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Nineteen migrants found frozen to death near Greek border, Turkish authorities say

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Turkish special forces on patrol along the Maritsa river near the Greek border
Turkish special forces on patrol along the Maritsa river near the Greek border   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File

Nineteen migrants have been found frozen to death near Turkey’s border with Greece, the interior minister has said.

The bodies of 12 people were found near the İpsala border crossing “without shoes and stripped of their clothes”, according to a statement on Wednesday.

The governor’s office for Edirne province said one of the migrants died in hospital after being rescued by Turkish authorities.

Seven more dead migrants were discovered on Thursday near the Greek border.

Ankara has accused Athens of illegally pushing the migrants back over the frontier, leading to their deaths.

Greek border forces acted as "thugs" against a group of 22 migrants, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Twitter.

Soylu also accused the EU member state of showing sympathy toward members of a network — which Turkey says is behind a 2016 failed military coup — who have escaped to Greece.

He further condemned the European Union for being “helpless, weak and inhumane”.

The European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, has called for an "investigation" into the migrants' deaths.

Greece has repeatedly denied accusations that it carries out so-called pushbacks that prevent migrants from applying for international protection.

"The death of 12 migrants at the Turkish border near Ipsala is a tragedy," Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Twitter.

But he added that any suggestion they were pushed back into Turkey is "absolutely unfounded".

"They never made it to the border," Mitarachi said, accusing Soylu of spreading "false propaganda".

Greece has itself accused Turkey of turning a blind eye to people trying to cross the border, in violation of a March 2016 agreement. Ankara has rejected the allegations.

Turkey — which hosts about 3.7 million Syrian refugees — is a major crossing point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa seeking a better life in European Union countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Thursday to expose what he said was Greece’s illegal pushback of migrants on every occasion.