KASTANIES, Greece – Greek riot police on March 18 repelled some 500 migrants on the Turkish border who tried to break down a fence and get across, days after Turkey pulled back some 10,000 it had sent there to try to get them over and break the European Union’s outer boundary.
Police said they used tear gas to stem the attempted breakthrough south of the Kastanies border crossing. They said Turkish authorities also fired tear gas at the Greek border. The clashes began at 2 a.m. and lasted for roughly two hours.
With most of the migrants having left the border after two weeks of being stymied, and exchanges of tear gas after they tossed Molotov Cocktails onto the Greek side, there are still some 2,000 camped out there.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, breaking the terms of a 2016 swap deal with the EU – which closed its borders to refugees and migrants – sent thousands to the northern land border with Greece and tried to get them across.
That came after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in an area of northern Syria they had invaded, leading Erdogan to fear that would spur even more Syrian refugees to come to Turkey, as he said he would no longer deal with them and opened the border.
The EU says it is adhering to the deal with Turkey under which it provides billions of euros in funds in return for Turkey caring for more than 3.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria as well as some two million others.
Erdogan went to Brussels to meet EU leaders to try to revise the agreement but left empty-handed although reports said the bloc would consider sending Turkey some 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of six billion euros ($6.6 billion) in pledges aimed at having the refugees and migrants stay in Turkey.
The incident has put the Greek armed forces on high alert against a possible barrage of similar attempts to push across parts of the Greek-Turkish land and sea border imminently, said Kathimerini.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)