More than 76,000 migrants have left Turkey heading for the EU

More than 76,000 migrants have left Turkey heading for the EU as Greek police barricade border crossings with barbed wire and launch tear gas at crowds

  • EU border protection agency Frontex said it was on ‘high alert’ today at Turkey-Greece and Bulgaria border
  • It came after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan ‘opened the doors’ to allow up to 4m to leave country
  • Greek police closed border crossings and fired tear gas at groups of migrants who tried to enter the country
  • Pregnant women and children were among those making hazardous crossings from Turkey to Greece by sea 

More than 76,000 migrants have left Turkey heading for the EU as Greek police erected barbed wire barricades at border crossings and launched tear gas at crowds.

Turkey’s Interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, made the claim this morning after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ‘opened the doors’ on Friday.

Migrants including an Afghan mother with a five-day-old baby have waded through the river at Kastanies, on the Greece-Turkey border today, and at lesat 500 people in seven boats have in Lesbos, Samos and Chios in Greece.

Six migrants were pictured four miles inside the Greek border this morning after they were arrested. 

The EU border force, Frontex, has said it is on ‘high alert’ and is assisting both Greece and Bulgaria to keep their borders secure. Sofia, which deployed its army to patrol the more than 100-mile frontier, has said there have been no crossings.

Erdogan’s decision to re-open the border comes as 33 Turkish troops in Northern Syria were killed by the Russian-backed Assad regime on Thursday. There was no immediate criticism of the attack from European allies, but the US said it was concerned. NATO called a meeting at the request of Turkey.

It is thought the Turkish president has opened the borders, causing scenes reminiscent of the 2015 migrant crisis, to try to pressure the EU and its NATO members to lend him support for Turkey’s military operation in Syria. 

Migrants pictured gathered on the buffer zone on the Greece-Turkey border this morning. Erdogan said he had ‘opened the doors’ following the killing of 33 Turkish troops in Northern Syria by the Russian-backed regime

A group of migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine arrive in a dinghy at Mytilene in Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey

Migrants pictured in a makeshift tent as the wait in the buffer zone between Greek Kastanies and Turkish Pazarkule today

Rows of migrants pictured trudging through fields asthey walk to reach Pazarakule at the Turkish border with Greece

Migrants detained by Greek police in Neo Cheimonio, four miles past the Greek border, this morning

A Tweet posted by Suleyman Soylu reads: ‘As of 09.55 hours, the number of immigrants leaving our country via Edirne is 76,358.’

Up to 30 people were seen in Greece by Reuters reporters this morning after they forded the river at Kastanies. A small group of people were also seen making their way through fields in Orestiada, a frontier region.

Migrants crossing from Pazarkule, on the border with Greece, have clashed with riot police. Tear gas was fired into crowds including Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Moroccans last night as asylum seekers threw stones and attempted to cut barbed wire. An estimated 2,000 further migrants also crowded into Pazarkule today.

Frontex said it had placed 400 personnel in the Greek islands, 60 officers in Bulgaria and a further contingent in the Evros region on the Greek border.

‘We have received a request from Greece for additional support. We have already taken steps to redeploy to Greece technical equipment and additional officers,’ they said.

Migrants brandish their fists as they come up against barbed wire at the Turkey-Greece border today

Migrants shout and appear to be preparing to throw objects at Turkey’s northwest border post with Greece today

Greece has closed its border and blocked off access with barricades and piles of barbed wire (pictured today)

Migrants run back towards the Turkish border as Greek police shoot tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds today

Migrants pictured on the border between Turkey and Greece today after Erdogan said he had opened Turkey’s doors

Migrants pictured carrying their children as they walk on railways toward Meritsa river, near Edirne, to take a boat to attempt to enter Greece this morning

Migrants pictured walking towards the Pazarkule border with Greece this morning

Migrants, including women and children, pictured carrying their possessions as they walk to the Pazarkule border today

Migrants stumble through a frozen field this morning as they head towards the Pazarkule Turkish border post with Greece

A migrant carries bags as he walks towards the Meritsa river, Turkey, in an attempt to enter into Greece

A woman holds her toddler after making the dangerous crossing to the Greek island of Lesbos early this morning

Women and children pictured on the beach near Skala Sykamineas, Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean last night

Greece said today it had successfully blocked 9,600 attempts to ‘illegally’ cross its 120-mile frontier with Turkey. Of those arrested inside the country, an army officer told Reuters that they had all been Afghans, not Syrians.

The country has also accused its neighbour of actively guiding migrants. The Greek deputy defence minister, Alkiviadis Stefanis, said: ‘Not only are they stopping them, but they are helping them.’ 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will chair a meeting of the national security council later today. A text message sent to mobile phones in Greece’s northern border area says the country has increased security to maximum, and ordered people not to attempt to enter.

The Balkan nation is facing its most serious crisis since a 2015 financial crash that saw it come precariously close to edging out of the Eurozone. 

