The European Union border agency Frontex expects a large number of migrants to attempt to cross the border from Turkey into Greece after Turkey lifts coronavirus restrictions. Turkey closed its borders in mid-March as a measure against the pandemic.
According to an internal Frontex document seen by the German newspaper Die Welt, the easing of coronavirus containment restrictions in the Turkish provinces of Canakkale, Istanbul and Izmir may result in large-scale movements of migrants towards the Greek-Turkish border.
The Frontex report, dated May 5, says an additional 262 police officers from around Greece have been sent to the Evros river region to boost security at the border, according to Welt.
In late February, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that the door was open for migrants to travel to the EU. Following the announcement, thousands of migrants approached the Turkish-Greek border and tried to cross into Europe, triggering violent clashes.
On March 18, after its first confirmed death from coronavirus, Turkey closed its land borders with Greece and Bulgaria as a measure to combat the spread of the virus. Just over two weeks later, Turkish authorities announced that they had removed migrants remaining on the Turkish-Greek border as a precaution amid the pandemic.
However, the Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu that the evacuation of the migrants did not reflect a change in policy and that they would be free to return. “When this epidemic is over we would not prevent whoever wants to leave,” he told NTV television.
Turkey hosts over 4 million refugees, including 3.6 million Syrians. President Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to let them into Europe unless the EU provides more financial support.