Ankara is more concerned with France’s involvement in Libya than either Greece or Cyprus at the moment. Is this a window of opportunity for a Turkey and Greece-Cyprus rapprochement? It might be, provided that the EU concedes to visa liberalization, the Customs Union, or both.
Nuray Pehlivan reports: Thousands of migrants who remain at Turkey’s borders in hopes of crossing over to Europe are now being told to leave the area due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ankara’s recent instructions about the coronavirus directly contradict their Feb. 28 decision that allowed migrants crossings, leaving them once again in limbo.
Women and children migrants at Turkey's border with Greece protested the European Union's refusal to allow them entry in front of the Kastanies Border Gate on March 12. The group chanted slogans such as "Greece, open the gate" and "Help us" as they marched across the encampment where they have been waiting to leave Turkey since Feb. 28.
Turkey's Health Ministry has appointed a National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) to conduct health screenings on the thousands of migrants at the Greek border. UMKE employees have begun to disinfect the encampment and check the temperatures of migrants with electronic and thermal devices.
The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) will be applying to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of migrants who were exposed to violence by Greek forces, TBB Chair Metin Feyzioğlu said March 11. Feyzioğlu visited the encampment near the Pazarkule Border Gate with a committee, where he said they collected evidence of maltreatment by Greece.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency has claimed that Greek police are digging a trench along the border and have placed fences along the Evros River, a relatively safe crossing for migrants. Migrants at the Turkey-Greece border have been exposed to tear gas and plastic bullets from both sides since Ankara's Feb. 28 decision to allow migrants to cross into the European Union.
Turkish and Greek academics both agree that Turkey, Greece and the European Union as a whole failed to fully abide by the 2016 migrant deal. While Greek academic Konstantinos Tsitselikes said the number of people who crossed into Europe was is closer to 1,000 rather than the 140,000 claimed by Ankara, Turkish academic Murat Erdoğan says the EU's refusal to accept the migrants is justified.
Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, has pleaded for migrants in Turkey not to go to the Greek border or try to breach it, saying the frontier was closed and that any encouragement to do by Turkish authorities was a "game" that had to stop. “If we want to avoid critical situations, we have to know the truth. Let’s stop this game,” he said.