Greece toughens border security to head off earthquake refugees

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Concerns that the recent earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria on Feb. 6 could prompt a new wave of migrants fleeing to Europe has led to Greece ramping up its border security, The Observer reported.

Notis Mitarachi, Greece’s migration minister, said his country had deployed hundreds of additional guards to the Turkish land border in Evros, and would procure a number of new patrol boats for the Aegean. “The mass movement of millions of people is not a solution” to the crisis, he added.

At least 50,000 people are known to have died in the disaster, with many hundreds of thousands left homeless and in need of aid.

Mitarachi said Greece intended to press ahead with a 22-mile barrier wall and fence system in Evros regardless of EU support.

He added that greater surveillance infrastructure and aid for the earthquake-hit zone were essential to maintain the security of Europe’s borders.

“The fence will be extended along the entire length of the (Evros) river so that we can protect the European continent from illegal flows,” Mitarachi said. “It is at this point crucial for Europe to decide what type of migration policy we want, and more specifically what type of border management we want. “Clearly, we need to offer asylum to people in need of protection, but in an orderly way … Today, unfortunately, instead of us being proactive in asylum management, it is people-smugglers who sell places in our societies — not to those most in need but to those who pay the fees.”

Greece’s stance against migrants trying to enter its territory from Turkiye has hardened under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and has included the controversial policies of forcible evictions and maritime pushbacks of migrant vessels in Greek waters. —AN