Greece urges EU and UK to help tackle migrant numbers

The country is extending a steel wall on the border with Turkey

Greek police at the border with Turkey. Bloomberg
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Greece has pleaded for help from EU neighbours and the UK in tackling the number the migrants trying to reach the its territory.

The country is expanding a border wall that it hopes will deter some of the migrants but says it wants help from other EU nations.

Greece prevented about 260,000 migrants from entering the country last year and arrested 1,500 suspected traffickers, Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said on Saturday.

He wants EU states and the UK to help border nations, such as Cyprus and Italy, that are often the first entry point into the bloc for migrants, some of whom sail across the Mediterranean from North Africa.

“The task [of protecting the border] needs the support … of European public opinion, the European Union itself and its constituent members individually,” Mr Theodorikakos said.

“It is our steadfast position that member states of first reception cannot be [the migrants’] only European destinations.

A Greek border guard in an observation tower at the frontier with Turkey. Bloomberg

“There must be solidarity among member states and a fair sharing of duties … close co-ordination is a must.”

Mr Theodorikakos spoke to ambassadors from other EU countries as well as Switzerland and the UK as he guided them to a still-expanding border wall in the country’s north-east.

He emphasised to the 28 envoys that Greece’s border was also an EU external border.

The Greek minister’s sentiments were echoed by Cypriot ambassador Kyriakos Kenevezos, who spoke of the “need for understanding” from countries that do not have external EU borders.

Greece is expanding its border wall. Bloomberg

The British ambassador, Matthew Lodge, said “our priority is to protect the human life and dignity endangered by the criminal trafficking networks … even though we are no longer an EU member, we are closely co-operating”.

Greece’s steel border wall faces Turkey and extends more than 27km, authorities say.

It is expanding the wall, adding a 35km stretch with the ultimate goal of it stretching across most of the 192km border.

Greece has repeatedly accused Turkey of weaponising the plight of migrants by encouraging them to cross the border.

EU leaders are worried that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could encourage a mass exodus to the EU, where most of the migrants and refugees want to end up.

The EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, will add another 400 border guards in Greece — 250 of them next month — to the existing 1,800-member team, Mr Theodorikakos said.

Updated: January 22, 2023, 9:01 AM
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