Nota bene: The following text has originally been published in German language on “Tichys Einblick” and I handed it over to Google Translate where Google‘s algorithms munched it thoroughly. This is the result of the translation process – Google’s spittle so to say.
I did my best correcting the worst cases of CWT (criminally wrong translation) for your reading convenience while trying to stay as close to the meaning of the original text. Should deviations occur it would be me who’s to blame.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis is as determined as he is creative about the migrant crisis on the Greek-Turkish border. Greece will no longer apply the asylum law for a month and wants immediate deportation of illegal immigrants. The people of Greece stand behind his policy of maximum border protection. But does EU-Europe do the same?
Thanks to Google, you learn – by typing “Greek borders” into the search engine – that Greece a) has a border with Turkey that b) is about 200 km long and c) is a little more difficult to overcome through the river Evros , Something else obviously applies d) to the maritime borders between the two countries, which more or less represent only an intellectual »division of the sea surface«.
But normal border traffic has not been around for a long time. It is about “point zero” – that is the name of the place at the Kastanies border crossing, where European freedom is currently being defended. On Sunday, international journalists were allowed to look at the point at which the rush of migrants still meets with the Greek border guards’ resistance. Through the border fences you can see the smoke of the tear gas bombs, which can come from either side. Shots are also fired some distance away, obviously warning shots – because voices that are scared or upset cannot be heard. In the meantime it has become more or less a war of seats, which is interrupted by the occasional failures of the assembled migrants. Drôle de guerre.
The Turks have now filled their illegal migrant camp in no man’s land on the Greek border well. But the Greeks don’t contest that. The Turkish armed forces support the migrants in all possible ways.Particularly shocking: chemical weapons – presumably tear gas – have now been used against the Greek border guards with the help of reconnaissance drones. In addition, the Turks help their own auxiliary troops wherever they can, whether with bolt cutters or inflatable boats.
In addition, the Turks flood the net with fake news, in which the usual ingredients are mixed: anachronistic, randomly gathered photos of alleged violence against “refugees”, backed up by appeals to “humanity”, which has its home in Europe.But you yourself send young men, including some women and children, to a proxy war and try in an infamous way to work on the international soul. Ankara now claims to have smuggled more than 75,000 Syrians across European borders. A pure fantasy number, you can only repeat it. The Greek authorities reported on Sunday that only 98 people had been detained since Saturday evening, allegedly mainly from Afghanistan, Somalia and Morocco. The Greek Ministry of Defense confirmed on Sunday that the Evros fighters really have nothing to do with the city of Idlib.
Meanwhile, the mood at the Kipoi customs station between Greece and Turkey seems calm. Goods traffic between the hostile neighbors continues to be handled there.However, a few dozen migrants are said to have made it across the border, somewhat apart from the official transition, as reported by a local news portal.
Defense Minister Nikos Panajotopoulos and State Secretary will be at Evros on Sunday afternoon. He notes that the transport of migrants to the border is organized by the Turkish side. Of course, he did not speak to his counterpart “on the other side”. A BBC reporter asks about successful border crossings – the minister replies that these are few; the reporter follows up and describes that border crossers picked up were taken away in vehicles without license plates, whether this was the normal procedure – the minister replied that it was normal for a country to protect its borders. Then the minister goes on a tour of the border village of Kastanies and some women point out that the villagers are not just here for a day, but for a whole life. Greece, yes Europe, start here. You want to take care of the local communities.
Kyriakos “iron hand” Mitsotakis
Prime Minister Mitsotakis reacted far from lax to Erdoğan’s gauntlet: as one of the first acts, he demonstratively suspended all asylum procedures for a month and called on the EU bodies to approve this as a necessary measure to protect the border.The Greek government’s message is downright monotonous. “Nobody is allowed to cross the Greek borders,” tweeted the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. »Anyone who tries to do so is effectively prevented from doing so.« People with foreign mobile numbers who are approaching the Greek border are sent the same message: »The Hellenic Republic informs: Greece is increasing the security of its borders to a maximum. Don’t try to cross the Greek borders illegally. ”
After a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday, government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced in detail the government’s emergency program:
- The current massive, asymmetrical attack by immigrants on land and water is “organized and coordinated” by Turkey.
- This action by Turkey not only violates the so-called “refugee agreement” with the EU, it also turns Turkey into a smuggler.
