A rubber boat is seen on the Evros River, the natural border between Turkey and Greece, in this screenshot from a video distributed August 16. [Citizen Protection Ministry/Handout via Reuters]
The incident with the rescue of 38 irregular immigrants from a small islet in the Evros river in northeastern Greece has turned into a mini domestic political crisis. The opposition spoke highly of the incident, accusing the government of indifference, inhumanity and even a lack of patriotism.
It is true that the claims and the handling of the situation by the Greek authorities were not forthcoming from the start and they were rightly criticized for this. This is because human life must be placed above all else, and if the islet (according to military maps) turned out to be ours, of course the migrants should have been rescued.
But it is equally true that landings and desertions of migrants by Turkish traffickers or the Turkish army on islands in the Evros River, as in this case, have been recorded since the drawing of the borders. Complaints by humanitarian organizations that Greek police disembark and abandon migrants on these islets have also been published, although they are denied by the authorities.
In several cases, helpless and unfortunate people breathed their last while standing in the river or on tiny islets formed by river debris, and which are not recorded on the maps of Greece or Greece. Turkey as they usually appear when water levels are low and disappear. when they wake up.
There, on the unguarded “gray islands”, dramas often unfold. Forty-seven people have lost their lives crossing the river since the start of the year because, even if a human presence is detected, the Turks don’t care – since they themselves allowed them to attempt the crossing – while the Greeks, even if they want to show humanity, are reluctant (or do not have the necessary instructions) to try to rescue them, for fear of being trapped by the Turks, which could lead to an incident with the neighboring country.
In this regard, the testimony of the woman from Syria, who was part of the group that was trapped and rescued, presents the essence of the problem: she said that they were transported against their will by the Turkish authorities in Istanbul in Evros and were “pushed” into the river. If Turkey stops migrant and refugee caravans from heading to Evros – as it can and has pledged to do in return for massive financial aid of Europe – things could calm down in the border region and dramas like that of the islet near the village of Kissari will be limited, but Turkey is not doing this because it is using migration flows as a weapon hybrid, and to face this Turkish threat, Greece organized its defense of the borders.
The situation in Evros is serious and complicated and we all need to be more careful, especially those who seem unaware of what is happening.