Knock­ing on the gates of Europe grows louder

Kathimerini trav­els to Edirne on the Turk­ish-Greek bor­der, where thou­sands of refugees and mi­grants are wait­ing to cross by land

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY YIAN­NIS PA­PADOPOU­LOS

EDIRNE/EVROS – Caught up in the party at­mos­phere, the peo­ple of Edirne were count­ing down the days to the Mus­lim fes­ti­val of Eid al-Fitr. On the main prom­e­nade in the down­town area, well-dressed passers-by took pho­to­graphs, young women shopped for scarves and street ped­dlers sold Turk­ish flags. Just a few me­ters away, how­ever, a com­pletely dif­fer­ent crowd was try­ing to get its mes­sage across.

Hun­dreds of refugees and mi­grants were protest­ing at Il­han Ko­man Park. They held their ba­bies and chil­dren aloft and shouted, in uni­son, “Ger­many, Ger­many!” and “Greece, Greece!” One of them held a plac­ard read­ing “We love Merkel,” re­fer­ring to the Ger­man chan­cel­lor.

The protest, which be­gan in mid-Septem­ber, had al­ready been go­ing on for a week. Re­spond­ing to a call on Face­book via the Cross­ing No More com­mu­nity, thou­sands of Syr­i­ans, Iraqis and Pales­tini­ans had made the al­most 250-kilo­me­ter trip from Is­tan­bul to Edirne, the last stop, 9 kilo­me­ters from the land bor­der with Greece’s Evros re­gion. Some trav­eled from refugee camps in Jor­dan and Le­banon when they heard of the cam­paign. The key de­mand was for the gate­way to Europe to open so they wouldn’t have to turn to the smug­glers in Izmir and Bo­drum and take their chances with the “boats of death.”

“We heard that this was the cheap­est and a safe way to cross into Europe,” said 26-year-old Syr­ian Ser­han Elafi, who trav­eled to Edirne from Le­banon. “If they don’t al­low us through, they are lead­ing us to the smug­glers, who will send us to sea, take our money or drown us.”

The protest move­ment caused con­cern on the Greek side. More pa­trol ve­hi­cles were dis­patched to Evros and lo­ca­tions on the bor­der around the town of Ores­ti­ada were but­tressed with more po­lice. The cus­toms of­fi­cials at Kas­ta­nies were wor­ried about de­vel­op­ments. “If one passes the gate, thou­sands will fol­low,” one of the of­fi­cers told Kathimerini, de­clin­ing to give his name.

Hun­dreds of refugees and mi­grants protest at Il­han Ko­man Park in Edirne, hold­ing ba­bies and chil­dren aloft.

Syr­i­ans walk to­ward the Greek bor­der, near Edirne in Tur­key. The flow to the bor­der is al­most con­stant.

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