- For these reasons, the “international right of asylum” no longer applies, for this would require individual cases.The migrants brought in are used by Turkey only as characters in a less diplomatic pressure play.
- The current situation also poses an immediate threat to the security of Greece.
The National Security Council has therefore adopted several measures, three of which are particularly noteworthy:
- increasing the protective measures for the eastern land and sea borders to a maximum in order to ward off illegal intruders;
- the abovementioned one-month waiver of asylum rights for illegal immigrants;
- the immediate deportation of all illegal border crossers to the countries of origin without documentation.
These are fundamental measures that for the first time draw consequences from the specific situation in Greece – but not only.It can be seen that the Mitsotakis government has been thinking over the past few weeks and months on how to break the Gordian knot of organized, illegal immigration from the territory of Turkey’s all too close neighbor. Two reasons serve to justify the special procedure: firstly, the guiding, coordinating action of Turkey, which, as it were, erases the individual reason for asylum; on the other hand, the current state of emergency of the Greek state, whose stability and security are threatened by the constant influx.
In addition, one wonders whether there will be any reason to withdraw these measures so soon. Preliminary answer: No.Then Erdoğan would have done us a huge favor. From now on, however, the Greek prime minister should be called “iron hand”, so decidedly he turned the crisis into an opportunity. But it is also clear that this conflict will not be won with determination alone. The powers of the Greeks are limited.
For example, the Greek Ministry of Defense expects the Battle of Evros to last for months and sees the country facing a “decisive test”, above all by Turkey’s underhanded approach. Military troops may now also patrol the area. Perhaps the Greek-Turkish border is already holey in more places than we know , and the Greeks really need outside help.
The EU border protection agency Frontex has set the alarm level for all borders to Turkey to “high”. Up to now, Frontex has mainly worked on the Greek islands with 400 employees. Greece has already submitted an application for reinforcement to the agency. The border relief RABIT (RApid Border Intervention Team) is to be expanded according to the will of the Mitsotaki government.
»Nobody sleeps tonight«
Due to the national emergency and probably also due to the government’s determined communication strategy, the Greek people have woken up to a certain extent and are now more clearly behind their border police and armed forces than they have been for a long time. But there is nothing in this about the state, because the security forces – like the high level of politics – should now again serve the citizens and protect their way of life.Shouts like “Bravo, fatherland” when passing a military vehicle are not uncommon. Foreign Greeks of the reserve assure their homeland of their solidarity and want to return if mobilized. A user named »Latinopoulou« tweeted shortly after midnight on Sunday: »Nobody sleeps tonight. – The thoughts of all Greeks are with Evros and with our sons, brothers and men who do their duty so that we can all live in safety. – The Holy Virgin be with them. «
The farmers’ association in Alexandroupoli, the capital of the Evros regional district, has also declared its full solidarity with the government. In order to ward off the several thousand illegal intruders, one should – as soon as necessary – be available to the Greek state to ensure order and law at the borders. As an individual and as an association, you are ready for anything that is required of you. This could be practical if you have to block roads in which the farmers are trained through numerous protests.
At the moment it doesn’t look as if the Greek border guards could buckle. The Prime Minister will be at Evros on Tuesday.
The question now is: is Mitsotakis serious?Does he seize the opportunity he has realized and also put an end to the boating in the Aegean? The islanders also remained restless this weekend. The mood on the islands of the North Aegean is still explosive. So the locals sometimes even mobilize against the still landing boats, albeit with little success. The FAZ believesthat the mood on the islands is “characterized by hatred of refugees” (this time without agitation). Indeed, the islanders “shake the bars”, as they say in Greek. It is the bars of her prison that receive new supplies from the sea every day. Civil disobedience seems to be the order of the day there. This is an attempt to stop migrant transports. A fire broke out in a new reception facility, presumably due to arson. NGOs are also targeted by angry, not hateful, citizens.
But migrants could also pose dangers. If you believe various screenshots circulating on the net, there are or were plans for a coordinated migrant uprising throughout Greece. The screenshots show how migrants have made appointments via Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, with the aim of tricking the Greek security forces or binding so many of them that chaos must break out at some point. However, what is consistently missing are absolute dates. So it could be older posts. But what once happened can of course happen again.
