Police in Greece fought back on Saturday to repel thousands of illegal immigrants along the Turkish border. The push back comes as tens of thousands of migrants are beginning to amass along the Turkish-Greek border. Angry migrants pelted stones at Greek guards and attempted to cut through border fences, news reports said. The Greek police fired tear gas in response.
Government officials in Athens described the latest breach of country’s borders as a migrant ‘onslaught.’ “Greece yesterday faced an organised, mass and illegal attempt to violate its borders and it withstood this attempt,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Saturday. “We averted more than 4,000 attempts of illegal entrance to our land borders.”
The statement came as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that thousands of migrants has began forcing their way from Turkey into Europe. “Approximately 18,000 have forced their way through the gates but today it could reach 25 to 30,000. And we will not close these doors from now on, and this will continue,” Erdogan said on Saturday.
The migrant influx began after Turkey opened border crossings and encouraged migrants to cross into Europe. Turkey triggered the migrant wave a day after an airstrike by Russia-backed Syrian Forces killed 33 Turkish soldiers in northern Syria.
Reuters news agency reported the clashes on the Greece borders:
Greek police fired teargas to push back hundreds of stone-throwing migrants trying to cross the border from Turkey on Saturday, as a crisis over Syria shifted onto the European Union’s doorstep.
Greece, which has tense relations with Turkey, accused Ankara of sending the migrants to the border post in an organized “onslaught” and said it would keep them out.
Turkey said on Thursday it would stop keeping hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in its territory after an air strike on Idlib in neighboring Syria killed 33 Turkish soldiers.
Convoys of people appeared heading toward the land and sea borders of Greece, which was a gateway for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into Europe in 2015 and 2016.
“They (the migrants) didn’t come here on their own. They are being sent away and being used by (our) neighbor, Turkey,” Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis told reporters near the northern Greek border town of Kastanies.
“Greece… faced an organized, mass and illegal attempt to violate its borders and it withstood this attempt,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, adding that by Saturday morning authorities had prevented more than 4,000 people from entering Greece.
While Greece faces the biggest migrant wave since 2015, the European Union is in a denial mode.
“EU assumed Turkey would continue to uphold its end of the deal,” German state broadcaster DW News reported Saturday. “The European Commission in Brussels expressed relief at the Turkish statement,” the broadcaster added, referring to Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement that Ankara was abiding by the EU-Turkey migrant deal brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel five years ago. The EU has already paid 6 billion euros to Turkey in the hope that it will hold its part of the bargain. In recent months, Turkey had renewed its demand for more money and visa-free travel for 80 million Turks into Europe.
While the EU fails to come to the aid of Greece, a country weakened by the monetary crisis of 2008, some member states are ramping up their borders defenses in anticipation of a new migrant wave of the magnitude witnessed in 2015 when millions of migrants forced their way into Europe. Austria’s chancellor Sebastian Kurz suggested on Saturday that his country will close the borders if the migrant wave headed their way.
The migrant wave triggered by Turkey shows the failure of the EU to secure its outer border. By paying billions to Erdogan regime instead of securing its border, Brussels is at the mercy of Ankara.
Eastern European countries are better prepared to withstand the next migrant wave than the richer nations in the West, mainly Germany, France and Benelux countries. Despite EU’s objections and rebukes, Hungary has secured its borders with a 300 mile wall along the Balkan countries, a route often taken by migrants getting into Europe. According to BBC, the Hungarian wall is an “impenetrable border barrier of barbed wire and electric fences” designed to ”stop the migrant flow.”
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