The migrants in Greece were faced with another tough night when fire spread through a refuge shelter on the Greek island of Lesbos as tensions soar over the refugee crisis after Turkey opened the doors to head towards Europe. Flames rose from the One Happy Family center near the Island’s capital Mitilini on Saturday. It is not clear whether what caused the fire and no causalities have been recorded as of yet. In recent days, there has been hostility towards migrants on the island city after a surge in the number of refugees that spilled over from Turkish borders.
Hundreds have touched the island since Turkish President announced last week, he was opening the doors for refugees to move to Europe. However, on Saturday, Mr. Erdogan partially reversed his orders and directed the Turkish coastguards to stop illegal migrants from crossing Aegean Sea to Greece because it is not safe for them.
The European Union has accused Turkish premier of using refugees for political purposes and asserted that the doors will remain closed. Clashes have also been reported at the land border between Turkey and Greece in the meantime. There also appears to have not change in Turks position with respect to Greece and migrants who now have permissions to move to Greece using this route.
Greek police on Saturday fired tear gas shells at people attempting to cross the border at Kastanies, who retaliated by throwing stones and shouted “open the gates” according to the AFP news agency. The Greeks also accused Turkish authorities of firing tear gas at them. Earlier on Saturday, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi slapped fresh restrictions on asylum seekers to counter the flow of refugees to their land.
“Accommodation and benefits for those granted asylum will be interrupted within a month. Form then on, they will have to work for a living,” the minister said.
“This makes our country a less attractive destination for migration flows.”
An agreement was reached between Turkey and EU to stop illegal migrant flow to the Union and in return the country will get funds from the bloc to assist in managing the refugee crisis. But since then Tension between Turkey and EU have flared up on a host of issues. Turkey which supports some rebel groups in Syria had to fight a fierce fight with Syrian forces backed by Russia in Idlib and has since then the tensions between the European Union and Turkey have soared. The country located at the gateways of Europe is already hosting 3.7mn Syrian refugees and thousands of other asylum seekers from Asia and Africa. However, in the wake of new conflict in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian rebels, has led to nearly a million more pushed to Turkish border.
Although European Union guaranteed billions more euros in aid but Turkey was not ready to take the talk this time and decided to open its borders with Greece while also bussing migrants close to the north-western border. Greece unimpressed by the move said that migrants were being used as pawns by Turkish regime for political gains.
The increased arrivals from Turkey have prompted aggressive measures from Greece. The migrants and asylum seekers are stopped from entering the Greek land via both sea and land routes. Since Saturday morning more than 1,200 asylum-seekers from Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan have tried to enter the country by crossing the land border, an official revealed to Reuters news agency. European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell has asked migrants to avoid moving a closed door. BBC has crossed ways with members of self-styled militias who watch out for illegal migrants at night in Greek border towns.
“There are such militia along the entire region,” reported Yannis Laskarakis, a newspaper publisher in the city of Alexandroupoli. “We have seen them with our own eyes, arresting migrants, treating them badly and if someone dares to help them, he has the same fate.”