EU and Greek officials said they will offer 5,000 asylum seekers a $2,260 stipend to return home, an offer which does not apply to those refugees arriving via Turkey in the last two weeks.

Greek security force members use huge fans to increase the effectiveness of tear gas as they attempt to drive away asylum seekers waiting at the buffer zone located between the Kastanies and the Pazarkule border gates, in hopes that Greece will open the border gate, on March 12, 2020 in Turkey's northwestern Edirne province.
Greek security force members use huge fans to increase the effectiveness of tear gas as they attempt to drive away asylum seekers waiting at the buffer zone located between the Kastanies and the Pazarkule border gates, in hopes that Greece will open the border gate, on March 12, 2020 in Turkey's northwestern Edirne province. (AA)

Greek forces are augmenting the reach of their gas bombs along the border with Turkey by using giant fans.

On Thursday, as the local winds shifted across the border from Edirne in Turkey, Greek border guards found the gas they deployed against asylum seekers would mostly turn back and hurt their own ranks.

So they rolled out giant fans mounted on military vehicles to blow the tear gas toward the asylum seekers.

Greece has been accused of using tear and pepper gas past its expiration date, making it even more dangerous.

In the two weeks since Turkey stopped preventing asylum seekers from crossing its borders to reach Europe, nearly 2,500 have been wounded by the measures used by Greek border guards, and several people killed, according to Anadolu Agency.

Money to return home

EU and Greek officials on Thursday said 5,000 asylum seekers on Greek islands would be given financial incentives to return home to relieve pressure on overwhelmed camps.

The plan, available for a month only and based on a $2,260 (2,000-euro) stipend, is only open to those who arrived in Greece before January 1.

"We have now agreed on a special temporary assisted voluntary return scheme...for a period of one month," EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said after talks in Athens.

"We think it will be an open opportunity for 5,000 migrants," she said.

The money is designed to help asylum seekers start afresh in their countries of origin, she said.

"It's clear that we are facing a national emergency and we need to protect our borders," said Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi.

Voluntary returns would be carried out with help from the International Organisation for Migration and EU border agency Frontex.

The offer does not apply to refugees who arrived during a two-week surge enabled by Turkey, which said on February 28 that it would no longer prevent people from trying to reach the European Union.

Late last month, accusing the EU of failing to uphold its half of the 2016 migrant deal and warning of a million more refugees poised across the border in Idlib, Syria, Turkey stopped trying to block asylum seekers from reaching the Greek border by land.

The Greek reaction to asylum seekers has been harsh, with thousands battered, attacked, or tear-gassed by Greek forces, and several killed.

With 3.7 million Syrian migrants in Turkey already, more than any other country in the world, Ankara says it cannot absorb another refugee wave.

Source: AA