Hundreds of migrants head towards EU borders, Turkish media say

Photo: EPA Syrian refugees wait for a bus, to travel to the European border city of Edirne, in Istanbul, Turkey, 28 February.

Hundreds of migrants walked through northwest Turkey toward its borders with Greece and Bulgaria on Friday, Turkish media reported, after a senior official said Ankara will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe.

On Thursday, Turkey said 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region.

Demiroren news agency said there were around 300 migrants, including women and children, in the group which began heading towards the borders between the two European Union countries and Turkey’s Edirne province at around midnight. Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Moroccans were among those in the group, it said. It said migrants had also gathered on the western Turkish coastal district of Ayvacik in Canakkale province with the aim of travelling by boat to Greece’s Lesbos island.

Reuters could not independently confirm who the people were nor where they were headed. Video footage of the migrants broadcast by pro-government Turkish television channels could also not immediately be verified.

Turkish broadcaster NTV showed scores of people walking through fields wearing backpacks and said the refugees had tried to cross the Kapikule border into Bulgaria, but were not allowed through. It said the same group of migrants had then walked through fields to reach the Pazarkule border crossing into Greece, but it was unclear what happened to them thereafter.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to open the gates for migrants to travel to Europe. If it did so, it would reverse a pledge Turkey made to the European Union in 2016 and could draw Western powers into the standoff over Idlib.

 

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