Greek authorities abandoned 1,072 migrants at the edge of Greece's water territory on inflatable life rafts, according to The New York Times.
Evidence from multiple sources, including the Turkish Coast Guard, academic researches and independent watchdog groups were analyzed by The Times and they found out that there were at least 31 different incidents of these expulsions in the country in the past few months.
A 50 year old Syrian teacher, Najma al-Khatib, told The Times that on July 26, she and 22 other migrants including babies were taken by Greek officials from a detention center located on the island of Rhodes while it was still dark outside. She said the officials were masked and forced the on a rudderless, motorless life raft and were left there. They were later rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.
The teacher told The Times that she left Syria because she was afraid of the bombing. What they did to her made her wish she had just died under a bomb.
Last month, The Guardian reported that Greece was preparing to handle and increase of migrants from Turkey after the country arrested six smugglers.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to release hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe in the middle of the ongoing tensions between the EU and Turkey.
The EU border agency said that the threats of the Turkish president prompted additional defense along the land and sea borders of Greece.
However, The Times reported that the move to abandon migrants in the middle of the sea is illegal under any international law.
However, The Times reports that the move to abandon migrants at sea is illegal under international law. François Crépeau, former United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and professor of law at the Faculty of Law at McGill University said that the pushbacks are illegal in all of their aspects, in the European law and the international law.
Crépeau said that what the Greek officials did was a human rights and humanitarian disaster. However, Greece denied that they have done anything illegal.
Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, said that Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities. He added that Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, protocols and conventions. This also includes the treatment of refugees and migrants.
Tension between Turkey and the EU
On August 14, European Union foreign ministers held urgent talks about the current military tensions between Turkey and Greece over the drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean, according to EuroNews.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said Turkey would proceed with its search for gas and oil in the disputed waters until August 23. However, after talks with Germany, he signaled that Berlin and Ankara had agreed to a softening of positions next week.
Greece has its own naval vessels between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete while Turkey has a research ship accompanied by two warships.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias went to Vienna on August 14 to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that they are working toward a direct dialogue between the parties that would contribute to finding a solution for the ongoing issue.
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