‘Open the gates,’ migrants chant at Turkey-Greece border

On Friday, Greek migrants and police exchanged tear gas and stones on the border with Turkey, where thousands of refugees were encouraged by Ankara to leave for the European Union.

Brief clashes took place as many desperate migrants attempted to cross the fence, AFP journalists at the scene said, but quickly ended the volley or the rocks and sat quietly chanting “freedom “and” opening doors “.

Makeshift camps for thousands of migrants have sprung up around the border since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his country would no longer prevent them from trying to leave.

Many say they are pressured into trying to enter Greece illegally.

“They (the Turkish army) told us that if you don’t go to the border … you will have to come back to Turkey and people don’t want to come back because they don’t have good opportunities , there is nothing, “Ali, an Iranian, told AFP.

The EU diplomatic chief directly called on migrants not to go to the Greek border.

“The border is not open,” said EU high representative Josep Borrell after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Zagreb.

Turkey and Russia agreed to a ceasefire in Syria on Thursday, but Ankara is still threatened by a potential new influx of refugees from Idlib’s last rebel stronghold and has sought to pressure Europe to ‘it provides increased assistance.

Turkey is already hosting some four million refugees and recent advances by the Syrian army, supported by the Russian army, have pushed almost a million more towards its border.

“Coordinated attacks”

Greek officials accused Turkey on Friday of firing tear gas and smoke bombs at their border guards and of providing migrants with cutters to cross the fences.

“There are coordinated attacks this morning,” a Greek official told AFP. “Aside from intimidation, these attacks are carried out by Turkish police to help migrants cross the border.”

Meanwhile, two Greeks were found guilty of threatening aid workers on the island of Lesbos, where there was a violent reaction against those who were helping the growing number of arrivals.

“I will continue to defend my country. Most (aid groups) operate like spies. These gangsters should leave the island,” said Konstantinos Alvanopoulos, 73, after being given a three-month suspended prison sentence. .

Erdogan’s office said the Syrian ceasefire would not change its policy regarding refugees leaving for Europe.

“The Russian-Turkish deal does not … change the fact that the European Union is not living up to its promises under the 2016 refugee agreement,” presidential sources told the news agency. national Anadolu.

Turkey agreed in 2016 to stop letting migrants leave in exchange for six billion euros – but Ankara says other parts of the deal, including improved visas and trade rules, have not never been respected.

Russia, which supports Syrian government forces by air power, has agreed to impose a ceasefire on Idlib from midnight and the sky was clear of warplanes for the first day of the month on Friday, although that previous peace agreements have proved to be temporary.

The EU welcomed the ceasefire.

“I am sure I am satisfied with the ceasefire, the ceasefire is good news. At least it is good will – let’s see how it works,” Borrell told Zagreb.

“But there is still an extraordinary humanitarian challenge which I think we all face in terms of the number of refugees,” added Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.