ATHENS – After some 1,500 refugees trying to cross from Turkey were stymied at the northern border post, Greek officials said it was part of another plan to push them over the line.
Citizens Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told SKAI TV that, “There obviously exists some kind of organized plan by Turkey; in most cases, (the migrants] are brought in Turkish gendarmerie vehicles. You can’t call that spontaneous or disorganized.”
He said they were stopped by a heavy police and border guard presence near where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February 2020, just before the COVID pandemic struck, bused 10,000 refugees there.
Turkey is holding some 4.4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands and are using the country as a jumping-off point to try to get into the European Union.
That’s most through Greece which had been holding up to 100,000 of them including on Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast where human traffickers were being allowed to keep sending even more of them.
That’s in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, Turkey and human rights groups claiming that Greece is pushing them back unlawfully, which the New Democracy government denied.
Theodorikakos added that the “threat” at the Evros border isn’t as bad as it was in 2020 as since then Greece has added patrols, electronic surveillance and is extending an anti-refugee wall, the Evros River also a deterrent.
The British newspaper The Guardian said there were thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey assembling in a Caravan of Light and planning a mass crossing of the border, the EU having shut them out earlier.
They have been drawing up plans for the journey via a Telegram channel, which now has more than 85,000 members, the paper said, frustrated by waits of two years or more in Greek detention centers to seek asylum.
There are more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, where there have been recent reports of rising tensions and violence against Syrians in parts of the country, the report also said.
They said they planned to walk across the border without explaining how that could happen as it’s closed to them and heavily guarded and defended, but the refugees – including doctors, engineers and lawyers – are desperate to get across.
They said they’ve been driven to it by what they said was racism against them in Turkey and seen some of them killed, pointing to “pressure on us to return to the areas of the Syrian regime, and this means endangering our lives once again.”
The report claimed that some of them had gotten to the Greek border but were attacked by human smugglers who profit by getting people into Greece, undeterred by the Turkish forces.