A steel fence between Turkey and Greece is to be extended from around 40 kilometers to 120 kilometers to prevent irregular migration from Turkey, the infomigrants.net website reported, citing Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis.
The minister told the Skai radio station on Saturday that the measure will secure all areas that could be crossed on foot.
Greece is often the country of choice for migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East to try to reach a better life in the European Union.
Many come via Turkey at the Evros River border.
In March 2020 Greece increased border patrols and installed cameras, radar and a 40-kilometer steel fence over five meters high in some areas.
The announcement comes as tensions continue to escalate between Athens and Ankara, which have long been at odds over natural gas and airspace as well as irregular migration.
According to Greek media reports, there are concerns that Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan could again use migrants as a means of pressure, as he did in 2020 when he declared the border with Greece open at the Evros River, and thousands of people made their way there.
Meanwhile, Greek Civil Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said on Saturday that tens of thousands of illegal migrants had been stopped from coming into the country at the Evros border this year, according to Agence France-Presse.
“In the first four months of 2022, about 40,000 illegal immigrants tried to enter the country illegally,” he told Skai TV, stating that they had been stopped at the Evros River.
“We effectively repel any threat to our country, to our borders.”
He also sent a message to Turkey, saying it is “not allowed to tolerate traffickers of desperate people, nor to foster such situations.”
The Evros River, which separates Greece and Turkey, has seen an increase in traffic in recent weeks because water levels are low.
A migration ministry source said migration flows to all of Greece in the first four months of 2022 were nearly 30 percent higher than in the same period last year.
More than 3,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece so far this year, including over 1,100 last month, according to the ministry’s data.
Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March 2016 that aimed at stopping “irregular migration via Turkey to Europe” and “break the business model of the smugglers and to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk.”
The accord — criticized by rights groups and since seen as inadequate by Ankara — foresaw the payment of 6 billion euros to Turkey to keep asylum seekers from crossing to Bulgaria and Greece.