THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greek police say they have found 38 migrants who had been reported stranded on an islet in the Evros River on the border between Greece and Turkey.
Police announced they found 22 men, 9 women and 7 children Monday at a site inside Greek territory, away from the river, 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) south of where the group had been reported to be stranded. One woman is pregnant.
A Greek police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about an ongoing case, told The Associated Press that police have not found a dead child, as had been reported last week by the aid charity Greek Council of Refugees. All 38 were in good health, the official said.
The group told police they are from Syria. Police have sent food and water to the migrants and will move them to a migrant reception center.
Police said last week that they had chased successive reports of migrants stranded on Evros islets, but found nobody. Greece had said last week the coordinates given to them placed the group in Turkey, not Greece.
The head of the Greek Council for Refugees, Vassilis Papadopoulos, said his group first heard about the migrants in mid-July. He said about 50 people had allegedly crossed to the Greek side but were then forced back to Turkey. Migrants also told his group that Turkish authorities allegedly returned them to one islet after another, until they ended up stuck on a Greek islet mid-river. Papadopoulos had claimed the migrants were staying on the islet because they feared physical abuse if they reentered Greece.
Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to cross illegally into Greece from Turkey every year, hoping for a better life in Europe.
Greece has strongly denied persistent allegations that it commits pushbacks — sending asylum-seekers who reach its territory back to the country they entered from without being allowed to request asylum. That is illegal under international law.
Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.
Costas Kantouris, The Associated Press