by Revanth Rao
Tensions have escalated between Greece and Turkey in the past two weeks, as a Turkish decision to open the border between the two countries has incensed the Greeks. After Turkey opened its side of the border, thousands of migrants flocked to the area in an effort to enter Europe.
The root of this recent conflict goes back to 2016, when Turkey and the European Union (EU) struck a deal to help control the European migration crisis. Over one million people arrived in Europe from the Middle East in 2015 alone, with many losing their lives at sea before they could reach safety. The deal stated that any migrant arriving illegally in Greece would be sent to Turkey; in return, a country in the EU would receive a Syrian refugee from Turkey, which had experienced a mass migration of its own earlier in the 2010s. For the EU, the deal externalized their borders and allowed them to reduce the number of refugees arriving in Europe. For Turkey, the deal gave them 3 billion Euros to help improve the humanitarian conditions of their refugees, as well as multiple political gestures that improved their bargaining position with the EU.
The deal lasted four years, but is now in jeopardy after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would open its side of the 120-mile-long Greece-Turkey border and no longer stop its refugees from attempting to enter Greece. This decision was unpopular with Greece, who desperately wished to avoid mass Turkish migration. Thus far, the Greeks have kept their borders fenced off with barbed wire, and have sent guards to police the area.
In recent days, the region has experienced an escalation of violence, as both Turkish and Greek security forces have used weapons in the growing conflict. Both sides have differing stories that paint the other in an unfavorable light. Turkish migrants have at times used ropes and chains in an attempt to pull down the wall marking the border, while Turkish forces allegedly shot tear gas across the border into Greece. Greek security forces have also used tear gas as well as water cannons and guns; while the Turkish say the guns contain ammunition and have killed migrants, the Greeks insist that they contain blanks and are simply meant to scare people away.
While the fight over migration to Greece has just begun, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Both sides appear ready to firmly hold their ground, with Greece doing whatever is necessary to protect their border, and the Turkish now building camps near the border to wait out the Greeks.
(Sources: CNN, BBC, HelpRefugees)