Thousands of migrants headed for Turkey’s land border with Greece after Erdogan’s government said last week that it would no longer prevent migrants and refugees from crossing over to EU territory. Greece deployed riot police and border guards to repel people trying to enter the country from the sea or by land.
A statement from Erdogan’s office said he would travel to Brussels on March 9. The statement did not specify where he would be during his one-day visit or the nature of the work taking him to the Belgian capital, but the European Union’s headquarters are in Brussels.
The announcement came hours after European Union foreign ministers meeting in Croatia on Friday criticized Turkey, saying it was using the migrants’ desperation “for political purposes.“
Greek riot police used tear gas and a water cannon to drive back migrants attempting to cross its land border with Turkey on Friday. Turkish police fired volleys of tear gas back toward Greece. Similar scenes occurred throughout the past week.
Erdogan announced said last week that Turkey, which already houses more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, would no longer be Europe’s gatekeeper and declared that its previously guarded borders with Europe are now open.
The move alarmed EU countries, which are still enduring political fallout from a wave of mass migration five years ago.
Erdogan has demanded that Europe shoulder more of the burden of caring for refugees. But the EU insists it is abiding by a 2016 deal in which it gave Turkey billions in refugee aid in return for keeping Europe-bound asylum-seekers on its soil.
In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, Erdogan said the Turkey-EU migration deal is no longer working and needs to be revised, according to the Turkish leaders’s office.
The European foreign ministers acknowledged Turkey for hosting millions of migrants and refugee, but said the 27-nation EU “strongly rejects Turkey’s use of migratory pressure for political purposes. This situation at the EU external border is not acceptable.”
They said the EU was determined to protect its external borders.
Greek authorities said they thwarted more than 38,000 attempted border crossings in the past week and arrested 268 people — mostly Afghans and only 4% Syrians.