NEWS

Erdogan: 18,000 refugees at border area

TAGS: Migration

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul on Saturday that 18,000 migrants had crossed the border, without providing evidence, adding that the number could rise to 25,000-30,000 on Saturday.

“We will not close these doors in the coming period and this will continue. Why? The European Union needs to keep its promises. We don’t have to take care of this many refugees, to feed them,” he said.

He complained the funds transferred to Turkey from the European Union to support refugees were arriving too slowly and that he had asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to send the funds directly to the Turkish government.

Turkey’s borders to Europe were closed to migrants under an accord between Turkey and the European Union that halted the 2015-16 migration crisis when more than a million people crossed into Europe by foot.

In Athens, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that more than 4,000 migrants have been prevented from crossing into Greece from Turkey and there have been 66 arrests.

"Greece was the target of an organized. mass, illegal attempt to violate its borders and has withstood it," Petsas told reprters Saturday after an emergency meeting of ministers at the Prime Minister's office.

Those attending the meeting presided by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis included the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Citizens' Protection, the chief of the National Defense Staff, and other civilian, securuty and armed forces' officials.

While beefed up military and police units are guarding the land border with Turkey, 52 Navy and Coast Guard vessels are patrolling the seas off the Eastern Aegen islands, Greece's most likely to be breached border areas, Petsas said.

Petsas added that none of the 66 arrested come from anywhere near the Idlib area in Syria, where Turkish forces have engaged in battle.

On Saturday, small groups managed to get across into Greece clandestinely. The vast majority were from Afghanistan, and most were men, although there were also some families with young children. They took shelter during the night in abandoned buildings or small chapels in the Greek countryside before starting to walk towards the west.

[Reuters/AP/Kathimerini]

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