Government: “Greece Has a Constitutional Obligation to Protect Its Borders”

March 3, 2020

ATHENS – The government on Monday issued a series of clarifications concerning the decisions announced by the Government Council on National Security (KYSEA) following its meeting on Sunday, explaining what was meant by “maximum deterrence” and why asylum applications were being suspended for one month.

According to the briefing, patrols and surveillance flights along the border in Evros will be carried out with greater frequency and the troops stationed there will be reinforced with additional military units from various parts of the country.

In the Aegean, the coast guard and Navy units will also be reinforced and carry out additional patrols.

Concerning the decision to stop accepting asylum applications, the government repeated that Greece was faced with an “active, serious, exceptional and asymmetric threat,” that appeared to be orchestrated by Turkey, with gathered individuals attempting to forcibly and illegally enter Greek territory.

“The country has a constitutional obligation to protect its borders and preserve its integrity, using any means necessary. The Greek borders are also the external borders of the European Union and their protection secures the interests of all EU member-states. The emergency conditions that have arisen at the border, in any case make the examination of asylum applications – a strictly individual process – impossible,” the announcement said.

With respect to the legality of the decision taken under international and European law, the government noted that there was provision in both for temporary measures in response to emergency and exceptional situations.

“In any case, in the present conditions we are entirely outside the framework for the international protection of refugees, which is based on isolated and individual applications. In this case there is a collective movement of populations, organised by a foreign state, to serve diplomatic goals in a clear-cut violation of international law and the EU-Turkey joint statement,” the government noted, adding that it will take steps to protect the integrity of the Greek state until a state of normality is restored at the Greek border.

“For this reason, suspending the acceptance of asylum applications is a measure that is absolutely necessary and reasonable and is supported by international law,” the government added.

On the issue of returning migrants to their country of origin, the announcement stressed that anyone caught entering Greece illegally will be arrested and held in detention and return centres. It cited a recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights that allowed the mass return of migrants without an individual examination of their cases after they entered Spain.

The announcement also referred to Greece’s request to Frontex for a Rapid Border Intervention (RABIT) at Greece’s external borders and what this would do, noting that Greece had also made a similar request in 2015, and the implications of Greece’s request to activate article 78 paragraph 3 of the EU Treaty.

Finally, it clarified that the KYSEA decisions will be effective immediately as they were incorporated into an Act of Legislative Content on Monday.

More than 24,000 attempts to cross border prevented since Saturday

According to the latest briefing by government sources, a total of 4,354 individuals were prevented from illegally entering Greek territory in the Evros region between 6:00 and 18:00 on Monday. Authorities also arrested 42 illegal migrants in the area, most of them from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco.

The total number of illegal entries averted between 6:00 on Saturday and Monday evening was 24,303, while 183 people were arrested and taken to detention centres for migrants, while those convicted of illegally entering Greece were taken to prisons.

Those tried for illegally entering Greece on Monday were sentenced to four years imprisonment without suspension for appeal and fined 10,000 euros each.


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