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Greece expands fence along border with Turkey

January 21, 2023

On a visit to the border fence, Greek officials reminded EU diplomats the barrier was helping to safeguard the whole of Europe.

Greek police officers line up next to a border fence, built to prevent migrant crossings
The ultimate goal of extending it to cover most of the 192-kilometer (120-mile) Greek-Turkish land borderImage: Alexandros Avramidis/REUTERS

Greece will almost double the length of the 5-meter (16-foot)-high steel fence on its border with Turkey amid concerns over a surge of migrants.

Around 400 people try to enter Greece illegally from Turkey every day, Greek Civil Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said on Saturday.

According to him, Greek border guards stopped more than 260,000 people from entering illegally in 2022. They also arrested 1,500  suspected traffickers.

The 37.5-kilometer border fence is to be extended by another 35 kilometers along the Evros River, called Meric in Turkey.

"The task (of protecting the border) needs the support ... of European public opinion, the European Union itself and its constituent members individually,'' Theodorikakos said.

Greece says illegal migration affects whole EU

Theodorikakos took ambassadors from other European Union countries, as well as Switzerland and the United Kingdom, on a tour of the construction, emphasizing  Greece's border is also the EU's external border.

"It is our steadfast position that member states of first reception cannot be (the migrants') only European destinations," Theodorikakos said.

"There must be solidarity among member-states and a fair sharing of duties...close coordination is a must,'' he added.

A Greek national flag is painted on a border fence, built to prevent illegal migrant crossings from Turkey
Greece's border is also the EU's external borderImage: Alexandros Avramidis/REUTERS

The Greek minister's sentiments were echoed by Cypriot Ambassador Kyriakos Kenevezos, who spoke of the "need for understanding'' from countries that don't have external EU borders.

Current EU regulations call on the EU state where an asylum-seeker first arrives to process the person's application for refuge.

Concerns about migrants' plight

The United Kingdom's 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 cooperating.''

Turkey has repeatedly accused Greece of pushbacks that endanger the lives of migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

Greece has accused Turkey of weaponizing the plight of migrants by encouraging them to cross the border into the EU or return to their home countries.

The EU's border protection agency, Frontex, will add another 400 guards in Greece to the existing 1,800-member force protecting the border.

lo/sms (AP, dpa)