• Monday, May 25, 2020
  • Last Update : 10:46 am

Turkey to stop migrants crossing to Greece by sea

  • Published at 10:48 pm March 7th, 2020
Migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestinian territories arrive from Turkey to the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 1, 2020 Reuters

Thousands of migrants have massed on the land border with Greece after Erdogan said last week that Turkey would not prevent migrants from leaving for EU territory

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the Turkish coastguard to stop migrants from making risky Aegean sea crossings, as fresh clashes erupted Saturday pitting migrants against Greek border police.

Thousands of migrants have massed on the land border with Greece after Erdogan said last week that Turkey would not prevent migrants from leaving for EU territory, sparking violence and an escalating row between Ankara and Brussels.

The Turkish coastguard tweeted on Friday that "on the orders of the president... permission will not be given for migrants to cross the Aegean sea because it is dangerous."

It however said Turkey's policy of allowing migrants and refugees to leave was untouched, and the instruction only affected sea crossings.

Turkey and the European Union have traded accusations, with Ankara telling Brussels to implement a 2016 migration deal, and the bloc claiming Ankara was using the migrants as political pawns.

During a tense hours-long stand-off on Saturday, Greek police used tear gas and water cannons on migrants trying to break fences in the border province of Edirne, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

'Open the gates'

The migrants responded by throwing stones and also shouted "Open the gates".

Turkish security forces also responded by using tear gas.

Many migrants have been stranded in biting cold for days at the Pazarkule border, known as Kastanies on the Greek side.

The Turkish coastguard said 97 migrants were rescued on Thursday after "the Greek side flattened three boats and left them in a half-sinking state in the middle of the (Aegean) sea".

Greek authorities deny using force or acting illegally.

"We have not used any sort of excessive force and we're always reacting, we're never initiating, in terms of responding to the provocations that have taken place on the border," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told CNN.

He also accused Ankara of helping people, both at land and at sea, to cross into Greece.

Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun said Turkey "categorically" rejected Mitsotakis' claims.

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