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Hundreds of refugees head to EU borders after Turkey 'opens gates'

Migrants and refugees arrived in Edirne, near the Greek border [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 February, 2020

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Hundreds of refugees have arrived at the Turkish-Greek border following reports that Turkey had "opened the gates" to Europe after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in Syrian regime strikes.

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

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

The Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper said the decision to "open the border gates" was taken following an emergency meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

In response to the Turkish decision, Greece on Friday boosted border patrols, officials said.

"Greece has tightened the guarding of its land and sea borders to the maximum degree possible," a government source said.

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

Read more: For Syrians fleeing Idlib, there’s nowhere left to run

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 killing of the Turkish soldiers. 

Another group of migrants and refugees arrived at the coast of Ayvacik in Canakkale in western Turkey, and wanted to go to the Greek island of Lesvos 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.

Some 32 soldiers were also injured after the regime airstrike in Idlib, 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 a brutal assault to retake the last rebel-held area backed by Russian air strikes, killing hundreds of civilians.

Nearly a million 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 on 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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