Greece braces for a refugee crisis on its borders with Turkey as thousands of Syrian refugees are reportedly organizing themselves to march towards Evros and try to cross into Europe.
Greece’s Minister of Citizen Protection Takis Theodorikakos announced on Wednesday that approximately 1,500 people tried to cross the Greek borders at Evros from Turkey but were turned back by Greek security forces.
It is clear that there is an organized plan on the part of Turkey to instrumentalize migrants, Theodorikakos said during n interview on Thursday with Skai TV.
Theodorikakos also underlined that the police forces are on operational alert and Evros is impassable.
”The Greek Police are in full readiness, on alert and implementing the operational plan ”Akritas”, in absolute coordination with the Armed Forces and of course with the citizens of Evros. We are effectively dealing with the Turks’ ongoing attempt to instrumentalize migrants”, he stressed and added:
”in most cases, they are brought to our border by Turkish vehicles. For the time being this threat, and this plan, has not taken the dimensions of February and March 2020, but we are closely monitoring the situation to prevent the slightest occurrence”.
Syrian refugees mass in convoy on Turkish border to walk into Greece
According to The Guardian, refugees are rallying together along the border between Turkey and Greece to eventually collectively enter the EU. Since early September, Syrians have been planning the journey via a Telegram channel containing more than eighty-five thousand members.
The actual number of the refugees in the caravan named ”Caravan of Light” remains unclear. Organizers, who are themselves Syrian refugees, reveal that there are about one hundred thousand people.
Organizers have cited the Turkish government’s racist and violent treatment of refugees with some even fearing for their safety. According to their statement, the refugee caravan was prompted by the “abhorrent racism” they received by “some parties in the Turkish republic,” which has resulted in a series of deadly attacks.
In addition, the organizers accused the Turkish government of planning to relocate the Syrian refugees living in Turkey into the areas of the Syrian regime, a plan which will certainly put their lives in serious jeopardy.
Organizers added that on Monday evening, members of the caravan were attacked on the Greek border by people smugglers while on Tuesday, the Syrian refugees decided to regroup in Istanbul before heading to the border together.
Cry for help to the UN
Syrian refugees request that the UN protect them from all forms of physical, psychological, and political abuse, and they have also urged the Syrian interim government to put pressure over the EU to either open the borders or find alternative immediate solutions.
Yuko Narushima, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told The Guardian that the agency was aware of social media announcements aimed at organizing large-scale movements of people from Turkey to the EU but did not participate or encourage it. “We are concerned for the safety and well-being of those who decide to join this movement, which—based on past experiences with similar organized movements around the world—would likely be dangerous,” he said.
Increasing racism and lives at jeopardy
According to The Guardian, about four hundred refugees have been forced to return to Idlib, Syria after they attempted to cross the Syrian border to Turkey to join the caravan, and they were also attacked by Islamist militants.
Taha Elghazi, a prominent Syrian refugee rights activist in Turkey, who is not part of the caravan, said he understood why many Syrians want to leave Turkey because of the increasing racism as well as the economic hardships that are caused by the financial inflation. However, he warned that the Turkish government would not allow groups together on the border with Greece. EU countries are also stepping up security measures at their borders. “All these factors mean that there will be brutal treatment of refugees when they are on this trip and the caravan’s approach is not clear, and it may endanger them,” he told The Guardian.
With elections on the horizon and the rise of anti-migrant political rhetoric, many of the 3.7 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey see an uncertain future in the land where they initially sought safety from the disruptive war events in Syria.
According to multiple refugee rights groups, anti-Syrian racism is becoming an alarming trend across Turkey. Faris Mohammed al-Ali, an eighteen-year-old Syrian, was killed in a racist attack in Turkey at the beginning of September. In a separate incident in May, a seventy-year-old Syrian woman named Leyla Mohammed was kicked in the face by a Turkish man.
Sara Hashash, at the Syria Campaign, a human rights advocacy group, told The Guardian: “Syrian refugees have fled a bloody conflict, torture, enforced disappearance and other abhorrent abuses to seek safety in Turkey. It is appalling that they now find themselves facing further attacks.”
Many attacks spurred by racism are not reported since victims fear that they may be forcibly returned to Syria. This year alone, 150 Syrians have been forcibly deported from Turkey despite some of them carrying official identification documents.