A large group of migrants and refugees have started their march on Thursday evening from Turkey to the Greek border after Turkey announced it will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe.
DHA news agency reports that there were around 300 migrants, including women and children, in the group which began heading toward the border in Turkey’s Edirne province around midnight. Syrians, Iranians and Iraqis were among those in the group.
The mass move towards Greece follows a decision taken at an emergency meeting chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Thursday which orders the Turkish police, coast guard and border security officials to stand down and let the refugees pass through to Europe.
“Turkey can not bear the pressure of the new refugees, we now say that Turkey is at full capacity,” ruling AKP spokesman Omer Celik told CNNTurk early on Friday. While the spokesman noted Turkey’s refugee policy remains “the same,” he said “we are no longer in a position to hold refugees” amid an expected influx of newly displaced Syrians.
The move runs counter to the 2016 Turkey-European Union agreement which obliges Ankara to work to stop migrants from crossing the Aegean. Analysts say that it also puts pressure on EU countries to side with Turkey in its Syria adventure.
Greece’s neighbor is now faced with a new migrant wave as the war at the Syrian front intensifies. About a million civilians have been displaced towards the Turkish border – more than half of them children – since December 2019 when forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been staging an offensive.
At least 33 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an air strike by Syrian forces in north-western Syria on Thursday. Syrian forces supported by Russia are trying to retake Idlib from rebels who are backed by Turkish soldiers.
The Turkish soldiers’ deaths are the biggest number of fatalities suffered by Ankara’s forces in a single day since it began deploying thousands of troops into Idlib in recent weeks in a bid to halt the military push by Assad’s forces and their allies.