As tens of thousands of migrants have been waiting at the Greek border to get to the European Union, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan called on Greece to open its gates to “fix” the migrant crisis.
Erdoğan said such a move would allow Athens to free itself from the refugee “burden”, according to remarks he made in Istanbul on Sunday.
“Hey Greece! I am calling on you to open the gates as well and be free of this burden. Let them go to other European countries,” said Erdoğan, reiterating that Turkey wants to redistribute the burden of the migration wave to Europe.
In his statement, he also said he hopes that after negotiations with the EU representatives on Monday, Turkey will get more help from the EU.
Erdoğan’s demands for more money and aid come at a time that many European leaders have actively accused him of blackmail in his use of using migrants as a political weapon, an assertion particularly shared by the Visegrad Four countries of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
“We were hoping to get much more support from the international community when it comes to refugees,” said Erdoğan, adding that he will discuss these issues with EU officials in Belgium.
However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that “negotiating on the backs of the weakest” will not bring the desired result.
“If there is a shortage of money for providing essential humanitarian aid to refugees, whether in Turkey, Idlib, Jordan, or Lebanon, we will never refuse to talk,” said Maas to the German Funke newspaper on Sunday, adding it “depends on Turkey sticking to its side of the bargain”.
Since Turkey decided on Feb. 28 that it will stop trying to keep migrants from heading to Europe, Greece faces an unprecedented influx of migrants at its borders. Turkey thus breached the agreement made in 2016, in which it committed to hosting war refugees in Syria in exchange for €6 billion in aid.
According to Erdoğan, though, the EU “did not fulfill its commitments except for minimal contributions,” as Turkey received only half of the promised amount of money, and Erdoğan hopes to “achieve different results this time.”
Erdoğan will meet with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and an enhanced customs union, which was part of the 2016 deal with the EU.
Turkey also wants more help in Syria to build settlements for refugees to return to northern Syria.
So far, more than one million migrants came to the EU in 2015 and 2016, usually through Turkey and Greece, until the agreement between the EU and Turkey halted the influx in March 2016.
Title image: Protesting migrants gather as riot police guard a refugee camp in the village of Diavata, west of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, Thursday, April 4, 2019. About 300 migrants from various parts of Greece gathered outside the Diavata camp, in response to an anonymous posting on social media that urged migrants trapped in Greece to go to the border with North Macedonia and try to push their way through _ with a view to crossing a series of sealed Balkan borders and reaching Europe’s prosperous heartland. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)