Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Greek security forces on Wednesday of behaving like Nazis for using force against migrants and refugees trying to cross the border from Turkey.
Tens of thousands of people have attempted to get into EU member Greece since Turkey said last month it would no longer keep them on its territory as part of a 2016 deal with Brussels in return for European aid for refugees.
Greek security forces have used tear gas and water cannon to stop people from entering. Athens has suspended asylum applications for a month and said it prevented more than 42,000 people illegally entering the EU over the past two weeks.
In the Turkish parliament, Erdogan showed legislators of his ruling AK Party video footage of scenes at the Greek border.
“There is no difference between those images on the Greek border and what the Nazis did,” he said.
“Opening fire on innocent people, exposing them to all kinds of inhumane treatment … [It] is barbarism in the full sense of the word,” he said, repeating his call on Greece to let people cross its territory to reach richer Western European countries.
“Why are you obstructing them so much and carrying out Nazi tortures on them?” he added.
Turkey has previously accused Greek security forces of shooting dead four people, a claim rejected by Athens as “fake news”. Greece said it has a duty to protect the EU border.
‘Knock on that door’
Responding to Erdogan’s latest comments, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas denounced Holocaust comparisons.
“Of course, the best answer to such ramblings is the same answer that the central Israeli council gave – that today’s situation has nothing whatsoever to do with the Holocaust. And to avoid such comparisons – even if it is being done for domestic communication needs by any country,” Petsas said.
“We tell everyone that they shouldn’t attempt to get in through the window. There is a door. Whoever is entitled to protection should knock on that door and be entitled to protection based on international law.”
Petsas also denied a report in The New York Times that said Greece was holding people at a secret “black site” where they are denied access to lawyers and cannot file asylum claims.
Greece summoned Turkey’s ambassador on Wednesday to lodge a complaint after the Greek coastguard said one of its vessels had been rammed deliberately by a Turkish coastguard boat.
There was no immediate comment from Ankara on the incident.
On Tuesday, New York-based group Human Rights Watch called on Greece to reverse its “draconian policy” towards more than 450 people detained on a navy ship docked in Mytilene port on the island of Lesbos.
The EU is desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 crisis, when more than one million people, mostly fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, reached the bloc via Turkey and Greece, bolstering support for far-right parties against their presence.
That mass influx ended when Turkey agreed in 2016 to keep people on its territory in return for EU aid. Erdogan said Ankara had upheld its side of the deal, but the EU had not.
“Until all expectations are met in a concrete way, we will continue our current practice at our borders,” Erdogan said, referring to aspirations that also include updating Turkey’s customs union with the EU, reviving its stalled EU accession bid, and allowing Turks to visit the bloc without visas.