The “political” position of a refugee protection NGO in the Greek-Turkish conflict
Updated with a response from the NGO
Aegean Boat Report, a Norwegian NGO working with refugees, has backed Turkey’s political demands against the militarization of the Greek islands, sparking intense reactions on social media.
The militarization of Turkey’s neighboring Greek islands has provoked a new dispute between Athens and Ankara.
In a tweet, the NGO said: The stuffing of the islands with American military equipment may be seen by some as a provocation, particularly as it is a violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Peace Treaty of Paris ».
Turkey claims that this action violates the above treaties.
Greece, for its part, insists it is legitimate given the “the victim of war (danger of war). In this case thethe victim of war means that if Greece extends its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, which it reserves the right to do under international law, it could start a war.
EURACTIV contacted the NGO and asked if taking such positions was part of their mission.
Tommy Olsen, an activist with the Aegean Boat Report, admitted that “may seem like a strange topicfor an NGO dealing withbrutal, barbaric and of course totally illegal dismissals by the Greek government».
«The Greek government’s attacks on its Turkish counterpart are, of course, their own affair, and we wouldn’t normally say anything about them. But in recent months, the Greek prime minister and ministers of migration and civil protection have multiplied statements that the Turkish government has “instrumentalized” the refugees, while multiplying public attacks against that government by other means.said Mr. Olsen.
He adds that this is a serious problem because any new attack on the Turkish government “becomes an attack on men, women and children seeking a safe place to live, study and work, which is their right as human beings».
In fact, this is how the Greek government militarized the refugees, he noted.
He also pointed out that this is increasing tensions on the islands of the eastern Aegean, which could worsen the situation for newcomers to those islands.
«This is absolutely not only related to our role as an NGO, but is central.»
Mr Olsen added that in this context the NGO felt it necessary to respond to the Prime Minister’s claims that Greece was not provoking Turkey and that international law was on its side.
«We didn’t react with anger or resentment. We merely emphasized that the militarization of the eastern Aegean islands, as the Greek government is doing and intends to do, could certainly be seen as a provocation, particularly because it is in direct violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris.»
He added that the Greek government is violating the laws it has signed.Men, women and children who travel to the EU beat, steal, attack (including sexually) and in some cases kill».
Several NGOs have accused the Greek government of illegal returns to the Aegean, which Athens has denied. For its part, Greece claims that Turkey is even making it easier for refugees to cross the Aegean Sea in order to increase political pressure on the EU.
Both sides released videos showing their coastguards’ violence against migrants and refugees in a game of mutual blame for the dire situation in the Aegean.
Contacted by EURACTIV, a source from the Greek Ministry of Migration commented: “We work well with many NGOs that support asylum seekers and recognized refugees».
«We need to distinguish these NGOs from the very few who appear to be active in human trafficking for ideological or financial reasons.‘ said the source.
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis recently said he had informed the European Commission about the possibility of some NGOs being funded by “The East».
«NGOs involved in illegal immigration spread Turkish propaganda. Every day the police monitor and know which NGOs are trafficking in human beings‘ he explained.
“Little evidence »
When asked about Turkey’s role in the refugee waves in the Aegean, Mr Olsen replied that it was a more complex issue than it first appeared.
«Because some new arrivals in Greece said the Turkish police told them they had to leave for the EU or they would be forcibly deported to Syria […] But there is little evidence that the Turkish government has “facilitated” the travel of these people.“, he said.
«In fact, we know that the Turkish Coast Guard has prevented more than 80% of people attempting to leave Turkey for Greece this year and almost 60% since the EU-Turkey Statement came into effect in March 2016. »
Mr Olsen also said that although the Turkish government is playing political games with people’s lives in connection with an election campaign, there is no serious indication that Ankara “instrumentalizethe refugees, as the Greek government is now claiming.
«There are about 3.67 million Syrians in Turkey and we have seen thousands, not tens or hundreds of thousands of people trying to join the EU this year. Far too little to “disrupt” a political bloc of 448 million people.»
The NGO responded to the Greek minister’s statement, saying his allegations were false.
«We do not help Turkish human traffickers. We have not worked, do not work and will never work with or assist traffickers from any part of the world. We are not “financed” by the “Orient”.»
In addition, they claimed to have been attacked and threatened by the Greek government to discredit their work.
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