French politician Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade has accused Ankara of “attacking” the sovereignty of the European Union after Turkish President Erdogan opened his country’s borders for those seeking to cross into the bloc. “What is happening on Greece’s border is an attack on Europe’s sovereignty. It is also a flagrant violation of human dignity that we must firmly oppose,” M Anglade, of the ruling La République en Marche (LREM) party, told parliament on Tuesday.
“The crisis unfolding along the Turkish-Greek border is a test for Europe,” he said, as he urged the bloc to “restore” citizens’ trust by “proving it is capable of tackling major challenges like migration”.
But conservative politician Damien Abad struck a more hostile tone, telling the news channel BFMTV on Wednesday that the current situation was a “disgrace for Europe”.
Facing a possible new wave of refugees fleeing fighting in Syria’s Idlib region and furious at what it sees as a lack of Western support, Turkey announced late last week that it would no longer stop Syrian refugees from trying to reach European soil.
Since then about 10,000 migrants have headed to Turkey’s land borders with EU member states Greece and Bulgaria.
Some have taken to dinghies, seeking to reach nearby Greek islands from the Turkish coast.
While the numbers are just a tiny fraction of the 3.6 million refugees who have sought sanctuary in Turkey after fleeing war-ravaged Syria, the impact of Mr Erdogan’s move has sent shockwaves across Europe.
European interior ministers on Wednesday recognised “the increased migratory burden and risks Turkey is facing,” but also strongly condemned “Turkey’s use of migratory pressure for political purposes”.
“This situation at the EU’s external borders is not acceptable,” they said in a joint statement, as they urged Ankara to stick to the 2016 migrant pact.
Brussels sealed a deal with Ankara in March 2016 under which Turkey agreed to stop people on its soil from heading to Europe.
In exchange, the bloc offered six billion euros in aid for the millions of Syrian refugees Turkey is hosting.
But, Mr Erdogan has long complained that the money is slow to come and channelled through aid groups, not Turkey’s budget.
And after Russian-backed Syrian government forces killed Turkish soldiers in an airstrike in Syria last week, Ankara said it would quit the deal with the EU altogether.
The EU bloc has struggled to respond to the sudden influx of refugees in recent days.
Those who rushed to the Greek border have been pushed back by police using tear gas.
Many are now stuck on the Turkish side, with limited access to food and shelter.
Aggravating the EU’s dilemma are internal divisions over how to share the migrant burden.
EU states have been at loggerheads since 2015 over how to fairly redistribute migrants and refugees, leaving some – namely frontline states like Greece and Italy – struggling under the burden; and others – like Poland or Hungary – refusing to host refugees.
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