ATHENS – With his government trying to keep out refugees and migrants, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will oversee a meeting of the national security council KYSEA to review plans about blocking the northern border.
That’s near the Evros River boundary with Turkey, which allows human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrants there and to Greek islands in the Aegean in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis earlier said an anti-refugee wall there would be extended by 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) as a further deterrent although the river’s currents are so treacherous that many have died trying to cross.
Mitarakis said that Greece wouldn’t become “an open field,” while insisting that Turkey is not a country at war and that migrants can be returned there until they deal that has seen only a relative handful returned.
He told SKAI radio that “humanitarianism is very important, but the people who want to come to the European Union because of the inequalities in the world are in the hundreds of millions.”
“We are not talking about a closed Europe but we are also not talking about a Europe in which smugglers decide who comes,” he noted, Turkey – which hasn’t been sanctioned for sending more – and human rights groups accusing Greece of pushing them back, which the government denied.
Minister for Citizens’ Protection Takis Theodorikakos told the station there has more coming. “We have arrested 60 traffickers of foreign nationals in recent days who had set up schemes to bring these people into our country,” he added.
He said the traffickers try to lead people to islets, especially in summer, when the Evros River water level is low but Greece said it had to rescue a group of some 38 on one although saying it wasn’t Greek territory.
A former chief of the General Staff and ex-commander of the 4th Army Corps of Evros, Georgios Kampas, told SKAI Greece is facing a “hybrid threat” from Turkey and that Turkey’s military police were sending refugees and migrants.
“They have tried to create a provocation in an effort to show us up as behaving badly towards migrants, which is not true,” Kampas stressed, in an apparent move to put more pressure on Greece.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not mentioning his country keeps sending them, said that his Coast Guard has saved the lives of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers he said were pushed back by Greece.
“With the efforts of our Coast Guard, we have prevented deaths in the Aegean,” Erdogan told the Gendarmerie and Coast Guard Academy’s graduation ceremony in Ankara, said Kathimerini.
“In the last two years, we have saved the lives of 41,000 people who were left to die by Greece,” he said. Greece has repeatedly denied pushback allegations, saying it intercepts boats at sea to protect its own and the European Union’s borders.