The Huffington Post, 31 march 2012
Greece is quadrupling the number of guards at its border with Turkey and boosting other defenses in part because of a potential
influx of Syrian refugees, a government minister said Monday.
Greece is the busiest entry point for illegal immigrants trying to reach the European Union. Turkey, meanwhile, is hosting thousands of Syrians who have been fleeing their country’s civil war.
There’s been no sign yet of a notable number of Syrians making the roughly
1,400 kilometer (870-mile) trek across Turkey to Greece. But the
government in Athens is under pressure to crack down on illegal migration
in general, especially as the country struggles with an economic crisis
whose symptoms include an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.
Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said 1,800 additional officers
had been ordered to the border with Turkey. Greece currently has around
600 border guards in the area, according the Panhellenic Association of
Border Guard Officers. Dendias also said 26 floating barriers will be
placed along the Evros River – known as the Meric River in Turkey – that
divides the two countries.
“There is major concern,” Dendias said when asked about the situation in
Syria, where rights activists estimate more than 19,000 people have been
killed since a popular uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime
began in March 2011.
“With the approval of the prime minister, 1,800 border guards are being
transferred … so that at long last we can attempt to seal the Evros
area. Our aim is to put an end to Greece’s” porous frontier, Dendias said
after meeting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Dendias recently announced that a 10-kilometer fence on the Greek-Turkish
border, costing an estimated (EURO)3.2 million ($3.9 million), would be
completed in October.
Additional details of the new border security plans were to be announced
Tuesday. But the border guard officers’ association sharply criticized
Dendias’ decision, describing it as poorly planned and arguing that
additional policing would have little effect unless plans to build dozens
of immigrant detention centers are carried out first.
“Without other parts of the program in place, the presence of police along
the border does not act as a deterrent. It acts as a magnet,” the
association’s General Secretary Constantine Arzoumanidis told The
Associated Press. “Immigrants know they give themselves up to the police
at the border, and because of the detention space, in a few days they will
be free in Athens.”