Syrian refugees resume march to Turkey's European border

Hundreds of Syrian refugees restarts march towards western border province of Edirne from Istanbul, in hope of crossing into Europe

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Syrian refugees hoping to cross the Turkish border into Greece or Bulgaria, walk along the TEM motorway towards northwestern Edirne province

A group of over 200 Syrian refugees began marching again on Sunday night to reach the western Turkish province of Edirne which borders both Greece and Bulgaria, after waiting at the Istanbul main bus terminal for days.

The refugees started to walk along the Istanbul-Edirne highway late on Sunday, leaving from the main bus terminal in Istanbul as they were not sold tickets since Bulgarian authorities deployed soldiers to the border in order to block their entrance and Turkish authorities wanted to avoid any harm to the refugees which include children. 

Giving up on crossing to Europe by foot and placated by Turkish authorities, some of the refugees returned to the camps in Turkey’s southern provinces of Adana, Sanliurfa and Gaziantep while others chose to remain in Istanbul.

Although Turkish security forces attempted to block the group from moving further along the highway and detained some of the refugees, several drivers en route to Edirne picked them up to help them out. 

The refugees that gathered at the terminal in Istanbul, had been demanding to be allowed travel into Europe by land instead of risking their lives by attempting to cross the Aegean Sea in overcrowded migrant boats.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday met with six representatives of the Syrian refugees.

The meeting came after thousands of refugees travelled to Edirne in an attempt to cross further into Europe.

“We will try to make the Syrian refugees issue an agenda topic at the United Nations General Assembly,” Davutoglu told representatives, as he is expected to hold a speech at an upcoming UN assembly meeting. 

Asking the refugees to end their walk to Turkey's western border until a European country allows their entry, Davutoglu continued, "We understand the people who want to go to Europe from Turkey or any other country. We will not stop anyone who is willing to leave. Our Syrian siblings' needs will be provided for while they are in Turkey. In addition, we are ready to send you by planes to any country that will accept you."

Thousands of mostly Syrian refugees who are attempting to reach western European countries, plan to use a route through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria to make it there. 

Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to cross into European countries as the country's location serves as a bridge between 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 records.

Nearly two million are hosted in Turkey, home to the world’s largest refugee population.

Syrian refugee children sleep in stroller as refugees hoping to cross the Turkish border into Greece or Bulgaria walk along the TEM motorway towards northwestern Edirne province (AA)

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 last week 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 also 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.”

TRTWorld and agencies