Turkey: Erdogan's blackmail on Europe to gain support in Syria

Audio 02:53

Recep Tayyip Edogan wants to get out of his face to face with Vladimir Putin on Idleb. Turkish Presidential Press Office / Handout via REUTERS

By: Anne Andlauer

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to press Europe for support in Syria, where more than 50 Turkish soldiers were killed in February in the Idleb region. Thus, since the end of last week, Ankara has decided not to prevent migrants present on its territory from reaching the border with Greece. But what exactly?


From our correspondent in Turkey.

The Turkish head of state recently said that " hundreds of thousands " of migrants had already headed for Europe and that they would soon be " millions " . But on Monday, near the Greek-Turkish border, there was no such influx. The figures put forward by Turkey are obviously fanciful.

Turkish figures are implausible

This weekend, the United Nations had counted around 15,000 migrants present along the land border. We can indeed speak of thousands of people waiting there, and the Greek government also claims to have prevented thousands of people from entering its territory. One thing is certain, they do not go by road. Greek border crossings are closed.

The migrants wait in a no man's land where the Turkish border guards let them in, but where the Greek forces fire tear gas canisters and use water cannons to repel them. Their only hope is the Evros River, which separates Turkey and Greece. But the banks of the river are criss-crossed by the Greek army, which regularly shoots in the air to discourage crossings and intercepts a large part of those making the crossing ... before sending them back by the land border. Of course, some manage to fall through the cracks, but they are certainly not "hundreds of thousands".

President Erdogan speaks to his constituents

Turkey has an interest in inflating its balance sheets. First, by giving the impression that the borders are wide open, Ankara wants to convince the greatest possible number of migrants to take the road of exile, to create from scratch the hoped-for migratory influx. And thus exert maximum pressure on the European Union.

But these figures brandished by Ankara and hammered into the media have another recipient: Turkish public opinion. Recep Tayyip Erdogan estimates that the extremely unpopular presence of millions of refugees cost him the biggest cities in last year's local elections. The supposed departure of hundreds of thousands of them and their intransigence towards Europe could contribute - he hopes - to restore its image.

Migrants trapped in this Turkish-European showdown

Yes, and many are aware of it. Those I met on Monday had been there for several days. They had arrived hoping to be able to enter Europe immediately. This is what the Turkish authorities had dazzled them, which also chartered free coaches from Istanbul to the Greek border.

Once there, migrants do not know where to go, where to go, who to believe ... Many say that they no longer have hope ... but that they no longer have enough money to turn back . They are literally stuck in this uncertain in-between.

► Read also: At the Turkish crossing point of Pazarkule, migrants trapped

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  • Turkey
  • Syria
  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Defense
  • International Migration

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