Hundreds of mainly Syrian migrants are engaged in a standoff with Turkish police near Turkey’s Greek border after the authorities shut down their bid to cross into the European Union. Turkey has been struggling to house nearly 2 million Syrian refugees, leading to tensions with both Syria and the EU.
Syrian refugees have become economic migrants – disillusioned by the lack of opportunities in Turkey they have steadily been making their way to the border to pursue new lives within the European Union. Saleh, a 25-year-old electronics engineer from the Syrian city of Aleppo told Reuters:
“I am young I am strong, if I can make it to Europe perhaps I can have a life. We have degrees, we have education, there’s nothing for us here in Turkey.”
The migrants have increasingly been turning to land routes into the EU following a number of widely publicised deaths of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. On Tuesday, 22 people drowned when the boat they were on capsized, bringing the total number of migrants who have died or are missing at sea this year to 2,812, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration.
But on Tuesday the Turkish authorities took measures to prevent the flow of people north, putting up temporary barricades to halt hundreds of people making their way across the land border, and stopping busses travelling from Istanbul to Edirne, a large border town just 11 miles from Greece.
By Wednesday a makeshift camp had sprung up near Edirne, replete with home-made tents and piles of rubbish. Some migrants began the long trip back to Istanbul, but others like Saleh were determined not to be thwarted, vowing to find a way through to Europe.
The scene has become a familiar sight as people doggedly making their way across Europe clash at numerous borders. Violent scenes witnessed in Hungary and Croatia, where migrants were also found fighting among themselves, echoed those seen earlier in Lesbos and of course Calais.
With Ankara struggling to cope with the humanitarian fallout of sheltering 2 million migrants, and frustration growing at the European Union’s perceived unwillingness to assist Turkey, there are concerns that officials will simply ignore those migrants crossing the border illegally.
Equally concerning has been the recent rhetoric by the Turkish President Tayyip Ergodan, blaming Syria and Assad for the ongoing crisis and threatening military action. “We cannot bear any longer to sit back and watch bodies of children and women washed ashore on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Aegean as a result of a forced helplessness,” Ergodan said in a recent speech in Ankara.
“The solution of this crisis is through bringing down the tyrannic regime in Syria.”