Greece Wants EU Funds to Extend Anti-Migrant Wall on Land Border with Turkey
The government of EU member Greece is going to restart a request for the European Union for funding in order to extend a steel wall that partly covers the country’s land border with Turkey as a measure against illegal immigration.
Greece’s center-right Cabinet intends to renew their effort to get EU money to boost the security at what is an external border for both the European Union and the visa-free Schengen Area in 2022, according to a report by AP citing Greek Interior Minister Panagiotis Theodorikakos.
Theodorikakos made the comments before a parliamentary committee on Friday but they were made public on Monday.
Besides the extension of its partial border wall on its land border with Turkey, in order to prevent the influx of illegal immigrants, Greece is also going to boost what is described as a “powerful surveillance network.”
In his comments, the Greek Interior Minister made clear the government’s expectations that certain countries that border the EU would keep “exploiting” international migration in order to put pressure on the Union and/or some of its member states.
To back up that claim, he cited the recent and technically still ongoing migrant crisis that Poland and Lithuania experience as Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko brought wannabe immigrants to Belarus by flights from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries in order to set them towards his EU neighbors.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who is presently collaborating with the EU to largely tackle migration waves, has suggested in the past that he could use them as a political instrument.
Turkey is a primary route for illegal immigrants from the Middle East, and a neighbor of two EU member states, Bulgaria and Greece, the latter of which is also a member of the Schengen Area.
“We have every reason to expect that these kinds of threats will continue,” Greece’s Interior Minister Theodorikakos told the parliamentary briefing on Friday, as cited by AP.
“We believe the security on our own borders is linked to the security of the EU,” he added, while elaborating that border fences and walls designed to stop illegal crossings are typically funded by national governments.
Greece has about 200 kilometers of land border with Turkey, most of which runs along the Evros River – called Maritsa in Bulgaria and Meric in Turkey, the longest river on the Balkan Peninsula after the Danube.
Greece’s border wall, or fence, whose construction began in 2012, covers a land border section that doesn’t follow the river. It is a steel border wall spanning 26 kilometers. The Greek government wants to extend it by 12 kilometers, for a total length of 38 kilometers.
In his comments to parliament members, the Greek Interior Minister also announced that a processing and control center for data from recently constructed border surveillance towers was going to start operation at the beginning of 2022.
The surveillance towers are equipped with multiple sensors and long-range cameras. The surveillance system will use artificial intelligence in order to track multiple incidents simultaneously, if needed, and will flag to border guards those that seem to be the most serious ones.
“This automated system gives us many operational advantages and helps us monitor the entire border region,” Theodorikakos said.
He also revealed that in the eight months from April to November, the Greek authorities used the border wall and the surveillance system in order to prevent the illegal entry into Greek and EU territory by more than 143,000 migrants.
He said in the same period of 2020, there were a total of 99,000 illegal crossing attempts of Greece’s land border with Turkey, an increase of 45% year-on-year.