Greek official says fence on border with Turkey should be dismantled
A senior politician from the left-wing Syriza party, calling the presence of the 12-kilometer-long barbed wire fence on the Greek-Turkish border “shameful,” has said that the fence should be dismantled.
Giorgos Chondros, a member of the executive board of Syriza, speaking to the APA news agency on Tuesday, said that the presence of a fence on the Greek border, which was built to keep out irregular immigrants trying to cross into Greek territory, is a source of disgrace for a democratic country such as theirs.
“Greece is a gateway to Europe,” said Chondros, adding that sealing off the European border with barbed wire fence sends a negative message to the world.
Chondros also said that Greece will abandon its restrictive measures against illegal migrants.
“The asylum policy [of Greece] will be fundamentally changed. We will give a message not only for Greece but for Europe as well,” said Chondros.
The barbed wire fence has been a source of debate as human rights associations have argued that its presence pushes irregular migrants to attempt risky boat crossings.
While most of the 206 km Greek-Turkish border follows Evros River, there is a stretch of dry land where the fence was installed.
Greece had announced plans to build the fence in 2010, but due to lack of funds the construction of the fence didn’t begin until 2012.
Greece has been a major gateway for illegal migrants — mostly from Africa and the Middle East — into the EU.
The Greek Coast Guard announced last year that in the first eight months of 2014, 17,000 undocumented migrants — over half of them Syrian — were detained. The figure was 55 percent higher than the number of detained migrants during the same period in 2013.
The Greek Coast Guard has also rescued 6,421 migrants since the start of 2014, up 156 percent from a year ago. Around 50 have drowned in their attempt to cross the Greek sea borders.
Greece has long complained of getting little money and support from the EU authorities to deal with the steady influx of migrants from Asia and Africa, a situation exacerbated by the country’s debt crisis that nearly left it bankrupt in 2012.
The Greek Coast Guard says Europe’s border control agency Frontex contributed 2.2 million euros last year while Athens has spent nearly three times as much each month to maintain its maritime patrolling unit.
Italy is another EU Mediterranean country that has grappled with a migrant influx.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that 160,000 people crossed into Italy with boats between January and November 2014 and a further 40,000 landed in Greece. Thousands have died attempting the journey.
Most tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea, departing from the Libyan coast in small, unseaworthy, overcrowded boats run by criminal gangs.