Greece denies role in Aegean migrant deaths
DHA PhotoGreek authorities have denied any involvement in the Jan. 5 migrant tragedy in the Aegean Sea, citing reports in several Turkish media outlets to that end.
“The Headquarters of the Hellenic Coast Guard categorically denies the claims made in articles in a significant portion of the Turkish press to the effect that yesterday’s [Jan. 5] tragedy off the Turkish coast, which resulted in the loss of dozens of refugees, fellow human beings, was due to the supposed refoulement of these refugees on the boats they were aboard by the Hellenic Coast Guard,” the Greek Coast Guard said in a written statement on Jan. 6.
The Coast Guard command said patrolling activities of Greek Frontex vessels in Greek territorial waters east of the Greek island of Lesbos did not necessarily mean any involvement in the migrant tragedy that happened on Jan. 5, stressing that the claims stated in several media reports were unfounded and unreal.
“The reports of these vessels indicate no involvement whatsoever in the tragedy that was taking place. Thus, the claims of a portion of the Turkish press are totally groundless and bear no relationship with the reality of the situation,” it said.
The statement came as the Turkish authorities announced that the bodies of 31 migrants had been found on Turkey’s Aegean coast, after their boats sank in bad weather while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos.
Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy head and spokesperson Ömer Çelik told a press conference in Ankara on Jan. 6 that the Greek naval authorities directed boats carrying a total of 55 migrants back to Turkey, triggering the tragedy.