Refugees blocked near Turkey-Greece border disperse

Refugees blocked near Turkey-Greece border disperse
PHOTO: AFP

EDIRNE, Turkey - Hundreds of mostly Syrian migrants who had been blocked for days by police in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne while trying to reach the nearby Greek border have agreed to abandon their roadside protest.

A group of around 500 people, who had been engaged in a standoff with riot police on the road leading into the city since Tuesday, lifted their makeshift camp Saturday night and left the area in buses provided by local authorities, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Some joined a larger group of around 1,500 migrants still waiting inside the city for the chance to continue their journey over land to Greece, a mere 10 kilometres (six miles) away, or Bulgaria, which is about twice that distance.

Others took buses back to Istanbul, about 250 kilometres to the east.

At a meeting with a delegation of refugees Saturday evening Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had appealed to the refugees to "end their protest by Monday", he wrote on Twitter.

"The voices of our Syrian brothers have been heard by the entire world. They must now return to a normal life," Davutoglu wrote, promising more aid to the more than two million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to prevent them trying to illegally cross into Europe.

"We are ready to send people to countries who open their doors to them, but unfortunately no country has given a favourable response so far," he added.

The refugees gathered in Edirne, who included a large number of children, has been demanding to be allowed travel to Europe by land instead of risking their lives in overcrowded migrant boats in the Aegean Sea.

On Saturday evening, police used batons to repel a group of around people, who tried to storm police lines, chanting "open the doors".

Many of the Syrians pouring into Europe have been living in Turkey for months, sometimes years. They complain that Turkey's failure to grant them full refugee status has made it a struggle to access basic services and jobs.

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