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TDs say treatment of people at Greek border 'brings shame to the EU'

Turkey has claimed Greece is using live rounds against people at the border, saying three have been killed.

Turkish police stand by people camping in Edirne near the Turkish-Greek border.
Turkish police stand by people camping in Edirne near the Turkish-Greek border.
Image: Emrah Gurel

Updated Mar 5th 2020, 4:40 PM

A NUMBER OF TDs hit out against the European Union in the Dáil today for its handling of the refugee situation along the Greek border. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that migrants would no longer be prevented from trying to reach Europe.

Turkey is home to around four million refugees, the majority of them Syrian, and fears another influx as Russian-backed regime forces push to retake the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

In recent days, Greek police have fired tear gas and stun grenades to prevent a push by migrants to cross its land border from Turkey. Clashes and chaos at the land border have occurred where thousands of refugees have gathered.

Speaking in the Dáil today, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said these people are living in the most appalling conditions.

He said the treatment of these refugees “really exposes the horrible priorities and moral bankruptcy” of the European Union.

He said the Member States want to spend €38m to beef up “fortress Europe” in a bid to keep people out. Boyd Barrett said the situation should “bring shame to the EU”, stating that the deal struck between Turkey and the EU in 2015 was wrong.

In a deal worth €3 billion to Turkey, the flow of Syrian refugees and other migrants to Europe was stemmed.

In a bid to kick-start membership of the EU, Turkey promised its cooperation in preventing the 2.2 million Syrian refugees it hosts from coming to Europe.

Boyd Barrett called on the Irish government and Irish MEPs to speak out to end the inhumane treatment of the people seeking help and asylum along the border.

Rise’s Paul Murphy said the EU speaks about being a “bastion” of progress, but this situation puts the EU’s shame on display.

He criticised European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, who visited the Greek border area on Tuesday with Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

She expressed support for Greece, noting the border is not just a national one but an external border of the EU. Those trying to cross into Greece had ”been lured by false promises into this desperate situation”, she said.

catheirne TD Catherine Connolly said she is ashamed to be a member of this Dail if it doesn't tell the EU 'not in my name' when it comes to the situation along the Greece border. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Galway TD Catherine Connolly asked Tánaiste Simon Coveney what Ireland was going to do about the situation. While Ireland might be a small country with a small voice, it is one that should be used, she said. 

“I am ashamed to be here as part of this Dáil when men, women and children are in no man’s land, and all in our name,” she said.

She said that since 2014, over 9,000 people have drowned or are missing in the Mediterranean, though she suspects it is higher.

Connolly criticised Leo Varadkar’s speech in the Dáil which failed to mention the refugee crisis, asking why our leaders can’t feign “simple outrage”. 

Coveney said when the Irish navy was involved in the rescue operations in the Mediterranean, it rescued about 16,000 refugees. The operation was ceased by the EU, but Coveney said he is open for Ireland to getting involved again, if there is agreement by all Member states. 

He said the core problem is the lack of agreement by many countries when it comes to the migrant crisis.

coveney Source: Oireachtas

Today, Turkey has deployed 1,000 police officers to prevent Greece pushing migrants back, its interior minister said.

“A thousand special force police officers are deployed from this morning to the Meric river on the border, fully equipped, to prevent people being pushed back,” Suleyman Soylu told reporters during a visit to the northwestern province of Edirne.

The river is known as Evros in Greece.

Soylu accused Greece of “mistreating” migrants and said Turkey “would not allow it”.

migrant-crisis-at-turkish-greek-border Source: DPA/PA Images

migrant-crisis-at-turkish-greek-border Source: DPA/PA Images

Turkey has claimed Greece is using live rounds against migrants, saying three have been killed.

Athens has dismissed the allegations as “fake news”.

Investigative website Bellingcat today said Greek riot police could be using potentially lethal tear gas after expended gas canisters with pointed tips had been found in the vicinity of protests by asylum-seekers at the Greece-Turkey border.

The Greek government said border guards had prevented nearly 7,000 attempted entries over the last 24 hours, and nearly 35,000 over the last five days.

In a statement condemning the ongoing situation Oxfam’s Europe migration campaign manager Evelien van Roemburg said governments were “using people fleeing violence and persecution as pawns in a political game to avoid taking responsibility”.

“Treating human lives as pawns in political negotiations is unacceptable, and puts fundamental human rights second to political gain, violating both international and EU law.” 

Coveney said he is attending a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Zagreb on the issues tomorrow.

© – AFP 2020 with reporting by Christina Finn and Daragh Brophy 

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