THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greece says it will work with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to search for the body of a boy who a group of asylum seekers say died of a scorpion sting while stranded for days in the greek sea -Turkish border.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said Tuesday that the islet in the Evros River, which runs along much of the land border, where the group said the girl’s body was, was Turkish territory.
“Through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, we will act so that the girl’s body can be found on the Turkish islet and buried with dignity by her family,” Mitarachi said.
Greek police said on Monday they had found 38 people – 22 men, nine women and seven children – inside Greek territory, away from the river and about four kilometers (2.5 miles) south of where the group was reported to be. stranded. Mitarachi, who visited the migrant reception center to which the group members were transferred in northeastern Greece on Tuesday, said the 35 Syrians and three Palestinians were in good health and a pregnant woman among them had been taken to hospital. for precautionary reasons.
Greek authorities had come under fire for days after aid organizations said a group of people were stranded in increasingly precarious conditions on an islet in the Evros river, known as Meric in Turkish. Greek police said last week that they had followed successive reports of migrants stranded on islets in the river, but had found no one. Greece had said that the coordinates they had been given placed the group in Turkey, not Greece.
On Monday night, Turkish authorities said a search mission had been launched after media and social media reported that 39 irregular migrants were trapped on an islet in the river.
The governor’s office of the border province of Edirne said no one was found after a four-day search by Turkey’s emergency agency AFAD and border units in the area corresponding to the coordinates given for the islet.
“A search activity was conducted and no immigrant or group of immigrants were found,” the statement said.
The head of the Greek Council for Refugees, Vassilis Papadopoulos, said his group first heard about the migrants in mid-July. He said some 50 people had allegedly crossed over to the Greek side but were later forced to return to Turkey. The migrants also told their organization that the Turkish authorities allegedly returned them to one islet after another, until they ended up trapped on a Greek islet in the middle of the river.
Speaking from northeastern Greece on Tuesday, Mitarachi said the group told Greek authorities they had entered Greek territory on August 14 and hid for a day before sending details of their location. He said the migrants told Greek authorities that Turkish authorities had taken them to the river and forced them to try to cross into Greece.
“Officially, the Turkish authorities arrested these immigrants inside Turkey, they did not give them the right to apply for international protection, as Turkey is obliged to do under international law,” Mitarachi said. “On the contrary, the Turkish gendarmerie took them to the banks of the Evros and, with the threat of the use of violence, pressured them to come to Greece.”
Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to cross into Greece from Turkey every year, hoping for a better life in Europe. Greece denies that it carries out refoulement, summarily deporting those who reach its territory back to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum, both at sea and across the Evros River, despite persistent accusations from both rights organizations humans as well as the migrants themselves. Refunds are illegal under international law.
Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report
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