ANKARA. In Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan called on Greece to open its borders and allow the migrants to move on to other European countries.
“These people won’t stay (in your country), they will move to other European countries,” Erdogan said. “Why don’t you open your gates too, let them go to other other countries, and rid yourself of this burden.”
In a speech marking International Women’s Day, Erdogan asserted that woman and children were bearing the brunt of the crisis.
“Is the West’s heart breaking over all of this? No. Is it raising its voice? No,” Erdogan said.
Turkey is accusing Greece of mistreating the migrants. Many migrants have reported crossing into Greece, being beaten by Greek authorities and summarily forced back into Turkey.
Erdogan will travel to Brussels on Monday to talk with top EU officials about a 2016 Turkey-EU agreement on containing the refugee flows to Europe that has now collapsed. Each side has blamed the other.
The deal called for Turkey to halt the flow of Europe-bound migrants and refugees in exchange for up to 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees on its territory, fast-track EU membership and visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens.
“I hope that we will return from Brussels with a different result,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan has demanded that Europe shoulder more of the burden of caring for refugees, accusing the EU of failing to disburse the money. He announced that Turkey, which already houses more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, would no longer be Europe’s gatekeeper.
EU foreign ministers have criticized Turkey, saying it is using the migrants’ desperation “for political purposes.” EU countries are still dealing with the political fallout from a wave of mass migration five years ago.
Thousands of migrants have slept under terrible conditions in makeshift camps near the Greek border since the Turkish government said they were free to go, waiting for the opportunity to enter Greece.