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  • Rory O'Keeffe

Turkish coastguard fires on refugees in international waters

Seawatch, Refugee Rescue and Lighthouse Relief have called for the UNHCR to investigate an incident in which the Turkish coastguard opened fire on a boat carrying refugees, attacked the refugees on the boat, and forced them back to Turkey, all of which took place outside of Turkish waters.

Richard Heard of Refugee Rescue said: ‘the Turkish Coast Guards approached the refugees’ dinghy, started shooting in the air and then rammed them. Soon, one of the Turkish Coast Guards himself used a hand gun to fire into the water around the dinghy.

‘When the Greek Coast Guards arrived, they asked the Turkish Coast Guard to stop shooting and return to Turkish waters.

‘At this moment, 17 refugees jumped out of the dinghy and started to swim towards the Greek ship. The Turkish Coast Guards tried to apprehend them and it seems like they were using a stick or something similar as several refugees had quite substantial cuts in their faces.

‘The Turkish Coast Guards loaded the remaining people who could not swim, mainly women and children, on their boat and returned them to Turkey.’

Of course the actions of the Turkish coastguard are the responsibility of the service, and we should not make excuses for them here. But as it Libya, the coastguard in Turkey are now effectively being used as a militia-at-sea, whose major role is nor rescue, but the prevention of people reaching the shores of the EU.

The EU itself is paying for this to be done, and while the Turkish coastguard should be criticised for, and must be prevented from, attacking refugees, we cannot simply ignore the fact that this is precisely the activity the EU itself is demanding of the coastguard, under the EU/Turkey Deal, which the EU itself designed

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