Tensions on Europe’s borders with Turkey are rising as thousands of migrants are brought to the frontier on unmarked buses and state-owned railways.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country’s borders to Europe were open for migrants some days ago, ostensibly because his country could not cope with an increased flow of refugees from Idlib, Syria.
Yet the move follows years of threats made by Erdogan to punish Europe for not furnishing his Islamist government with money and political support by opening Turkey’s borders — behind which are 3.5 million or more migrants waiting to travel to the West.
Erdogan has repeatedly expressed frustration with Europe’s failure to fully back his military operations in the Syria to carve out a Turkish zone of control and prop up rebels linked to al-Qaeda, which has resulted in deadly clashes between his forces and the Russian-backed Syrian government and its Iranian and Iran-linked allies.
Number of refugees at Greek border keeps increasing. Sea crossings will be impossible to stop as weather improves
— Bruno Maçães (@MacaesBruno) February 29, 2020
There are now thousands of migrants packed into the so-called no man’s land on the Greco-Turkish border, with the Greek authorities struggling to repel the reportedly mostly male migrants seeking to breach the European Union’s common external border.
Despite Erdogan’s suggestions that the migrants are recent refugees from Idlib, this does not appear to be the case, with the migrants coming from all over Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Many have been ferried to the border in unmarked buses free of charge, with reporters on the ground suggesting some are also being transported via Turkey’s state-owned railways.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Sunday evening that all asylum applications are being suspended in response to the crisis, and that “the level of deterrence at our borders [has been increased to the maximum.”
This has resulted in violent clashes between the Greeks and the would-be migrants, with migrants accused of targetting guards with missiles and Molotov cocktails and guards accused of tear-gassing incoming migrants — although unsubstantiated allegations are circulating on social media that some of the tear gas canisters found at the scene are printed with Turkish writing, and have either been given to the migrants to use against the Greeks or deployed by the Turks themselves to exacerbate the situation.
The actions taken by Greece are not technically permissible under the European Union rules and treaties on migration Greece is party to, reports the New York Times, but Prime Minister Mitsotakis has activated an EU treaty emergency clause in an effort “to ensure full European support” in the crisis.
The Greek government said of Turkey’s actions to open the border despite the country receiving billions of euros from the European Union to keep the border shut, that: “Turkey, instead of curbing migrant and refugee smuggling networks, has become a smuggler itself.”
2/ This morning white buses arrived at Topkapi area in Istanbul. Witnesses tell me they don't have a clue who owns those buses. Also no signs on them.
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) February 28, 2020