Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Europe will have to take its share of the migrant ‘burden’ as Greece today tried to fend off an ‘invasion’ after Turkey threw open its borders.
More than 13,000 migrants have gathered on the Turkish side of the river which runs 125 miles along the frontier and separates them from Greece, and therefore the EU.
Today police were firing tear gas against crowds who were trying to push through, with some migrants trying to swim across rivers or squeeze through fences, although only dozens have succeeded so far.
The flow of migrants has triggered fears of a re-run of the 2015 crisis when a million people crossed into Europe, most of them fleeing the Syrian civil war.
‘This is what happened in 2015, it’s repeating itself. Thousands at our borders, God help us,’ said a 63-year-old resident of the border village of Kastanies.
Erdogan has been guarding Europe’s border since then but opened the doors to his country’s 3.6million refugees on Friday, in a move he has long threatened, hoping to pressure Western leaders over the conflict in Syria.
Migrants lift their inflatable boat onto the shore at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing on a dinghy from Turkey today
Migrants run to avoid tear gas thrown by Greek police during clashes near the Pazarkule border gate in Edirne today
Migrants from Afghanistan walk on a beach after arriving on a dinghy near the village of Skala Sikamias, after crossing part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the island of Lesbos
Greek security forces face off against migrants on the other side of a fence at the Pazarkule border gate today, with thousands gathering on the border
Turkish leader Erdogan told Europe today: ‘After we opened the doors, there were multiple calls saying “close the doors”.
‘I told them it’s done. It’s finished. The doors are now open. Now, you will have to take your share of the burden.’
Today there were crowds of several hundred people at the border shouting ‘peace, peace’ and pleading to be let through into Greece.
‘This is an invasion,’ said Giorgos Karampatzakis, mayor of Marassia village, a common border crossing near the Evros River.
‘What we are seeing is an endless migration crisis, what is Europe doing? What measures is it taking?’ asked Yannis Siskoglou, a resident of Marassia.
‘There are thousands at the border and there is no return route for them,’ he said.
Greek police have been attempting to maintain calm and contain the flow of migrants, yesterday using water cannon on them.
Today they made use of tear gas as thousands of migrants tried to find a way across the border, although only dozens have succeeded so far.
One video clip showed parents scrambling to help their children as they struggled against the tear gas.
Some migrants have attempted to swim across rivers or duck under fences, while others dragged suitcases as they marched towards the border where large crowds of migrants waited, some wrapped in blankets or sleeping on dirt mounds.
A migrant cuts through barbed wire on a border fence as he tries to reach Greece near the Pazarkule border gate in the Karaagac neighbourhood in Turkey today
Migrants walk through fields in their effort reach Greece, seen here near Karpuzlu village close to the Turkish border city of Edirne
Migrants including young children leave their dinghy after crossing from Turkey today, after Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan threw the border open
Migrants from Afghanistan arrive on a dinghy on a beach near the Greek village of Skala Sikamias early this morning
A migrant runs to avoid tear gas thrown by Greek police during clashes near the Pazarkule border gate in Edirne
Greek authorities have already boosted border patrols, using loudhailers to call on the migrants to stay on the Turkish side.
The Greek government has also set up an automatic texting system for foreign mobile phones approaching the border, sending them the message: ‘Greece is maximising border security. Do not try to cross borders illegally.’
Erdogan agreed to guard Europe’s borders under a deal struck in 2016 in which he was paid more than £5billion by the EU.
Around a million Syrians moved to Germany at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 and the influx has caused a series of political headaches for Angela Merkel ever since.
After repeated threats, Erdogan finally pulled the plug on the agreement last Friday after Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria.
Erdogan wants NATO to assist him in the Syrian conflict, where Turkey is helping rebels against Russian-backed government forces.
Turkish foreign minister Suleyman Soylu claims that more than 100,000 people have left Turkey, but there is no evidence to support his claim.
Migrants try to cut through a border fence near Edirne today as they try to cross into Greece after Turkey announced it was no longer guarding the border
A migrant throws back a gas canister in response to Greek security forces’ intervention today
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is heading to Ankara on Monday to discuss the migrant situation with Erdogan.
Borissov said that a new migrant wave would threaten stability in the region as Europe is struggling to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an emergency meeting with his foreign affairs and defence teams last night.
They decided to step up the level of deterrence at Greece’s eastern borders to the maximum and to suspend submission of new asylum applications by those illegally entering the country for one month.
Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas on Sunday attacked Turkey over the situation.
‘Turkey, rather than controlling the migrant and refugee trafficking rings, has itself become a trafficker,’ he said in a statement.
Petsas added that Turkey was using the people gathered at the border as ‘pawns’, in order to exercise diplomatic pressure.
‘The current situation constitutes an active, serious, exceptional and asymmetric threat to the country’s national security,’ Petsas said.
More than 13,000 migrants have gathered on the Turkish side of the river which runs 125 miles along the frontier and separates them from Greece, and therefore the EU
A woman takes off her wet shoes as migrants arrive at the village of Skala Sikaminias on the Greek island of Lesbos today
The flow of migrants (including these arrivals from Afghanistan today) has triggered fears of a re-run of the 2015 migrant crisis, when a million people crossed into Europe
Migrants from Iran walks along the Greece-Turkey border in the village of Sofiko this morning
Greek government sources said late on Sunday that Greece had blocked some 10,000 people from crossing its border in the previous 24 hours.
Since 6am on Sunday, a total of 5,500 people were barred from entering Greece illegally and 60 people were arrested and charged with illegally entering the nation.
A steady flow of inflatable dinghies and other crammed and unseaworthy craft arrived on the islands after crossing the Aegean Sea at the height of the 2015 crisis.
A group of local people on Lesbos managed to stop around 50 migrants, including children, from landing their boat after several hours at sea.
Shouting ‘Go back to Turkey’, furious locals at the port of Thermi blocked the boats and hurled insults at the local representative of the UN refugees agency, while others attacked journalists and photographers, hitting them and throwing cameras into the water.
‘We’ve got nothing against the refugees but… those who are prepared to come here must understand that this is how we will receive them now,’ said Despoina, a 47-year-old islander.
On the road to the overcrowded Moria camp on the island, another group of local people used chains and rocks to try to block the route of a police bus transporting migrants who arrived Sunday, the Greek news agency ANA reported.
‘The anger of the people of Moria is justified,’ said the mayor. ‘Moria can’t take any more arrivals.’