Despite the #EU being built on progressive and democratic values; a humanitarian crisis unfolds again at its periphery.
According to several Turkish officials, 12 out of 22 #asylumseekers tragically succumbed to freezing temperatures on Wednesday in Turkey's north-western Edirne province. Most of them were found with inadequate clothing in a field near the Greek border.
The scale of the crisis and immense suffering of asylum seekers is undermined by a political blame game. A Turkish government minister accused Greek border guards of stripping the asylum seekers and forcing them back across the frontier before they died. Greek migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, admitted that the deaths were a tragedy; however, he denied the Turkish accusations calling them "false propaganda." Mitarachi in the most typical anti-refugee rhetoric, accused Turkey of failing to prevent people from approaching the border area and undertaking such "dangerous journeys."
#Turkey, which hosts about 3.7 million #Syrian refugees, is a prominent crossing point for displaced people from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa trying to reach the EU. Most try to cross into #Greece, a key gateway to the EU for people fleeing war, persecution or poverty. However, they have recently introduced stricter measures to deter asylum seekers by constructing a fence and policing the land border. Some have described their anguish in interviews after being beaten and detained by Greek border guards and police officers or even by groups of men in plain clothing.
Turkey and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers. They claim that it violates #humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable asylum seekers. Moreover, #pushbacks conflict with international #refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety may be in danger. This week, the 12 asylum seekers who sadly perished at the border serve as a stark reminder that we must put people before politics.