Turkey Says Migrants Won’t Cross Land Border into Greece

FILE - The river Evros is seen from a spot near the Greek town of Didymoteicho, at the Turkish border. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

After a false social media report sent migrants and refugees in Turkey scurrying to the border with Greece, Turkish officials said they wouldn’t be allowed to cross and that they had made mass arrests.

Online reports the border would be opened saw some 40,000 gather at the Turkish city of Edirne but Turkish officials said it would stay closed to them, said Kathimierini, citing sources unnamed at Greece’s Citizens’ Protection Ministry.

Another fake report, this one on Facebook, earlier had sent some 500 refugees and migrants who want to get out of the country after being detained up to two years and longer while awaiting processing of asylum applications to go to the northern border in Greece, hoping to get into North Macedonia and to European Union countries.

The EU though had closed its borders to them, leaving some 70,000 – including 15,000 on islands near Turkey – stuck in Greece while seeking asylum and as other countries reneged on promises to help take some of the overload.

With additional intelligence from Europol and Frontex, the Greek Police (ELAS) had learned that the Diavata campaign was under way and feared that participation could reach up to 20,000, the paper said.

Most of the migrants and refugees who went to Turkey to flee war and strife in the Middle East, especially Syria’s long-running civil war, were sent to Greek islands by human traffickers but with many dying trying to cross the sea on rickety crafts and rubber dinghies, others tried to land route, some dying trying to get across the Evros River.

The numbers have slowed markedly since a 2016 swap deal between the EU and Turkey but that has been largely suspended with only a relative handful being returned and most seeking asylum in Greece, with the backlog keeping them detained in centers and camps.

Tension was said to be growing on Greek islands where they are frequent clashes between different ethnic groups penned up in camps that human rights groups said weren’t fit for humans, and battles with riot police with refugee and migrant frustration overflowing.

Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas on April 9 went to the island of  Samos, within sight of the Turkish coast, where overcrowding in the detention center has caused friction and planned to stay through the week, sources told the paper.

He was to meet with local authorities to talk about speeding asylum applications and identifying minors and at-risk migrants so that they can be transferred to facilities on the mainland and free up space in the island camp, the report also had said.

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