Turkey, Greece exchange words as three migrants found dead in waters off Aegean coast

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Three migrants were found dead in waters off Turkey’s Aegean coastal town of Cesme while three others were rescued, and a search was continuing for one more person, the Turkish coast guard said on Friday.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu accused Greek coast guard units of beating up seven migrants and leaving them at sea without a lifeboat or dinghy off the Greek island of Chios, which is less than 5 miles (8 km) from Turkey’s coast.

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The Greek coast guard said it was aware of a search and rescue operation in Turkish waters by Turkish authorities but denied any involvement, and said the Turkish accusations were insulting.

“We don’t treat migrants or people in danger that way,” Greek coast guard spokesman Nikolaos Kokkalas told Reuters.

In a tweet, Soylu said the Greek coast guard “battered 7 migrants tonight, took their belongings, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, and threw them into the sea without lifejackets and boats.” Soylu said they had been left to die.

He also published a video which he said showed the rescue operation, with Turkish teams picking up three people from the sea, and subsequent treatment of those rescued.

One of those, identifying himself as Ahmed, said the seven people had left Cesme three days ago for Chios. He said they had been on the Greek island for two days before they were beaten, their possessions seized and they were left at sea.

Turkey has repeatedly accused Greek border authorities of violating human rights by abusing and harassing migrant boats in the Aegean, charges that Athens has denied.

Hundreds of thousands of Middle East migrants and refugees used Greece as their entry point to Europe through Turkey in 2015 and 2016, until a deal between Ankara and the European Union reduced the flow across the Greek and Turkish land and sea borders.

Turkey hosts more than three million refugees and migrants, many from neighboring Syria, while tens of thousands are waiting in Greece for asylum applications to be processed, mostly in camps where conditions have been described as dire.

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