After the killing of 33 of its soldiers in an airstrike in northern Syria, Turkey announced on Friday that it will no longer close its border gates to refugees who want to go to Europe.
The country has often threatened to reopen the migrant route from the Middle East, which at its peak in 2015 saw thousands drown in the Mediterranean and a million people reach Greece and Italy, to force EU and NATO to support its military operation in Idlib.
“We will no longer keep the doors closed for refugees who want to go to Europe,” a senior official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Nearly 300 migrants including Syrians have already arrived in Edirne province on the border with Greece in a bid to go to Europe, the private DHA news agency reported.
Another group of migrants arrived on the coast of Ayvacik in Canakkale, western Turkey, and wanted to go to the Greek island of Lesbos by boat, it reported.
The killing of Turkish soldiers in Idlib after an airstrike blamed on Damascus has prompted an emergency meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey, which is already home to around 3.6 million Syrian refugees, fears more people arriving in the country, where there is growing popular discontent against their presence.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Erdogan’s top press aide, Mr. Fahrettin Altun, accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of “conducting ethnic cleansing” and seeking to drive millions of Syrians out of Idlib.
“These people will try to escape to Turkey and Europe. Already hosting close to four million refugees, we do not have the capacity and resources to allow entry to another million,” he wrote.
Greece and its European Union partners also fear another influx of refugees from Syria after more than one million made their way there in 2015 before an EU-Turkey accord was reached on controlling the numbers. (Source: The Straits Times)