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Politics

Greece Says Turkey Backing Off Migrant Push to Border

ATHENS – At the same time a fence is being extended along the Evros River border, Greece's  Alternate Migration Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Turkey won't – for now – try to push migrants across there as it did earlier this year.

While some Greek media reported that “thousands” of migrants in Turkey, who had gone there fleeing war and strife in their homelands, were massing at the border, Koumoutsakos told SKAI TV there was no evidence of an incursion attempt. 

“There is no confirmation of an organized plan,” he said, adding there was a spontaneous gathering as sometimes happens at the point where Greece closed its border and earlier this year sent riot police and Army units to repel crossings.

Anticipating Turkey may try again to get migrants across the northern land border by the Evros River, Greece is readying the extension of a fence and gearing up riot cops  with more equipment.

Construction of the fence, which will triple the current 12-kilometer (7.45-mile) length is proceeding and the project will be ready in a few months' time, Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis told SKAI TV earlier, during a period of calm with Turkey which sent 10,000 migrants there earlier this year.

Chryssochoidis noted that Greece has "become a European symbol of border protection" and that the Evros front is guarded by army, police and forces from the European Union's Frontex patrol to protect the bloc's outer borders.

With the hiring of 400 more border guards underway, "the border situation will markedly improve," the minister said. Army units had been sent there during the earlier incursion attempts that saw exchanges of tear gas and Molotov Cocktails.

He said riot police are being re-equipped after budget cuts during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis and that 500 patrol cars and more than 15,000 bullet-proof vests were bought.

Greece is planning purchases worth millions of euros to equip the Hellenic Police’s (ELAS) riot force with shields, helmets, uniforms, more bullet-proof vests and other supplies, including large quantities of tear gas.

That's in anticipation of another push by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to get migrants across although Turkey is supposed to contain them as part of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

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