IRC calls for evacuation of refugees trapped on islet between Greece, Turkey

ATHENS (Reuters) - The International Rescue Committee (IRC) charity called on Monday for the immediate evacuation of 39 Syrian refugees who it said remain trapped on a small islet in the Evros river along the border between Greece and Turkey.

Greece says it has not detected any people on the islet which it says is outside Greek territory, according to its migration minister Notis Mitarachi. Athens has alerted Turkish authorities over the issue, he said.

The Turkish interior ministry declined to comment.

"We call on the responsible authorities on either side to facilitate assistance to these people, evacuate them from this islet to safety, and ensure their fair and full access to asylum procedures," said Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, IRC Greece Director.

The IRC said that on the islet is a nine-year old girl in a critical condition and without access to medical attention. It also cited media reports saying that her five-year-old sister had died after a scorpion stung her and that the refugees tried to reach the Greek mainland but were pushed back.

"This latest situation at the Evros border highlights the brutality of pushbacks, which we know are taking place at borders across Europe," Kalogeropoulou said.

Greek authorities have not confirmed any of the information and have repeatedly denied forcibly repelling refugees or migrants at border points.

"We conducted repeated searches, with suitable technical means, without detecting any human presence on the islet," Mitarachi said on Twitter on Sunday. "It has been confirmed that this is a point outside Greek territory so we immediately notified Turkish authorities."

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Ece Toksabay, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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