KASTANIES/LESBOS, Greece, March 2 ------ Greek police fired tear gas to repel hundreds of stone-throwing migrants who tried to force their way across the border from Turkey on Sunday, with thousands more behind them after Ankara relaxed curbs on their movement. The Greek government called the confrontations a threat to national security. “Do not attempt to enter Greece illegally - you will be turned back,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Twitter after a security meeting on the situation.
It was the second straight day of clashes at the border crossing near the northeastern Greek town of Kastanies. Video footage provided by a Greek government source and seen by Reuters also appeared to show tear gas being fired from the Turkish side of the border at the Greek riot police. “The present situation is an active, serious, severe and asymmetrical threat to the national security of the country,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters. “These ... people are being used by Turkey as pawns to exert diplomatic pressure,” he added.
Turkey said on Thursday it would let migrants cross its borders into Europe, despite a commitment to hold them in its territory under a 2016 deal with the European Union. Turkey’s turnabout came after an air strike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in its neighbor Syria, and appeared to be an effort to press for more EU support in tackling the refugee crisis from Syria’s civil war. Ankara has dismissed Greek criticism of its decision to open the border and has condemned Greece’s response to the migrants.