situation on the greek turkish border escalates

There have been clashes at the Turkish-Greek border crossing at Pazarkule. Thousands of migrants came together on the Turkish side. Some threw stones, the Greek police used tear gas.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said after a crisis meeting of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s cabinet in Athens that an organized, massive and illegal border violation by numerous migrants from Turkey had been warded off in the past few hours. “More than 4,000 illegal border crossings have been averted.” In addition, 66 migrants who had managed to enter Greek territory were arrested.

Greece also strengthened its controls of the islands in the east of the Aegean with more than 50 Coast Guard and Navy ships, the spokesman said. Greece is determined to do everything possible to protect its and the EU border.

The Greek border police and special units of the riot police deployed tear gas and stun grenades on Friday to prevent large groups of migrants from reaching Turkey via the already closed border crossing at Kastanies / Pazarkule from Turkey.

On Saturday, DW reporter Julia Hahn reported that the situation in the Edirne border area was “very dramatic”: Greek border troops used tear gas or pepper spray to prevent refugees from crossing the border. Hundreds of migrants were therefore freezing and with watery eyes in the no man’s land.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday about the procedure at the border with Turkey and said that Greece would not tolerate illegal border crossing.

Erdogan opens the gates

Despite the agreements with the European Union, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants thousands of refugees to cross the borders with the EU. “We opened the gates,” Erdogan said in Istanbul on Saturday, accusing the EU of not keeping its commitments to the Refugee Pact. According to him, 18,000 refugees have already come to the Turkish borders with the EU since Friday. Erdogan said Saturday could reach 30,000. and added, “And we won’t close these gates from now on.” The EU had not kept its promises. Turkey cannot care for so many refugees. Turkey is already home to more than 3.6 million refugees from Syria.

The EU and Turkey signed a refugee agreement in March 2016 after hundreds of thousands of refugees came to Central Europe via the Balkans route in 2015. As a result of the pact, which met with fierce criticism in part, the number of migrants entering the European Union via Turkey fell significantly. In the agreement, the government in Ankara commits to take back all new refugees arriving in the Greek Aegean Islands and to take more action against gangs of traffickers.

Does the Refugee Pact break?

In return, the EU promised billions in aid, accelerated visa facilitation and the modernization of the customs union.  Government officials in Athens said on Saturday that Erdogan was instrumentalizing millions of migrants in his country to force the EU to pay him more money so that he could continue his policies and military action in Syria. In the meantime, the EU member Bulgaria has sealed off its border with Turkey. However, the situation there is calm. Border police chief Svetlana Kitschikow said that migrants moved from Istanbul to the west, but not towards the Bulgarian border.

The number of refugees in the civil war-torn country of Syria is currently increasing again because ruler Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia are leading an offensive in the last stronghold of Assad’s opponents in Idlib. There are mainly Islamist and jihadist militias active, some of which are supported by Turkey. Airstrikes in Idlib killed 33 Turkish soldiers on Thursday, and another died later of his injuries. The Turkish armed forces then launched extensive retaliatory attacks.

© The Eastern Herald
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