Refugee crisis: Turkish coastguard 'attacks boat packed with migrants'

Allegations will exacerbate concerns about the treatment of refugees by Turkey amid accusations of harsh tactics

The Turkish coastguard attacked a flimsy dinghy packed with men, women and children in a bid to prevent it reaching Greece, it has been claimed.

Footage filmed by Channel 4 News in the Aegean appeared to show members of the coastguard repeatedly striking the boat with sticks in order to break its engine. One young woman was hit on the head, according to those on board. 

After failing to cut the motor, the coastguard crew revved their  vessel’s engine to create a huge wake, in what film-makers said they believed was an attempt to sink the boat.

The allegations will exacerbate concerns about the treatment of refugees by Turkey. While the country has won international praise for accepting an estimated 2.7 million Syrians, it stands accused of using increasingly harsh tactics amid heavy pressure from the EU to stop the tide of people heading to the West.

The boat filmed by the Channel 4 team did make it to shore. On board were about 40 people from Eritrea, Cameroon, Congo, Syria and Iraq. Reporter Alex Thomson said: “What we witnessed could have very easily resulted in people being tipped overboard with head injuries. Or the boat could have been overturned. It was incredibly dangerous.”

The Turkish government did not respond to a request for comment, but has previously admitted using sticks to intercept a boat after warning it to stop. Responding to similar footage filmed on another boat that came under attack, the coastguard said: “Maximum attention was applied  ... to not to harm the migrants.”