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Battle at the border: Fire, smoke, and tear gas fill the air as Greek police fight back migrants

Battle at the border: Fire, smoke, and tear gas fill the air as Greek police fight back migrants

Fire, smoke and tear gas have risen across the Greek-Turkey border today as police fight back migrants after Ankara threw open the gateway to Europe.   Migrants, most of them Middle Eastern and African men, were seen hurling back canisters of tear gas on Wednesday morning, setting fire to fences near the village of Kastanies. Heavily armoured

Fire, smoke and tear gas have risen across the Greek-Turkey border today as police fight back migrants after Ankara threw open the gateway to Europe.  

Migrants, most of them Middle Eastern and African men, were seen hurling back canisters of tear gas on Wednesday morning, setting fire to fences near the village of Kastanies.

Heavily armoured riot police rushed to guard the land border after the EU yesterday vowed it would ‘hold the line’ and pledged £610million to aid Greece.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made good on his threat to open Turkey’s border which has triggered days of clashes and deadly chaos at the land border. Greek authorities said yesterday they had stopped 24,000 from crossing.

This morning the migrants resumed their efforts, with at least one man shot in the leg as his group tried to cut their way through the barbed wire fence. The group then threw stones at the Greek police, who responded with tear gas grenades. Several Turkish ambulances were seen arriving at the scene.  

Migrant men, most of them from the Middle East and Africa, mass at the barbed wire fence, hurling rocks over at Greek riot police standing on the other side in helmets and holding shields at Turkey's northwestern border at Edirne

Migrant men, most of them from the Middle East and Africa, mass at the barbed wire fence, hurling rocks over at Greek riot police standing on the other side in helmets and holding shields at Turkey’s northwestern border at Edirne

Tear gas fills the air this morning as migrants rushed to hurl the canisters back over the fence at Greek security forces. President Erdogan has opened the land border, making good on a threat to do so over a perceived lack of support from the EU and NATO in his own struggles with refugees from Syria

Tear gas fills the air this morning as migrants rushed to hurl the canisters back over the fence at Greek security forces. President Erdogan has opened the land border, making good on a threat to do so over a perceived lack of support from the EU and NATO in his own struggles with refugees from Syria

Soldiers stand guard as tear gas is being fired near the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies, as smoke trails from tear gas canisters fly through the air

Soldiers stand guard as tear gas is being fired near the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies, as smoke trails from tear gas canisters fly through the air

A migrant wearing a mask and holding a set of pliers attempts to cut his way through the barbed wire fence at Edirne, Turkey, on Wednesday morning amid escalating and deadly clashes with Greek forces

A migrant wearing a mask and holding a set of pliers attempts to cut his way through the barbed wire fence at Edirne, Turkey, on Wednesday morning amid escalating and deadly clashes with Greek forces

Migrants, mainly Middle Eastern and African men, were seen hurling back canisters of tear gas back over the barbed wire fence towards the riot police on Wednesday morning, as the crisis at the border continued

Migrants, mainly Middle Eastern and African men, were seen hurling back canisters of tear gas back over the barbed wire fence towards the riot police on Wednesday morning, as the crisis at the border continued

Heavily armoured riot police rushed to guard the land border not marked by the Evros river after the EU yesterday vowed it would 'hold the line' and pledged £610million to aid Greece (pictured: migrants push towards the fence despite tear gas filling the air)

Heavily armoured riot police rushed to guard the land border not marked by the Evros river after the EU yesterday vowed it would ‘hold the line’ and pledged £610million to aid Greece (pictured: migrants push towards the fence despite tear gas filling the air)

Migrants, most of them men from the Middle East and Africa, try to get rid of a tear gas canister fired over to their positions by Greek police

Migrants, most of them men from the Middle East and Africa, try to get rid of a tear gas canister fired over to their positions by Greek police

Migrants clash with Greek police officers after setting fire to a section of the barbed wire fence as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Migrants clash with Greek police officers after setting fire to a section of the barbed wire fence as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Greek riot police officers line up as migrants are seen at the borderline near the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Greek riot police officers line up as migrants are seen at the borderline near the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Hundreds more have headed to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in dinghies. One child died when the rubber dinghy he was in capsized off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos earlier this week.

The Athens government has called the situation a direct threat to Greece’s national security and has imposed emergency measures to carry out swift deportations and freeze asylum applications for a month. Migrants have reported being summarily pushed back across the border into Turkey. 

Turkey has accused the EU of ‘betrayal, hypocrisy and selfishness’ in an escalating row over the thousands of migrants trying to cross the Greek border. 

Ankara’s ambassador in London, Umit Yalcin, said Europe had failed to uphold its side of a 2016 bargain which saw Turkey agree to stem the flow of migrants.  

