Yunousa Algerian boy 19 year old decided he wasn’t going to wait any longer, that going to cross the river. He walks with two companions, also Algerian, at the pace allowed by the inflatable raft that they carry between them three. They bought it a few days ago in a sports store for 50 euros.
Arrived at the edge of Evrosthe river that marks the Turkey-Greece border, puts the small boat on the ground and snorts worried. You begin to have doubts. It’s noon: “I don’t know what to do. There is too much light. all people are waiting for night to fall. Maybe we should do the same, he thinks aloud.
“Do not do it. Is it a bad idea – said another refugee, who followed him to see what was happening – You better wait until the sun goes down. Now they will catch you“. You’re right: a few minutes after the raft was planted on the bank, on the other side – on the side greek shore -, appeared three Greek soldiers. They stood by the water’s edge, watching threatening towards refugees. A refugee insults them from the Turkish side. The Greek police do not even flinch.
Thousands of refugees have arrived since Thursday evening from other parts of Turkey to different points on the land border with Greece. This Thursday, after the death in northern Syria of 33 Turkish soldiers in a bombardment, ankara announced that it would no longer prevent refugees who want to reach Europe.
Athens, however, has completely blocked the border. The Greek government claims that in three days it prevented the entry of 10,000 people on Greek territory. The UN figure in 13,000 people that on Saturday evening they were at the border waiting for an opportunity to cross. During yesterday morning at least 2,000 more arrived. Turkey – who is interested in giving a huge figure – says they are 76,000.
To stop all this flow, Athens closed the border crossing points, where the majority of refugees accumulate, but it also used a technique it has used for years: returns by the Evros river. “I came here a year ago and the Greek police stole everything from me. The motive, my money…everything. And then they forced me to swim in the water. Now I want to try again, but I don’t know. I fear themsaid one to winwaiting on the Turkish side of the border.
Many refugees these days claim the same thing: that the Greek police, when they catch immigrants, take them the phones and all the money – so they have no way to try again – and are forced at gunpoint back to Turkey across the water. Last night the thermometers they were several degrees below zero.
thread on the shore
thread on the shoreMeanwhile, as they see how the Greek military is looking at them, Yunus and his companions keep thinking about it. The doubt will not last long, because the Greeks, after a few minutes, bring a barbed wire fence, which they place near the shore so that no one, if they manage to enter Greece, can go too far. On the Turkish side, among the refugees, tempers fall.
“But let’s see. Can’t you see there are police here? Come closer, come, said one Turkish trafficker, who is looking for someone to translate for him—. Look, they’re putting up a fence and it’s probably electric. Over there, behind those trees, there is a Greek military base. Know that you will not pass by here. Go one kilometer north. there we have several boats waiting, which we will launch at night. It’s your best option.”
“If you want to go this way, go this way. We send you to the other side for 150 lira [unos 25 euros]. But with this little boat you will do nothing. The Greek police will destroy it for you in a second”, continues the trafficker, well dressed and with an expensive watch on his wrist.
Yunus accepts defeat and takes his raft elsewhere. The crowd disperses and the traffickers leave. “The problem is not the money. Which is also, of course, but it’s not the oldest. The problem, says the Ghanaian refugee, who stood aside during the conversation with the smuggler, is that if we get to the other side They will take everything from us and bring us back here. Next, what am I going to do? For them to beat me? He spent”.
Greece claims to have arrested 73 people in recent hours, which would be added to the 66 arrests on Saturday. But that’s only part of land border with Turkey and Greece. Around 2 a.m., police and soldiers repelled “an organized attempt to massively cross the border”, according to a press release. The Greek police do not hesitate to disperse the refugees with tear gas.
Also for The Greek Islandswhere the situation was already very tense due to the government’s decision to build immigration detention centers there, happened this Sunday more than 400 people; four times more than normal.
However, not everyone was able to set foot on Greek soil: several residents intercepted a boat carrying refugees arriving in the coast of lesbos. They did not let them off the boat, but invited them, abuse, to return to Turkey. Other neighborhood groups blocked buses carrying new arrivals to Moria camp.
“I understand that Greece protects itself. But they have to understand that we are not just coming for fun,” the Ghanaian said. All of us here, Iraqis, Africans, Syrians, Afghans, Iranians, have escaped the war. And then, we don’t want to go to Greece. No one here wants to stay and live in Greece. We just want them to let us through. Let’s not get trapped here.”
Ankara announces the start of an offensive in Idlib
On the Syrian war front, the situation continues to deteriorate. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced the start of Operation “Spring Shield”, in response to the Syrian army’s attacks on Turkish forces deployed in the Idlib region, which resulted in the death of 33 soldiers. During the operation, two Syrian warplanes were shot down by Turkish units, state agency SANA reported. The pilots of the planes were able to jump with parachutes and are in good condition, according to the agency.