Athens refutes migrant claims

The government yesterday refuted allegations by Turkish authorities that the Greek Coast Guard was responsible for dumping a boatload of illegal immigrants off the coast of Turkey early on Tuesday. Turkish authorities accused Greece after six migrants were found drowned and another 31 picked up by Turkey’s Coast Guard. Officials quoted survivors as saying that they had been rounded by Greek authorities on Chios, put onto a Greek vessel and dumped near the Turkish coast. But Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry yesterday denied any knowledge of the incident. «No illegal immigrants were turned away from Chios and no one was arrested,» a Merchant Marine Ministry spokesperson told Agence France-Presse. The local Coast Guard may have prevented a vessel from entering Greek waters and called the Turkish Coast Guard to escort it back, the official said. The United Nations’ refugee agency’s Ankara office said it was investigating the deaths of the six migrants found off Turkey. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is also trying to set up a meeting between the Turkish and Greek coast guards to urge them to boost cooperation in the Aegean, a route frequently used by migrants trying to enter the European Union. «We are not in a position to say who is responsible,» Metin Corabatir, spokesman of UNHCR’s Ankara office said yesterday. «Instead of accusing each other, Turkey and Greece should cooperate to try and resolve the problem,» he said. Meanwhile, the Greek Coast Guard said it had rescued nine illegal immigrants who had been aboard a dinghy which sank off the Cycladic island of Syros. Greek officials also detained 61 would-be migrants and five smugglers after stopping a trawler near Myconos late on Tuesday, officials said yesterday.