Turkish media outlets have reported that hundreds of Syrian refugees are marching toward Turkey’s western border to reach European countries by land after a number of refugee boats recently capsized at sea between Turkey and Greece, killing over 100 people in total.
Two hundred and fifty Syrian refugees arrived at Turkey's western province Edirne yesterday, which borders both Greece and Bulgaria. About 800 refugees have tried today to enter the Turkish border city by walking along the Istanbul-Edirne highway according to media reports.
However, the refugees were not allowed to enter the city, and were stopped by Turkish security forces. Three thousand refugees with their vehicles were previously turned away by security forces from the entrance of Edirne and sent back to the cities where they've legally been permitted to live, media reports stated.
The marching refugees have said that they ultimately aim to go to Germany by walking if they are able to enter Greece from Edirne before following a route through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria.
Edirne Governor Dursun Ali Sahin said 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,” speaking to the Turkish Haberturk newspaper.
“I believe they will be convinced to leave from here. We have done our best,” he added.
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 have been waiting at the Istanbul main bus terminal to get to Edirne. The refugees stayed at the terminal last night and some of them have pitched tents, Turkish media has reported.
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 over 1.9 million Syrian refugees according to registration records of the United Nations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the refugee policies of European countries, saying that the resolution of the refugee crisis should not involve “closing the border gates, building wire fences and walls along borders.”
He said “our European friends should know that the final destination of these people who have reached their borders is not their countries. These people want to go back to their countries, but their respective countries currently have unbearable living conditions.”
The true resolution for the crisis is to end the conflicts in the Middle East and bring a representative government to the countries from which the flow of refugees have been intensified, he added.
Among European countries Germany seems to be the most understanding of the weight placed on countries neighboring Syria by the refugee issue, among which Turkey has particularly been burdened.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Syria’s neighbours should show support for European states to lighten the refugee burden faced by these countries.
Gabriel said, “we have to talk with Turkey and help them because their capacities are also running out. I know, Turkey struggled a lot in the last years. I myself visited the refugee camps there which have high standards,” speaking to journalists following a local meeting in Berlin on Tuesday according to Turkey's Anadolu Agency.
Gabriel also described 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 for 120,000 refugees.
Gabriel has also been chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany since 2009.
Erdogan will reportedly meet European leaders in Brussels on October 4, to discuss the refugee crisis and recent attacks by the outlawed PKK in Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently stated his government has vigorously tried to persuade world leaders to establish a safe zone in northern Syria to help relocate refugees and redirect displaced people into secured areas in the country.
However, Davutoglu complained that other countries have not paid attention to his persistent calls to establish such zones to address the crisis.
Turkey has consistently defended a plan to establish safe areas and no-fly-zones in Syria. The Turkish Foreign Ministry previously indicated that refugees who stay in Turkey and neighbouring countries could be settled in the “safe” areas which will be cleared from ISIS by Turkey and US-led coalition forces following effective operations against the group.