Stepping up his threats if he doesn’t get his way, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will “open the gates” and let 5.5 million more refugees and migrants who went to his country overwhelm the Greek islands and the European Union.
He warned that will happen unless Turkey is given international support and a safe zone is set up in northern Syria where a civil war has been going on for several years, seeing hundreds of thousands of people go to his country as a jumping-off point to reach Greece and the EU before the bloc closed its borders to them, dumping the problem on Greece.
“If they do not give us the necessary support in this struggle, then we will not be able to stop the 3.65 million refugees from Syria and another two million people who will reach our borders from Idlib,” Erdogan told a rally in Malatya, Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia region, said the Greek paper Kathimerini.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Turkey should not try to push Greece or the EU as part of a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in northern Syria and Erdogan has already let human traffickers pick up sending more of them to the Greek islands and using the threat of sending waves more if resistance continues to Turkish energy ships drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)
The EU and Turkey signed a swap deal early in 2016 in which those on Greek islands deemed ineligible for asylum would be sent back but only a handful have, with human rights groups opposing the essentially-suspended agreement.
Greek islands are housing more than 22,700 migrants and refugees in detention centers and camps, the worst the Moria migrant camp on Lesbos holding 10,200 in a facility designed for 3,000, causing frequent violence to flare as asylum applications can take two years or more to process.
The relocation of migrants from island camps is one of a series of emergency measures decided on by a government council following the arrival of more than 500 people on Aug. 29, the largest number in one day since the peak of the refugee crisis in 2016, the new government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acting quickly, unlike SYRIZA.
In addition to relocations from the islands, border patrols will be stepped up at sea and on the border with Turkey near the perilous Evros River, and police presence will be increased at camps and centers on the islands and mainland, with Greece dealing with more than 75,000 refugees and migrants after the EU closed its borders to them.
The government also said there no longer be appeals allowed for denied asylum applications, sending some of those rejected into hiding and human rights groups accusing Greece of breaking the laws of the country and the EU, but they were just ignored.