Greece to send an extra 250 officers to Turkish border

Athens is bolstering its presence on the frontier to counter illegal migration

A steel fence was built to prevent the illegal arrival of migrants on Greek territory. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Greece will send an extra 250 border guards to its border with Turkey, from which thousands of migrants attempted to cross into the EU last year.

They will be sent to Evros, a 200-kilometre frontier which is also a hotspot for illegal crossings.

“Everyone knows that Greece is a country that defends peace and stability in a geostrategically difficult region. At the same time, however, Greece is determined to defend its borders, from any intrusion, from any threat. We are on full alert, we are further strengthening our forces in the area,” Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said.

He praised a new defence pact with France, saying it would make Greece “as a whole is much stronger".

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers attempted to enter Greece in February last year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would no longer be kept on Turkish territory as part of a 2016 deal with the European Union in return for aid for the refugees.

In response, Greece bolstered its border strength by building a 40km fence and investing in new surveillance. It was also announced in August that a tethered balloon known as an aerostat, equipped with a long-range thermal camera, was to be used at Alexandroupolis Airport to assist with border control.

Greece has repeatedly denied reports of migrants being met with violence and returned back across the land border with Turkey.

Last week, interior and migration ministers from 12 mainly eastern EU states — including Greece — told the European Commission that efforts to counter illegal migration needed to be upgraded.

“To ensure the integrity and normal functioning of the Schengen area, all our external borders must be protected with maximum level of security,” they said.

Under centre-right prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who came to power in 2019, Greece has sought to limit the number of people arriving at its borders.

He said he was “unapologetic about defending our borders” and that better cooperation with Turkey would prevent human-trafficking.

“I can see no conflict between vigilantly defending our borders and, yes, intercepting boats at sea, while at the same time behaving in a totally humanitarian manner and taking care of those people whose lives are at risk,” he said.

Updated: October 11, 2021, 11:00 AM