Turkey Says Greece Asks Help Keeping Out Refugees at Border, River

ATHENS – Greece’s attempts to keep out refugees hasn’t yet sealed the border where a steel wall is being extended, and Turkey – accused of letting human traffickers keep sending them – said it’s been asked to help stop a surge.

That’s along the Evros River crossing and Greece’s interim Defense Minister Alkiviades Stephanis spoke with Turkey’s new defense chief Yaşar Güler about a mutual effort to stop the crossings.

Newly re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, entering a third decade in power unchecked, has formed a new Cabinet while Greece has a caretaker government ahead of a second round of elections on June 25.

Patrols along the Evros River on the Greek side of the border were intensified following a recent drop in the water level that makes refugee crossings easier, the paper said of what’s otherwise a dangerous spot.

Several dozen migrants were removed from an islet in the Evros River by Turkish police and transported back to the mainland in dinghies, Greek officials said. A contact center set up nearby by Greek, Turkey and Bulgaria was formally notified of the operation by Turkey that took place in two stages, they added.

Greece in the past has accused Turkey of “instrumentalizing” migration to push for concessions from the European Union, but officials in both capitals have struck a more conciliatory tone in recent months.

Haralambos Lalousis, Greece’s temporary Public Order Minister, said he didn’t believe that Turkey was behind the latest spike in migrant crossings. “No, I don’t think it is Turkey,” Lalousis said before visiting the border.

Lalousis, a former Greek army chief and commander of forces based in the border region, said the Armed Forces were assisting patrols by the police. Greece wants to extend a 37.5 kilometer (25 mile) wall by 35 kilometers (21 miles) to be built over the next 12 months and an additional 100 kilometers (62 miles) by 2026

Turkey is holding some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan but as far as Pakistan and from sub-Saharan Africa.

Under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, which closed its borders to refugees and migrants, Turkey is supposed to contain them but Greece it has allowed traffickers to keep sending them.

That’s mostly  to five Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast where Greece set up detention facilities with the help of EU funding but also along the land border by the river despite electronic surveillance and drones.


(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)


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