Greece Extending Fence on Turkish Border, Equipping Riot Cops

Αssociated Press

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, reviews Greek soldiers guard at the Kipoi border gate, Evros region, at the Greek-Turkish border on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Dimitris Papamitsos/Greek Prime Minister's Office via AP)

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 to repel any attempts at crossing.

Construction of the fence is proceeding and the project will be ready in a few months' time, Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis told SKAI TV, 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 had been acquired.

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.

The cost of the procurement program is estimated at 20-34 million euros ($22.37-$37.86 million,) and will be the biggest purchase of equipment for the riot force since Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004, when Chryssochoidis was also in charge of citizen protection and helped bring down the Nov. 7 terrorist gang.

The program was launched in March, shortly after a visit to the northeastern border region by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who pledged 700 million euros ($779.49 million) in aid to help Greece secure the country’s – and the EU’s borders – against Turkey.

Most of the money, said Kathimerini, will go to the Ministry of Defense, though several million euros have been earmarked for upgrading the riot force –  formally known as the Units for the Reinstatement of Order, or MAT, which helped guard the border.