Turkey deploys 1,000 police at Greek border to stem push-back of migrants
Turkey is deploying 1,000 special police forces along its border with Greece on March 5 to halt the pushback of migrants towards its territory, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, adding that 164 migrants had been wounded by Greek authorities.
Soylu's comments come amid a war of words between Ankara and Athens after Turkey said it would no longer try to stop migrants from reaching Europe.
Since then, thousands of migrants have rushed to the Turkish border with Greece in hopes of crossing into Europe. Ankara has accused Greek authorities of shooting dead and injuring migrants near the border.
Speaking to reporters in the northwestern border province of Edirne, Soylu said Greek police had wounded the scores of migrants trying to cross the border.
"They wounded 164 people. They tried to push 4,900 people back to Turkey," he said. "We are deploying 1,000 special force police to the border system... to prevent the push-back."
Turkey, locked in a military conflict with Moscow and Damascus in northwest Syria, hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and has said it cannot handle more. It wants the EU to more forcefully back its efforts in Syria and deliver more funds to care for the nearly one million displaced there.
Human rights case over Greece's treatment of migrants
Soylu also said on March 4 that Turkey was preparing a case in the European Court of Human Rights over Greece's treatment of migrants, and added the EU has so far made no concrete offer to deal with thousands trying to enter the bloc.
Soylu said on private broadcaster CNN Türk that officials are "making preparations" to apply to the ECHR over Greece's interventions with the migrants. The families of two people who died have authorized Ankara to do so.
He said that more than 135,000 people had so far passed from Turkey's border province of Edirne into Greece since late last week, citing what he called daily police observation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met European Council President Charles Michel on March 4 as hundreds of Turkey-based migrants again tried to cross into Greece, prompting riot police on both sides of the border to fire tear gas and trade blame.
İbrahim Kalın, Turkey's presidential spokesman, told reporters in Ankara that Michel made "no concrete proposition" on migrants to the EU in talks with Erdoğan but added: "We hope they somehow formulate this plan soon and get it to us so we can quickly realize it in the event we reach agreement."
He said Turkey does not consider its decision to encourage migrants to cross over into the EU as "political blackmail" as some European officials have said.
"It is a double standard that the European Union can mobilize hundreds of millions of euros to Greece within days, but uses bureaucracy as an excuse when it comes to Turkey," Kalın added.