Greece says it is investigating claims that migrants were illegally deported from Turkey

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister says he has ordered an investigation into reports that authorities deported a group of migrants who arrived on an island in the eastern Aegean from. I’m sorrythey are said to have left them on a boat at sea for the Turkish authorities to pick them up.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis – who will be replaced on Thursday by Prime Minister Ioannis Sarmas, the chief justice, ahead of electionon June 25 – strongly opposed this Greece it has a law to return new immigrants to Turkey. This type of illegal pushing is called pushback.

In an interview with CNN late Tuesday, Mitsotakis said he takes the New York Times report “very seriously.”

“It is already being investigated (by) my government,” he said. “I have made several times the difference between (the alleged push), which is unacceptable, and between our responsibility, which is … to come and get these people.”

Greece is the main entry point for migrants seeking a better life in the European Union – many enter illegally from Turkey on unseaworthy boats provided by smugglers. Mitsotakis’s government has stepped up patrols, sharply limiting arrivals, but has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups – and the Turkish authorities – for the crackdown. Athens has consistently denied the allegations.

Mitsotakis on Tuesday accused Turkey’s coast guard of “pushing forward,” saying they “forcefully push desperate people in speedboats … into the sea and (push them) to distant waters.”

The New York Times report was based on a video provided by an activist and appeared two days before Greece’s parliamentary election on Sunday – which Mitsotakis’s centre-right party won by a landslide. But he will need a new election in a month, because the electoral law did not give him a majority to rule.

The report said that in early April the refugees were brought by van to the coast of Lesbos and taken by speedboat to the cruise ship. The coast guard allegedly abandoned the migrants at sea who were picked up by the Turkish coast guard and returned to Turkey.

Ylva Johansson, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, on Tuesday said the EU asked Athens to “investigate thoroughly and independently”.

“It is important that the Greek authorities are followed properly,” he said, adding that the EU’s executive branch “will be ready to take action if necessary.”

Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said on Monday that the EU’s border agency, Frontex, which helps Greece manage its eastern border, has independent observers who can help support an independent investigation.

“At this point, we understand that they have not been able to identify the incident, but they can follow up on any issues that have been reported,” he said.

Greece’s coast guard did not respond to AP’s request for comment on the new rulings.


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