At least 19 irregular migrants have been found frozen to death near the Greek-Turkish border after Greek border officials stripped them of their clothes and pushed them back to Turkish territory, local authorities said on Thursday, raising the death toll from 12 a day earlier.
“Unfortunately, the number of immigrants whose dead bodies we recovered in the search and rescue activities that have continued yesterday and today has reached 19,” the governor’s office in the northwestern province of Edirne said in a statement.
Turkish authorities recovered the bodies of seven more migrants who were reportedly pushed back by Greek border forces, raising the death toll from 12 on Wednesday.
Turkish gendarmerie teams continue to sweep the area from the land and air with drones in the hopes of finding more migrants who might be alive in the area, with medical teams kept at the ready, the statement added.
The country’s interior minister announced on Wednesday that the initial 12 irregular migrants were found frozen to death in Edirne, which shares a border with Greece.
Twelve of 22 migrants “pushed back” by Greek border forces and stripped of their clothes and shoes “froze to death,” Suleyman Soylu said on Twitter.
The EU “is remediless, weak and void of humane feelings,” said Soylu, adding that while Greek forces acted as a “thug” against people who had been made “victims,” they were tolerant towards members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, which was behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkiye.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also weighed in on Thursday, accusing the EU of silence and vowing to expose Greece’s illegal pushbacks.
Erdogan said it would be unacceptable to remain indifferent to such an incident.
Meanwhile, Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi issued a statement on Twitter saying that the incident was a “tragedy.”
However, he denied that Greek forces had pushed them back into Turkiye, saying any suggestion otherwise “is patently false.”
Turkiye has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Turkiye and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable people, including women and children.
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