The United Nations migration organization said Sunday that at least 13,000 people were massed on Turkey's land border with Greece, after Turkey officially declared its western borders were open to migrants and refugees hoping to head into the European Union.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to open his country's borders with Europe made good on a longstanding threat to let refugees into the continent. His announcement marked a dramatic departure from the current policy and an apparent attempt to pressure Europe.
The U.N.'s International Organization for Migration said Sunday that by the previous evening, its staff working along the land border ``had observed at least 13,000 people gathered at the formal border crossing points at Pazarkule and Ipsala and multiple informal border crossings, in groups of between several dozen and more than 3,000.''
Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades through Saturday to prevent repeated attempts by a crowd of more than 4,000 people massed at the border crossing in Kastanies to cross, and fought a cat-and-mouse game with groups cutting holes in a border fence along the border to crawl through.
Others were making the short but often perilous sea crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands. At least three dinghies carrying migrants arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday morning.
Turkey's decision to open the borders with Greece came amid a military escalation in northwestern Syria's Idlib province that has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians to flee fighting there, with many of them heading toward north toward Turkey.