The civil protection ministry rejected claims made by the UN Refugee Agency on Friday that 10 Syrian refugees who had arrived in Greece were illegally returned to Turkey, saying they were indeed asked whether they wanted to apply for asylum.
UNHCR said it is “seriously concerned by the return of Syrian nationals from Greece to Turkey”, adding they were among a group of 91 people who arrived on the island of Milos on October 9. The 10 Syrian nationals “were transferred to Kos and subsequently readmitted by plane to Adana, Turkey without due consideration of their asylum claims,” the agency said.
The ministry said the refugees were first informed of their right to apply for international protection by Greek police on the day of their arrival to Milos and for a second time during their 10-day stay at the registration and identification center in Leros.
Once at the airport of Kos, where they would be returned to Turkey, authorities asked them again if they had changed their mind and wanted to apply. One three-member family said they wanted to apply and did not board the flight, but none of the ten Syrians expressed such a wish, the ministry said.
“We note that throughout the return flight there were Frontex officials and a representative of the Greek Ombudsman inside the plane, supervising the procedure,” it added.