Afghan migrant killed by Greek forces at border, Turkey says


An Afghan citizen attempting to cross the Turkish-Greek border illegally was shot and fatally wounded by Greek border guards on Monday, the Turkish border guard said.

Military police in Meriç, a border district near the Maritsa (Meriç) River in northeastern Turkey’s Edirne province, confirmed the death to Agence France-Presse (AFP) but did not comment on other details of the incident reported in Turkish media.

According to Demirören News Agency (DHA), the dead man was one of eight people trying to cross from Turkey into Greece, the gateway to the European Union.

“Security forces on the Greek side opened fire on a group of Afghan immigrants who wanted to cross the border illegally. One person … was seriously injured” and later died in hospital, DHA reported.

An inquiry has been opened into the incident, the news agency added.

Meanwhile, Greece on Monday rejected a UN report claiming that its border forces had illegally repelled thousands of asylum-seekers over the past two years.

“The report … is not based on primary research but reproduces older findings by the (UN refugee agency), foreign media reports and the recommendations of nongovernmental organizations,” a Greek migration ministry source said.

The ministry source added that such claims are “already under investigation as to their validity” but insisted that past checks had so far “never confirmed illegal actions (by Greece) whilst guarding its borders.”

“The Greek coast guard and Greek police on a daily basis save people whose life is at risk at sea and land borders,” the source added.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, had earlier shared the report saying that “in Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy.”

“UNHCR has recorded almost 540 separate incidents during the period 2020-2021, 40 involving at least 17,000 people who were reportedly returned by force, informally, to Turkey,” said the report, which will be formally presented on June 23.

“The Special Rapporteur concludes that pushbacks remain the de facto general policy in many states and continue to seriously impede the enjoyment of the human rights of migrants who cross international borders,” the report said.

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 for irregular migrants 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 large-scale 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 routinely denies that its border forces engage in illegal pushbacks, despite repeated claims to the contrary by rights groups and asylum-seekers.

Rights groups have also repeatedly accused EU border agency Frontex of illegally returning migrants across EU borders.

The Greek government last week declined to comment on the resignation of Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri in April amid an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office, reportedly into alleged mismanagement.

“(Greece) has nothing to observe,” government spokesperson Yannis Economou said Thursday.

Frontex has repeatedly been accused by aid groups of illegally returning migrants across EU borders – or of turning a blind eye when national authorities themselves carried out such “pushbacks.”

Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey have been a major focus of such allegations.

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