Greece says Turkish coast guard is pushing back migrants



ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece on Tuesday accused Turkey of acting like a “pirate” in the waters between the two regional rivals, saying its coast guard was escorting and attempting to push a ship from Greece into Greek waters. migrants trying to reach Greece illegally.

The Greek Coast Guard posted a video of a large Turkish patrol boat and what appears to be a smaller one next to an inflatable boat containing dozens of people.

A coast guard statement said Turkish ships were accompanying the migrant boat off the Greek island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea near the Turkish coast early Tuesday. He said Greek coastguard ships at the scene prevented the inflatable boat from entering and Turkish coastguard boats eventually picked up the migrants after initially refusing to do so.

“(The video) shows, without a doubt, the clear attempts by the Turkish Coast Guard, using dangerous maneuvers, to steer the dinghy they are escorting into Greek territorial waters so that they can enter illegally,” the statement said. .

Greek Merchant Marine Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis said Turkey “has once again behaved like a pirate state in the Aegean Sea”.

Thousands of people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia each year try to enter Greece from regional rival Turkey. As part of a 2016 agreement with the European Union, of which Greece is a member, Turkey has pledged to stem the flow of migrants.

But Greece has repeatedly accused Turkey – which has its own large migrant population – of encouraging and facilitating attempted crossings.

Tension increased at the two countries’ land border last year after Turkey signaled thousands of migrants to the Greek side and Greece deployed police and military to thwart what it called a “hybrid attack”.

Turkey, in turn, accuses Greece – which has stepped up its border patrols – of illegally returning migrants who arrive on its territory.

The two countries, both NATO allies, also disagree over rights to explore for gas and oil underwater.

“The European Union must exert much stronger pressure on Turkey to comply with its international obligations,” Plakiotakis said. “Greece will continue to protect its maritime borders with determination, respecting international law and giving priority to the protection of human life. “


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