ATHENS – A 35-kilometer (21.7 mile) extension of a wall on Greece’s border near the Evros River to keep out refugees crossing from Türkiye is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told SKAI TV that the contractor has been selected and the project will go ahead once the Court of Audit approves it.
It will cost 100 million euros ($106.85 million) and paid by Greece, which wants European Union help to stop refugees and migrants who went to Türkiye fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.
He said that the 26 other members of the EU “must comprehend that the borders at Evros are not just Greece’s borders, they are Europe’s borders with Türkiye,” too, hoping some would help defray the cost.
Theodorikakos also referred to the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and the help Greek people and the state sent, “and everyone is helping Türkiye to stand on its feet again.”
But he said that, ‘There is a danger that this entire issue turns into new strong migratory pressure,” but said the borders are inviolable and “nothing can go through,” especially along the Evros.
Greece prevented around 260,000 migrants from entering illegally in 2022 and arrested 1,500 traffickers, an official said, the numbers slowing during the waning COVID-19 pandemic although five islands near Türkiye’s coast keep seeing arrivals.
In January, he said of the dilemma that, “The task (of protecting the border) needs the support … of European public opinion, the European Union itself and its constituent members individually.”
He said, ““It is our steadfast position that member states of first reception cannot be (the migrants’) only European destinations. There must be solidarity among member-states and a fair sharing of duties … close coordination is a must,” he said.
The steel wall currently extends more than 27 kilometers (17 miles) and, according to Greek authorities, helps cover another 10 kilometers (6 miles). The plan is to eventually cover almost all the 192-kilometer (120-mile) border although refugees and asylum seekers can still reach Greece through its islands despite the best efforts to keep them out so far.
Greece has repeatedly accused Türkiye of weaponizing the plight of migrants by encouraging them to cross the border to discomfit Greece and the rest of the EU – effectively cooperating with traffickers. Türkiye accuses Greece of violent pushbacks that endanger the lives of migrants.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)