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Nearly 100 migrants found naked at Greece-Turkey border in 'deeply distressing' incident

Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, assisted in the rescue of the 92 men, some of whom had “visible injuries,” a spokesperson said.

The discovery of nearly 100 migrants found stripped naked near the border between Greece and Turkey has sparked an angry dispute between the neighbors and calls for an urgent investigation.

The two countries have blamed each other for the apparent mistreatment of the 92 men after images shared on social media shocked people at home and abroad.

The Greek migration minister, Notis Mitarachi, shared a photo showing a group of men with their faces blurred, gathered with all of their clothes removed, some crouching and covering their genitals. NBC News has not independently verified the circumstances surrounding the image’s being taken, and it was unclear why the men were without their clothes.

“Turkey's behavior toward 92 migrants whom we rescued at the borders today, is a shame for civilization,” he said on Twitter. “We expect Ankara to investigate the incident and protect at last, its borders with the E.U.”

Greece Migrants Stripped Naked Turkish Border
Part of an image of the men that was shared by the Greek migration minister. Notis Mitarachi / Twitter

Greek police said they found the men Friday near the Evros river, which acts as a border between Greece and Turkey. Police said that an investigation showed the men had traveled across the river to Greece in rubber dinghies.

Greece’s citizen protection minister, Takis Theodorikakos, said Sunday that the migrants’ accounts suggested that they had been taken there by Turkish military police, according to Reuters.

Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, assisted in the rescue of the 92 men, some of whom had “visible injuries,” spokesperson Katarzyna Volkmann said in an emailed statement.

Frontex immediately flagged that there had been a “potential violation of fundamental rights” to the agency’s fundamental rights office, she added.

İsmail Çatakli, Turkey’s interior minister, rejected the accusation that his country was responsible.

“As you couldn’t find one single case of human rights violation by [Turkey], you just seek to expose image of your cruelty you’ve inflicted as if [Turkey has] done [it]!” he said in a direct response to Mitarachi on Twitter

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish government’s communications director, went further Sunday, describing the accusation that Turkish bears responsibility as a product of a “Greek fake news machine.”

“Greece once again showed the whole world that it does not even respect the dignity of these oppressed people, by publishing the photographs of the refugees it has deported, extorting their personal belongings,” he said on Twitter.

Greece's Migration Ministry said in a statement: "The case at this moment is on the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Civil Protection. Further comments can be made from the Ministry of Migration and Asylum after their receival from the RIC Fylakio in Evros in the next days."

The Turkish government did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, said Sunday it was “deeply distressed by the shocking reports and images of 92 people, who were reported to have been found at the Greek-Turkish land border, stripped of their clothes.”

“We condemn such cruel and degrading treatment and call for a full investigation into this incident,” it said in a tweet.

Illegal migration into European Union territory is a growing problem. Almost 230,000 "irregular entries" were detected at E.U. borders in the first nine months of the year, according to Frontex, a rise of 70% over the same period last year and the highest since 2016.

Greece is a E.U. country, meaning it adheres to the rule of free movement of people across the 27 member countries and to joint protocols on handling illegal migration, whereas Turkey is not.

Turkey did, however, sign a deal with the E.U in 2016 to reduce and control the flow of migrants to Europe in exchange for multibillion-euro aid payments.

Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, habitually clash over a number of political and security issues, aggravated by unresolved historic disputes over territory and energy exploration rights.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last month said his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made "unacceptable" comments when he questioned Greek sovereignty over the Aegean Sea.

Erdoğan had days earlier accused Greece of occupying demilitarized islands in the Aegean and said he would "do what is necessary," without elaborating.