LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

The Greek Cypriot coast guard “summarily pushed back, abandoned, expelled, or returned more than 200 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers,” an international rights group said on Tuesday.

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the group came from Lebanon in seven boats between Aug. 29 and Sept. 7 and was not given “the opportunity to lodge asylum claims.”

Some migrants were beaten and threatened by the Greek Cypriot administration’s marine police, the report said.

According to the HRW, Greek Cypriot coast guard vessels circled the migrants at high speeds, swamping their boats, and, in at least one case, abandoning them at sea without fuel and food.

The rights group added that information on ill-treatment of migrants and asylum seekers was garnered via interviews with 15 Lebanese and Syrian nationals.

According to witnesses and victims on two boats that were turned back, Greek Cypriot marine police handcuffed and beat up individuals who resisted orders to return, HRW said.

The rights group urged Greek Cypriot judicial authorities to conduct a transparent, thorough, and impartial investigation into the allegations.

Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at HRW, said: “That Lebanese nationals are now joining Syrian refugees on boats to flee Lebanon and seek asylum in the European Union is a mark of the severity of the crisis facing that country.”

*Writing by Handan Kazanci

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