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Yes, Greece has abandoned more than 1,000 migrants at sea

An Instagram post dated 16 July 2020 shows a screenshot of what appears to be a tweet by South African online news publication News24

“Greece secretly sent away more than 1,000 migrants, abandoning them on open sea,” the screenshot reads. It includes a photo of a group of people wearing life jackets, floating in the sea. 

We couldn’t find the original tweet, but searched for the headline on News24. This directed us to an article published by Business Insider South Africa on 15 August, with the same photo. Business Insider South Africa is owned by the same company as News24.

The Instagram post was flagged by Facebook as being possibly false. We took a closer look.

1,072 migrants abandoned since March 2020

Reports of migrants being abandoned at sea by Greek authorities surfaced in August 2020, following an investigation by the New York Times

The US newspaper reviewed evidence from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish coast guard. It found that since March at least 1,072 migrants seeking asylum in Greece had been dropped at sea by Greek officials. 

On 31 separate occasions, migrants were taken from detention centres, sailed to the edge of Greek waters and abandoned in inflatable life rafts. The migrants, mostly refugees fleeing the Syrian war, were left to drift until spotted and rescued by the Turkish coast guard. 

The Greek government denies any wrongdoing. But several human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have documented how Greek authorities have rounded up migrants living in Greece and expelled them across the Evros River, which divides mainland Greece and Turkey. 

A June 2020 investigation by Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, also  revealed that before some migrants could reach Greek shores, their boats were intercepted by the Greek coast guard. The migrants were put into life rafts and towed towards Turkish waters. This is backed up by video footage and eye witness accounts. The News24 headline is true. – Africa Check 


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