Clashes erupt on Greek-Turkish border as migrants seek entry
Greek authorities were firing tear gas and stun grenades on Wednesday morning to repulse a push by migrants to cross its land border from Turkey, as pressure continued along its frontier, after Turkey said its own border with Europe was open to whoever wanted to cross.
The clashes were near the border village of Kastanies, along a border fence that covers much of the land border not demarcated by the Evros river running along the frontier.
Turkey made good on a threat to open its borders and send migrants into Europe last week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's action triggered days of violent clashes and scenes of chaos at the land border, where thousands of migrants and refugees have gathered.
Hundreds more have headed to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in dinghies. One child died when the rubber dinghy he was in capsized off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos earlier this week.
Syria's Idlib: A humanitarian disaster
The battle for Idlib is likely to be the last, bloody conflict in the Syrian war. Refugees are fleeing the city in droves. By Diana Hodali
On the run: traffic is heavy on the roads heading north through the Idlib region toward the Turkish border. Soldiers of the Assad regime are advancing from the south and east, aided by their Russian and Iranian allies. Some Syrian rebel groups are supported by Turkey, which also has soldiers of its own in the region. But ordinary people just want to reach safety
"The horror has multiplied": almost 1 million people have been displaced since December. According to UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, "the horror has multiplied" in the past two weeks. The front lines are closing in, triggering large movements of people in the space of just a few days. Assad wants to drive the civilian population out of Idlib province, and is moving to capture this last rebel stronghold
Bombed to pieces: Maaret al-Numan and the surrounding area has been particularly badly hit by the attacks. The city has been bombed to pieces and is practically deserted. The important M5 highway runs through here, from Damascus via Aleppo to the Turkish border. Most of those fleeing are trying to make it to Turkey – but the border is closed
Waiting at the border: around 100 people, including 35 children, died in bombings in the first half of February alone, according to the United Nations, which has spoken of the "blatant disregard for the life and safety of civilians." This family fled to the Turkish border months ago. They're living in the Kafr Lusin refugee camp, holding on to the hope that Turkey will eventually let them in
500,000 children in need: out of the almost 1 million people who have fled it's estimated that around half are children. Of the rest, the majority are women. There aren't enough shacks at the Turkish border to house them all, and many refugees are living in tents. Camps are often set up in haste and are severely overcrowded. People are sleeping in doorways and on pieces of cardboard, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures
Little food and medicine: those who have been able to find a tent usually share it with about a dozen family members. Medicine is running out in many of the camps, and basic food and clothing is also becoming scarce. Doctors on the ground report that many children are suffering from malnutrition, and some are even dying of starvation. The cold is also taking its toll, and some people have already frozen to death
Refuge in a school: many children in the region can no longer go to school, so some school buildings have been re-purposed. This school has been turned into a refugee shelter – sometimes, even the refugee camps are targeted in bombing raids
Trying to reach safety: the illegal route across the border to Turkey is costly; hardly anyone can afford it. Smugglers are charging people up to $2,000. Those who do make the attempt are risking their lives: Turkish border guards have thermal imaging cameras to help them spot people trying to cross. Sometimes they shoot at refugees who try to climb over the wall
Looking for dignity: the UN has said the situation in Idlib could be the greatest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century. No one knows whether or not there will be a ceasefire. The refugees don't care who puts an end to the war; they just want a life of safety and dignity, for themselves and for their children. A four-way summit between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, planned for 5 March, is now in jeopardy
The government has called the situation a direct threat to Greece's national security and has imposed emergency measures to carry out swift deportations and freeze asylum applications for one month. Migrants have been reporting being summarily pushed back across the border into Turkey.
Turkey's announcement that it wouldn't stop those wishing to cross into Europe came amid a Russia-backed Syrian government offensive into Syria's northwestern Idlib province, where Turkish troops are fighting.
The offensive has killed dozens of Turkish troops and sent nearly a million Syrian civilians toward Turkey's sealed border. However, Oleg Zhuravlev, head of the Russian military's co-ordination centre in Syria, said Tuesday the claims about a humanitarian crisis in Idlib were false.
Zhuravlev said Turkish authorities were “herding" about 130,000 refugees, who were in temporary camps near the Turkey-Syria border, toward the border with Greece.
“Two thirds of them aren't Syrians,'' he said. “They are Afghans, Iraqis and people from African nations.'' (AP)