Refugees wait Saturday to cross the border between Turkey and Greece near the Pazarkule border post, in Turkey. Photo: AFP / Burcu Okutan / Sputnik

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the Turkish coastguard to prevent migrants crossing the Aegean sea because of the risks, officials said.

“On the orders of the president… permission will not be given for migrants to cross the Aegean sea because it is dangerous,” the coastguard tweeted on Friday.

“The approach of not intervening against migrants wishing to leave Turkey remains in practice but this (new) approach covers sea crossings because of the dangers,” it added in another tweet.

The coastguard said 97 migrants were rescued on Thursday after “the Greek side flattened three boats and left them in a half-sinking state in the middle of the sea”.

The instruction comes after Erdogan said last week that refugees and migrants would not be prevented by Turkish authorities from leaving Turkey if that was their wish.

Thousands of refugees and migrants have also gone to the land border between Turkey and Greece where clashes erupted again on Saturday between Greek police and migrants.

During a tense stand-off, Greek police fired tear gas at migrants who responded to the officers by throwing stones and shouted “open the gates”, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

The Greek police also used water cannon to stop the migrants, a correspondent said, many of whom have been stranded for days at the Pazarkule border, known as Kastanies on the Greek side.

Meanwhile, Greece plans to build two new temporary camps to house hundreds of additional asylum seekers who arrived after a surge enabled by Turkey, the migration minister said Saturday.

“We want to build two closed centers in (the northern region of) Serres and the greater Athens area with 1,000 places,” migration minister Notis Mitarachi told Skai TV.

“We need the backing of local communities. We cannot leave all (these) people on the islands,” he said.

Mitarachi said the camps would host asylum seekers who arrived after March 1, when Turkey announced it would no longer prevent people from trying to cross into the European Union.

Residents of a Serres town rumoured to host one of the camps staged protests earlier this week and local officials declared their opposition to the plan. 

Over 1,700 migrants have landed on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands from Turkey over the past week, adding to the 38,000 already crammed into abysmal and overstretched refugee centers.

The new surge has ramped up already high tensions on an island that has been on the migration frontline for years.

Frustration exploded into violence last weekend with mobs setting up roadblocks, attacking cars carrying NGO workers and beating journalists.

AFP 

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