Ankara opened its borders with Europe to would-be migrants late last month amid an escalation of fighting between Turkish and Syrian troops in Syria’s Idlib province. Since then, Turkish authorities have threatened to send “millions” of refugees to Europe, and suggested that the 2016 migrant agreement needs to be renegotiated.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan estimates that about 150,000 refugees have already made it into Greece, and is calling on Athens to ‘open the gates’ to allow these people to head to wealthier European countries.
“We fed and gave drink to refugees for the last nine years. Now they want to go to Europe. I have long said: if you don’t share the burden with us, we will open the gates. They thought I was joking. But I opened the gates. Now our guests are leaving; we are not required to hold them. About 150,000 people have gone to Greece. [Greek authorities] are now trying to send them back to us using force,” Erdogan said, speaking to members of the ruling Justice and Development Party on Wednesday.
The Turkish president advised Athens to “open their gates” and to “let [migrants] travel through your territory to richer countries. But no one says anything to Greece, which is committing a crime against humanity by attacking refugees. It’s barbaric to shoot people who want to save their lives and to build a future for their children,” he said.