Turkey has deployed 1,000 special forces along its border with Greece trying to prevent more than 20,000 refugees from returning to Turkey.
Meanwhile, Greece has reinforced its border with Turkey trying to prevent those 20,000 refugees from entering. The result is a standoff between Greece and Turkey with the refugees caught in no-man’s-land.
Turkey says that Greek police have wounded 164 refugees who want to enter the country. The Greek police have been accused of using lethal tear gas to subdue the ever-growing and restless crowds of people who are currently living in squalid conditions with little food, water, and shelter.
Ankara announced it was deploying 1,000 police special forces along the frontier on Thursday, claiming scores of people had been injured by Greek guards trying to stop them from crossing into the country.
“They wounded 164 people. They tried to push 4,900 back to Turkey,” the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, told reporters after taking a helicopter tour of the Evros region. “We are deploying 1,000 special force police … to prevent the pushbacks.”
Ankara has accused Athens of resorting to increasingly aggressive measures to deter migrants and refugees from breaching the frontier, following its abrupt decision to no longer abide by a landmark 2016 accord to halt migratory flows to the EU.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s use of refugees as a diplomatic weapon may be unethical, but it’s damned effective. It got the EU’s attention and they are looking for ways to satisfy Erdoğan without allowing a couple of million refugees into central and western Europe.
“We need a new deal with Turkey,” said Gerald Knaus, who heads a small migration-focused thinktank.
The pact had worked for the last four years, Knaus said, because Erdoğan needed the €6bn (£5.2bn) the EU had committed to the arrangement. But member states had become complacent about the arrangement and failed to sufficiently raise the need for further funds during recent budget talks in the European council, he said. “We’ve put off the decision for four years.”
Turkey is already hosting 3.7 million migrants and refugees with another 800,000 displaced people on its border with Syria waiting to get in. Almost all of those people will never return to their homes voluntarily. Western Europe is going to have to ante up and suck it up — they need to give Erdoğan additional funds to care for the millions of refugees currently in Turkey and come to some agreement about accepting another wave of refugees.
Erdoğan wants the EU to take a greater hand in Syria to help end the civil war and get the nation back on its feet. They want more immediate support against Russia and Hezbollah, which have been attacking Turkish troops with impunity.
But the EU doesn’t want to get drawn into a war with Russia. And getting involved in negotiations to maintain the Assad regime in Syria is distasteful to most EU countries. But Erdoğan isn’t giving them much choice.
He has a dagger pointed at the heart of Europe with four million reasons to make a deal.