The voices and the mute of Europe
And what does the EU say now? She speaks with a forked tongue. Emmanuel Macron, in particular, is not yet clear to interpret. In a cryptic tweet he writes that France is in solidarity with the Greeks and Bulgarians; they were also ready to help quickly to secure the borders. But now a back door is opening: “You have to act together” to prevent a new humanitarian and migrant crisis. The answer can obviously be varied here, even if Macron is unlikely to want to take on the besiegers himself. Perhaps this is a form of possibility that is aimed at Berlin.
The federal government has so far not clearly condemned Erdoğan’s opening of the border and its instrumentalization of migrants. In the FAS, Norbert Röttgen (CDU) even mumbles something about a “cry for help” from the Turks that only took “the external form of a threat”. What absurd thought acrobatics, just to put Russia in the sack – which Erdoğan allegedly turned away from. What is riding this man?
But not a word about the indecent, warlike means that Turkey is using to blackmail its neighboring countries and thus the entire EU. Röttgen talks himself into a real Stockholm syndrome. Or no, he probably thinks that the Turks will soon be eating out of his hand, the superior foreign politician. A Greek newspaper, the social democratic Vima, recently noticed the pre-Eifeler’s extraordinary lines of thought and politely called him the “intellectual of the right.” There is little evidence of either attribute.
And one really wonders what pressure should put on Russia in the current situation, given that it is the Turks who are delaying the battle for Idlib (and Assad’s final victory). The Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry are even optimistic that Erdoğan will keep his deal with the EU.This is actually worse than Röttgen: it is nefarious optimism. The opposite is the case and will become more and more the norm once you give in.
If you look at the grand coalition, it is only satisfactory that Manfred Weber (CSU) has backed the Greeks. But is anyone actually interested in Munich?
However, Weber also pretends in another tweet that the border besiegers are “refugees from Idlib”. The only thing clear is the voice of Sebastian Kurz, who offered financial and organizational support to Greece and Bulgaria.
The Greek penchant for hospitality is well known. Above the official border crossing on the Thracian border river Evros, it says big, in antiquing letters and in blue and white: “Greece – Welcome”. But everything ends – including the times when such a “welcome” was invariably called to the difficult neighbor in the east. Now everything is full of barbed wire. It looks a bit like Melilla or Ceuta in North Africa, and rightly so.
It is a strange, abysmal state that the Turkish President is currently putting Europe into. Since Friday, the EU contracting party has been openly admitting that the migrants present in the country, most of whom come from the crisis-hit countries of the Middle East – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan – but also sometimes from Pakistan, Morocco or sub-Saharan Africa want to keep more of the onward journey. The mini-sultan’s message of desire to conquer Syria and elsewhere has led to a mass rush to the Greek border crossing at Kastanies, which the Greeks of course closed immediately and staffed with additional protection personnel over the course of Saturday.
The Turks are now actually using trains, taxis and buses, and even official military vehicles, to bring those willing to migrate from the depths of the country directly to the Greek border. The whole thing is accompanied by quasi-official images from Turkish news agencies, CNN Türk and TRT. The whole world should know: Erdoğan is blackmailing the EU. In doing so, the Turkish president wraps his motive in the blameworthy words that the EU must learn to keep its word and promise.On Friday evening, the Greeks in turn tried to get Turkey to adhere to the Merkel deal in the NATO Council. But they were alone with this demand, they could only veto the communiqué.
A second »2015« under pandemic conditions? That will not go well
Erdoğan’s real motive is the 33 Turkish soldiers who were recently killed in a Syrian airstrike in Idlib. He wants to cover his own zinc coffins with a defiant maneuver against his European “allies”.You don’t want to put the word in your mouth anymore. Because Erdoğan only seems to be in league with the Islamists in northwest Syria, no longer with the peoples of Europe. The fact that he also puts fantasy figures into the world, according to which, depending on the day, 18,000 to 30,000 migrants would have crossed the EU borders, is probably the strangest (but also most transparent) of the whole.
The Greek Interior Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis (Pasok) now stated at the Evros border river: »The migrants did not come here on their own. Turkey sells them, deports them and uses them. «No one would be allowed to enter without valid papers. »Greece has borders, just like Europe. And we Greeks protect our borders. ”The experienced minister’s voice trembled a little here, but Greece has no choice. If it loses this struggle, the country is not only jeopardizing its own internal security, but also the stability of the continent in the long term – especially given the difficult situation into which an insidious disease could soon bring the countries of Europe.
