Turkish security forces stopped hundreds of people, mainly Syrians, from marching towards western Turkey’s border with Greece on Tuesday in a bid to reach Europe, potentially opening up a new front in the escalating migrant crisis.
Turkey is sheltering 2 million people – the largest refugee population in the world – but difficult conditions and a lack of work have seen a growing tide of migrants trying to smuggle themselves into EU-member Greece, most taking to perilous boats.
Turkey’s gendarmerie threw up barricades on Tuesday near the city of Edirne, around 30 km (20 miles) from the Greek border, as hundreds of people thronged the road and others took to surrounding hills in a bid to reach the frontier.
The mainly Syrian refugees – some with umbrellas to shade their children from the sun and one woman in a wheelchair – told Reuters they wanted to reach Greece where they believed conditions would be better than Turkey, and had decided to cross by land due to the high death toll on sea-routes.
On Tuesday, at least 22 people drowned when their boat capsized off the Turkish coast.
Earlier this month images of a dead toddler washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world, and prompted fierce debate about how best to manage the growing numbers of people trying to reach Europe.
“We cannot get work here. We hear that things are much better in Europe, that everything is free,” 27-year old Sherif, from Qamishli in Syria, said. “After seeing so many people dying on the sea, we decided to try this route.”