Photo: AP/Nikolas Giakoumidis
In a bid to curb the number of illegal immigrants that enter the country, Greece has begun construction on a 6 mile-long, 13 foot-tall barbed-wire-topped fence along its border with Turkey, EUObserver reports.The fence — to be completed in September in the Evros region on the Greek-Turkish border — will be equipped with a network of night-vision cameras providing live feed to a new command centre, according to Greek newspaper ENet. The project will cost cash-strapped Greece about €5.5 million ($7.3 million).
Greece is one of the 26 EU nations part of the Schengen Area, which has external border controls but none within the zone. And since Greece is on the edge of the area, and Turkey has not signed the Schengen Agreement, Greece is required to maintain its border controls, according to the AP.
To make matters more complicated, Turkey’s lax visa requirements mean that nationals from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Jordan, Libya, and Iran do not need a visa to enter Turkey, making Greece the most common illegal entrypoint into Europe. The Greek-Turkish border is 180 kilometers (112 miles) long.
While the European Commission called the fence a national issue, it criticised it as being a “pointless” short-term solution.
Christos Papoustis, a former European commissioner and currently Greece’s minister for citizen protection said the fence has both “practical and symbolic value.” “Traffickers should know that this route will be closed to them. Their life is about to get much harder,” he said.
According to official figures, around 55,000 migrants were arrested in the area last year Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports.
NGOs are worried that fencing off the land border will divert refugees fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East to more dangerous routes in the Balkans or Ukraine, the EUObserver says.
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