Refugees and migrants stranded at Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) vowed to stay put on Tuesday, hours after the European Union and Turkey hailed a tentative accord to stop a scramble by hundreds of thousands of people to reach Europe from war zones.
At least 30,000 people have been trapped in various parts of Greece from a cascade of border shutdowns further north blocking a so-called “Balkans corridor” used by more than a million people since the migratory wave started a year ago.
There was no sign the pressure was easing on Tuesday, as thousands of people queued up at Greece’s northern border for FYROM to open a border gate.
Greek police say it has not opened in at least 24 hours, but heavy rain and a declaration by EU leaders that the Balkans route was now “shut” did not dampen their resolve.
“We will stay here even if we all die,” said Kadriya Jasem, a 25-year-old from Aleppo in Syria, among at least 13,000 people living in squalor in makeshift camp in Idomeni, a village on the Greek side of the border.
She held a four-month-old baby in her arms who she said needed a doctor. “Please open the border, if only for the children,” she said.
At an EU summit on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told leaders of the bloc Ankara was willing to take back all migrants who enter Europe from Turkey in future in return for financial aid, faster EU entry talks and quicker visa-free travel for its citizens.
People fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond have flooded into the EU since early 2015, most making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, then heading north through the Balkans to Germany.
EU leaders aim to work out key details with Turkey by the next scheduled summit on March 17-18. European Council President Donald Tusk, said the outcome would show migrants that there was no longer a path into Europe for people seeking a better life.
“The days of irregular migration to Europe are over,” he told a joint news conference with Davutoglu in the early hours of Tuesday.