Refugees in Turkey headed toward European frontiers after an official said the borders had been thrown open, a response to the escalating war in Syria where 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Russian-backed Syrian government troops. This is reported by Reuters.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described it as “one of the most alarming moments” of the nine-year-old Syrian war.
Turkey’s neighbors Greece and Bulgaria, both European Union member states, vowed not to admit the migrants and reinforced their borders following Ankara’s threat to reopen the frontier. It was closed under an accord between Turkey and the European Union that halted the 2015-16 migration crisis when more than a million people crossed into Europe by foot.
As news of Thursday’s strike emerged, a senior Turkish official told Reuters the government had decided, effective immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe “by land or sea,” and that police and border guards had been stood down.
“All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Within hours hundreds of migrants, some wearing face masks in an apparent attempt to guard against the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the world, began arriving on the European frontier in the early morning light.
Greece’s prime minister said no unauthorized crossing would be allowed. His Bulgarian counterpart said the prospect of a new migration crisis was even more of a threat as European countries struggle to respond to the coronavirus.
The EU said that Ankara had made no formal announcement of any change in policy at the border.