Hopelessness among migrants stuck on Turkey-Greece border

Sarıcaali (Turkey) (AFP) –


Stuck just metres away from Greece, there is growing despair among migrants who believed they were just days away from a new life in Europe after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "opened the doors" to the continent.

Thousands of migrants have been forced to sleep in the open, some since Friday, in temperatures close to freezing in the border province of Edirne in northwestern Turkey.

Some have travelled by train, others by bus or taxi, all hoping that Erdogan's warning to Europe will really mean they can eventually get to countries like Germany or Italy.

Dozens have attempted to cross the Evros river to Greece while others described mistreatment by Greek authorities, evidently frustrated.

Afghan refugee Nejip said he tried to cross into Greece on Saturday night but Greek police "took all of our belongings, money too" and he was forced to return to Turkey.

"We tried to cross again, they shot into the sky. We don't want to go anymore, the border's closed, it's not open. They're telling lies," he told AFP.

"We went there, they hit you, they do everything. What will we do? We will die walking like this," said the 20-year-old, wearing only a jacket and hooded sweatshirt said.

Nejip was travelling with a group of around 100 people near Evros river.

- 'They fire at you' -

Resul, also from Afghanistan, described a similar situation as he admitted the experience had put him off wanting to go to Greece.

"They fire at you. They also take money, telephones, everything from people," he said, holding a small child on his shoulders, adding that the same thing happened to his friends.

"Now we will return to our homes by walking. We don't want to go to Greece anymore."

The situation was in stark contrast to the scene of hundreds of migrants, joyously whistling and shouting a couple of days ago after arriving in Edirne from Istanbul via train before the attempt to cross into Europe.

Hundreds of people were walking around near the border, some barefoot after Greek police took their shoes away. Others prayed outside close to the river.

Greek police on Sunday afternoon threw tear-gas, flash-bang grenades and used a water cannon in order to push back migrants attempting to illegally cross the border.

Elsewhere Greek soldiers were building fences along the river,

Many people at the border with foreign phone numbers received text messages, saying: "No one can cross the Greek borders. All those attempting illegal entry are effectively prevented from entering."

- 'I won't leave' -

While some have opted to let go of their European dream, others said they would not give up.

Jino Ibrahimi, an Iranian migrant, said she would wait until she could go to Europe.

"I won't leave. I will wait until the border is opened because I don't have other choice," she lamented.

In the midst of all the chaos, Palestinian Ahmed Hacali was waiting to go to Greece with his cat and dog, who some people had tried to steal.

He said his wife had already crossed into Greece by boat four months ago. "We want a new life, there is no life left in Turkey," he said, while petting his long-haired cat.

Although the Greek authorities have prevented nearly 10,000 people from crossing the long border, the Turkish authorities stand by, watching as people attempt to leave.

A dozen taxis and as many buses along a road parallel to the river, stopped near a dirt road where migrants continued on foot with people-smugglers elsewhere helping them to cross.

One such smuggler, who did not wish to give his name, said he had been doing the job for several years but told AFP this is "the first time I do it with authorisation."

He added: "I feel like I am doing my duty."