Greek police officers holding riot shields and wearing helmets form a line at the land border with Turkey on Wednesday morning amid escalating tensions

Greek police officers holding riot shields and wearing helmets form a line at the land border with Turkey on Wednesday morning amid escalating tensions

Greek riot police officers line up as migrants are seen near the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Greek riot police officers line up as migrants are seen near the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Migrants carry a wounded man and run from tear gas employed by Greek polic officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Migrants carry a wounded man and run from tear gas employed by Greek polic officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Migrants rush a wounded man from the scene after Greek security forces' intervention as the migrants continue to wait at the border between Turkey and Greece in Edirne,

Migrants rush a wounded man from the scene after Greek security forces’ intervention as the migrants continue to wait at the border between Turkey and Greece in Edirne,

Migrants run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne

Migrants run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne

Migrants run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne

Migrants run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan abandoned the deal last Friday in a move which allowed tens of thousands of people to head for Greece, where police have been struggling to keep them out. 

Speaking to Sky News, Yalcin demanded that NATO provide support to Turkey in the Syrian conflict – amid fears that the Assad regime’s onslaught in Idlib is creating another wave of migration towards Europe. 

Satellite images have shown parts of Syria becoming uninhabitable with three million people trapped in an ever-shrinking rebel enclave. 

A migrant with blood streaming down his face gesticulates as he speaks to a Turkish photographer after moving away from the violent border area this morning

A migrant with blood streaming down his face gesticulates as he speaks to a Turkish photographer after moving away from the violent border area this morning

Migrants launch rocks and stones over the fence this morning after riot police were forced to deploy tear gas against the violent masses of men

Migrants launch rocks and stones over the fence this morning after riot police were forced to deploy tear gas against the violent masses of men

An injured migrant is loaded onto the back of an ambulance by Turkish paramedics this morning

An injured migrant is loaded onto the back of an ambulance by Turkish paramedics this morning

‘We cannot control millions and millions of people,’ the ambassador warned.   

Under the 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to help guard Europe’s border in return for £4.7billion in financial aid. 

The deal was intended to stop a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, during which a million people crossed into Europe, most of them fleeing the Syrian war.  

Smoke billows across the horizon as riot police respond to fires set at the border by migrants at Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Smoke billows across the horizon as riot police respond to fires set at the border by migrants at Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Migrants clash with Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Migrants clash with Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Migrants run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne

Migrants run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne

However, Turkey now feels abandoned by Western powers as it fights with Syrian rebels against the Assad regime, and has demanded assistance from NATO as it braces for even more migrants to arrive from Syria. 

‘We did our fulfilment of our commitment and they did not do anything,’ ambassador Yalcin said in an interview yesterday. 

‘And because of that – enough is enough. We are overloaded. We cannot control millions and millions of people.

‘We only ask for fair and equal responsibility sharing and burden sharing.’ 

However, he thanked Britain for a ‘show of solidarity and friendship’ after foreign secretary Dominic Raab visited Turkey yesterday. 

Mr Raab threw Turkey an olive branch at a press conference on Tuesday where he hailed the country as a ‘staunch ally in NATO’. 

‘I would like to pay tribute to Turkey’s commendable response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria,’ Mr Raab said. 

Migrants carry a wounded man and run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Migrants carry a wounded man and run from tear gas employed by Greek police officers as they attempt to cross the closed-off Turkish-Greek border in a bid to reach European soil, in Edirne, Turkey

Thousands of refugees and migrants are gathering on the Turkish side of the border with Greece with the intention of crossing into the European Union following the Turkish government's decision to loosen controls on migrant flows after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers killed in an attack in Idlib

Thousands of refugees and migrants are gathering on the Turkish side of the border with Greece with the intention of crossing into the European Union following the Turkish government’s decision to loosen controls on migrant flows after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers killed in an attack in Idlib

A group of men carrying one of their injured comrades make their way across rural border lands this morning as riot police faced them with tear gas

A group of men carrying one of their injured comrades make their way across rural border lands this morning as riot police faced them with tear gas

Greek soldiers at the border this morning facing rows of migrants at the Pazarkule border crossing on a hazy morning near Kastanies

Greek soldiers at the border this morning facing rows of migrants at the Pazarkule border crossing on a hazy morning near Kastanies

‘For years, Turkey has helped carry the enormous burden of supporting millions of Syrian refugees, and indeed other displaced persons. Often you have felt ignored.

‘The UK remains committed to providing support for both Turkish host communities and Syrian refugees. We know both groups are under sustained pressures.’

Erdogan’s migrant gambit has been met with outrage from EU leaders, including Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz who accused Turkey of ‘blackmail’.  

