Migrants who have been pushed back into Turkey by Greek authorities tell the details of abuse they have been subjected to by the European country.
The plight of migrants trying to reach Europe has not faded, with the most recent tragedy being the discovery of the bodies of four undocumented migrants last week in the Akçadam and Adasarhanlı villages of the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne, near the border with Greece, which is accused of “pushing back” migrants.
All the migrants are believed to have frozen to death.
The undocumented migrants have said Greek police beat the refugees and sent them back to Turkey.
Human traffickers drop undocumented migrants off the fields in the Turkish villages near the Greek border. There, the migrants hide until night to cross into Greecethrough River Evros (or Meriç) on boats.
This route is used by migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq whose intended final destination is Europe.
Ankara has a migrant readmission agreement with Athens which constitutes the backbone of the migrant deal between Turkey and the EU that was brokered in 2016, aiming to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands.
The deal says for every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands, one Syrian in Turkey will be resettled in the EU.
But recently the Greek police have forcefully been sending migrants back to Turkey. Some of them have frozen to death on their way back to Turkey.
The Adasarhanlı village in Edrine has become the meeting point of the migrants who the Greek police sent off from an area just across the village into Turkish soil.
The temperature in the village, where the bodies of three migrants were found, has dropped to freezing cold, making their plight even more unbearable.
Soaked to the bone, and exhausted, a group of migrants catch the sun in the village’s center. They initially hesitated to talk but later spoke out.
“We feed on this,” said one migrant, showing the cranberries he picked in a forest.
They said they had arrived in Turkey from Iraq’s Sulaymaniyah four months ago to go to Europe.
They said they gave $2,000 to the person who brought them here.
According to their account, the Greek police caught them and sent them back to Turkey after keeping them for one day on Greek soil.
“They did not give us food but beat us up,” they said.
When they learned that four migrants froze to death over the past week, they responded: “There is no life to live in Iraq either.”
Following the brief conversation, they left the village for Istanbul.
Villagers in Adasarhanlı collect clothes for the deported migrants. They take the migrants to the village’s wedding hall to change their soaked clothes with dry ones.
“They take shelter here because our village is near the border. We try to help them but we need more clothes,” said İbrahim Dalkıran, the village head (muhtar).
One villager said they could tell if the migrant was sent back from Greece by looking at their shoes.
“If they have no shoelaces it means they were sent back, because the Greek police collect shoelaces,” the villager explained.
“We tell them not to go to Greece. But they don’t listen,” the villagers said.