After refugee drownings, focus shifts to Greek-Turkish land border

After refugee drownings, focus shifts to Greek-Turkish land border

Amid alarmingly frequent reports of refugees and migrants drowning in the Aegean, there are signs that a potentially safer land route toward Greece from Turkey is being favored by some.

A group on Facebook called “Crossing no More” has thousands of members, chiefly refugees from Iraq and Syria, expressing their desire to get to Europe but without the “boats of death.” In one posting on the group’s page on Tuesday, a member called on refugees to gather at the Greek-Turkish border.

A series of reports in Turkish newspapers point to the same trend. Daily Zaman reported Syrian refugees have begun “a voyage of hope toward Europe on the TEM highway,” a reference to the Turkish section of the Trans-European Motorway. It added that the people set off for the Turkish city of Edirne, which is close to the border, “after a report on social media that Greece is accepting Syrian refugees.”

Another newspaper, Hurriyet, carried a similar report, noting that some 3,000 Syrian refugees had made plans over the Internet to travel to Edirne in rented coaches and cars. According to that report, Turkish police intercepted the convoy.

According to Agence France-Presse, some 500 refugees gathered at Istanbul’s main bus station on Tuesday, planning to board buses to Edirne before attempting to cross into Greece’s northern region of Evros.

Reports of a shift in route come just two days after a smuggling vessel capsized off the small island of Farmakonisi, in the eastern Aegean, leading to the death of 34 refugees, including 15 children.

A total of 99 people survived the wreck, seven of whom are suspected smugglers. The seven, who claim to be Syrian and Palestinian refugees, are to face a prosecutor on Kos on Thursday.

Greek authorities are concerned about the repercussions of several EU member states tightening border controls as the migration crisis escalates. Austria heralded new border restrictions on Tuesday following decisions by Germany and Hungary to boost inspections at their borders.

EU justice and interior ministers are to hold an emergency summit on migration next Tuesday.

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