Thousands stranded at Greek border as Ankara pressures EU over Idlib escalation

Barbed wire and chain-link fence separate Greek security forces in riot gear from a growing number of refugees and migrants arriving at Turkey’s Pazarkule border gate after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his nation’s border guards would not stop individuals from entering Greece.

Since Friday’s announcement at least 13,000 people have reached the land crossing, according to United Nations estimates, under the impression they could cross the border. Most have so far been stopped by Greek police, which requested the rapid deployment of the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, to help manage a sudden surge in attempts to enter the country.

Ali, a 24-year-old Syrian living in Turkey, was among the thousands of people at the border gate Saturday. Speaking while tending a campfire to keep his wife and six-month-old son warm, Ali said he was shocked to find the border closed when they arrived Friday evening.

“We were told the border was open,” Ali told Al-Monitor, sharing only his first name. “What are we supposed to do now? We did not bring anything. No food, no money, no place to sleep.”

The developments come as Erdogan seeks to pressure European Union officials over what he says is a lack of support for Ankara’s military operation against the Syrian government to stem an offensive in Idlib that has displaced about one million civilians since December.

On Monday, the Turkish leader doubled down on prior statements regarding border security, saying Ankara needs more support in managing the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria and that Turkey has been carrying the “burden alone for nine years,” referring to the length of the Syrian war.

“Turkey will not close its border gates for refugees to cross into Europe anymore; it is a done deal,” Erdogan said Monday, warning millions of refugees might soon head out for Greece.

Read the full story on Al Monitor.