Hundreds protest in Athens against migrant pushbacks

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Hundreds protested against migrant pushbacks and border violence in Athens on Sunday, after Turkish allegations that Greece’s border policy led 19 migrants to freeze to death last week.

According to Greek police, around 700 people marched from Omonia Square at the center of Athens to Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament.

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They carried a life raft resembling the ones allegedly used by Greek authorities to push back asylum seekers from Greek territory, an AFP photographer said.

Protesters, who gathered after a call of leftist and anti-racist groups, shouted slogans against “the assassination of migrants at the border” and held banners reading “stop pushbacks and border violence.”

In Syntagma Square they observed a minute of silence for the migrants who lost their lives.

Last week, Turkey said it found 19 frozen bodies close to the Greek border, accusing Greece of allowing the migrants to die in the winter cold after stripping them of their clothes and forcing them back across the border.

Human rights groups believe such actions, reported by migrants in different parts of the world, are designed to discourage fleeing people from trying to enter a particular country, and to look for a different route.

Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi did not dispute the deaths but dismissed Turkey’s version of events as “false propaganda.”

“These migrants never made it to the border. Any suggestion they did, or indeed were pushed back into Turkey is utter nonsense,” Mitarachi said.

Turkey regularly accuses Greek officials of illegally pushing back migrants into its territory, but Athens denies the claims.

Greece in turn claims Turkey is turning a blind eye to people trying to reach Europe via its border in violation of a 2016 deal between Ankara and the EU.

The agreement, which has been extended, sees the bloc provide billions of euros in aid to Ankara in exchange for Turkey agreeing to host millions of Syrian and other refugees.

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