‘The people are being used by President Erdogan as a political football, as weapons and as instruments of pressure on the European Union,’ he said. 

Greek riot police officers stand near a vehicle as migrants gather by the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Greek riot police officers stand near a vehicle as migrants gather by the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing, in Kastanies

Greek riot police and soldiers stand guard near a vehicle as migrants gather by the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing

Greek riot police and soldiers stand guard near a vehicle as migrants gather by the Turkey’s Pazarkule border crossing

Greece said yesterday that it had stopped 24,000 people from crossing into the country.  

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has vowed to ‘hold the line’ in support of Greece and offered millions of euros to tackle the migration surge. 

‘Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,’ von der Leyen said yesterday, standing alongside Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

‘I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities,’ she said, adding that Greece was acting as a ‘shield’ for Europe. 

There are fears that the crisis will worsen as fighting in north-west Syria renders large parts of the region uninhabitable. 

Migrants and refugees scuffle with riot police on the Greek island of Lesbos yesterday with thousands attempting to cross from Turkey into the EU

Migrants and refugees scuffle with riot police on the Greek island of Lesbos yesterday with thousands attempting to cross from Turkey into the EU 

Satellite images (similar to this one last year) have shown parts of Syria becoming uninhabitable with three million people trapped in an ever-shrinking rebel enclave

Satellite images (similar to this one last year) have shown parts of Syria becoming uninhabitable with three million people trapped in an ever-shrinking rebel enclave

Satellite imagery analysed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative showed dire conditions in towns and camps in Idlib, where the Assad regime has been pressing a devastating offensive since December. 

‘In the areas examined, the researchers estimate that nearly one-third of buildings have been significantly damaged or destroyed,’ said a statement released with the report, which Harvard produced with Save the Children and World Vision.

‘With most of these areas’ inhabitants having fled before or during the offensive, the destruction of homes and vital civilian infrastructure will make it nearly impossible for families to return in the near future,’ the statement added.

The satellite imagery analysed in the report shows agricultural fields filling up with camps for the displaced in a matter of months, as well as levelled villages and towns.

Regime and allied forces backed by Russian air strikes have clawed back significant territory since December, triggering a massive exodus.

A riot police officer shouts at a migrant as police tries to disperse a group of migrants outside the port of Mytilene, Greece on Tuesday

A riot police officer shouts at a migrant as police tries to disperse a group of migrants outside the port of Mytilene, Greece on Tuesday 

A man warms his hands by a fire at a site where refugees and migrants from various countries wait on the Turkish shoreline of the Evros River while waiting to cross by boat to Greece on Tuesday in Edirne, Turkey

A man warms his hands by a fire at a site where refugees and migrants from various countries wait on the Turkish shoreline of the Evros River while waiting to cross by boat to Greece on Tuesday in Edirne, Turkey

Bombing of schools and hospitals has forced civilians to flee town after town, heading towards the Turkish border. Some three million people are now trapped in the ever-shrinking enclave in dire conditions.

The area still controlled by Turkish-backed rebels and jihadists is roughly the size of Majorca and is the last major opposition bastion in Syria. 

‘In the best case scenario, which is an immediate ceasefire, it will take months if not years to first physically rebuild the destroyed civilian infrastructure and then rebuild the trust for these communities to go back home,’ Save the Children spokeswoman Joelle Bassoul said.

A report released Monday by the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria suggested the regime had intentionally targeted civilian infrastructure to scare the population away and facilitate its military reconquest.

Greek police in riot gear advance to push migrants aways after minor clashes at the port of Mytilene on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece on Monday

Greek police in riot gear advance to push migrants aways after minor clashes at the port of Mytilene on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece on Monday 

A man gestures as migrants and refugees block a road outside the port of Lesbos, one of the islands which migrants are attempting to reach from Turkey

A man gestures as migrants and refugees block a road outside the port of Lesbos, one of the islands which migrants are attempting to reach from Turkey 

Migrants and refugees scuffle with riot police on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos - with the EU vowing yesterday that it will 'hold the line' in defence of Greece

Migrants and refugees scuffle with riot police on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos – with the EU vowing yesterday that it will ‘hold the line’ in defence of Greece 

‘Attacks carried out by pro-government forces targeted civilian infrastructure, including specially protected objects,’ the UN commission said.

‘As a result, civilian areas were rendered uninhabitable,’ it added, citing the key Idlib province towns of Maaret al-Numan and Khan Sheikhun.

It said the levelling of certain towns was carried out ‘in an apparent effort to accelerate capture of strategic motorways’.

More than half of the nearly one million people displaced over the past three months are children, tens of thousands of whom are sleeping rough in the bitter cold. 

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