03/07/2020, 16.47
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Turkey-Greece conflict over refugees getting worse

With thousands of people pressing on the Greek border, the EU has joined Greece to say that Europe’s doors are closed. Athens accuses Ankara of using human traffickers.


Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The European Union seems to be getting more and more involved in the ongoing confrontation between Turkey and Greece over thousands of migrants trying to cross the Turkish border into Greece.

The two countries are now releasing images to embarrass each other. Turkey released footage showing refugees repelled by Greek coastguards, whilst Greece posted images showing Turkish vessels escorting migrant boats towards Greek territorial waters.

Amid the situation, the European Union yesterday joined Greece in reiterating that Europe's doors are closed to migrants.

To this end, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell did not mince his words. “Don’t go to the border,” he said in a message directed at would-be migrants.

“The border,” he explained, “is not open. If someone tells you that you can go because the border is open [. . .] that is not true. Avoid the situation in which you could be in danger [. . .] Avoid moving to a closed door. And please don’t tell people that they can go because it’s not true.”

Borrell’s statement follows a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Zagreb, where the Union reiterated its criticisms of Turkey's use of migrants to put political pressure. It comes after Greece decided to keep its border closed even though Turkey chose to open it on its side.

In Turkey, the government ordered its coast guard and border police not to stop people from travelling to Europe after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that his country was no longer able to handle the new wave of people fleeing Idlib.

However, refugees who arrived on the island of Lesvos are saying that the Turkish government is using human traffickers.

"I had been in Turkey for two months,” said Ali Gulali, a 15-year-old Afghan, speaking to Al Jazeera on Lesbos. “A smuggler called me in the night and said the boat is ready, get ready to cross over. He said the border was open,"

This and other examples suggest that the Turkish government is coopting Turkish traffickers as part of its policy to push people westward. It remains unclear who is paying them.

Greece is not taking this lightly. In a statement, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that "Instead of curtailing networks of people smugglers, Turkey has itself become a smuggler.”

Meanwhile, the EU has come under fire from human-rights groups for accepting Greece’s decision to suspend asylum applications for one month.

In an open letter to EU leaders and Greek Prime Minister Kyriákos Mitsotákis, 85 charities, including Action Aid and Amnesty International, said they were “deeply concerned” about how the authorities were handling new arrivals to Greece.

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