Yet an­other mi­grant freezes to death af­ter Greek ‘push­back’

The body of a man be­lieved to be an il­le­gal mi­grant was found frozen to death in a Turk­ish vil­lage bor­der­ing Greece late Wed­nes­day. This is the fourth body found this week in the re­gion amid ac­cu­sa­tions that Greece il­le­gally ‘pushes back’ ar­riv­ing mi­grant

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

BOD­IES of mi­grants keep pil­ing up on Turkey’s border with Greece, while Greece de­nies it is in­volved in il­le­gal “push­back” prac­tices. Vil­lagers in Adasarhanlı, where the body of an­other mi­grant was found ear­lier this week, alerted au­thor­i­ties af­ter they dis­cov­ered a body in a rice field, a short dis­tance from the Turk­ish-Greek border, late Wed­nes­day. The man is be­lieved to be an il­le­gal mi­grant forced to walk back to Turkey in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures by Greek po­lice as part of their con­tro­ver­sial push­back prac­tice.

INI­TIAL in­ves­ti­ga­tion shows the man froze to death three days ago, and there were le­sions on his body stem­ming from pro­longed ex­po­sure to wa­ter.

İbrahim Dalkıran, the leader of the vil­lage, said they have seen a large num­ber of mi­grants re­cently in the area, and many took shel­ter, in wet clothes or half naked, in Adasarhanlı. “This is a hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion. Greece sends back mi­grants al­most ev­ery three or four days. Some ar­rive in­jured, and we call a doc­tor. It is sad to see them in such a state,” Dalkıran told re­porters.

Olga Gerovasili, Greece’s minister for cit­i­zen pro­tec­tion whose min­istry over­sees border se­cu­rity, has de­nied pre­vi­ous al­le­ga­tions of push­back and told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Greece is not in­volved in such in­ci­dents. Yet, fig­ures pro­vided to AA by Turk­ish se­cu­rity sources show many il­le­gal mi­grants were forced to go back to Turkey by Greek of­fi­cials, with some 2,490 mi­grants be­ing pushed back in Novem­ber alone. The agency re­ports that some 300 of them were sub­jected to mis­treat­ment by Greek se­cu­rity forces, rang­ing from beat­ings to be­ing forced to go back half naked to the Turk­ish side of the border.

Three bod­ies, be­lieved to be Afghan or Pak­istani mi­grants, were found in three vil­lages in Edirne, the Turk­ish prov­ince that bor­ders Greece. More than 70,000 il­le­gal mi­grants were in­ter­cepted in Edirne be­tween Jan­uary and Novem­ber, a high num­ber com­pared to the 47,731 stopped last year as they tried to cross into Greece de­spite an in­crease in push­back re­ports.

Un­der in­ter­na­tional laws and con­ven­tions, Greece is obliged to reg­is­ter any ille- gal mi­grants en­ter­ing its ter­ri­tory; yet, this is not the case for some mi­grants. Se­cu­rity sources say that ac­counts of mi­grants in­ter­viewed by Turk­ish mi­gra­tion au­thor­ity staff and so­cial work­ers show that they are forced to re­turn to Turkey, where they ar­rived from their home­lands with the hope of reach­ing Europe.

Pırıl Erçoban, a co­or­di­na­tor for the As­so­ci­a­tion for Sol­i­dar­ity with Refugees (Mül­teci-Der), says push­back con­sti­tutes a se­ri­ous crime. She said it was “sad and un­ac­cept­able” that three mi­grants died, the num­ber of deaths il­lus­trates a se­ri­ous prob­lem. “It sheds light on the fact that push­back is be­ing ap­plied. It is still a crime to send those peo­ple back, even if they can make it back to Turkey alive,” Erçoban told AA. She says push­back was also tak­ing place on mi­grant sea jour­neys, but has stopped, al­though the prac­tice has con­tin­ued on land. “Both Greece and Bul­garia are in­volved in this prac­tice. Our fig­ures show some 11,000 [il­le­gal mi­grants] en­tered Turkey from Greece and Bul­garia, though not all of them were forced; we be­lieve a sub­stan­tial por­tion of re­turns are the re­sult of push­back,” she said, adding re­turns were mostly via Greece. Erçoban said tak­ing le­gal ac­tion to help mi­grants forced to re­turn was dif­fi­cult, as they could not reach the vic­tims. “There should be ad­min­is­tra­tive and crim­i­nal sanc­tions, and the cul­prits should be found. Turkey should take steps against push­back if [Greece] adopted it as a state pol­icy. We hear that they are be­ing beaten with iron bars and sent back with­out their clothes. This is a crime,” she added.

Ev­ery year, hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­grants flee civil con­flict or eco­nomic hard­ship in their home coun­tries in hope of reach­ing Europe. Edirne is a pri­mary mi­gra­tion route. Turk­ish Direc­torate Gen­eral of Mi­gra­tion Man­age­ment data re­veals that most of the mi­grants come from Pak­istan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The num­bers in­crease in late sum­mer and au­tumn be­fore drop­ping in the win­ter months.

Tem­per­a­tures hover near mi­nus zero de­grees Cel­sius in Edirne and other prov­inces at the border, which also saw heavy rain­fall last week. Mi­grants usu­ally take boats on the Meriç River, while some try to swim across to the other side. Early yesterday, po­lice stopped 17 Pak­istani mi­grants who were walk­ing on train tracks near the border.

Mi­grants walk on train tracks near the Turk­ish-Greece border in Edirne. Edirne has seen an in­flux of mi­grants choos­ing the land route to Europe in re­cent months.

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