Erdogan demands EU cash in migrant dispute
Approximately 4 million mostly Syrian migrants live in Turkey.
“I hope I will return from Belgium with different outcomes,” he said in Istanbul yesterday.
“Hey Greece! I appeal to you… open the gates as well and be free of this burden,” he said. “Let them go to other European countries.”
This month Greek border guards have repelled thousands of migrants, many transported to the land border with the EU in buses provided by the Turkish authorities.
Greece has uploaded night-vision photos of a Turkish armoured vehicle tearing down a border fence in Kastanies.
Other videos seem to show migrants helping with the process, pulling on chains to dismantle the border fence. Turkish troops appear to be firing stun grenades and tear gas into Greek territory.
Fires are burning on the border as refugees reportedly used hand tools to cut holes in the fence.
Erdogan says the EU has not delivered the €6 billion in aid promised under the 2016 migrant agreement in return for tighter Turkish border controls.
Under the deal, Turkey was also offered visa-free access to the EU if Ankara reformed its terrorism laws and the included biometric data, including photos and fingerprints, in its passports. Turks are yet to enjoy these benefits.
Johannes Hahn, the European budget commissioner, said Erdogan was using the migrants to distract from domestic issues like the crashing lira and the populist president’s falling political fortunes.
“It’s the standard reflex in response to all this: you seek an external opponent,” Hahn told the Austrian media. “Of course, [refugees are] being steered.”
Hahn said Brussels could free up an extra €500 million in aid if Erdogan became less intransigent.
The right-wing government of Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, last week announced it would stop accepting new asylum bids.
Mitsotakis, who took office in the summer, said: “We are not dealing with a migration or a refugee problem. It’s a deliberate attempt by Turkey to use refugees and migrants as political pawns in order to pursue its own political interests.”
His stance appears to have strong public support, with some polls showing 80 per cent of voters are keen to see a tougher response.
Picture credit: Wikimedia