THESSALONIKI — Greece will increase its border guards on the Turkish border, fearing a spike in attempted illegal migration linked to the crisis in Afghanistan, officials said Monday.
An additional 250 officers will join the 1,500-strong border force over several months, with the number rising from around 1,000 early last year. Some 800 extra border-guard personnel will also be hired to staff airports and regions close to the Greek-Turkish border.
The increase was spurred in part by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, according to authorities. Greece has toughened its migration policy and border policing over the last two years, extending a wall along its land border with Turkey and installing a hi-tech surveillance network to try and deter asylum-seekers from making the crossing.
Greece has also denied mounting allegations by human rights groups that migrants caught after crossing into Greece are being summarily deported without being allowed to claim asylum.
In parliament Monday, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said a growing number of front-line countries in the 27-nation European Union were pressing the executive EU Commission for tougher action to deter migration.
"Europe is not bordered by warring countries. And the majority of people arriving are not at risk in the last transit country, so it's important to redefine how (migration policy) works and how border security works," Mitarachi said.
Poland and Lithuania in recent months have been struggling to cope with an unusually high number of migrants, most from Iraq and Afghanistan, arriving at their borders with Belarus. They accuse the Belarus government of encouraging the flow of migrants to exert pressure on the entire EU.
Greece, Poland and Lithuania were among 12 countries that sent a letter to the Commission last week to call for more extensive EU measures against illegal immigration.
"Countries from the north, south and central Europe sent this letter," Mitarachi said.
By COSTAS KANTOURIS and DEREK GATOPOULOS Associated Press