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Greece forcibly pushes refugees across border into Turkey: Report

Police officers patrol along a steel fence along Evros River, Greece's river border with Turkey, near the village of Poros, in Greece, on June 8, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish guards have detained dozens of refugees who had been strip-searched and beaten by Greek forces and forcibly pushed across the border, a local media report says.

Turkey's Daily Sabah newspaper, quoting Turkish Defense Ministry sources, reported on Tuesday that some 42 refugees, including a dozen unclothed individuals, had been detained in Edirne Province near the Greek border.

The refugees said that the Greek side mistreated them, stripped them, and forced them to cross into Turkey.

According to the ministry, the refugees were later transferred by Turkish forces to the Edirne Provincial Gendarmerie Command.

Similar reports of the ill-treatment of refugees by Greek forces have been circulating over the past few months.

The European Union (EU) and Turkey struck a deal in 2016 under which Turkey would hold back refugees hoping to reach Europe via Turkish territory. In February last year, however, Ankara declared it would no longer stop migrants from trying to cross into Europe, in an attempt to pressure its Western allies into supporting a Turkish military campaign in Syria’s Idlib Province.

As a result, tens of thousands of refugees living in Turkey attempted to cross by land and sea to Greece and Bulgaria in March of that year. The EU says Ankara did not officially inform the bloc that it had suspended the 2016 deal.

The standoff has led to tougher border control tactics in European countries.

Ankara also complains that funds promised by the EU to help it deal with the 3.7 million Syrian refugees already in the country have been slow to arrive. The Turkish government had previously threatened that it would open the floodgates if it did not receive more funding.

Thousands of refugees are stuck on the Aegean islands, living in severely overcrowded camps and filthy conditions. Greece was the main gateway for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into Europe in 2015-16.

In 2015, a refugee influx resulted in thousands of people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and about one million people reaching Greece and Italy, where many still live in crowded displacement camps.

The plight of the refugees has been steadily weaponized by Turkish and Greek politicians over the last five years. Relations between the two countries have fallen into a deepening crisis in recent months. Disagreements over Cyprus, refugee flows, and oil and gas drilling rights in the Mediterranean have for the first time in decades prompted fears of direct clashes between the two NATO allies.

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