Hundreds of Syrian refugees in Turkey have begun preparing to travel towards the country’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria after Ankara’s sudden decision to no longer impede their passage to Europe.
The move comes after an airstrike on Thursday night in Syria’s Idlib province killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers recently deployed to support the Syrian opposition in the face of a blistering Russian-backed Syrian government offensive.
Turkish police, coastguard and border security officials were ordered to stand down overnight on Thursday, Turkish officials briefed reporters.
Turkey often threatens to reopen the migrant route from the Middle East, which at its peak in 2015 saw thousands drown in the Mediterranean and a million people reach Greece and Italy, where many still live in miserable displacement camps.
Thursday’s decision, however, effectively reverses a 2016 deal Turkey struck with the EU to cut the numbers of migrants entering Europe. It appears to be calibrated to force the EU and Nato to support Ankara’s new military operation in Idlib.
Under the impression that the window to leave Turkey may be short-lived, some of the 3.6 million Syrians currently living in the country began to move quickly. _Agencies