KASTANIES, Greece – With thousands of refugees and migrants massed at the border crossing with Turkey, Greek authorities said they kept 1,646 people in one 24-hour period from trying to enter after Turkey broke a European Union swap deal and sent them there.
Two men, one Egyptian and one Moroccan, were arrested, authorities said, reported Kathimerini, with the New Democracy government saying anyone who got into Greece after March 1 would be deported to their homelands, and asylum applications suspended.
Turkey sent refugees and migrants to the northern land border along the Evros River on Feb. 28 but said it wouldn’t let them to to Greek islands near the Turkish coast, after letting human traffickers send scores of thousands already.
Greece, overwhelmed with more than 100,000 refugees and migrants, including some 42,000 on islands where officials and residents are demanding they be transferred to the mainland, has now closed its borders and asked the EU for more aid.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Greece to “open your gates” to refugees but said the Turkish Coast Guard will try to keep them from getting to Greek islands because it’s not safe for them to try to cross the Aegean.
Turkey hadn’t tried effectively in the four years since the EU swap deal was signed to keep them from reaching Greek islands, with scores drowning as their rubber dinghies and overcrowded crafts capsized in rough waters.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu stepped up provocations saying the land border standoff would get worse because the already tense situation “is nothing… you’ll see what will occur later,” Turkish state TV showed.
Erdogan said he opened his borders in response to 33 Turkish soldiers being killed in an area of northern Syria Turkey invaded, which he feared would spark a new wave of Syrian refugees from that country’s civil war heading to his country.
But the news agency Reuters said many of those on the border are posing as Syrians so they can claim to be refugees fleeing a war zone and improve chances of getting across, which has angered Syrians in Greek detention centers and camps.
Many on the border, said the news agency, are from Afghanistan and Pakistan and Syrians are a minority there.