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Greek PM Mitsotakis denies refugee pushback claims

'Greece is a country that respects the rule of law, we've granted asylum to tens of thousands of people'

AFP , Thursday 20 Aug 2020
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek PM
Main opposition New Democracy conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during an interview with Reuters at the party's headquarters in Athens, Greece, April 8, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has denied renewed claims of illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers at sea and accused Turkey of peddling "misinformation" about his country's "tough but fair" border management.

"If there's any incident that needs to be explored, if there's any exaggeration at any given point, I'm going to be the first to look into it," Mitsotakis told CNN late Wednesday.

"Greece is a country that respects the rule of law, we've granted asylum to tens of thousands of people," the PM said.

The New York Times on August 14 said Greece was "abandoning" migrants at sea for the Turkish coastguard to rescue.

It said it had interviewed survivors from five such episodes, and cited additional evidence from independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish coastguard.

Based on its research, the Times said more than 1,000 asylum seekers had been "dropped at sea" since March.

Mitsotakis said the reports "essentially originate from Turkey".

"Some of these reporters who do these types of exploratory journalism should be more careful in checking their sources," he said.

"These types of reports are also an insult to our coastguard (which) has saved literally tens of thousands of refugees and migrants at sea, and our islands have always provided shelter to those in greater need," Mitsotakis said.

Rights groups including the UN refugee agency have repeatedly called on Greece to investigate pushback claims.

"Such allegations have increased since March and reports indicate that several groups of people may have been summarily returned after reaching Greek territory," the UNHCR said in June.

Greece has repeatedly denied using illegal tactics to guard its borders, and has in turn accused Turkey of sending patrol boats to escort migrant boats into its waters.

In March, thousands of migrants flocked to the Greek border after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would no longer stop migrants wishing to get to the EU.

Days of chaos ensued at the border as Greek police fired tear gas at migrants and claimed Turkish police were helping them in trying to break through.

Ankara in turn accused Athens of beating migrants and firing live rounds at them, alleging that some died of bullet injuries.

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