Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara has no plans to stop the flow of migrants into the European Union (EU), warning that “millions of refugees” will soon be moving toward Turkey’s borders with the bloc.
“The period of Turkey’s unilateral self-sacrifice in relation to the refugees has come to an end,” Erdogan said in a televised speech on Monday, adding, “Since we have opened the borders, the number of refugees heading toward Europe has reached hundreds of thousands. This number will soon be in the millions.”
The Turkish president also called on Europe to help take responsibility for the migrant crisis triggered by violence in the region.
“After we opened the doors, there were multiple calls saying ‘close the doors’,” he said. “I told them, ‘It’s done. It’s finished. The doors are now open. Now, you (Europe) will have to take your share of the burden.’”
Turkey on Thursday relaxed curbs on the migrants’ movement through its borders and said Ankara would no longer prevent hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in its territory from reaching Europe despite an agreement struck with the EU in 2016, under which Ankara was committed to stop the refugee flow into Europe in exchange for financial assistance from Europe.
Ankara complains that funds promised by the EU to help it deal with the 3.7 million Syrian refugees already in the country have been slow to arrive. Turkey’s government had warned in the past that it would open the floodgates if it did not receive more funding.
The massing of migrants has caused fears of a repeat of the 2015 European migrant crisis, in which more than one million people crossed into Europe, most of them fleeing conflict zones in West Asia and North Africa.
Nearly 13,000 refugees have been blocked from entering Greece since the Turkish president said his country would allow refugees into Europe in an attempt to pressure the EU governments over the conflict in Syria across its southern border.
Erdogan also expressed hope on Monday to reach a deal on a ceasefire in Syria when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the week following intense fighting in the last bastion of terrorists in the northwestern province of Idlib.