Greek Coast Guard Attempts to Turn Back Migrants


Published Mar 2, 2020 9:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

Video footage released by the Turkish government Monday appears to show the Greek Coast Guard taking extraordinary measures to turn back migrants in small rubber boats. The Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos are just a few miles from Turkey's Aegean coastline, making them an ideal place for migrants passing through Turkey to stage a crossing into Europe. 

The video appears to depict Greek coast guard patrol vessels firing shots near a migrant boat, driving close by and washing a boat with heavy wake, and causing a minor collision by cutting across a boat's bow. The Greek Coast Guard has denied knowledge of the video. 

One child was killed early Monday when a rubber boat with 48 passengers capsized in Greek waters, the Greek Coast Guard said in a statement. 46 others were recovered in good health, and one additional child was transported to a hospital. 

Under an agreement with the EU signed in 2016, Turkey has restricted the movement of migrants through its territory to Europe, receiving billions of euros in humanitarian aid in return. The agreement cut the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe in half within two years' time. 

However, Turkey has accused the EU of moving too slowy in fulfilling its end of the bargain, and last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his government would "open the doors" for Syrian migrants residing in Turkey to leave. Clashes between migrants and Greek border guards erupted over the weekend as Syrians attempted to cross. 

Turkey faces its own migration crisis: about one million residents of Syria's Idlib province have been displaced by the recent advance of Syrian government forces, and these refugees could soon spill over Turkey's southern border. Turkey already houses about 3.6 million Syrian refugees. 

This article originally referred to the migrants attempting to enter Greece via small boat as Syrian nationals. According to UNHCR, about half of the migrants who arrive in the Greek islands are from Afghanistan, not Syria. Since January, migrants from Syria have made up only about 12-20 percent of the total. Children account for about one third of all arrivals.