A boy has died after a boat full of migrants heading to a Greek island capsized, as a wave of thousands tried to cross Greece’s land and sea borders.
The death was the first since neighbouring Turkey announced on Thursday that it was easing restrictions on those wishing to cross to Europe, and thousands of migrants began massing at the borders with Greece.
Greek authorities said they had stopped more than 24,000 attempted illegal crossings at the land border since early Saturday, and arrested 183 people.
Turkey’s announcement marked a dramatic departure from its previous policy of containing refugees and other migrants under an agreement with the European Union.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has demanded more support from Europe in dealing with the fallout from the Syrian war to its south.
As European countries rushed to back Greece, Mr Erdogan said on Monday that Western leaders were calling him and urging him to reverse the border opening. “It’s done, the gates are open now. You will have your share of this burden now,” he said he told them.
Soon “the number of people going to the border will be expressed in millions”, he said.
Greece, which has made clear its borders will remain closed, says it is faced with an organised Turkish campaign to push people through.
The two uneasy Nato allies are historic regional rivals who have come close to war three times in the past half a century, and even before the migration crisis relations were tense over undersea exploitation rights.
One dinghy carrying 48 migrants heading to the island of Lesbos was accompanied by a Turkish patrol vessel in Turkish waters. The migrants deliberately overturned their boat once in Greek waters, the Greek coastguard said.
The coastguard said it rescued the migrants, but one boy, aged six or seven and believed to be from Syria, was unconscious and efforts to revive him failed.
Under a 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for more than 6 billion euros in financial aid after more than a million people entered Europe in 2015.
Ankara has since accused the EU of failing to honour the agreement.