Migrants Again Try To Leave Turkey For Europe, But This Time The Gate Is Closed Four million Syrian refugees are living in Turkey, and another million displaced Syrians are trapped between Russian-backed Syrian forces and the Turkish border. Turkey says to head for Europe.
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Migrants Again Try To Leave Turkey For Europe, But This Time The Gate Is Closed

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Migrants Again Try To Leave Turkey For Europe, But This Time The Gate Is Closed

Migrants Again Try To Leave Turkey For Europe, But This Time The Gate Is Closed

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many refugees from Syria have been stopped at the edge of Europe. People fleeing north out of Syria have fled northward into Turkey for years. Turkey has now said it will allow more of those refugees to continue onward into Greece. Turkey says, quote, "the path to Europe is open." Greece says the path is not. Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens.

(CROSSTALK)

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: You can hear the crowd stuck in a muddy field between the Turkish and Greek border checkpoints in this Greek news video. The orange glow of campfires can be seen through rolls of Greek barbed wire.

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STELIOS PETSAS: (Speaking Greek).

KAKISSIS: Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters that thousands of migrants camping here had tried to cross. Most were stopped. Those who slipped through were arrested.

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PETSAS: (Through interpreter) The government is determined to do whatever it takes to protect our borders.

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KAKISSIS: Police shot tear gas canisters at one point along the border over the weekend. Prime Minister Kenny Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent troops to patrol the border, he froze asylum requests for a month, and he promised to deport anyone who crossed illegally. The migration issue has not been this explosive in Europe since 2015, when the EU took in more than a million asylum-seekers. A 2016 deal that gave Turkey money to care for some 4 million migrants drastically reduced the number of arrivals in Europe, but money for that deal has run out, and the EU has not followed up with another plan.

GERALD KNAUS: Instead of discussing with the Turks how to help the rising number of Syrian refugees in Turkey for the next few years, the EU has just dropped the ball.

KAKISSIS: Gerald Knaus is an Austrian social scientist who is the architect of the 2016 migration deal with Turkey.

KNAUS: So what we see now is a desperate cry by Turkey to reengage, and it's unfortunately directed against another government under enormous pressure in Athens.

KAKISSIS: Greece is already struggling to manage migrants who have crossed the border. Turkey's interior ministry claims more than 100,000 migrants are trying to do the same; the International Organization for Migration says the real number is more like 15,000. Lanna Walsh of the IOM's office in Turkey spent the weekend with migrants at one border crossing.

LANNA WALSH: We noticed that many of them had decided to just stay and see what happens. We did see a lot of people go back. Some people maybe have decided that they won't try now, or they might try to move westward and try to cross from Izmir.

KAKISSIS: Izmir is in western Turkey, right across from the Aegean islands of Greece. Migrant detention centers on the Greek islands are severely overcrowded. Islanders who used to welcome migrants have turned against them.

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KAKISSIS: One video from the island of Lesbos shows a group blocking a boat of migrants from disembarking. The migrants include children.

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KAKISSIS: The Greeks yell, illegals go back - we don't care about the babies; they're not ours. Greece is beefing up its coast guard patrols to keep more migrants from coming. It's also getting assistance from the EU, which will take up this new migration crisis at an emergency meeting of foreign ministers next week.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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