Greece to extend fence on Turkish border

Greece is planning to extend the border fence at the Evros River by 80 km to further secure its border with Turkey, news website Greek Reporter reported on Saturday, citing a radio interview by Greek migration minister Notis Mitarakis.

“We cannot talk about a closed Europe, but we also cannot have a Europe where it’s the traffickers who decide who gets in,” Mitarakis told SKAI radio on Friday.

The Evros is used by traffickers as there is “constant patrolling in the Aegean”, news website Greek Reporter cited the minister as saying. “Traffickers find other routes, using in parallel the islets of Evros.”

Mitarakis’s comments come after several dozen migrants were placed in temporary protection by Greek police after a month stuck on a river islet that Athens said was “outside Greek sovereignty”. Out of some 40 migrants on the islet, a five year old girl reportedly lost her life after being stung by a scorpion. Before finally moving the migrants to a facility, Greece requested that Turkey “urgently take all necessary action” to provide assistance.

The Evros has become an important route into Greek territory, with Hellenic police arresting 312 out of 386 traffickers in the region this year, Greek Reporter said. Out of the 312, 219 were arrested between May and July.

Turkey has accused Greece of unlawfully pushing back migrants who managed to cross into Greek territory, while Mitarakis believes migrants could be returned to Turkey lawfully.

“Turkey is not a country at war,” Greek daily Kathimerini cited the minister as saying.

Athens has already applied to the European Commission for funding for the extension, the daily said.

While the EU may not be willing to grant the request, the Greek government plans to push forward regardless, it added.

The border between Turkey and Greece at the Evros is 180 km long, and on a 38 km portion of it there is currently a border fence. A majority of the fence, some 27 km of it, was built in 2021.

Turkish authorities in early August reported rescuing eight people and recovered three bodies from a small island off the coast of Çeşme. According to authorities, the migrants were all found in handcuffs and had been pushed back into Turkish waters by Greek forces after reaching Chios, where their asylum application should have been processed.

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