also been used as a form of national humiliation.

Last February, Greece denied Turkish accusations that border guards stripped and deported 12 asylum seekers who later died of exposure in Turkey near the Greek borders. Turkey also accused Bulgaria of similar tactics.

A police officer patrols the Evros River delta on a boat near Alexandroupoli, Greece.
In this file footage, a police officer patrols the Evros River delta on a boat near Alexandroupoli along the Greece-Turkey border. The Greek state has built an anti-immigration arsenal that includes cameras, radar and a 40-kilometer (25-mile) steel fence five meters high. [File: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP]

Greek officials claim that Turkey carefully planned the latest event.

“Nothing leaves Turkish territory without the knowledge of the authorities,” said Angelos Syrigos, deputy education minister.

Lieutenant General Andreas Iliopoulos, who. Heading the Interior and Islands Supreme Military Command (ASDEN), responsible for the National Guard in the Aegean in 2015, blamed Turkey, saying that the “instrumentalization of refugees” continues.

“Psychological operations are part of it and its ultimate recipients are the EU, the UN and NATO,” Iliopoulos told Al Jazeera.

“The message is that no matter what we do, Turkey will always be one step ahead… Greece and the EU cannot prevent these moves. not even [border] “It could be a fence, because when people land on this side of Evros, they’re still on Greek soil and whatever happens to them, Greece and the EU are responsible.”

Veizis believes the latest incident is part of a publicity campaign to smear Greece, but few people care.

“When the EU handed over the task of being the European shield to Greece and we agreed, they also rubbed their hands,” said Veizis. “It has become more of a Greek-Turkish ping-pong.”