NEWS

Police and migrants in stand-off near Turkey's Greek border

TAGS: Migration

Hundreds of mainly Syrian migrants spent the night out in the open near Turkey's Greek border after police halted their bid to reach the frontier and cross into the European Union.

Piles of rubbish and makeshift tents had sprung up along the roadside on Wednesday morning close to the city of Edirne, around 17 km (11 miles) by road from the border crossing. Police, some in riot gear, prevented the migrants continuing their journey.

Security forces had on Tuesday briefly thrown up barricades to halt the progress of hundreds attempting to reach EU-member Greece, and buses from Istanbul to Edirne were halted.

After spending a cold night under the stars and with daytime temperatures expected to soar, some families headed back to Istanbul, but many would-be migrants insisted they would seek a way to cross the border at any cost.

"I am young I am strong, if I can make it to Europe perhaps I can have a life. We have degrees, we have education, there's nothing for us here in Turkey," said 25-year old Saleh, an electronics engineer from the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Turkey is sheltering more than 2 million Syrians and Iraqis – the largest refugee population in the world – but a lack of jobs and hopes of a better life in Europe has seen an ever-growing number attempt illicit crossings into neighboring countries.

With Ankara struggling to manage the humanitarian fallout and frustrated at what it sees as lack of support from European partners, there are fears officials could begin turning a blind eye to those trying to leave Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again put the blame for the refugee crisis on his one-time ally and now bitter foe, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We cannot bear any longer to sit back and watch bodies of children and women washed ashore on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Aegean as a result of a forced helplessness," he said in a speech in Ankara.

"The solution of this crisis is through bringing down the tyrannic regime in Syria."

Migrants have in recent days turned to Turkey's land borders due to spiraling death tolls on sea-routes to Europe.

On Tuesday a further 22 people drowned when their over-crowded boat capsized.

[Reuters]

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