Bulgarian defence minister Krasimir Karakachanov said there had been no crossings into its territory although tensions had flared along the border.

The EU’s Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the organisation was watching ‘with concern’ as the commissioner for migration, Margaritis Schinas, tweeted he had requested a meeting of interior ministers.

A migrant pictured swimming back to Turkey after attempting to cross the Maritsa river this morning

Migrants helping each other out of the river after failing to reach the Greek border

An estimated 30,000 migrants gathered at checkpoints after Turkey’s president claimed to have ‘opened the doors’ to allow as many as 4 million asylum seekers to leave the country

Migrants throw objects during clashes with Greek police, at the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing with Greece’s Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey

Refugees and migrants gather at Pazarkule border as they attempt to enter Greece

Last night a group of young men who tried to cut through the border fence were turned back by armed soldiers, while police used smoke grenades to disperse crowds. 

Angry clashes started just 24 hours after an announcement by Turkish authorities that it would no longer restrict the movement of refugees, tearing up a £5 billion agreement with the EU to contain the flow of asylum seekers signed after the 2015 migrant crisis.

Turkey’s decision comes amid frustration that the EU and Nato countries, including Britain, have failed to provide enough support in the country’s opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. On Thursday, 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Syrian forces, dramatically raising tensions in a war in which Turkey and Russia are backing opposing sides.

Turkey has continued retaliatory strikes against the Syrian government, killing a further 26 Syrian troops with drone strikes on Saturday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted he would not back down, adding that his country could not handle another wave of refugees from northern Syria. ‘We opened the doors,’ he said. ‘We will not close those doors. Why? Because the EU should keep its promises.’

Turkey has been hosting an estimated 3.7million migrants since a deal was struck with the EU. Bureaucrats in Brussels said yesterday that Turkey had not ‘formally’ notified them of any change to its migration policy. 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) members distribute food to migrants and refugees that gathered at the Turkish-Greek border, near Edirne, Turkey

A drone photo shows migrants moving towards, and congregating around, the Turkish side of the Turkey-Greece border at Pazarkule, Edirne, Turkey yesterday

A migrants stands during clashes with Greek police, at the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing with Greece’s Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey yesterday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (rear C) makes a speech as he holds a meeting with his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s Istanbul deputies at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey yesterday

Greek police officers are pictured from Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing with Greece’s Kastanies during clashes with migrants, in Edirne, Turkey yesterday

A locator map shows the crossing governate Edirne, which houses most of the borders into Greece and Bulgaria, and Lesbos, where many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa land on dinghys 

Tear gas floats in the air during clashes between migrants and Greek police, at the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing with Greece’s Kastanies, in Edirne, Turkey yesterday

A map shows the border points from Turkey into Greece and Bulgaria, and from Syria into Turkey 

Migrants can be seen on their way towards the Turkish-Greek border in Edime, Turkey yesterday

Syrian migrants can be seen being rescued after being stranded on an islet after they tried reaching the Greek side of the Evros River in Edirne, Turkey yesterday

A woman reacts as a dinghy transporting 27 refugees and migrants originating from Gambia and the Republic of Congo lands in Lesbos island after they were rescued by a war ship during their sea crossing between Turkey and Greece yesterday 

Migrants wait as Greek anti riot police officers patrol on the buffer zone Turkey-Greece border, at Pazarkule, in Edirne district yesterday

Migrants can be seen after they were rescued when stranded on an islet while trying to paddle to the Greek side of the Evros river, in Turkey yesterday

A man takes coover behind an umbrella as he throws a mattress in a fire during clashes with Greek police in the buffer zone at Turkey-Greece border, at Pazarkule, in Edirne district yesterday

Migrants, who are trying to cross into Europe through Turkey, are pictured reaching for food aid near the Pazarkule Border in Karaagac neighbourhood of Edirne, Turkey yesterday

A Greek policeman collects tear gas canisters reportedly thrown from the Turkish side of the border during riots beween migrants and Greek police at the closed Kastanies border crossing, on the borderline between Greece and Turkey, near the Evros River yesterday

Refugees wait for attempting to pass the closed-off Turkish-Greek border and try to enter Europe, Edirne, Turkey yesterday

Refugees wait for attempting to pass the closed-off Turkish-Greek border and try to enter Europe, Edirne, Turkey yesterday while Greek border officials look on from the Greek side

Greek Police guard Kastanies border gate, Evros region, as a migrant stands in front of a fence between Greece and Pazarkule border gate, Edirne, Turkey yesterday

Greek riot policemen guard behind fences as refugees wait for attempting to pass the closed-off Turkish-Greek border and try to enter Europe, Edirne yesterday

Irregular migrants, who want to proceed to Europe, wait at the Turkish side and the buffer zone between the Greek Kastanies and Turkish Pazarkule border gates today in Turkey 

Migrants run away as Greek anti-riot police officers use tears gas on the buffer zone Turkey-Greece border, at Pazarkule yesterday

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