Migrant Crisis 2.0: Greek Army Conducts Live Ammunition Drills on Turkish Border

Greek police officers face migrants gathered at the Greece-Turkey border, near Kastanies, Greece, on February 29, 2020. - Thousands of migrants stuck on the Turkey-Greece border clashed with Greek police on February 29, 2020, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. Greek police fired tear gas at migrants who …
SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP via Getty Images

Greece conducted a military drill with live ammunition along the Turkish border, as waves of migrants attempt to cross the border after President Erdogan’s decision to ‘open the gates’ for migrants to cross into Europe.

Ahead of a visit from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Fourth Army Corps of Greece announced it would conduct a military drill, using machine guns, rifles, and pistols at border posts in the Evros land border with Turkey. During the drill, the army enacted a 24-hour ban on movement of people, vehicles, and livestock in the area.

In the northern border region of Greece, the military sent an automated text to mobile phones on Sunday, warning people to not attempt to enter the area, according to Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

After touring the border region today with European Commission President von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that his country will not be “blackmailed” by Turkey over the migrant issue.

“This is no longer a refugee problem. This is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda and to divert attention from the horrible situation in Syria,” Mitsotakis said.

The leader of the European Commission declared “European solidarity with Greece” over the migrant crisis, saying that “Greek concerns are our own concerns, the Greek borders are European borders.”

“The situation at our borders is not an issue that Greece has to deal with on its own, it is Europe’s responsibility and we will manage the problem with order, unity, solidarity, and determination,” von der Leyen said.

The Greek leader noted that mass migration from Turkey is an “asymmetrical threat”, meaning that not all EU member states face the negative impacts of the crisis.

“The EU has not been up to the task of dealing with the migration crisis. I hope this crisis will serve as a wake-up call for everyone,” Mitsotakis said.

Von der Leyen’s talk of “solidarity” recalls the fallout of German Chancellor Angela Merkel throwing open the borders of Europe in August 2015 in the first migrant crisis, with the German premiere demanding that all other EU member states take their ‘fair share’ to lessen the burden on Greece and Italy. However, the Brussels-backed migrant quotas sparked a populist backlash throughout the EU, particularly in Hungary, where 95 per cent of Hungarians voted to reject the bloc’s redistribution scheme.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist president of Turkey, announced last week that all migrants would be free to pass through the country into Europe, despite the European Union, including the UK, pouring billions of dollars into Turkish coffers in return for keeping migration at bay.

Between Saturday and Monday, around 24,000 migrants were stopped by border patrol guards, who fired tear gas at the migrants, most of whom came from Afganistan, the Daily Mail reported.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis said that the migrants attempting to illegally cross into Greece over the past few days are not refugees coming from Idlib the war-torn Syrian province, but rather people who have been living in Turkey for years.

“Unfortunately, Turkey has turned into an official migrant trafficker,” Mitsotakis said.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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