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26,532 Refugees Denied Greek Border Entry since Sarurday

Αssociated Press

Migrants walk on the road near the Ipsala border gate in Edirne, at the Turkish-Greek border on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

KASTANIES, Greece - Some 26,532 refugees and migrants have been denied entry to Greece via the Evros Greek-Turkish border since 06:00 am on Saturday and up until 06:00 pm on Tuesday, police reported on Tuesday evening.

Another 218 individuals were arrested for illegal entry during the same period.

Thousands of migrants and refugees searched for ways to cross Greece's border with Turkey on Tuesday, as Athens ramped up its diplomatic efforts for help from the European Union to seal off its eastern land and sea frontiers.

Turkey has made good on a threat to open its borders for those seeking to cross into Europe. Many seeking to enter Greece, which has made clear its border is shut, were trying their luck by wading or rowing across the Evros River that runs along most of the land frontier.

The action by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan triggered days of violent clashes and scenes of chaos at the land border, while hundreds of others have headed to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in dinghies. Greece has struggled to push back the wave of migrants, with its armed forces now leading the effort.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis toured the troubled border along with top EU officials, including European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.

Mitsotakis said Turkey was breaching a 2016 agreement with the EU on migration and "has systematically encouraged and assisted tens of thousands of refugees and migrants to illegally enter Greece. It has failed, and will continue to fail, should it continue to pursue this strategy."

“This is no longer a refugee problem. This is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda," he said.

The government has called the situation a direct threat to Greece's national security and imposed emergency measures to carry out summary deportations and freeze asylum applications for one month. Migrants have been reporting being summarily pushed back across the border into Turkey.

The Greek army and navy held live fire exercises across the eastern border areas for a second day Tuesday to reinforce the message of deterrence.