Feb 29, 2020 - World

Erdoğan opens Turkey's border allowing refugees to travel to Europe

Refugees wait near to enter Europe at the Turkish-Greek border.
Refugees wait near to enter Europe near Turkey's border with Greece. Photo: Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced he opened Turkey's border with Europe on Saturday — turning a longstanding threat into a reality, AP reports.

The state of play: The move appears to be an attempt to pressure European countries to support Erdoğan's military efforts in Idlib as operations from Turkish, Russian and Syrian forces escalate. Erdoğan has called on European nations to support the 3.6 million displaced Syrian refugees in Turkey, The New York Times reports.

Nearly 4,000 migrants have gathered at the Turkey-Greece border to try to enter Europe, per the Times, with another 500 caught between the two border posts. Migrants, assisted by Turkish authorities, traveled by sea toward the Turkish coast in hopes of reaching the Greek islands, though few have reportedly arrived.

  • Greece responded to the incoming refugees at its border by firing tear gas, with its government claiming it "will do whatever it takes to protect its borders," Reuters reports.
"We will not close the gates to refugees. The European Union has to keep its promises. We are not obliged to look after and feed so many refugees. If you're honest, if you're sincere, then you need to share."
— President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a speech Saturday, per AP

The big picture: Military escalations in Idlib could add to the ongoing humanitarian crisis as at least 950,000 displaced civilians make their way to the Syrian-Turkish border, AP notes.

  • The chaos in Idlib could mean Turkey will face new international pressure to open its sealed border with Syria to offer the refugees relief.

Context: In 2016, Turkey agreed to accept Syrian refugees in exchange for the European Union's financial support. Erdoğan claims the EU has not held up its end of the deal, according to AP.

Go deeper: Syria's Idlib offensive forces civilians to flee, pits Turkey against Russia

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