March 6, 2020 / 8:13 AM / a month ago

Do not go to the Turkey-Greece border, EU urges migrants

ZAGREB (Reuters) - The European Union pleaded on Friday for migrants in Turkey not to go to the Greek border or try to breach it, saying the frontier was closed and that any encouragement to do by Turkish authorities was a game that had to stop.

FILE PHOTO: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell speaks after European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium January 20, 2020 REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

Greek security forces have used tear gas and water cannon to deter tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross the border from Turkey after Ankara said last week it would no longer abide by a 2016 deal with the EU to keep them.

“The news about the alleged openness (of the Greek-Turkish border) is false and people should not try to move there,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell told a news conference in Zagreb.

“If we want to avoid critical situations, we have to know the truth. Let’s stop this game,” he said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Croatian capital.

Migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Africa are camped out along a stretch of the border.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million refugees from the civil war in Syria, its southern neighbour, and faces a further big influx due to continued fighting. It says it cannot accommodate any more and accuses the EU of failing to provide enough help.

In a statement, foreign ministers also told Ankara to stop the spread of “false information” that EU’s borders are open.

“The Council calls on the Turkish government and all actors and organisations on the ground to relay this message and counter the dissemination of false information,” the statement said, referring to the Council of EU governments.

NO NEW FUNDS FOR TURKEY

In a sign of the EU’s hardening stance since the 2015 migration crisis, when more than a million migrants flowed into the bloc, ministers said the EU was ready to take “all necessary measures” to stop “illegal crossings”, without elaborating.

However, Borrell also said a new ceasefire deal between Russia and Turkey for Syria’s Idlib region could facilitate increased EU humanitarian help to Syria and the region.

The EU will host a donor event on June 29-30, Borrell said.

The presidents of Turkey and Russia agreed the ceasefire deal, the latest of many, after talks in Moscow on Thursday to contain a conflict which has displaced nearly one million people in three months.

Borrell urged Turkey to allow more humanitarian aid trucks into northern Syria. He also said longer-term aid to Turkey would continue to go to helping the country cope.

Under the EU’s 2016 deal with Turkey, the bloc is providing 6 billion euros (5.2 billion pounds) to help finance housing, schools and medical centres for the refugees who have fled Syria’s civil war, now in its ninth year.

However, EU foreign ministers did not agree a specific amount of extra aid on Friday, in part because Greece and Cyprus have so far resisted any move that might suggest weakness in dealings with Ankara.

“There was no deal on additional funding,” Borrell said, saying talks would continue in the coming days.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alison Williams

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