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22 July, 2024
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Greek army, police dig in along Turkey border after migrant clashes

Thousands of migrants look for way around shut Greek border

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

Greek troops and riot police remained on high alert on Tuesday along the land border between Greece and Turkey, the main flashpoint in an escalating row between the EU and Ankara over how to deal with a new wave of migrants and refugees.

Some 10,000 migrants have been trying to breach the border since Turkey said last Thursday it would no longer uphold a 2016 accord with the European Union to keep refugees on its territory in return for billions of euros in aid.

Thousands of migrants searched for ways to cross Greece's land border on Tuesday, days after Turkey declared its borders with Europe open in an attempt to force the EU into helping it handle the growing fallout from Syria's war.

Many of those hoping to enter Greece were trying their luck by wading or rowing across the Evros River that runs along most of the length of the Turkish frontier.

Greek authorities said the border had been quiet overnight, in contrast to the clashes seen over the weekend and into Monday, when police used tear gas against migrants, including women and children, stuck in the no-man’s land.

“There were only a few attempts today (by migrants to cross the border). Let’s hope they get the message,” a machine gun-toting army officer told Reuters near the Kastanies border crossing.

Army jeeps patrolled the area, and roads leading to the Evros river which marks the Greek-Turkish border remained shut.

“Greece’s borders are also Europe’s borders,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement released ahead of a planned inspection tour of the area later on Tuesday with the heads of the three main EU institutions.

They said that in the 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday morning, they had prevented a total of 5,183 people from entering Greece, and arrested 45 people, mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco and Bangladesh.

Greece has made clear its borders are shut. It has sent military and police reinforcements to the area, which have used tear gas and water cannon to repel mass attempts by migrants to cross into the country. Authorities have also set up cordons of police and army checks on and near the border, arresting those who managed to make it through.

The presidents of the executive European Commission, the European Council – which represents national governments – and the European Parliament want to demonstrate their solidarity with Greece as it struggles to hold back the new migrant tide.

Choppy seas

European leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 crisis, when more than a million migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Asia, entered the EU from Turkey via Greece and the Balkans, putting a heavy strain on European security and welfare systems and boosting support for far-right parties.

The situation further south in the Aegean Sea was also calmer on Tuesday due to choppier seas, a police source said, after nearly 300 migrants arrived on the Greek islands by boat from the nearby Turkish coast on Monday.

A Syrian boy died on Monday after he and 47 others were plucked from the sea when their boat capsized. He was the first reported fatality since Turkey opened its border.

Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million refugees from Syria’s civil war and faces another big influx after an escalation of fighting there, has said it cannot take in any more migrants.

Greece has been infuriated by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s claim late on Monday that Greek soldiers killed two migrants and badly wounded a third, something Athens denies.

“When a country uses people as a battering ram, fabricates fake news to mislead them, and systematically violates the sovereignty and sovereign rights of neighbouring countries, it is in no position to point fingers at anyone,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a tweet.

Greece  |  Turkey  |  migration  |  refugees  |  Syria  |  Evros river

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