The European Commission President announced a £608milion cash injection for Athens to bolster its border with Turkey during a visit to the region. “Our first priority is to ensure order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also a European border,” the bloc’s most senior official said. The German, alongside European Council chief Charles Michel, raced to Greece after Turkey lifted controls on migrants attempting to cross into the EU on Friday.
Speaking at the Kastanies border crossing, Mrs von der Leyen added: “The Greek worries are our worries.
“This border is not only a Greek border but it is also a European border and I stand here today as a European at your side.
“We have come here today to send a very clear statement of European solidarity and support to Greece.
“I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities.”
As well as the financial aid, the EU’s Frontex border agency will send 100 extra guards, seven patrol vessels, two helicopters, one plane and three thermal-imaging vehicles to the border.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned Ankara that he would not be “blackmailed” into supporting Turkey’s war efforts in Syria.
He said: “This is no longer a refugee problem.
“This is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda and to divert attention from the horrible situation in Syria.”
In a bid to dissuade people from illegally crossing the border, Greece has now blocked new asylum applications for the next month.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has predicted “millions” of migrants would attempt to enter the EU after lifting controls.
He has claimed he no longer recognises the 2016 deal he struck with Brussels to hold migrants in Turkey in exchange for EU cash.
Last night the strongman leader said he had rejected a new €1billion offer from the EU to help deal with migrants.
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“We are talking to them. They tell us, ‘we will send you a billion euros.’ Who are you trying to fool? We don’t want your money,” Mr Erdogan said.
Greece last night claimed it had blocked more than 24,000 migrants from crossing its borders since Saturday.
Athens said 24,203 migrants were intercepted, 4,354 of them along the Evros land border, and the remainder were stopped at sea.
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Turkey is hosting around 3.7 million Syrian refugees, as well as migrants from other countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Other EU leaders have begun work on strengthening their borders to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz accused Mr Erdogan of using migrants as pawns after announcing his country would bolster its borders.
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