Turkey Using Tens of Thousands of Migrants to Blackmail EU Amid its Escalation in Syria’s Idlib

ANKARA – Hundreds of refugees and migrants coming from Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq are currently moving towards Turkey’s borders with the European Union following reports that Ankara will no longer prevent migrants from crossing them, Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the media outlet, the migrants have been moving in large groups on foot and using vehicles via the cities of Istanbul, Edirne, Izmir, and Aydin. Hundreds of refugees in Turkey began arriving at the country’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria on Friday after Ankara suddenly indicated it would no longer impede their passage to Europe.

The move prompted both neighboring nations to shore up their borders as their governments insisted they would not allow anyone to enter. Bulgaria sent an extra 1,000 troops to its border with Turkey, while Greek police used tear gas at one border crossing in response to the use of tear gas by the migrants themselves.

Turkish tear gas grenade

Greeks have also provided evidence that migrants have been using tear gas against the Greek police, which has been distributed to them by Turkish police. Photographic evidence clearly shows that tear gas grenades migrants used against Greek police were provided by the Turkish police.

Greek police found a large number of Turkish tear gas grenades 

Greek sources report that the situation is becoming increasingly tense on the Greek-Turkish border at Kypsela. Greek border police are making extreme efforts to contain the growing mass of migrants (over 6,000, mostly men in their prime) who are forcibly trying to break into the interior of Greek territory.

Several hundred buses and vans full of migrants have also been observed across Turkey, so further aggravation of the situation in this area can be expected in the coming days. This is a clear violation of the migrant agreement Turkey signed with the European Union.

Still, the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that the country’s policy towards migrants “hasn’t changed”. Ankara struck the agreement with the EU back in 2016 under which it agreed to host a significant portion of migrants trying to leave the Middle East, which saw billions of euros of EU funds poured into Turkish coffers, to which Greece is also a contributor.

At the same time, the foreign ministry announced that the migrant flow from Turkey to Europe might continue if the situation in Syria’s Idlib Province “doesn’t stabilize”. Ankara claims that a military escalation in the province, caused by its failure to stop Turkish-backed terrorists in Idlib from attacking Syrian forces, is “responsible for a new refugee exodus to Europe”.

Russia has repeatedly called on all parties involved in Idlib, including Turkey, to return to adhering to the Sochi agreements. Moscow specifically criticized Turkey over failing to single out terrorist groups from the so-called moderate opposition, willing to engage in dialogue with Damascus.

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