KASTANIES, Greece – As a standoff continued at the border with Turkey, which sent thousands of refugees and migrants there and urged them to cross over, Greece forces set up giant fans to push back tear gas fired from the other side.
The jeep-mounted turbines were set up near the Kastanies crossing in the northeastern Evros border region that’s seen daily clashes between migrants and Greek border forces since Feb. 28, when Turkey opened its side, said Reuters.
That violated the terms of a 2016 swap deal with the European Union in which Turkey was supposed to contain some 5.5 million refugees and migrants after a million had already made it into the EU, mostly through Greek islands.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened his country’s side after the death of 33 soldiers in an area of northern Syria they had invaded made him fear that more refugees from that country would pore into Turkey, already holding some 3.3 million of them.
There’s also another 2.2 million in Turkey who had fled their homelands, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa, to get away from war, strife and economic misery in hopes of getting to the EU’s more prosperous countries before the borders were shut.
Frustrated migrants at the border were reportedly throwing Molotov Cocktails across at Greek riot police and Army units deployed there, with tear gas being fired back and forth between the sides.
Greek military officials said the turbines used to disperse the gas are normally employed in parachute training, the news agency said, with the migrants massed at the border getting bolder, although those who manage to cross are being detained in a secret black site camp and then returned over the river, The New York Times said.
TURKEY WANTS MONEY
Greece said it has stopped more than 45,000 attempted entries, with the paper also reporting that Greek hunters and vigilante forces were also at the border trying to track down migrants.
The European Union, which has been reluctant to sanction Erdogan, said it would consider his demand to revise the swap deal and as he said he wants some 3 billion euros ($3.35 billion) being held back from a 6-billion euro ($6.7 billion) pledge.
Greece is holding about 100,000 refugees and migrants, including some 42,000 on five islands near Turkey which had already allowed human traffickers to keep sending more during the deal that was in suspension before Erdogan broke it.
Greece’s besieged New Democracy government said it would move 20,000 to the mainland after island officials and residents rose up in arms over plans to take properties to build new detention centers to vet those deemed ineligible for asylum, which almost all want.
During a visit to Athens, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said migrants who sign up would each receive 2,000 euros ($2,240) “of financial and technical support for their departure and towards reintegration in their home countries.”
Johansson also said that seven EU countries so far have pledged to take in more than 1,600 unaccompanied minors trapped in Greece. “I am confident more pledges could come,” she said although the EU kept them out and other countries have reneged on promises to help take some of the overload from Greece which is trying to recover from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis.