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article imageTurkey police block new migrant march to Greek border

By AFP     Sep 21, 2015 in World

A new march by a group of mainly Syrian migrants trying to reach Europe overland from Turkey was blocked by police outside Istanbul on Monday.

Around 700 men, women and children from a group that had been blocked for the past week at Istanbul's main bus station set out Monday evening on footfor the northwestern city of Edirne, 250 kilometres (150 miles) away.

After spending the night camped on the hard shoulder of the motorway, some of the migrants managed to board buses or private vehicles.

But a few hundred others continued to walk along the emergency lane, in the midst of snarling traffic, before being brought to a halt by a cordon of riot police about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Istanbul, an AFP photographer witnessed.

After hours of negotiations, they eventually agreed to be taken back to Istanbul by bus.

A migrant rests in front of a police barricade after Turkish riot police blocked the road towards Ed...
A migrant rests in front of a police barricade after Turkish riot police blocked the road towards Edirne on September 21, 2015 in Istanbul
Ozan Kose, AFP

The secretary-general of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, who attempted to mediate in the standoff, accused the government of failing the refugees.

"No-one in Turkey is helping this people, no-one is offering them shelter, access to education or healthcare," Gursel Tekin told reporters at the scene.

"They're trying to enter Europe out of despair. The government unfortunately is responsible for this situation," he accused.

Five people were arrested, Dogan news agency reported.

Edirne, which lies around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the Greek border and 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Bulgaria, has become a new rallying point for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Encouraged by a social media campaign demanding migrants be allowed to travel overland to the EU rather than risk their lives at sea, around 2,000 refugees, many of whom have been living in Turkey for months, flocked to the city last week.

A child cries in front of a police barricade after migrants were blocked by Turkish riot police whil...
A child cries in front of a police barricade after migrants were blocked by Turkish riot police while walking towards Edirne on September 21, 2015 in Istanbul
Ozan Kose, AFP

Hundreds more who attempted to follow in their path found themselves stuck in Istanbul after bus operators, acting on orders from the authorities, refused to sell them tickets for the journey.

Edirne's governor has warned that any migrants trying to smuggle illegally into Europe through his province will be returned to refugee camps in southern Turkey.

On Saturday, a group of families that spent five days camped behind police lines on the road outside Edirne gave in to pressure from the authorities to disperse.

Turkey has taken in more than two million Syrians since 2011, of whom around 260,000 live in refugee camps. The rest try to eke out a living in communities across the country.

Their "guest" status in Turkey gives them limited access to basic services and jobs, fuelling the current exodus to the European Union.

More about Europe, Migrants, Turkey, Istanbul
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