EU demands Turkey open its border to 35,000 migrants fleeing Syria as Merkel condemns human suffering caused by Russian airstrikes as ‘horrifying’

  • Turkey is facing increasing pressure to open its border to 35,000 refugees
  • It claims the city of Aleppo is ‘under siege’ from Syrian government forces
  • Germany, meanwhile, has said the cost of Russian airstrikes is ‘horrifying’
  • Angela Merkel blamed Syria’s human suffering on Putin’s air campaign 
  • For more on the EU migrant crisis visit

Turkey, already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees, says it has reached its capacity to absorb refugees but has indicated that it will continue to provide refuge.

It comes as German chancellor Angela Merkel today said she was ‘not just appalled but horrified’ by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria.

Hundreds of migrants fleeing airstrikes and a government offensive on Aleppo try to enter a camp on the border with Turkey

 A young boy who fled Aleppo with his family cries at the border crossing between Syria and Turkey 

 Three men assist an injured woman at the border crossing, which so far Turkey has refused to open

 Syrian families wait at the border crossing after being unsuccessful in their attempts to enter Turkey

 The refugees are fleeing a Russia-back Syrian government offensive which has hit residents of Aleppo

 A woman carries her belongings in a bag on her head as she hopes for entry into Turkey at the border

 She said: ‘We have been, in the past few days, not just appalled but horrified by what has been caused in the way of human suffering for tens of thousands of people by bombing – primarily from the Russian side.

‘Under such circumstances, it’s hard for peace talks to take place, and so this situation must be brought to an end quickly.’

 And Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the city of Aleppo ‘is de facto under siege. We are on the verge of a new human tragedy’.

Both countries will now push at the UN for everyone to keep to a resolution passed in December that calls on all sides to halt attacks on the civilian population.

Ms Merkel was in Ankara for talks on how to reduce the influx of migrants into Europe.


Macedonia has begun building a new razor-wire fence parallel to an existing one on its border with Greece to make it harder for migrants to enter the Balkan country.

Since November only refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have been allowed to cross the border on their journey to western Europe, but migrants from other countries have still tried to get across.

‘The idea is to send a message to migrants that there is a double fence so give up crossing illegally,’ a senior army official said.

Macedonia has begun building a new razor-wire fence to double up its existing border protections to make it harder for migrants, pictured, to enter

 A Macedonian Police officer turns back migrants, pictured, out of Macedonia at a checkpoint on the border line with Greece near the town of Gevgelija

 More than 68,000 refugees have been registered entering Macedonia since the beginning of the year, and police say they stopped about 4,000 people trying to cross illegally in January alone.

The European Commission last month pledged to increase security at the Greek-Macedonian frontier, where there are currently more than 60 police officers from other countries to help control the influx.

Recently Macedonia has intermittently closed the border to refugees and it is now allowing across only those wishing to go to Germany or Austria, following similar decisions further along the migrant trail.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said in January that his government had no intention to fully close the border, but would coordinate with the European Union and ‘do whatever necessary’ to help solve the crisis.

The new fence will be at a distance of five metres (16 feet) from the one erected in November on both sides of the border crossing for refugees at Gevgelija, the army official said.

He refused to say how long the new fence would be, but local media reported that it would stretch for more than 30 kilometres (19 miles) along the frontier.

Lence Zdravkin, an aid worker in Gevgelija, said the situation had become ‘a bit tense’ since authorities began building the new fence.

Macedonian police say they stopped 4,000 people trying to illegally enter the country in January

 Meanwhile Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, on a visit to Sarajevo, praised Macedonia for its efforts to slow down the flow of people, adding that the Greek government ‘did not help much in this area’.

‘We want to make it easier for Macedonia and support it as well as other countries because they are not capable of stopping the migrant crisis on their own,’ Kurz told reporters.

Twenty-four migrants, including 11 children, drowned in the Aegean Sea on Monday as they tried to cross from Turkey to Greece, a Turkish news agency said, following the deaths of more than 360 in the Mediterranean in January.

Bulgarian authorities said Sunday that two female migrants found dead in a rural mountainous region of the country had died due to freezing conditions.

Turkey, a key country on the route to Europe, is central to her diplomatic efforts to reduce the flow.

Germany saw an unprecedented 1.1 million asylum seekers arrive last year, many of them fleeing the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Davutoglu said the two countries’ security forces would increase efforts to thwart illegal migration and combat smuggling groups.

The two leaders will also try to get Nato involved in the refugee issue, Mr Davutoglu said. He said they will seek the use of Nato’s observation capabilities at the border with Syria and in the Aegean Sea.

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a joint press conference in Ankara today. She met with Turkish leaders to develop initiatives that will stem the refugee flow into Europe and in particular, Germany

 A young girls sleeps in her mother's arms at the crossing where 35,000 Syrians have amassed

They are fleeing a government assault on Aleppo, a fiercely disputed city in Syria's civil war

 He also said the two countries’ aid organisations will co-operate in providing aid to the Syrians at the border.

Anakara agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration.

In return, the EU has pledged £2.3 billion to help improve the condition of refugees, and to grant political concessions to Turkey, including an easing of visa restrictions and the fast-tracking of its EU membership process.

Turkey has since started to require Syrians arriving from third countries to apply for visas, in a bid to exclude those who aim to continue on to Greece.

Turkey has also agreed to grant work permits to Syrians as an incentive for them to stay in Turkey, and has announced plans to increase coastguard capabilities and designate human smuggling as a form of organised crime – which would bring stiffer punishments.


Twenty-seven people including 11 children drowned on today after their boat sank in the Aegean Sea while trying to cross from Turkey to Greece.

The coastguard said it discovered the boat – carrying 40 people – half capsized after it set off from Edremit in the western province of Balikesir in an apparent bid to reach the Greek island of Lesbos.

So far, four migrants have been rescued both by air and by sea in a search and rescue operation, the coastguard said in a statement on its website. Nine people were still missing.

Dogan news agency initially said at least 35 migrants had died in two separate accidents off western Turkey, but later reported that there was a single incident, with 11 children among the dead.

Turkey, which is hosting at least 2.5 million refugees from Syria’s civil war, has become the main launchpad for migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty to Europe.

Turkish security forces carry the bodies of refugees to shore after a boat sank in the Aegean Sea today

At least 27 migrants died when the coastguard found the partially capsized boat attempting to reach Greece 

 A boat carrying the bodies of some of the drowned migrants arrives in port at Bakilesir, Turkey

Men carry the body of a person who died when the boat, carrying 40 people, sank in the Aegean Sea today

 Turkish soldiers pull the body of a drowned refugee to shore at Balikesir, Turkey

 Some 27 people died in the accident, located at one of the most treacherous routes refugees use to try and reach Europe

 Some 27 people died in the accident, located at one of the most treacherous routes refugees use to try and reach Europe

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