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27-year-old Turkish asylum seeker lost in Evros River

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Yunus Emre Ayyıldız (27), a Turk who fled his country to seek asylum in Greece, went missing on Thursday while crossing the Evros River.

Ayyıldız tried to cross the Evros River in a rubber boat with a group of asylum seekers.

According to another person in the boat, Ayyıldız lost his balance, fell into the water and disappeared. Thanks to this witness, Ayyıldız’s brother, Himmet Ayyıldız, was able to find out what had happened to his brother.

”They destroyed my brother’s future. He had no hope left, therefore he decided to flee. I’m worried about my brother’s well-being because he can’t even swim,” said Himmet Ayyıldız.

He added that together with lawyers he called police stations and hospitals close to the border. However, they could not find any trace of Ayyıldız, so he requested that the authorities and human rights organizations search for his brother.

Ayyıldız was sentenced to seven years, six months in prison for alleged membership in the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

According to a statement from the Turkish interior minister, a total of 332,884 people have been detained, of whom 101,000 were arrested and jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup.

Purge victims who wanted to flee the country to avoid the post-coup crackdown took dangerous journeys across the Evros River or the Aegean Sea. Some were arrested by Turkish security forces and some were pushed back to Turkey by Greek security, while others perished on their way to Greece.

The United Nations Refugee Agency, members of the European Parliament and human rights watchdogs have repeatedly demanded that Greek authorities investigate such incidents of pushback.

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