Turkey deploys police, takes Greece to European Court after refugees pushed back

Turkey deploys police, takes Greece to European Court after refugees pushed back
Turkey has deployed 1,000 police on its border with Greece to prevent Greek forces pushing back refugees.
3 min read
05 March, 2020
Greece has attempted to push back refugees entering its territory [Getty]

Turkey deployed 1,000 police officers on Thursday to prevent Greece pushing refugees back, its interior minister said, as thousands of refugees massed at the Greek border.

"A thousand special force police officers are deployed from this morning to the Meric river on the border, fully equipped, to prevent people being pushed back," Suleyman Soylu told reporters during a visit to the northwestern province of Edirne.

The river is known as Evros in Greece.

Soylu accused Greece of "mistreating" refugees and said Turkey "would not allow it".

He said that Turkey would take Greece to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over its actions against refugees.

Read more: Greek forces 'violently push back' refugees as Turkey uses them as 'pawns of foreign policy'

Turkey has claimed Greece is using live rounds on refugees, saying three have been killed. Greece has denied this.

Soylu, however, said that the families of two of the victims had authorised Ankara to take Greece to the ECHR.

Turkey is home to around four million refugees, the majority of them Syrian, and fears another influx as Russian-backed regime forces push to retake the last Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that refugees would no longer be prevented from trying to reach Europe.

After Erdogan's announcement, thousands of refugees rushed to the border in Edirne, where there have been clashes with Greek police in recent days.

There have also been arrivals from Turkey to Greek islands such as Lesvos.

Hundreds of migrants and refugees have landed on the islands since the weekend.

The new arrivals have exacerbated an already combustible situation on three Greek islands off the Turkish coast – Lesvos, Samos, and Chios.

Comment: As the stakes rise even higher in Syria, refugees pay the price

Lesvos hosts more than 19,000 refugees, crammed into squalid conditions around a camp built to house fewer than 3,000, a legacy of the 2015 refugee crisis.

Investigative website Bellingcat on Thursday said Greek riot police could be using potentially lethal tear gas after expended gas canisters with pointed tips had been found in the vicinity of protests by asylum-seekers at the Greece-Turkey border.

The Greek government said border guards had prevented nearly 7,000 attempted entries over the last 24 hours, and nearly 35,000 over the last five days.

Greece's defence ministry on Thursday also announced a week-long shipping ban around the three islands, excepting only EU and NATO patrol vessels and registered commercial ships.

The ministry said the ban to March 12 around the islands was designed "to halt illegal migration flows by sea".

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