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Politics

Greece Tightens Border to Bar Turkish, Syrian Earthquake Refugees

February 27, 2023

After being praised for sending humanitarian aid to Turkey following an earthquake that killed 44,218 people, Greece is reportedly fortifying its border to keep out refugees, including those displaced by the earthquake, as well as individuals from Syria, where 5,914 have died.

Greece has stationed additional border guards near the Evros River, where an anti-refugee wall is being extended to prevent asylum seekers who fled to Turkey due to war, conflict, and economic difficulties from entering Greece or other European Union countries. “The mass movement of millions of people is not a solution,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis, who emphasized that more emergency aid should be sent to Turkey and Syria to prevent further displacement, according to The Guardian.

Although Greece welcomed Ukrainian refugees after Russia’s invasion, the New Democracy government is attempting to block migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa, and other regions, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The government has also repeatedly denied allegations from human rights groups and activists, as well as major media outlets, that refugees and migrants were unlawfully pushed back on land and at sea.

According to The Guardian, Greece expects many Turkish refugees to attempt to cross the border, despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s corruption and mishandling of building construction that led to an increased death toll. During a European conference on border management held in Greece, the government confirmed that the 22-mile-long, 16-foot-high fence would be extended to protect the EU from illegal flows, without specifying whether this includes Turkish refugees.

The Greek government has also deployed electronic surveillance and drones along the border to prevent refugees and migrants from entering. In February 2020, Erdogan sent 10,000 refugees to Greece by bus and urged them to cross, but Greek riot police and army units repelled them in a confrontation that resulted in the exchange of thrown objects and Molotov cocktails.

With warmer weather approaching, Greece is planning to purchase several new Coast Guard vessels to patrol the waters, particularly around the Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast. Many refugees have drowned in recent months when their rickety craft or rubber dinghies, supplied by human traffickers, capsized while attempting to reach Greece.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who will face elections in the spring, aims to seal the borders to protect the outermost regions of the EU. He has been tougher on migration than former Premier and major opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, whom he defeated in 2019.

Frontex, the EU’s border patrol, has intensified its patrols in the seas between Turkey and the Greek islands, although its human rights chief in 2022 said it should stop operating in Greece due to persistent reports of pushbacks.

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