Greece accuses Turkey of forcing stranded migrants over border

Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi speaks during an interview in his office of the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum in Athens on March 16, 2021. Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP

Greece on Tuesday accused Turkey of forcibly pushing a group of stranded migrants onto a small Greek island and leaving behind the body of a five-year-old child who died, Agence France-Presse reported.

The incident follows years of tensions between the neighbors over migration issues, with each side blaming the other of avoiding their responsibilities.

The migrants were trapped on an islet in the Evros river at the border between the two countries.

In a statement issued while visiting the area, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the group were now being provided medical treatment in Greece.He said the 35 Syrians and three Palestinians had originally arrived on the Turkish side of the river.

“The Turkish authorities forced them to cross illegally into Greece,” he wrote on Twitter.

“It appears from statements that a 5-year-old child died on Turkish soil,” he added. Greek officials would work with the Red Cross to ensure her body was recovered for a proper burial.

Greek police suggested the group had not been found earlier as the migrants, who included a pregnant woman, were “some four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the point initially declared, which was outside Greek territory.”

The pregnant woman has been transferred to hospital.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR had previously expressed concern for the group and called for them to be cared for.

Greek police said they had informed Turkish border authorities about the case “twice” in recent days.

Tensions have simmered between Greece and Turkey over the issue of migrants, with both sides accusing the other of “pushbacks” on the border.

Earlier this year, Turkey said 12 migrants had frozen to death after being stripped of their clothes and moved on by Greek border guards.

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