Refugees stream towards Greece as Turkey opens gates

Turkey’s decision to ease border restrictions came amid deadly fighting during a Syrian government offensive.

Thousands of refugees and migrants surged from Turkey’s western frontier on Sunday, attempting to enter Greece by land and sea after Turkey said its borders were open to those wanting to reach Europe.

Turkey’s decision to ease border restrictions came amid deadly fighting during a Russia-backed Syrian government offensive into Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.

Dozens of Turkish troops have been killed and nearly one million Syrian civilians have fled the fighting towards Turkey.

Turkeyish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to open his country’s borders with Europe made good on a longstanding threat to let refugees into the continent.

His announcement marked a dramatic departure from the previous policy of containment, an apparent attempt to pressure Europe into offering Turkey more support in dealing with the fallout from the Syrian war to its south.

Under a six-billion-euro deal in 2016, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for financial aid, after more than a million people entered Europe in 2015. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Turkey already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees as well as many others from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Turkey shares a frontier with Greece and Bulgaria, both EU members. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
On the Greece-Turkey land border, Greek army and police patrols use tear gas and stun grenades to thwart attempts overnight by thousands to push into the country. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Officials said the situation was much calmer Sunday morning. But in the afternoon, authorities used tear gas and water cannon to push back another crowd attempting to cross. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Turkey is worried it might come under renewed international pressure to open its now-sealed border with Syria and offer refuge to hundreds of thousands more Syrian civilians. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Sunday was the second straight day of clashes at the Greece-Turkey land border. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Turkey has lost 54 soldiers in February, including 33 killed Thursday in a single air raid. Outraged, Erdogan announced on Saturday that his country’s European borders were open. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Greece said it was using ‘all available means’ to tell migrants its borders were closed, including text messages to foreign mobile phones in the border area. Europe’s border agency Frontex said it was ‘redeploying equipment and additional officers to Greece’. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
Greek authorities said they thwarted about 10,000 crossing attempts Saturday, and another 5,500 on Sunday. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
The United Nations migration organization reported at least 13,000 people had massed on Turkey’s land border by Saturday night, the vast majority apparently from Afghanistan. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA
According to the UN Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 13,000 people are on the Turkish side of the border. HOSAM SALEM/AL JAZEERA