Twelve migrants were found dead in a small Turkish town near the border with Greece, officials said on Wednesday, a week after a rare winter storm blanketed both countries in snow.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the dozen migrants froze to death in Ipsala, a border town often used by migrants seeking to enter the European Union.
Where the migrants came from and why they were stranded in frigid conditions remains unclear, but Greece and Turkey have blamed each other for the tragedy.
Soylu alleged on Twitter that the group was turned away by Greek border officials and stripped of their shoes and clothing. He tweeted blurred images that appeared to show the dead bodies of at least eight individuals, partially clothed and lying in the mud.
Soylu called the Greek border patrol and units thugs, and said the European Union was “remediless, weak and void of humane feelings.”
Greek Immigration Minister Notis Mitarachi, however, denied Soylu’s allegations of wrongdoing.
“The death of 12 migrants on the Turkish border near Ipsala is a tragedy,” he said in a statement. “But the truth behind this incident bears no resemblance to the false propaganda pushed out by my counterpart.”
Mitarachi said that the migrants “never made it to the border.”
“Any suggestion they did, or indeed were pushed back into Turkey is utter nonsense,” he said. “Rather than pushing out unfounded claims Turkey needs to live up to its obligations and work to prevent these dangerous journeys.”
The 12 migrants were part of a group of 22. Regional authorities said in a statement that they are still searching for the remaining 10 and that they have opened an investigation into the incident,
The Council of Europe and migrants themselves have for years alleged that the Greek Coast Guard and border patrols push back migrants, sometimes at sea.