Refugees trapped in ‘no man’s land’ on the Greek border as Erdoğan acts on his threat to the EU

Refugees bording bus
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

On October 2019, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the EU he’d “open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees” its way. Erdoğan threatened to do so if EU leaders called his invasion of northern Syria an “occupation”. He made his comments following EU condemnation of his invasion.

And according to reports on the ground, he is following through on that threat. There are images showing refugees coming from Turkey and making their way to the Greek border by land. Meanwhile, others are attempting to make their way by sea.

Humanitarian crisis

This report shows refugees on the Greek-Turkish border unable to move in either direction:

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This video shows refugees leaving by sea:

And while the border between Turkey and Greece is closed, some refugees risk their lives by going through “no man’s land”.  As they attempt this, there are reports of Greek border guards firing tear gas at them:

Greek border

The Greek authorities have “tightened border controls” to prevent refugees entering Greece by land or sea. This message was reiterated by the Greek prime minister. He confirmed there were refugees gathering on the border:

EU/Turkey 2016 deal

Turkey has received €6bn from the EU over the last four years. The EU gave this money to Turkey to look after the welfare of 3 million Syrian refugees. Additionally, the EU promised to further negotiations on Turkey’s entrance to the EU and the customs union. It also promised to further negotiations on allowing Turkish citizens to travel to the EU without a visa.

Despite these reports, the EU was reportedly “skeptical” that Turkey would send more refugees to Europe. But another video shows an absence of Turkish guards on the border. This means refugees are approaching the border freely from Turkey and then being stopped by Greek border guards:

Turkey’s invasion

Erdoğan came in for widespread condemnation when he invaded northern Syria (known as Rojava) on 9 October last year. Some believe his intention is to “to ethnically cleanse the majority-Kurdish population of Rojava”. In the meantime these refugees wait in limbo at the border and at present it’s unclear how long that will be.

Featured image via YouTube – Al Jazeera

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