ATHENS – Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Turkey deliberately sent refugees and migrants to the northern land border in February to use them for political purposes against Greece and the European Union.
“Turkey was obviously exposed to international public opinion,” Dendias told state broadcaster ERT over the migrant standoff along the Evros River border where some 10,000 massed and tried to burst through as Greece closed the crossing and used riot police and Army units to keep it secure.
“There is no doubt that these migrant flows were totally orchestrated and reinforced by the Turkish side,” Dendias said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan busing them there and urging them to get across, before pulling them back after violent confrontations that saw tear gas and Molotov Cocktails flying.
That came after the deaths of 33 Turkish soldiers in an area of northern Syria they had invaded, making him fear that more refugees from that country’s civil war – Turkey was holding 3.3 million of them- would also come.
Sending migrants to the border broke an already essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, which had closed its borders, giving them no other option but to come to Greece, mostly to islands, to seek asylum.
“Human pain was exploited (for political purposes); this is the truth and this is not acceptable in 21st century society. I hope that this will become clear to the Turkish side,” he said.
Dendias also asked for NATO – the defense alliance to which both countries belong but has refused to intervene over constant Turkish provocations that included violating Greek airspace and waters – to step up patrols in the Aegean to stop human traffickers in Turkey from continuing to send refugees and migrants to Greece.