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Syria war: Turkey warns Europe of new migrant wave

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Turkey has
warned it may reopen the route for Syrian refugees to enter Europe if it does
not get more international support for creating a safe zone in northern Syria.

President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for “logistical support” to establish a
safe zone in Syria’s north-east.

“Either
this happens, or we will be forced to open the gates,” he said.

Turkey is
hosting more than 3.6 million Syrians who have fled the civil war. The US backs
the “safe zone” plan.

But the plan
is controversial, because Syrian Kurdish forces are wary of Turkey moving many
Syrians into the north-east who are not originally from that area.

The ethnic
Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), seen by Turkey as a terrorist group,
do not want to make way for Turkish forces in that area.

The US
military has backed the YPG against so-called Islamic State (IS) fighters,
whose territory is now much diminished.

“Our
goal is for at least one million of our Syrian brothers to return to the safe
zone we will form along our 450km [280-mile] border,” Mr Erdogan said in a
speech in Ankara.

“Give
us logistical support and we can go and build housing at 30km depth in northern
Syria.”

Exodus
from Idlib

Turkey wants
US forces to jointly patrol the safe zone, and Mr Erdogan said Turkey was
“determined to set it up by the last week of September”.

Turkish
officials also fear that heavy fighting in the north-western province of Idlib
could push more refugees into Turkey.

Syrian
government forces backed by Russian aircraft are pounding rebel and jihadist
forces in Idlib. Turkey backs some of the rebel groups there.

Tens of
thousands of civilians have already fled north from Idlib to the Turkish
border.

Under a 2016
agreement with the EU, Turkey imposed stronger controls to curb the flow of
migrants and refugees to Europe.

The deal
involved an EU pledge to provide €6bn (£5.4bn; $6.6bn) in aid to Turkey to
house Syrian refugees.

Mr Erdogan
complained that only €3bn of that had arrived so far, though earlier Natasha
Bertaud, an EU Commission spokesperson, said €5.6bn had been provided.

Pressure
on Greece again

The 2016
EU-Turkey deal helped to ease the crisis on Greek islands near Turkey, whose
facilities were overwhelmed by a refugee influx in 2015.

However, the
situation remains very tense in Moria, a packed migrant camp on the island of
Lesbos. Young migrants clashed with Greek police there on Wednesday.

The aid
group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says some 24,000 people seeking protection
in Europe are now “trapped on the Greek islands in horrendous
conditions”.

MSF says the
sea arrivals on the islands have reached levels not seen since 2016. More than
100 children in MSF’s clinic on Lesbos have complex or chronic conditions, it
says.

Source: bbc.com

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