ATHENS – After vowing to keep out refugees and migrants – and denying reports of pushing them back – Greece’s New Democracy government is going to extend a fence along the northern border with Turkey by the Evros River.
The plan will add another 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) to an existing 40-kilometer (24.85-mile) fence in a further attempt to keep out refugees and migrants from Turkey, who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.
Turkey has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them, to Greek islands and along the Evros River border, violating an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ administration has gotten tougher on refugees and migrants while welcoming those from Ukraine escaping the ongoing Russian invasion, even being offered job possibilities.
“There is a clear attempt by Turkey to instrumentalize migrants in creating a crisis with Greece,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis, saying there has been a 20 percent increase since 2021 in arrivals despite attempts to keep them out.
Besides the fence, Greece is adding hundreds of border guards and the Coast Guard is patrolling the Aegean, on the lookout for rubber dinghies and rickety craft that the smugglers put people in.
It wasn’t said that when the work to extend the fence will begin although it was initially announced in May, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning at times he will unleash more refugees and migrants on Greece.
Coast Guard Admiral Nikos Spanos told The Voice of America that, “Turkey regulates all migratory flows into Greece and Europe… and if the floodgates open farther, it will be very difficult for us to block these inflows from inundating many Greek islands.”
In June, Migration Ministry officials counted nearly three thousand migrants who tried to illegally cross into Greece from Turkey in a total of 82 attempts made. Only 72 asylum seekers managed to evade interception, the report also said.