Bulgaria has also significantly strengthened its border protection with Turkey. The government is also concerned about the new corona virus. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said a migration crisis posed a particular threat in this situation. The government has therefore sent gendarmes and 1,000 soldiers to the Bulgarian-Turkish border.The Bulgarian Prime Minister’s concern may well be genuine; the country has now also set up border controls for immigrants from Greece and has accepted long traffic jams to prevent the introduction of the corona virus. There are now five cases in Greece. So far, no case is known from Turkey, but somewhere it was aptly said: the epidemic is circling Turkey like a vulture. It’s probably just a matter of time or testing before the first cases are officially there.
Border camp in the Turkish exclusion zone
Since Friday morning, several thousand migrants have gathered in Kastanies in front of the Greek border crossing. Since then they have fought a permanent small war with the Greek border guards. You see the pictures of the battle and think: This is not the enrichment that we are currently lacking. Burning logs fly over the barbed wire. The Greek officials can only fight back the attackers by using pepper spray and tear gas.
A television reporter has ventured into the migrants’ camp and has a young man in excellent Greek explain that this is the only solution. You want to pass the border post, of course not to stay in Greece. On Friday evening there are an estimated 6,000 people who are now forming a small border camp in no man’s land. This is actually a restricted military area that is controlled by Turkey.
Greek media report that the Turks or migrants themselves use tear gas, the capsules of which bear Turkish inscriptions. The Turkish foreign minister is attacking the Greeks frontally and cheekily: they use tear gas against innocents. On Friday, 66 illegal border guards were picked up by the Greek border guards, and on Saturday there were 70 again. These border guards had broken through the fence off the Kastanies crossing. Among other things, there are tweets that show migrants safe routes.
A smuggler tells from the sewing box
As the Greek television channel Skaireports, there have also been crimes committed among closed migrants among migrants on the Greek border. It seems clear, however, that anyone who has just escaped the contested Idlib will hardly have the energy to move from one border to the other within a few hours and start a street fight there. You can see rather rested young men who have been in Turkey for a long time. Some media also report fighting Islamists who go to the border battle with “Allahu akbar” calls.
Meanwhile, one of the smugglers on the Aegean coast gave an interview to Turkish television and frankly stated how he put the migrants in motorized inflatable boats, 35 to 45 per boat, at a cost of 7,000 to 8,000 euros and ultimately making a profit of 2,000 euros , In less than half an hour, his customers are on one of the Greek islands.After this block of advertising, he adds: The migrants allegedly only “misunderstood” the Turkish President’s latest message. The border crossing to Greece is not possible on the mainland, but still only by water. If the migrants noticed this in a few days, they would all head back to the Turkish west coast.Apparently a businessman placed an ad there. Everything is quite legal. And now the man even works for lukewarm – apparently the Turkish government is shooting him something.
The camp inmates on the Greek islands also heard about the opening of the Turkish border and informed their relatives across the sea. Now is the chance to unite with them on the Greek islands.Indeed, the Turkish coast guard also appears to be on strike. And at various points on the Turkish west coast, migrants gather who are apparently just waiting for their state-certified smugglers. But boats arrived on the islands again on Saturday. In Chios there was again unrest among the migrant camp residents.
What is Europe doing?
The question now is: what can Europeans do to help the two neighboring countries to accomplish the task? One thing is certain: Angela Merkel is informed. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called her on Friday to let you know about the countermeasures. A reaction is not known.Ursula von der Leyen announced on Twitter that the situation in the Commission and the Council was being followed “closely and with concern” and that additional Frontex employees could be sent to the country’s borders.
A small press review brings to light findings that will not be new to many: “Greece is trying to stop migrants by force,” headlines Der Spiegel. So the violence comes from the Greek state? Similarly, the focus : “Greece stops migrants with violence”, but here with the addition: “What the EU can do now”. In the article, the Turkish expert Abdel Mottaleb El-Husseini said: “The EU should hold back and try to calm Erdoğan.” According to experts, it is a defiant five-year-old who gets a yell in the supermarket. After all, El-Husseini adds that Erdoğan’s provocation is a mistake. One should not accept his attempted extortion: »What he does is clearly inhuman. He uses the suffering of the refugees to achieve his own political goals. «Again it shows that the EU needs a stronger engagement in the Middle East in order to contribute constructively to conflict resolution.
It would be desirable, but that will probably not help much in the current crisis. The Europeans must now defend themselves against further destabilization.Otherwise not only bad pictures threaten, but bad conditions. And in today’s situation we can afford that less than ever.