Kathimerini Greece Newsroom
Turkey is deploying 1,000 special police forces along its border with Greece on Thursday to halt the pushback of migrants toward its territory, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said, adding that 164 migrants had been wounded by Greek authorities.
Soylu’s comments come amid a war of words between Ankara and Athens following Turkey’s decision to no longer abide by a 2016 deal with the European Union to halt illegal migration flows to Europe in return for billions of euros in aid.
Since then, thousands of migrants have rushed to the Turkish border with Greece in hopes of crossing into Europe. Ankara has accused Greek authorities of shooting dead and injuring migrants near the border. Athens has rejected this, saying Turkish police were helping migrants cross the border illegally.
Speaking to reporters in the northwestern border province of Edirne, Soylu said Greek police had wounded the scores of migrants trying to cross the border.
“They wounded 164 people. They tried to push 4,900 people back to Turkey,” he said. “We are deploying 1,000 special force police to the border system... to prevent the push-back.”
Turkey, locked in a military conflict with Moscow and Damascus in northwest Syria, hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and has said it cannot handle more. It wants the EU to more forcefully back its efforts in Syria and deliver more funds to care for the nearly one million displaced there.
President Tayyip Erdogan met with EU officials on Wednesday to discuss developments in Syria and the migrants flooding the European borders. Erdogan’s spokesman later said “no concrete proposition” on the migrants was made at the talks.
Turkey preparing human rights case over Greece's treatment of migrants
Turkey said on Wednesday it was preparing a case in the European Court of Human Rights over Greece’s treatment of migrants, and added the EU has so far made no concrete offer to deal with thousands trying to enter the bloc.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday as hundreds of Turkey-based migrants again tried to cross into Greece, prompting riot police on both sides of the border to fire tear gas and trade blame.
Ankara earlier on Wednesday accused Greek forces of shooting dead a migrant and injuring others - claims Athens rejected and said Turkish police helped migrants illegally cross into its territory.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on broadcaster CNN Turk that officials are “making preparations” to apply to the ECHR over Greece’s interventions with the migrants. The families of two people who died have authorized Ankara to do so.
He said that more than 135,000 people had so far passed from Turkey’s border province of Edirne into Greece since late last week, citing what he called daily police observation.
The number was higher than other estimates.
The war of words between Athens and Ankara has escalated since last week when Turkey decided to no longer abide a 2016 deal with the European Union to halt illegal migration flows to Europe in return for billions of euros in aid.
Since then, more than 10,000 migrants from Afghanistan, Syria and other countries have been trying to breach the border.
Turkey, locked in a military conflict with Moscow and Damascus in Syria’s Idlib region, fears another wave of Syrian refugees after already hosting some 3.6 million. It wants the EU to more forcefully back it in Syria and deliver more funds.
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey’s presidential spokesman, told reporters in Ankara that Michel made “no concrete proposition” on migrants to the EU in talks with Erdogan but added: “We hope they somehow formulate this plan soon and get it to us so we can quickly realize it in the event we reach agreement.”
He said Turkey does not consider its decision to encourage migrants to cross over into the EU as “political blackmail” as some European officials have said.
“It is a double standard that the European Union can mobilize hundreds of millions of euros to Greece within days, but uses bureaucracy as an excuse when it comes to Turkey,” Kalin added.