ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was accused on Tuesday of being a “migrant trafficker” as thousands of refugees continued to surge toward the border with Greece.
It was “painfully clear” that Turkey had “systematically encouraged and assisted tens of thousands of refugees and migrants to illegally enter Greece,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“This is no longer a refugee problem. It is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda.”
European leaders have demanded that Turkey abide by a 2016 deal to keep refugees inside Turkey in return for cash aid to help with the influx from Syria.
But Turkey accuses the EU of failing to pay. It already hosts about 3.6 million refugees and faces another flood of people fleeing Syria, where the Assad regime backed by Russian air power is pressing a violent offensive to recapture the last opposition-held province of Idlib.
EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged 700 million euros to Greece to help tackle the migration surge. The EU border agency Frontex will also deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed.”
“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” she said. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.
“Turkey is not an enemy,” she said, “but people are not just means to reach a goal.”
The EU is desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 crisis, when more than a million migrants entered Europe from Turkey via the Balkans, straining European security and welfare systems and boosting support for far-right parties.