EU refuses to open Greek border to migrants
Greek and Turkish police have fired teargas at their land border as relations strain over the growing numbers of migrants trying to reach the European Union.
Turkey hosts approximately 4 million migrants, mostly from Syria, and claims to have spent €40 billion on accommodating them.
The EU’s foreign affairs commissioner, Josep Borrell, said: “Don’t go to the border. The border is not open. If someone tells you that you can go because the border is open … that is not true.
“Avoid the situation in which you could be in danger … Avoid moving to a closed door,” the Spanish commissioner said. “And please don’t tell people that they can go because it’s not true.”
Borrell said EU foreign ministers had agreed in Zagreb to condemn “Turkey’s use of migratory pressure for political purposes”.
Videos of injured migrants being pushed back by Greek personnel have been circulated on Turkish social media and shared by Turkish government employees.
Greeks have circulated pictures of Turkish tear-gas canisters, saying that refugees had thrown them into Greek territory.
Mohammed al-Arab, 22, from Aleppo, died on Monday after being hit on the head by a tear gas canister fired from Greek territory.
In Edirne, the historic Turkish city near the Greek border, hundreds of migrants are camping waiting for a chance to cross.
Abdullah Makboul, 22, from Pakistan, said: “My friends and I heard the news from TV networks, they said, ‘The border is open, you can go. I asked the immigration office, they also said: ‘You can go’.
“The police said don’t wait at the border, just go. But when I do, I get beaten. The TV said that people are crossing the border but that’s a lie. If the Greeks don’t open their gate, why did the Turks open theirs?”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the country can no longer cope with the new influx of migrants from Idlib province, which is under attack by Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
Since President Assad’s offensive in Idlib – the last rebel province in Syria – another million migrants have crossed the Turkish border.
Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed this week to preserve some gains made by Syrian government forces in Idlib, while allowing Turkey to retain a presence.
Erdogan said Turkey would not withdraw from its 12 observation posts in Idlib, although at least four are currently encircled by hostile forces.
Edirne is suddenly a focal point of the migrant crisis. Picture credit: Wikimedia