27-year-old Turkish asylum seeker lost in Evros River after pushback

News About Turkey - NAT
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Yunus Emre Ayyıldız (27), a Turk seeking asylum in Greece, went missing on Thursday while crossing the Evros River, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Bold Medya news website.

Ayyıldız arrived safely in Greece but was pushed back to Turkey by Greek authorities and went missing on the return journey. He had arrived in Greece by boat with a group of asylum seekers, but they were detained shortly thereafter. They were loaded onto the same rubber boat, which was damaged on the way back.

According to other people in the boat who managed to arrive in Turkey safely, Ayyıldız lost his balance, fell into the water and disappeared. It was thanks to the witnesses that Ayyıldız’s brother, Himmet Ayyıldız, was able to find out what had happened to his brother.

”They destroyed my brother’s future. He had no hope left, therefore he decided to flee. I’m worried about my brother’s well being because he can’t even swim,” said Himmet Ayyıldız.

He added that together with lawyers he called police stations and hospitals close to the border. However, they could not find any trace of Ayyıldız, so he requested that the authorities and human rights organizations search for his brother.

Ayyıldız was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison for alleged membership in the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

According to a statement from the Turkish interior minister, a total of 332,884 people have been detained, of whom 101,000 were arrested and jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup.

Purge victims who wanted to flee the country to avoid the post-coup crackdown took dangerous journeys across the Evros River or the Aegean Sea. Some were arrested by Turkish security forces and some were pushed back to Turkey by Greek security, while others perished on their way to Greece.

The United Nations Refugee Agency, members of the European Parliament and human rights watchdogs have repeatedly demanded that Greek authorities investigate such incidents of pushback.

According to Amnesty International, the practice of migrant pushbacks in Greece has become so bad that even people who have applied for asylum and have been in the country for some time are being picked up and deported.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson during a visit to Greece in March called on the country to “do more” to investigate the allegations. However, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi denied Greek authorities’ involvement in any kind of pushback.

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