Daily Sabah (Turkey)

More migrants fall victim to Greece’s mistreatme­nt policy

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TWO irregular migrants seeking internatio­nal protection were pushed from a boat off the coast of the Greek island Samos and drowned in the Aegean Sea near the Turkish coast, a recent media investigat­ion revealed. The story of the victims once again revealed the extent of the cruelty directed toward migrants by the Hellenic Coast Guard units.

As the British media outlet The Guardian reported Thursday, Sidy Keita from the Ivory Coast and Didier Martial Kouamou Nana from Cameroon on Sept. 15, 2021, boarded a dinghy from Turkey to Greece. After they reached Samos, their bodies were found days later washed ashore in western Turkey’s Aegean coast province Aydın.

TWO irregular migrants seeking internatio­nal protection were pushed from a boat off the coast of Greek island Samos and drowned to death in the Aegean Sea near the Turkish coast, a recent media investigat­ion revealed. The story of victims once again revealed the extent of cruelty directed toward migrants by the Hellenic Coast Guard units.

As the British media outlet The Guardian reported Thursday, Sidy Keita from Ivory Coast and Didier Martial Kouamou Nana from Cameroon on Sept. 15, 2021, boarded a dinghy from Turkey to Greece. After they reached Samos, their bodies were found days later washed ashore in western Turkey’s Aegean coast province Aydın.

The fate of two migrants was investigat­ed by the Guardian, Lighthouse Reports, Mediapart and Der Spiegel through interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, analysis of classified documents, satellite imagery, social media accounts and online material, and discussion­s with officials in Turkey and Greece.

“Keita, 36, left Ivory Coast after taking part in protests against president Alassane Ouattara. He arrived in Turkey in March 2020. Kouamou, 33, a mechanic in Cameroon, landed in Turkey last year, hoping to join his brother who had been living in France since 2014,” wrote The Guardian.

In search of reaching European territory, both men boarded a dinghy from near Aydın’s Kuşadası district on the Turkish coast in the early hours of Sept. 15 with 34 others.

Shortly after the dinghy arrived at the north-eastern shore of Samos around 7 a.m., witnesses described hearing what sounded like shots being fired.

“In a panic, the people on the dinghy split up, scrambling up the hilly terrain to hide where they could. Eight managed to escape into the countrysid­e but the other 28, including a baby, young children and a pregnant woman, were apprehende­d by the authoritie­s.”

As reported in many other cases, 28 migrants caught by Greek officials were loaded onto a coastguard boat, driven out to sea and cast adrift on two life rafts.

According to witnesses, at least three migrants were strip-searched and beaten and at least one woman was subjected to an internal physical search by officers looking for money.

“The police beat us with the greatest violence,” one migrant said.

“I was punched in the face and in the stomach. I was crying.” Another said she was robbed of her money and her baby was thrown into the life raft “as if you were throwing a garbage can.” “We have to denounce this because it’s inhuman. They hit people in front of us, they traumatize­d the children.”

While two rafts were rescued by Turkish coast guard units a few hours later, the pregnant woman had gone into labor on the raft and delivered her baby shortly after being rescued.

Among those eight migrants who managed to escape from authoritie­s after landing on Samos, four were taken to a refugee camp on the island and the other four were picked up.

“One woman was apprehende­d outside a monastery, given a bottle of water and cast out to sea on her own. She was rescued by the Turkish coastguard on Sept. 17.”

The fate of three others makes for another tragic migrant story caused by inhumane treatment by Greece and the European Union’s border agency Frontex against migrants.

After sleeping in the forest overnight, Keita, Kouamou and another migrant introduced as “Ibrahim” in the story were stopped the next day on a road by people identifyin­g themselves as police officers, asked for ID and stripped of their phones and money before being put into a car and taken to a port.

As they were then loaded onto a vessel used by the coastguard on Samos, they were pushed into the water after half an hour.

“I resisted,” Ibrahim said. “They beat me before throwing me into the water.” He said he swam desperatel­y, the waves helping push him toward the Turkish shore and he was on the beach a few hours from Kuşadası.

He stated Keita’s body washed up soon after. Ibrahim put a stick in the sand near Keita’s body and started walking along the coast.

After being picked up by Turkish security forces on Sept. 18, Ibrahim described to them the events that led to Keita’s death.

“They pushed all of us into the sea,” he told the authoritie­s. “They did not provide us with a raft or boat.” He said Kouamou had disappeare­d beneath the waves. Later that day, Keita’s body was found by the Turkish coastguard. Two days later, they found Kouamou on the same beach. Ibrahim later identified both bodies in the morgue in İzmir. Medical documents state that Keita drowned and that Kouamou’s body had been found in the sea, close to shore.

Speaking in İzmir in October, Ibrahim said he believed it was partly down to God that he survived. “I feel like I left a part of me in the water,” he said.

Kouamou’s body was returned to Cameroon, thanks to the savings of his older brother, Severin. He leaves behind a wife and two young children. “The news of his death broke us all,” said his aunt, Marinette. “His death left me traumatize­d to have lost such a good son.”

Keita’s family could not raise the money to bring him back to the Ivory Coast, and he lies in an unmarked grave in İzmir, thousands of miles from home.

The Greek authoritie­s have denied the allegation­s. Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi dismissed the report as “fake news” fuelled by “Turkish propaganda”.

“In the absence of any action by the Turkish authoritie­s, the Greek coastguard continues to save the lives of thousands of men, women and children at sea every year,” he said in a statement.

According to Der Spiegel, Greek lawyers are preparing a complaint in a local court, while Turkish lawyers have filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

GREEK PUSHBACKS

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecutio­n to start new lives. The journey of hope of irregular migrants, who set out to start a new life, either ends in the blue waters of the Aegean or turns into a nightmare due to the inhumane practices of Greek coast guard units. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have made the short but perilous journey across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life. Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees often sink or capsize. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.

Turkey and many internatio­nal human rights groups have accused Greece of largescale pushbacks and summary deportatio­ns without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, saying it violates humanitari­an values and internatio­nal law by endangerin­g the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children. They also accuse the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.

Greece’s pushbacks of irregular migrants increased by 97% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Norwegian nongovernm­ental organizati­on (NGO) Aegean Boat Report, which monitors the movement of migrants in the area.

Most recently, 19 irregular migrants were found frozen to death near the GreekTurki­sh border after Greek border officials stripped them off their clothes, stole their valuable possession­s and pushed them back into Turkish territory.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu shared several photos of the sites where the migrants were found, with the victims’ lifeless bodies blurred.

Commenting on the incident, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the EU’s border protection agency Frontex for cooperatin­g with Greece and the bloc for turning a blind eye to the deaths of migrants.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also said Friday: “In the last three years, they (Greece) pushed 85,000 refugees ruthlessly, criminally and inhumanly, especially at sea. There has to be another way. This must be stopped immediatel­y.”

Turkey’s coast guards say they have rescued more than 15,000 migrants pushed back by Greece last year.

Athens denies violating internatio­nal convention­s and insists it is doing its duty to protect the EU’s southeaste­rn borders against illegal crossings. The EU has infuriated Turkey by largely supporting the Greek position. EU’s Frontex has also been involved in some Greek pushbacks of migrants.

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 ?? ?? Protesters hold banners and signs, during a protest march against migrant pushbacks and border violence, in central Athens, Greece, Feb. 6, 2022.
Protesters hold banners and signs, during a protest march against migrant pushbacks and border violence, in central Athens, Greece, Feb. 6, 2022.

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