Turkey’s border will remain open for migrants seeking to reach the EU, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says. Thousands of illegal migrants have amassed at the border with Greece, facing off with police and trying to break through
Ankara will not try to stop the refugees flowing to Europe, Erdogan told reporters Friday, as he was flying home from Moscow, where he had agreed a ceasefire document on Syria’s Idlib with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Are the borders open or closed? We don’t have time to discuss it anymore. It is done.
The situation at the Greek-Turkish border remains very tense — some 35,000 migrants have amassed there, only to get turned away by the border guard and the police. On Friday, migrants protested actions of the Greek authorities at the Pazarkule border crossing, insisting that they want to get into the EU seeking “freedom.”
Earlier in the day, Greece accused Turkey of firing tear gas and smoke grenades into country’s territory, in an attempt to provide cover for the migrants trying to break in, as well as providing them with wire cutters to rip through the border fencing.
Tear gas flung at Greek police at Greek-Turkish border near Kastanies crossing
— RT (@RT_com) March 6, 2020
While Greece and other European nations have blamed Erdogan for deliberately pushing the migrants into Europe and, effectively, weaponizing the refugee problem, Turkish president maintains that’s not the case. “Refugees are leaving on their own,” he said.
Turkey opened its western borders late in February, claiming that it was no longer able to sustain the migrant burden all by itself. Turkey and the EU reached an agreement on migrants back in 2016, with the EU agreeing to provide some €6 billion ($6.6 billion) to help resettle the displaced people, while Ankara promised to keep them away from Europe.
The EU has signaled it was ready to allocate additional funding to Turkey to prevent the looming migrant crisis, but insisted Ankara must stop using the migrants as a political weapon first.
“Turkey has a big burden…and we have to understand that,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday after an emergency meeting of top EU diplomats on the crisis. “But at the same time, we cannot accept that migrants are being used as a source of pressure.”
Ankara, for its part, claims it has seen only a fraction of the promised €6 billion and does not hold its breath over new potential offers from the Europeans.
“The West unfortunately has many faces,” Erdogan said. “The EU… they made us some promises as well. I don’t know if there will be a result from there or not.”