Migrants arriving in Lesbos. Wikipedia

Greece blocks all asylum applications after Turkey opens floodgates

Greece has blocked new asylum applications after Turkey opened the floodgates for migrants to reach the EU. According to Greek officials, some 10 000 migrants stormed the land border with Turkey.

Published: March 2, 2020, 9:44 am

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    Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Greece had increased “the level of deterrence at our borders to the maximum,” the BBC reported. Mitsotakis announced the suspension of asylum applications on Twitter on Sunday, adding that Greece had invoked an emergency clause of an EU treaty “to ensure full European support”.

    “The borders of Greece are the external borders of Europe. We will protect them,” he said. He warned illegal migrants not to attempt crossing the border: “Once more, do not attempt to enter Greece illegally – you will be turned back,” he said after the almost 10 000 illegal entries were prevented in the region of Evros along the 212 kilometers of land border with Turkey.

    After repeatedly threatening to flood the EU with migrants, Turkish President Erdogan has finally kept his word. In the morning of Saturday February 29, the country opened its border with Greece.

    Turkey’s decision comes in the wake of the death of 33 Turkish soldiers killed in air strikes in Idlib province in northern Syria. Erdogan confirmed that migrants will be heading to neighbouring EU member states Greece and Bulgaria. EU border agency Frontex has been put on “high alert”.

    Greek deputy defence minister Alkiviadis Stefanis accused Turkey of encouraging illegals to attempt the crossing. “Not only are they not stopping them, but they are helping them,” he told Greece’s Skai TV. Several reporters reported on site that migrants were being taken to the border on Turkish buses. Also, Turkish border guards did nothing to stop attempts at crossing. According to media reports, many of them are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi citizens.

    Turkey was given aid funding by the EU to host some 3,7 million displaced Syrians, as well as migrants from other countries such as Afghanistan, but now claims the EU broke the mutual agreement.

    Meanwhile, at least 500 illegals on seven boats have reached the overcrowded Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios. The Greek government expects even greater pressure on the islands after a spell of good weather on Sunday.

    Clashes between illegals and Greek police erupted on Saturday while the influx of migrants on the Greek-Turkish border intensified on Sunday. According to Turkish information, over 75 000 people have crossed the Turkish frontier, waiting in the border area for an opportunity to get to Europe.

    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drien urged the Russians to stop attacking Turkish troops, after holding talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu.

    Cavusoglu has alleged that the Greek government has committed serious transgressions: “They shamelessly drop tear gas bombs on thousands of innocents who crowd at their gates,” he said on Twitter. “We have no obligation to prevent people from leaving our country, but Greece has a duty to treat them like human beings.”

    The chairman of the German AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Alexander Gauland, has asked the federal government to take responsibility for protecting its own borders. “The consequence of the crashing failure of the Turkey deal is that the EU and its member states have to protect their borders themselves.” Germany must also be prepared to close the borders and reject illegal migrants. The 2016 agreement with Turkey was “a fatal political mistake” Gauland said.

    The new wave of migration has enraged the residents of the Greek island Lesbos. Residents burned down a former UN accommodation center on March 1.

    Concerned about the risk of overpopulation, residents of the Greek island of Lesbos set fire to an unoccupied reception center for migrants near the beach of Skala Sykamineas, Franceinfo reported.

    The center, formerly managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was closed at the end of January. It previously welcomed migrants before they were taken to a shelter on the island. As Franceinfo highlighted, some 150 residents had gathered around the center after the arrival of new migrants on Skala Sykamineas beach and set it on fire.

    In total, according to the UN, at least 13 000 migrants have gathered at the border in the hope of crossing to Europe.

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