Migrants at the Greek-Turkish border | Photo: picture-alliance / AA / C. Denirci
Migrants at the Greek-Turkish border | Photo: picture-alliance / AA / C. Denirci

The head of Europe's border agency Frontex has said that even with the coronavirus crisis, the pressure on Europe's borders will "remain high." His statement comes as the Greek authorities reported more unrest at its border with Turkey and a UN official criticized Greece for refusing to let people through.

Sunday evening, March 22. The Greek authorities report further unrest at the country's border with Turkey. According to the German news agency dpa, about 200 migrants felled a tree from the Turkish side in the hope of damaging the fence at the Kastanies (Greece)/ Pazarkule (Turkey) crossing and making it into the EU.

Although the fence was damaged the Greek authorities fired tear gas in the area and managed to repair the breached fence. The German news agency dpa reported that the Greek authorities estimate that there are only a few hundred migrants waiting on the Turkish side for the chance to cross into the EU.

'Not all of these people are refugees'

However, the chief executive of Frontex, the EU’s border agency, Fabrice Leggeri, has said that the pressure from migrants hoping to cross into the EU, even during the Covid-19 pandemic "remains high." Speaking to the Funke media group in Germany, Leggeri pointed out that there were more than four million Syrian refugees in Turkey at the moment. He added that the instability in the Syrian province of Idlib near to the Turkish border may mean that more would arrive soon.

On top of Syrian refugees, continued Leggeri, there are people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Morocco and Algeria, who are all hoping to make it to Europe via Turkey. Not all of these people are refugees, Leggeri reportedly said. "Some of them are simply economic migrants who are just looking for a better life; and others are trouble makers who have been throwing tear gas from the Turkish side towards the Greek authorities."

Frontex tweeted on March 21 that it had shipped more protection helmets to its forces on the Greek-Turkish border.

UN Special Rapporteur criticizes Greece

Meanwhile, Felipe González Morales, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, criticized what is happening at the Greek-Turkish border on Monday. Morales said that not allowing whole groups of people through a border, irrespective of their status, was akin to collective refoulement.

According to dpa, Morales highlighted reports of various unfortunate events over the last few weeks; including migrants who did make it over the border into Greece being stripped of their belongings, and sometimes their clothes before being sent back to Turkey. Morales said there has also been reports of violence and even death in the case of one Syrian refugee.

Morales said that Greece was responsible for "making sure that anyone who came to its borders seeking help and protection against threats would indeed be offered protection."

 

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