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Migrants clash with Greek authorities in push to exit Turkey

Tensions escalated Saturday on Greece’s border with Turkey as migrants attempting to get into Europe faced off with Greek police. Authorities used tear gas to try and disperse a group of migrants armed with rocks who tried to tear down a border fence. Lydia Emmanouilidou, a reporter for public radio news magazine, The World, joins Hari Sreenivasan from Greece for more on the border situation.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on Turkey's decision to open its borders, Lydia Emmanouilidou, a reporter for the public radio news magazine program The World, joins us now from Greece. You have been to the border recently. What have you seen?

  • Lydia Emmanouilidou:

    Yeah, Hari, I was actually just there today, this morning in the, on the Greek side of it, in the village of Kastanies. There's a little hill nearby where there are train tracks. And me and a few other journalists were able to observe the scene. There was tear gas being thrown. It looked like from both sides, smoke bombs. There were water, the Greek side as firing water cannons. So it was a pretty chaotic scene. In the middle, you know, there's there's a big fence separating the two countries and their Greek forces. There's a pretty heavy Greek security forces presence on the Greek side. But overall, you know, it was a pretty chaotic scene today and last night as well. There were reports of fires being started on the Turkish side. And, you know, Greece throwing water cannons to to stop those fires.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    OK, so we have Greek authorities on one side, police forces. We've got Turkish police forces on the other side. And what in between, there are thousands of people sandwiched as these two fire at each other?

  • Lydia Emmanouilidou:

    Right. So there is, you have the Greek forces, a fence, Turkish forces, and then, yes. The hundreds, some say thousands of migrants lined up waiting to get into the Greek, into into the Greek side, each side, of course, blames the other for starting, you know, the tear gas or the smoke bombs, the water cannons. But we saw we saw all of those things coming from both sides today.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What are the people there that are waiting doing for food, water, shelter?

  • Lydia Emmanouilidou:

    So I'm actually on, you know, the Greek side. And it's really we're not allowed, really no one, the public or journalists, no one is allowed to get close. The border has been completely sealed off even for legal entry. And so it's really, it's really hard to actually get to the other side and see what's going on.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The European Union has come to survey. There are more troops expected there to be supporting the Greek side, right?

  • Lydia Emmanouilidou:

    Right. That's correct. The European Union officials were here earlier this week. You know, there's already Frontex, the the European border and Coast Guard agency. They've sent people here and more are expected to come to help the Greek security forces, which, by the way, have already beefed up their presence here. I mean, even if you go a little bit farther away from the, you know, the border checkpoint itself, it's it's hard to, you know, drive or walk for more than five minutes without seeing police and military vehicles in the area. There's a really, really heavy police and military presence, and that's expected to get even heavier in the coming days.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Border towns usually have different relationships with their neighbors than perhaps countries might. What's happened in that town where I'm sure that people cross daily to try to just live their lives?

  • Lydia Emmanouilidou:

    That's correct. I mean, as you know, as you know, Greece and Turkey have a really long history of conflict. And, you know, if you ask someone in Athens, for example, what they think of your average Turk, they would have a very different answer than the people do here, because the people here in the town of Kastanies do because they can very easily cross into Turkey. And what I've heard over and over again from talking to local people is that now that the border is completely shut off even to legal entry, people can't cross. That's hurting the economy on both sides. Businesses are suffering. And also on a more personal level, you know, friendships and relationships are suffering. And so that's one of the things that's really frustrating people here. They feel like they're caught in the middle of this thing that's beyond them, of this battle between Turkey and the EU.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. A reporter for The World, Lydia Emmanouildou, joining us via face time today. Thanks so much.

  • Lydia Emmanouilidou:

    Thanks, Hari.

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