Greek coast guard 'fires shots' at refugee boat

Greek coast guard 'fires shots' at refugee boat

Greek coast guard fires shots at refugee boat

A video footage that became viral on social media on March 2 which appeared to show Greek coastguard vessels confronting a dinghy carrying refugees to Greece, as a Syrian man was reportedly shot dead by police on the border.

The footage shows two vessels, one inflatable motor boat and another one with Hellenic Coast Guard markings. While a man from the inflatable boat is seen hitting the migrant boat with a stick, another is seen firing a gun. Meanwhile, the larger coast guard vessel sails across the bow of the migrant boat.

The video has stirred outrage on social media as many has criticized Greek authorities for "pushing back" refugees and migrants.

Two Turkish security sources told Reuters that a Syrian migrant had died from injuries on March 1 after Greek security forces intervened to prevent migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece, but Athens branded the claim "fake news".   

A child died too after being pulled from the sea when a boat capsized on March 2 off the Greek island of Lesbos, Greek officials said, the first reported fatality since Turkey opened its border last week to let migrants reach Europe.   

More than 10,000 migrants, mostly from Syria, other Middle Eastern states and Afghanistan, have reached Turkey's land borders with EU states Greece and Bulgaria since Ankara said on Feb. 27 it would stop keeping them on its territory.   

Over 117,000 migrants leave Turkey to reach Europe
Over 117,000 migrants leave Turkey to reach Europe

Further south, at least 1,000 migrants have reached Greece's eastern Aegean islands since March 1 morning, Greek police say.   

The Greek coast guard said the boat which capsized off Lesbos had been escorted there by a Turkish vessel. Forty-six people were rescued and two children were taken to hospital, one of whom could not be revived.   

Another dinghy with about 30 Afghans arrived on Lesbos early in the morning, a Reuters journalist reported from the island. Thirty-two others were rescued in the seas off Farmakonissi, a small island close to Turkey, the coast guard said.   

Migrants on way to Europe overcharged to reach border
Migrants on way to Europe overcharged to reach border

"This is an invasion," Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Skai TV on March 2.    

The latest migrant surge follows Turkey's decision to stop enforcing a 2016 agreement with the European Union whereby it prevented migrants from entering the bloc in return for billions of euros in aid.   

Turkey, already home to 3.7 million Syrian refugees, has another million arriving on its doorstep from a new surge of fighting in northern Syria and says it cannot handle any more.       

White flags

The EU's chief executive Ursula von der Leyen expressed sympathy on March 1 with Turkey over the conflict in Syria but said its decision to let refugees and migrants cross into Europe "cannot be an answer or solution".   

Von der Leyen was due to visit the Greek-Turkish border on March 3 with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Migrants on the Turkish side of the border, some holding white flags, called the Greek soldiers and riot police to open the gates to let them through, saying they had kids and women.   

A Greek government spokesman said a video circulating on social media showing a young man with wounds to the head laid out on the ground near the border was "fake news". Two Turkish security sources said the Syrian man had died of his wounds.   

Turkey slams Greece for ill-treatment of migrants
Turkey slams Greece for ill-treatment of migrants

"We call upon everyone to use caution when reporting news that furthers Turkish propaganda," spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Twitter.     

Petsas has said the migrant surge poses "an active, serious, severe and asymmetrical threat to national security".   

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria, which also shares a land border with Turkey, was due to hold talks in Ankara on March 2 evening with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the migrant crisis.   

Turkey's decision to open its border threatens to reverse an agreement that halted Western Europe's biggest wave of migration since World War Two, the 2015-2016 crisis when 4,000 people drowned in Aegean and more than a million reached Greece.   

There are more than 40,000 migrants still living on Greece's Aegean islands in severely overcrowded camps.   

More than 60 non-governmental organizations urged the EU on March 2 in an open letter to take urgent action to relocate them across the bloc and speed up the processing of asylum claims.

Erdoğan, who has long accused the EU of failing to provide enough support to Ankara in the migrant crisis, opened Turkey's border after at least 34 Turkish soldiers sent to Syria to monitor a crumbling ceasefire there were killed last week.