Erdogan threatens EU with refugee flood
Turkey’s President Rejeb Tayyip Erdogan has accused the EU of dishonesty and betrayal and threatened to flood Europe with hundreds of thousands of refugees.
The outburst by the Turkish strongman on Friday came a day after the European Parliament approved a resolution calling on the EU to freeze Turkey’s membership talks.
“We are the ones who feed 3-3.5 million refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises. If you go any further those border gates will be opened,” Erdogan told the EU.
The European Parliament said its vote was in response to Turkey’s heavy-handed crackdown following a failed coup in July.
Ankara has sought to use the issue of migrants, mostly from the raging conflict in Syria, to its own advantage in its dealing with the European Union.
In March, Turkey and the EU reached an agreement under which Ankara would stem the flow of refugees to Europe in return for certain incentives, including fast-tracked membership talks and billions of euros in aid.
After more than a million refugees made their way into Europe, leaders across the continent have toughened their rules to stem further arrivals.
Through their bargaining, however, European leaders have put their fate in the hands of Turkey because an opening of the refugee floodgates could wreck their election chances and have far-right parties prevail in the polls.
In his Friday speech, Erdogan made specific reference to Turkey’s main border crossing with EU member Bulgaria.
Refugee camp torched in Bulgaria
On Thursday, some 2,000 asylum seekers set Bulgaria’s largest refugee camp on fire and clashed with police after the facility was sealed off over reports of a disease outbreak.
The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said police fired water cannon and rubber bullets to quell a riot by refugees angered at being confined to their refugee camp in the town of Harmanli near the Turkish border.
The camp is home to 3,000 people, mostly Afghans. The clashes reportedly broke out after authorities sealed off the camp and prevented people from leaving the premises due to reports of a disease outbreak.
The camp was also the scene of another protest in October when several hundred refugees demanded that they be allowed to continue their journey toward West Europe.
Nearly 13,000 refugees are still stranded in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest country.
Refugees torch Lesbos camp in Greece
Separately, angry refugees set fire to a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos after a woman and a six-year-old child died in a gas cylinder explosion.
Around 6,000 asylum-seekers, most of them fleeing war in the Middle East, are currently stranded on the Lesbos Island, awaiting their fate.
Refugee children go missing in France
Meanwhile, a charity organization says nearly one in three refugee children have gone missing since a rundown camp in the northern French town of Calais was dismantled last month.
The Refugee Youth Service said it could not locate a third of the 179 child it had been tracking since authorities bulldozed the “Jungle” in Calais.
“These are some of the most vulnerable children in the world, they have been let down time and time again,” said the charity’s co-founder Ben Teuten in a statement.
“When they disappear, we are extremely concerned that they will be preyed upon by traffickers and are unlikely to seek state support due to their treatment to date.”
The French authorities earlier this month began moving about 1,500 unaccompanied child refugees from the camp to reception camps across the country.