Greece Fails to Save Migrants Trapped on Tiny Island
Several dozen refugees reportedly on an islet on the Evros River which is the border between Greece and Turkey are in limbo and begging to be rescued but Greece says they’re on Turkish territory.
Aid groups reported their plight with a report that they inside a restricted military zone at the border with Turkey, Greek police saying they are outside their jurisdiction for assistance, said Kathimerini.
The police said it “repeats that the investigation shows that the point mentioned in the complaints is outside Greek territory and that it has informed the Turkish authorities twice.”
The statement said that “from the moment that information emerged about the possible presence of immigrants on an islet, the Greek Police conducted successive investigations, using technical means at every opportunity, but did not detect the presence of people” at the location.
“At the same time, the coordinates were given to the competent services of the armed forces, which pointed out that it is a location outside Greek territory,” not explaining whether there were people there or not.
Greece Under Fire
Greece’s New Democracy government, however, has been facing a barrage of accusations from human rights groups, Turkey and media reports of pushing back refugees and migrants.
Turkey is housing some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands and is supposed to contain them under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
The Greek Council of Refugees said that it had lost contact with the group and that a 5-year-old girl among them died after a scorpion bite and her site was also stung, the group’s President Vasileios Papadopoulos said.
The council called on authorities to help them, the report saying the refugees have been on the islet for some three weeks on a river that’s perilous and where dozens have drowned trying to reach Greece.
They reportedly were scavenging for whatever they could find to eat and trying to survive although the reports were sketchy about what may or may not be happening there with conflicting messages.
No Man’s Land
“I’m saying, help … it’s difficult to survive,” a 28-year-old refugee named Bayda said in an emotional audio recording sent to news and humanitarian groups, the report added about the ordeal.
“They are killing us in Syria, in Turkey, in this island, in Greece, in every place in the world,” she said through sobs. “What’s our fault? Because no one can hear us?” she also added.
The Associated Press reported earlier that Greek police had said they were chasing reports about the migrants, but had not been able to locate them due to different coordinates being given for their location.
The police told the AP that coordinates provided for the migrants were “outside Greek sovereignty,” and that they had asked neighboring Turkey to provide urgent assistance to no avail.
The refugee council said that maps indicate the islet is in Greek territory but were glad that, “authorities at least finally acknowledge the existence of the group, which they had so far denied being able to find, despite knowing the location for days and despite their professed manned and unmanned search ops to locate them.”
“What’s going to happen?” Bayda reportedly said in the audio message. “Maybe we all die in the morning. This island is full of snakes, scorpions, and a lot of insects … This is the hell in the earth. I swear, this is the hell in the earth, and no one can help us,” she added.
The stuck refugees were being ping-ponged back-and-forth between Turkey and Greece, Papadopoulos told CBS News. He said contact may have been lost with them because members of the group’s phones died, or because they’ve been moved.
But it was also said that his group and HumanRights360, released coordinates for a Google Maps location showing the islet is not in Greek territory as Greek police had said, adding to the contradiction and confusion.
The European Court of Human Rights earlier issued an order on Tuesday instructing Greek authorities not to move refugees and migrants off Greek territory, and to provide them with humanitarian aid.
A previous, similar order was issued at the end of July, Papadopoulos said.
“The last two months especially, since the beginning of June, Greek authorities do not comply with the European court orders,” Papadopoulos said.
Papadopoulos said because the islet was in a restricted zone, humanitarian organizations could not travel there to provide assistance unilaterally.
“Save people. Save people,” he said when asked what his message to both governments would be. “Save this 9-year-old girl,” he further pleaded.