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Turkey’s Erdogan slams Greece after migrants freeze to death near border

file photo: turkish president tayyip erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling ak party during a meeting at the turkish parliament in ankara
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday slammed Greece’s stance on migrants after more than a dozen people were found frozen to death this week just inside Turkey’s border.

Turkey accused Greece on Wednesday of sending the migrants back across the border without shoes or clothing, an accusation Athens dismissed as “false propaganda”. The death toll from the incident rose to 19 on Thursday.

Turkey has long accused fellow NATO member Greece of pushing back migrants and sinking their boats, saying it has evidence of the incidents.

“Watching on as people freeze to death there is not something that can be accepted or stomached,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.

“No matter which country’s leader we meet with, we will put the images we have recorded and all in front of them,” he added.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has said it has received a growing number of reports in recent months suggesting asylum-seekers may have been pushed back to Turkey at sea or immediately after reaching Greek soil, or left adrift at sea.

Greece says Turkey needs to do more to prevent migrants from crossing its territory towards Europe under the terms of a 2016 deal. Under that accord, Ankara agreed to stem the flow of refugees into the EU and to host Syrians fleeing the war in their country in return for billions of euros.

EU SLAMMED

Erdogan also took a swipe at the EU’s border agency Frontex, accusing it of inaction.

“It serves no purpose. Aside from backing Greece, they have no role,” he said.

Ankara has repeatedly accused Frontex of being involved in migrant pushbacks and the agency has come under scrutiny for its practices and for failing to meet transparency requirements.

The flow of migrants and refugees into the EU via Greece from Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere has tapered off since 2015-2016, when more than one million people took this route in search of a better life in Europe.

Turkey hosts some 4 million Syrian refugees, the world’s largest refugee population, in addition to some 300,000 Afghans. It has said it cannot accept any more migrants.

Last year Greece and Turkey agreed to resume bilateral talks on a range of disagreements but have continued to trade barbs over migration and maritime jurisdiction.

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