In the last few days, news and images of thousands of migrants trying to enter Greek territory to ask for some form of official protection. They are arriving from some border areas between Turkey and Greece.
At the moment, the flow rate is not yet so clear. Two days ago the UN estimated that there were about 13,000 people in the 120 kilometres of the land border between Greece and Turkey, while on Sunday evening the Turkish Interior Minister claimed that there were more than 100,000.
In any case, several international experts agree that the situation could get worse in the coming weeks.
The so-called “Balkan route” had been almost completely closed at the beginning of 2016, when the eastern countries of the European Union closed their borders to asylum seekers, mainly from Syria (due to the civil war that started in 2011) and the Middle East.
In the meantime, the European institutions agreed with the Turkish Government. The EU pledged EUR 6 billion to Turkey by 2019 to manage the flow of Syrian refugees and other migrants, while Turkey ensured that it would better guard its border with Greece and build facilities to host migrants humanely.
The situation changed on Thursday 27 February, when Turkish President Erdoğan announced that he had opened the country’s borders to migrants who want to reach Europe.
Erdoğan’s decision came a few hours after 36 Turkish soldiers were killed near Idlib, the only area of Syria still under rebel control, where Turkey is trying to block the advance of the Syrian regime and Russia (its main ally).
For days now, therefore, a part of the migrants, mainly young and male, have been clashing with the Greek policemen and soldiers lined up to defend the border, even in a violent way: tear gas (which also hit children), batons and bullets.
Turkey has therefore stated that it is preparing a case at the European Court of Human Rights on the treatment of migrants by Greece.
The Turkish Government has also added that so far the European Union has made no concrete offers to tackle the situation and thus block the flow of thousands of people.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Greece have deteriorated further after Ankara accused Greek forces of shooting one migrant and injuring others, while Athens claimed that Turkish police helped migrants to cross its territory illegally.
These Turkish moves are linked to the fact that Turkey is now locked in a military conflict with Moscow and Damascus in the Syrian region of Idlib, as I wrote earlier.
Turkey is therefore afraid of another wave of Syrian refugees after having already accommodated some 3.6 million, so it wants the European Union to support it more firmly in Syria and provide more funds.
By, Michele Brunori