Turkey to not to stop irregular migrants reaching Europe: Reports

Turkey to not to stop irregular migrants reaching Europe: Reports

ANKARA/EDİRNE - Reuters/Demirören News Agency
Turkey to not to stop irregular migrants reaching Europe: Reports

Turkey will no longer stop Syrian irregular migrants from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, as Ankara responded on Feb. 29 to the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an airstrike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region.

In anticipation of the imminent arrival of irregular migrants from Idlib, Turkish police, coastguard and border security officials have been ordered to stand down on irregular migrants’ land and sea crossings towards Europe, the Turkish official told Reuters.

“We have decided, effectively immediately, not to stop Syrian irregular migrants from reaching Europe by land or sea,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

At least 33 Turkish troops killed in Syria's Idlib
At least 33 Turkish troops killed in Syrias Idlib

Given the green light to seek their way to Europe, hundreds of irregular migrants came to Turkish coastal regions and border cities to do just that.

Irregular migrants, including women and children, have been heading towards border villages of the country's western provinces of Edirne and Çanakkale to reach Greece.

The movement started at night and grew by the morning.

Irregular immigrants also moved to the regions with a coast on the Aegean Sea to cross the Greek islands.

The groups also flocked towards the Aegean, to Çeşme, Karaburun and Seferihisar in the Izmir province and Kuşadası and Dikili in the Aydın province.

Demirören News Agency said there were around 300 irregular migrants, including women and children, in the group which began heading towards the borders between the two European Union countries and Turkey’s Edirne province at around midnight.

Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Moroccans were among those in the group, it said.

It said irregular migrants had also gathered on the western Turkish coastal district of Ayvacık in Çanakkale province with the aim of travelling by boat to Greece’s Lesbos island.

'Movement of migrants may continue'

The movement of irregular migrants from Turkey to Europe may continue if the situation in Syria’s Idlib province deteriorates, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said.

“The latest developments in Idlib, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people and has further put pressure on the already existing migrant pressure on our country,” Aksoy said in a statement, adding that the developments have also significantly affected the migrants and refugees in Turkey.

Bulgaria, Greece tighten control on border with Turkey

Bulgaria is tightening security along its border with its southeastern neighbor Turkey after groups of migrants in Turkey headed toward the frontier, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said.

“We have data about a lot of crowding... We are tightening maximum control at the border,” Borissov said during a government’s meeting, adding that he was arranging a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.

Greece also has tightened sea and land borders with Turkey after developments overnight in the Syrian region of Idlib.

Greek authorities also did not allow a group of immigrants to enter the country through the Pazarkule (Kastanies) border crossing.

Greece was the main gateway for hundreds of thousands of migrants streaming out of Turkey in a mass exodus in 2015 and 2016, until a deal brokered with the EU stemmed the flow.

Turkey hosts some 3.7 million Syrian irregular migrants and has repeated it cannot handle more.

Under the 2016 deal, the European Union has provided billions of euros in aid in return for Ankara agreeing to stem the influx of irregular migrants into Europe.