Turkey opens borders to EU for migrants
“We have decided, effectively immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” a Turkish government representative told the media.
“All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union.”
Videos show hundreds of migrants – including Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Afghans and Moroccans – heading for the Greek land border in Thrace.
A migrant said on one video she had been driven for free by bus.
The action follows the death of 33 members of the Turkish armed forces in Syria.
Turkey signed a deal in 2016 to control the flow of migrants in return for aid from the European Union.
The Greek authorities used tear gas at the border and some migrants were denied access back to Turkish territory, leaving them stranded in no-man’s land.
Greece’s right-of-centre prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said the country’s land and maritime borders were being tightened. “We are boosting border controls to the max in order to be best prepared,” he added.
Thousands of other migrants have gathered on beaches near the Greek island of Lesbos, which is still swamped with earlier arrivals.
Bulgaria has also strengthened its border.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said: “At a time when we are imposing stricter monitoring over the coronavirus, imagine if we have an inflow of hundreds of thousands of migrants. We cannot afford that.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said the populist leader wanted talks Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
But there appears little appetite from the international community to help Erdogan in Syria.
Late last year Erdogan ordered Turkish troops, who were originally deployed as ceasefire observers, to fight alongside the anti-government rebels.
The airstrike on a Turkish base in Baluon on Thursday appears to have been conducted in response to Turkish offensives in Idlib province.
Russia claims it had not been informed that Turkish troops were stationed at the base.
Russian forces have control over Syrian air space. Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a phone conversation yesterday in which they reportedly agreed to prevent more clashes.
Migrants try to crush onto buses leaving Istanbul for the border. Picture credit: YouTube