A plan to expand the Greek border wall is being discussed. Last Minute GERMANY, Berlin, Russia, Greece headlines and events
The Meriç River, which flows through one of the most remote corners of Europe, is becoming one of the most militarized regions as Greece and the European Union work to prevent Turkish immigrants from entering the country.
Greece plans to triple the length of its steel border wall by 2023. The five-meter structure of massive steel columns has foundation supports up to 10 meters deep. It is covered with barbed wire and a metal climbing barrier that is difficult to hold on to.
The EU is funding and testing an advanced surveillance network in army-controlled areas on the Greek side of the border that uses some form of artificial intelligence software and a suite of fixed and mobile cameras and sensors to detect migrants trying to cross the border.
Critics of the measures argue that Greece has tightened its authoritarian policies on immigrants and asylum seekers by operating clandestinely in border areas that are under military control and inaccessible to outside civilian observers.
Police and border guards say they are happy that the wall is working.
The visit of Associated Press correspondents to the Greek-Turkish border area was under the supervision of the military and police.
Police Chief Konstantinos Tsolakidis, who patrols the southern section of the Evros River, which forms the natural border between Greece and Turkey, said it was impossible to cross the border. Tsolakidis said: “The wall was built in areas where the Maritsa is most often crossed, and its containment capacity is 100 percent.”
More than 250,000 migrants were blocked at the land border between Greece and Turkey until the end of November this year due to increased mobility following the Covid-19 outbreak, according to Greek authorities. During the same period, more than 5,000 people were detained after crossing the river.
With the help of patrol dogs, loudspeakers and powerful searchlights, repeated attempts to catch up to a thousand migrants in one day are not uncommon in the summer and early autumn, when the water level in Meritsch reaches its lowest annual level, according to border guards.
Small islands, some of which are technically located in the middle of the river where the border runs, reappear during the seasonal downturn, facilitating crossing.
The wall, which was completed in 2021, currently has a total of 27 kilometers in three separate sections, but due to the condition of the ground, it is believed that it would make sense to build another 10 kilometers.
Authorities plan to add another 100 kilometers of steel barriers to close most of the 192-kilometer land border.
The start of construction of the border wall a decade ago was met with heated political debate and public demonstrations by left-wing parties and Greek rights groups.
This time there was no reaction. The Greek Parliament recently, without much discussion, passed an urgent amendment to the law approving the expansion of the wall, removing both commercial bidding rules and cost control guarantees until June 30, 2023.
Nearly two-thirds of Greek voters support tougher measures to curb immigration, according to a poll by private TV channel Antenna.
Only 8.1 percent of voters believe that police measures should be eased.
Support for tougher measures also extends beyond parties, according to the poll. These measures are supported by more than 60 percent of voters in the main left opposition party, who officially oppose the expansion of the wall.
Stavros Lazaridis, a farmer from the village of Poros in the border region.
Stavros Lazaridis, a 41-year-old farm worker who lives near the border and who spoke to The Associated Press, says the wall cannot be expanded quickly enough.
“Before the wall was built, we had a lot of problems. More than 200 or 300 migrants could pass through the village in a day. Everything got out of control,” says Lazaridis.
A local police station found pickup trucks stolen by smugglers in border villages and abandoned near a bus station in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki.
Piles of clothing left behind by immigrants traveling with a small backpack can often be found along highways in the area.
The residents of the border village of Lazaridis used to be sympathetic to immigrants, many of whom had fled wars in the Middle East and found refuge in Europe, but were fed up with nighttime troubles, he said.
“The people living in these villages are old people. Most of them live alone and are afraid to leave their homes. It is quiet now, but in the north, where there is no wall, it is still very difficult,” said the Greek farmer. .
Antenna’s survey data shows that residents of other EU border countries, including Poland and the Baltic states, are also paying more attention to security as threats such as Russia’s war in Ukraine move closer to the bloc’s outer borders.
Heated disputes between Greece and Turkey over maritime boundaries, the continental shelf and drilling rights have also exacerbated disputes over migration.
Greece filed a series of international complaints in October after border police found 92 male migrants naked. Athens accused the Turkish authorities of deliberately crossing the border of these immigrants.
Turkey, on the other hand, has repeatedly accused Greece of risking its life and carrying out clandestine deportations known as pushing away potential asylum seekers.
Athens has also come under fire from leading human rights groups, UN and EU refugee agencies and even a government advisory group. The advisory group says hundreds of credible evidence has been gathered that the Greek-Turkish border has seen frequent violent clashes over the past 20 years.
The UN and EU institutions are demanding the creation of an independent agency to control the border, but Athens has not yet taken any action on this issue.
Begum Bashdash of the Center for Fundamental Rights at Hertie University in Berlin, Germany’s capital, said that conflicts with countries bordering the EU and the often legitimate security problems they cause reduce interest in immigrants in need of international protection. and that European governments are trying to be tough.
“The militarization of migration prevents us from seeing this issue as a human rights issue, and what really worries me is the spread of authoritarianism through migration management in the European Union,” Bashdash said.
Bashdash told The Associated Press: “People are not very critical of border security or wall building because they don’t see the connection between migration and the decline of democratic values in their own environment, in their own rights. However, you know, these walls are literally being built around us.”
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