It is a moral and legal obligation to respect and protect dignity of asylum seekers, says Turkish Foreign Ministry.

A migrant throws back a tear gas canister as they clash with Greek riot police on the Turkish-Greek border in Edirne, Turkey, March 7, 2020.
A migrant throws back a tear gas canister as they clash with Greek riot police on the Turkish-Greek border in Edirne, Turkey, March 7, 2020. (Reuters)

Turkey has slammed remarks by Greek and EU officials critical of Ankara’s handling of the migrant issue along its borders, calling them an attempt to whitewash Athens' human rights violations.

It came after the EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Brussels was determined to protect its frontiers as he visited the Evros border area on Wednesday, the scene of clashes in March after Turkey said it would no longer prevent migrants and refugees from going to Europe.

After accompanying Borrell to the border, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Turkey of encouraging a fresh surge of migrants into Europe.

Turkey has "once again declared that its land borders to Europe are open," following a brief respite during the pandemic, he said.

"At the same time, its coastguard escort boats (are) laden with migrants to the Greek islands."

The remarks this Wednesday by Greek Foreign Minister Dendias and EU foreign policy chief Borrell at the Turkish-Greek border show Greece's effort to cover up its crimes against asylum seekers under the EU umbrella, said Hami Aksoy, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, on Thursday. 

"The fact that the EU Commission is a partner to this is exemplary," Aksoy said.

Aksoy cited the words of Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, saying that it is the moral and legal obligation of member states to respect and protect the dignity of asylum seekers.

"Instead of blaming our country, we invite the EU and Greece to fulfil their personal responsibilities once again and to respect the rights of asylum seekers," he said.

READ MORE: Generous Turkey hosts largest number of refugees in world – UN official

Violence by Greek border guards

This March, after Turkey stopped trying to block asylum seekers from reaching Greece’s border by land, Greek border guards wounded hundreds of asylum seekers and killed several.

The harsh Greek reaction to the asylum seekers included blast bombs, rubber bullets and live ammunition, and tear gas.

READ MORE: Report: Greek forces killed migrant on the Turkish border earlier this year

Human rights groups have also documented hundreds of cases of asylum seekers being robbed, abused, and stripped by Greek forces along the land border, or forcibly pushed back in boats along coastal borders.

READ MORE: Erdogan: 25,000 migrants have died crossing Mediterranean over eight years

Aksoy also said that Dendias' statements on the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean were divorced from reality.

Turkey’s territorial, energy exploration rights

Aksoy emphasised that Greece along with the Greek Cypriot Administration should stop dreaming about confining Turkey to its coastline.

"Greece would not benefit from setting up an evil alliance against Turkey and attempting to abuse the EU,” he said.

"Instead, Greece should respect the legitimate rights and interests of Turkey and rather than complaining about it and relying on others, they should try to solve issues by speaking to us.”

READ MORE: Greece ready to discuss maritime borders with Turkey

Turkey has consistently contested efforts by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration to deny Turkey’s territorial and energy exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also have rights to the resources in the area.

Since last year, Ankara has sent drilling vessels to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.

READ MORE: Turkish military conducts air, sea drills off the coast of Libya

Source: TRTWorld and agencies