Child feared dead on Greek islet where refugees are stranded

Athens, Greece – A five-year-old Syrian girl from a group of refugees and migrants is believed to have died on the Greek island of Evros.

Her parents have drowned the girl’s body in the river in an attempt to keep it cool, as Greek authorities have been unable to locate the group.

Those still on the island with the girl’s remains say she died of a scorpion bite early Tuesday, two days after being stranded there.

Another girl, aged nine, is in critical condition. She also realizes that she has been bitten by a scorpion.

They are part of a group of 39 asylum seekers, some of whom have been stranded on the uncharted island for a second time after repeated alleged pushbacks between Turkey and Greece.

One member of the group, Baida, 27, who is from Syria, has been sending frantic messages to lawyers and journalists since his death.

“A girl is dead. A child. She is dead. I can’t do anything,” she said in a WhatsApp voice note sent to a group with this reporter.

She posted photos of her daughter on her back with her eyes closed lying on a patch of grass on the island.

In another message, she questioned why the children did not receive any help.

“No one is listening to us,” she said.

“Please help us if you hear our voices,” Baida said. “The other girl will die tomorrow.”

The refugees say they were forcibly taken to the island by Turkish authorities on August 7.

The Evros land border is a frequent crossing point for those seeking asylum in Europe, but several reports have documented violent Greek pushback in recent months as well as incidents of Turkish authorities forcing people to cross.

Stranded refugees and migrants seek asylum in Greece.

Greek authorities have been notified of their location and activists have made emergency calls to police on their behalf, but officials say they have been unable to locate the group.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights issued an order saying that stranded asylum seekers should not be expelled from Greek territory and that they be provided with food, water and adequate medical care.

In their messages, members of the group describe what amounts to a geopolitical ping-pong game, which Greek and Turkish authorities have pushed for weeks across land borders into highly militarized border zones that lawyers, human rights organizations or journalists can legally enter.

Some of the natives were stuck in the same place in late July, having tried to cross the border from Turkey.

They say they lived on scraps of food, nuts and muddy river water before being returned to Turkey by Greek officials.

Afterwards, they accused the Turkish authorities of holding them in military barracks and then brought them back across the river and ordered them – at gunpoint – back into Greek territory.

Al Jazeera has contacted Greek and Turkish authorities in an attempt to verify the details of these alleged incidents but did not receive a response by the time of writing.

Longtime adversaries, NATO members Athens and Ankara are currently locked in a row on several fronts, including the refugee issue in the eastern Mediterranean and oil and gas exploration.

‘We are very worried… especially for children’

The status of the refugees stranded in Greek territory has been verified by the location of one of the asylum seekers sent via WhatsApp.

The Greek Council of Refugees and Human Rights 360, which represents a group of refugees, has informed the EU border agency Frontex, the UN refugee agency, the Greek Ombudsman and members of the European Parliament of the location in an effort to secure their release. .

“We are very concerned about the situation of the 39 refugees and especially the children,” Evgenia Kouniaki, a Greece-based lawyer at Human Rights 360 and Maria Papmina, coordinator of the Greek Council’s legal unit for refugees, told Al Jazeera. Joint statement.

“Human rights violations on the Greek-Turkish border are a brutal reality. Deaths, beatings, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and people despaired on the islands. The death of a five-year-old girl proves how irrational and murderous this policy is.”

The Border Violence Monitoring Network, which documents the pushback, which is illegal under international law, said in a statement that Turkish and Greek authorities were “using people in political games”.

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