ATHENS - Unable to stop hordes of refugees and migrants from coming to Greek islands, the New Democracy government plans to put a floating barrier off Lesbos to keep them away as it’s trying to deal with more than 100,000 of them, 50,000 on islands near Turkey.
About 50,000 have arrived since the Conservatives took power in July 7, 2019 snap elections, ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA New Democracy said encouraged more to come with an open door policy.
The Greek government wants to install a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea government officials said, according to Reuters, the plan being to put a 2.7 kilometer (1.68 mile) net-like barrier that Greece wants to buy and have it float off the island of Lesbos where there are some 18,000 refugees in the overcrowded Moria camp.
The barrier will be 50 centimeters (1.64 feet) above sea level and have lights to make it visible at night, said officials, without explaining why boats couldn’t just go around it or if other measures would also be taken.
“The invitation for floating barriers is in the right direction... We will see what the result, what its effect as a deterrent will be in practice,” Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told SKAI Radio.
“It will be a natural barrier. If it works like the one in Evros, I believe it can be effective,” he said, referring to a cement and barbed-wire fence that Greece set up in 2012 along its northern border with Turkey to keep out migrants and refugees there.
With island officials and residents wanting them taken out of detention centers and transferred to the mainland, the government responded with a plan to speed asylum procedures for those penned up two years and more and to create new centers aimed at vetting those ineligible for sanctuary.
The refugees and migrants keep coming from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homeland, especially Afghanistan and Syria’s civil war, but also those from areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa looking for work and not fearing for their lives.
Most want to stay in Greece after the European Union closed its borders to them and other countries reneged on promises to help take some of the overload and as the last two bloc chiefs responsible for migration - both from New Democracy - did little to help,
The Greek Coast Guard and EU border patrol Frontex have been able to prevent more from coming from Turkey, where human traffickers being allowed to operate under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU send them on rubber dinghies and overcrowded craft, many of which have capsized, drowning hundreds.
In all of 2019, 59,726 migrants and refugees reached Greece’s shores according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR,) with nearly 80 percent landing on Chios, Samos and Lesbos, near Turkey.
A defense ministry official told Reuters the barrier will be installed at the north of Lesbos, where migrants usually attempt to cross over due to the short distance from Turkey and that it could be extended as much as 15 kilometers (9.32 miles.) There was no word on the cost for the shorter version with government spokesman Stelios Petsas telling ANT1 TV that, “We need to test it to see if it can bring the results we want.”
Tender for 'Floating Protection System' for managing migration flows completed
A tender for the construction of a 2,700-metre "Floating Protection System" of non-military standard and with special specifications designed to assist the Armed Forces' role in the management of the refugee crisis and constantly increasing migration flows, has been completed, according to an announcement on Thursday. The tender was held by the Hellenic Army Supreme Military Support Command.
According to the invitation for bids, the estimated cost of the contract is 500,000 euros, including taxes.