Greek coast guards rapped for forcing alleged smuggler to look at bodies of dead migrants

A refugee holds a child after arriving on the Greek Island of Lesbos.
A refugee holds a child after arriving on the Greek Island of Lesbos.PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece's shipping minister has criticised coast guards who forced an alleged Turkish smuggler to look at the bodies of three dead migrant children who died crossing the Aegean.

"Clearly this is exaggerated behaviour," Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas said in a statement late on Monday (Jan 18).

"The state and its officials should be cool-headed and professional against any detainee, even one accused of heinous crimes," Mr Dritsas said.

The affair surfaced after Sky News on Friday broadcast footage of a distressing migrant rescue near the Greek island of Samos where two two-year-old boys and a four-year-old girl died.

The coast guards arrested a 21-year-old Turk who was driving the boat as a suspected smuggler, and forced him to look at the bodies of the children until he broke down in tears.

"We should all respect the presumption of innocence until one is irrevocably declared to be guilty," the minister said.

A prosecutor on Samos is to decide whether to press manslaughter charges against the alleged smuggler, who told Sky News he had been forced to pilot the boat.

Convicted migrant smugglers face heavy sentences in Greece if convicted.