Hundreds head towards Europe border after reports claim that Turkey 'opens gates'

AFP
Ankara, Turkey Published: Feb 28, 2020, 12:30 PM(IST)

File Photo: Turkish President President Tayyip Erdogan Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The movement of people came after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in an airstrike on Thursday blamed on Damascus.

Hundreds of migrants in Turkey were heading towards border regions with Europe, local media reported Friday after reports said Turkish authorities had "opened the gates".

The movement of people came after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in an airstrike on Thursday blamed on Damascus.

Pro-government daily Sabah said the decision to "open the border gates" was taken following an emergency meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

Also read: 33 Turkish soldiers killed in airstrike by Syrian regime forces in Idlib

Nearly 300 migrants arrived in Edirne province on the border with Greece in a bid to go to Europe, the private DHA news agency reported.

The group included Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Moroccans and Pakistanis, who told the agency they had come to the border after hearing the news about the soldiers.

Another group of migrants arrived at the coast of Ayvacik in Canakkale, western Turkey, and wanted to go to Lesbos by boats after reading reports of an "open-door policy", DHA reported.

The agency published images of people carrying their belongings, walking in the dead of night in Edirne and Canakkale.

Also read: Two Turkish troops killed in Syria's Idlib: Defence ministry

Some 32 soldiers were also injured after the airstrike in Idlib, blamed on Damascus, the governor of Turkish border province Hatay said.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with Russia to prevent a regime offensive.

But in recent months, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has pushed an assault to retake the last rebel bastion backed by Russian airstrikes, killing hundreds of civilians.

Hundreds of thousands more Syrians in Idlib have been forced to flee their homes and head towards the Turkish border.

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 towards refugees.

"We said we could not handle the pressure of newly-arrived refugees," Erdogan's ruling party spokesman Omer Celik told CNN Turk broadcaster early Friday.

"Our refugee policy remains the same but there is a situation at hand and we are not in a position to hold this," Celik said.

"There is only one thing the European Union can do and that is help the Turkish republic," he added.

Erdogan previously threatened to open the gates to Europe late last year as he sought more international support.

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