UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — On Tuesday, the European Union dispatched senior officials to Turkey and Greece at a time of growing concern over a new influx of migrants at the gates of Europe after Ankara’s decision to open its borders.
Tens of thousands of people have flocked to Greece since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered Friday to open the borders of his country, which reminded in Europe the memory of the major migration crisis in 2015.
In a sign of solidarity with Athens, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President Charles Michel and European Parliament President David Sasoli head to Greece near the Turkish border.
In parallel, European Union Foreign Minister Josip Borrell and European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Linares are on a two-day visit to Ankara for “high-level” talks on the situation in Syria.
Many observers believe that Turkey is trying to pressure Europe to obtain more support in the Syrian issue, as around a million people are gathering on its borders with Syria, where Ankara is launching a military operation.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday condemned what he described as Turkey’s attempt to “blackmail” the European Union by opening its borders to thousands of migrants and refugees seeking to go to Europe.
Kurtz told reporters that what happened was “an attack by Turkey on the European Union and Greece. People are being used to pressure Europe … The European Union should not be subject to blackmail.”
The situation on the Greek-Turkish border has become very tense in recent days, as clashes have occurred between the Greek police, who fired tear gas and used water cannons and migrants throwing stones.
– Greek Leagues –
Thousands of immigrants spent a new night near the Bazarkol border crossing, Castanias from the Greek side, or on the bank of the Evros River separating the two countries.
On Tuesday, Agence France-Presse obtained testimonies from Syrian refugees who accused the Turkish army of pushing them toward the Greek border.
“They left us on the bank of the river and they told us ‘go away’, they leave us alone. The Turkish army is the one who did this,” said Tayseer al-Suri, from Damascus, 23, who took refuge five years ago in Istanbul.
At dawn on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse correspondents reported that men, women and children exited from tents randomly installed in order to warm the fire that ignited the place and were eating meals distributed by volunteers.
On the Greek side, masked and armed border guards patrolled along the river to intercept the migrants, while others were observing the area with binoculars from a watchtower.
Small groups of immigrants were trying to find a hole in the frozen waters of the river.
But after days of waiting, it seems that some of the migrants who thought they would be able to cross easily are about to return. An Afghan told that one of his friends had crossed the river, but the police intercepted him.
“They took everything from him, his money and his shoes and brought him back here,” he told AFP.
– “Negotiation Paper” –
On Monday, Erdogan announced that “millions” of immigrants will flow “soon” to Europe, stressing that each party should “bear its share of the burden.”
For the time being, and far from the numbers reported by the Turkish president, thousands of people are trying to reach Greece by land or by sea by reaching the Aegean islands.
Between Saturday and Monday evening, “24,203 attempts to enter the country illegally were prevented, and 183 people were arrested,” the Greek government announced.
Faced with this situation, which it called an “invasion”, Greece announced that it expects “strong support” from the European Union.
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Turkey’s move as “unacceptable.”
On Tuesday, non-governmental organizations called on Turkey “not to use migrants as a bargaining chip” and urged Ankara to “stop sending migrants to dangerous transit points.”
Ankara’s decision to open its borders comes as it launches a major attack against the Syrian regime forces after it suffered heavy losses in the northwestern province of Idlib, where it launches an operation called “Spring Shield”, and seeks Western support.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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