President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized Greece for turning the Aegean Sea into a graveyard for refugees amid ongoing pushbacks of migrants and refugees by the Greek Coast Guard.
Speaking at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdoğan slammed Athens for its violent migrant policies.
“We see that Greece’s oppressive policies toward irregular migrants have been on rising. While Türkiye tries to prevent other cases of Aylan Kurdis, Greece continues to push migrants back,” he said, adding that two children lost their lives in Greek pushbacks last week.
“In addition to inhumane pushbacks of irregular migrants in the Aegean Sea, Greece also pursues discriminatory, oppressive policies against the Turkish Muslim minority,” he said.
Türkiye and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back irregular migrants, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life. Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Türkiye and Greece have been key transit points for migrants looking to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Türkiye has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks, summary deportations and denying migrants access to asylum procedures, violating international law. Ankara also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant human rights abuse.
Pushbacks are contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.
Erdoğan also invited the international community to put an end to the persecution of Turkish Cypriots and officially recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus “as soon as possible.”
The island of Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong struggle between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Five decades of Cyprus talks have yielded no results.
The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced the Turkish Cypriots to retreat into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the EU in 2004, although in a referendum that year most Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations settlement plan that envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the bloc.