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‘A closed door’: EU tells refugees on Greece-Turkey border Europe is not open

‘The border is not open. If someone tells you that you can go because the border is open, that’s not true,’ says EU foreign affairs chief

Kate Ng
Saturday 07 March 2020 12:54 GMT
EU foreign affairs chief appeals to migrants in Turkey not to go to the Greek-Turkish border

The European Union has urged migrants in Turkey not to go to the border with Greece because it is a “closed door”, as thousands clashed with Greek police on Friday.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, called on countries involved in the situation to “stop this game” during a press briefing held after a Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Syria in Zagreb.

Hopeful migrants travelled in huge numbers towards the border after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his government would stop controlling its land and sea borders with Europe and it was open for migrants to cross.

Mr Borrell made a direct appeal to migrants in Turkey and said: “The news about the alleged openness [of the Greek-Turkish border] is false and people should not try to move there.

“If we want to avoid critical situations, people have to know the truth. Let’s stop this game.”

He added: “Don’t go to the border. The border is not open. If someone tells you that you can go because the border is open, you can go freely to Greece, that’s not true.

“Avoid a situation in which you could be in danger. Avoid escalation of the crisis. Avoid moving to a closed door. Please don’t tell people that they can go because it’s not true.”

Many of the migrants now camped along the border are from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Africa.

Nearly 4 million refugees reside in Turkey, many of whom fled the war in Syria, making them the largest refugee population in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.

Mr Erdogan declared the borders open on 28 February after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in a regime airstrike in Syria, in a bid to pressure the EU over the crisis.

He said: “We will not close the gates to refugees. The European Union has to keep its promises. We are not obliged to look after and feed so many refugees.”

The Council of EU governments told Ankara to stop spreading “false information” that the EU’s borders are open.

In a statement, the council said: “The Council calls on the Turkish government and all actors and organisations on the ground to relay this message and counter the dissemination of false information.”

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