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Society

Turkey Opens Gates for Refugees, Migrants to Reach Greece, EU

February 28, 2020

ANKARA – A Syrian airstrike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers who had invaded the northern Idlib region led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift an alleged bar on refugees and migrants from heading to the European Union, with hundreds heading toward Greece and Bulgaria.

There are some 5.5 million of them in Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and war-torn Syria and Turkey has let human traffickers keep sending them to Greek islands during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

Greece is holding about 100,000, including 42,000 on islands near Turkey where the situation has become explosive, with residents protesting New Democracy plans for centers aimed at sorting out those not eligible for asylum.

Hundreds of migrants walked through northwest Turkey toward its borders with Greece and Bulgaria on Feb. 28, Turkish media reported, after a senior official said Turkey will no longer try to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe although they had been allowed.

An official not named told the news agency Reuters that Turkish police, Coast Guard and border security officials had been ordered to allow refugees’ land and sea crossings towards Europe, anticipating more coming from Idlib.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency said there were around 300 migrants, including women and children, in the group which began heading towards the borders with Greece and Bulgaria at a land crossing.

Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Moroccans were among those in the group, it said, adding that migrants gathered on the western Turkish coastal district of Ayvacik in Canakkale province with the aim of travelling by boat to Greece’s Lesbos island where there are already some 20,000 and where violence has been erupting.

Reuters could not independently confirm who the people were nor where they were headed. Video footage of the migrants broadcast by pro-government Turkish television channels could also not immediately be verified, the news agency said.

Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to open the gates to Europe, mostly through Greece’s land borders and over the Aegean to Greek islands where the situation is rapidly worsening, leaving Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis scrambling for answers.

Turkish broadcaster NTV showed scores of people walking through fields wearing backpacks and said the refugees had tried to cross the Kapikule border into Bulgaria, but were not allowed through.

The group, it was said, then walked through fields to reach the Pazarkule border crossing into Greece, but it was unclear what happened to them thereafter.

Refugees and migrants did arrive on a dinghy accompanied by vessels from the EU border patrol Frontex, landing at the village of Skala Sikaminia on Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey, the Associated Press also said.

Greece tightened sea and land borders with Turkey and sources not identified told the news agency the government had also contacted the EU and NATO, the defense alliance to which both countries belonged and hasn’t tried to stop Turkish provocations.

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