Turkish media outlets have reported that Turkey’s provincial authorities have persuaded Syrian refugees who were marching towards the country’s western border hoping to reach European countries to stay in the city of Edirne, which borders both Greece and Bulgaria.
Turkish media outlets recently reported that hundreds of Syrian refugees were marching towards Turkey’s western border in order to cross into Greece by land after a number of refugee boats recently capsized in the sea between Turkey and Greece, killing more than one hundred people.
The refugees reached the Turkish border city four days ago and began marching toward the border crossing of Pazarkule which connects Turkey to Greece. However, they have been stopped by Turkish security forces, according to media reports.
Edirne Governor Dursun Ali Sahin and Mayor Recep Gurkan have come to the area where the marching refugees were blocked by the security forces and met with their representatives.
The refugees decided to stop their march and lodged in a renowned site of the city where a tournament for traditional Turkish oil-wrestling called Kirkpinar is held every year after meeting with officials.
Sahin previously informed the refugees that “they can stay for two or three days. After three days they should leave here. There will be no crossing from the border, otherwise, the flow of refugees will endlessly continue,” according to Turkish media reports.
The governor also stated that the number of refugees marching toward the border crossing of Pazarkule has risen to between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
There have also been reports that thousands of refugees are waiting at the Istanbul main bus terminal to get to Edirne. The refugees have stayed at the terminal for several nights and some of them have pitched tents, Turkish media previously reported.
Thousands of mostly Syrian refugees are currently attempting to reach western European countries using a route through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria.
Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria because of its location bridging the Middle East and Europe.
Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria in large numbers following the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012. One of their most preferred destinations was neighbouring Turkey, which hosts the most Syrian refugees in the world according to United Nations registration recors.
Europe to ‘discuss’ refugee aid to Turkey
The European Union (EU) commissioner for neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations Johannes Hahn pledged one billion euros to Turkey in order to assist the country’s efforts in hosting a record two million Syrian refugees over the course of the civil war in remarks made on Sept. 17.
Hahn said, “Turkey is a key country for a solution,” praising Turkish hosting of refugees of whom only “a minority” live in camps.
The Commissioner also drew attention to the enormous refugee burden placed on the countries neighbouring Syria, saying that four billion euros has already been spent by the EU and member states to help these countries. “But this is not enough! Needs are growing, especially in Lebanon and Jordan,” he stated.
In addition, Pope Francis said three particular countries - Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey - carried the “weight of millions of refugees, which they have generously received,” when speaking in a meeting organised by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (One Heart) in the Vatican on Sept. 17.
“I am grateful for the assistance brought to the victims of the crisis in Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries,” he stressed.
Austrian Prime Minister Werner Faymann also called on the EU, US, and Gulf Arab countries to urgently to come the help of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, following a meeting with top European leaders the including French and Swedish prime ministers, the German vice chancellor, and president of the European Parliament in Vienna on Sept. 18.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey has “spent about 6.5 billion dollars for [the refugee crisis] so far.” He will reportedly meet European leaders in Brussels on October 4 in order to discuss the refugee crisis and recent attacks by the outlawed PKK in Turkey.
Erdogan this week criticised the refugee policies of European countries, saying that the refugee crisis could not be resolved by “closing the border gates, building wire fences and walls along borders.”
Hahn also noted that the continent should not erect a “new iron curtain” to deal with the refugee crisis, saying the European success story has depended on mobility.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel recently described current European indecisiveness towards the refugee crisis as a “disgrace,” citing the most recent European Union interior ministers meeting which ended with a disagreement over quotas to distribute 120,000 refugees among member states.