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Greece to build wall on Turkey border to stop immigrants

03. January 2011. | 07:18

Source: Today's Zaman

Greece is planning to build a 206-kilometer-long fence on its border with Turkey to keep out illegal immigrants trying to cross into Greek territory, a minister has said.

Greece is planning to build a 206-kilometer-long fence on its border with Turkey to keep out illegal immigrants trying to cross into Greek territory, a minister has said.

“Greek society has reached its limits in taking in illegal immigrants,” Greece’s minister in charge of immigration affairs, Christos Papoutsis, told the Athens news agency on Saturday.

“Greece can’t take it anymore. We plan to build a barrier on the land border to block unauthorized immigration.” Papoutsis did not give details as to when fence construction will begin. He said it will be similar to the wall between the US and the Mexico.

The Turkish-Greek border is one of the most popular destinations for illegal immigrants from countries such as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan who are trying to reach Europe. Nine out of 10 illegal immigrants now use Greece as their springboard into the EU, and the debt-choked country is struggling to cope with swelling numbers at its northern border. In November, the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, said arrivals of illegal migrants jumped by 369 percent to over 31,000 at Greece’s land border with Turkey in the nine months of 2010 through September. On all other European borders, illegal immigration dropped in the same period.

In October Greece became the first country to request intervention by Frontex, which was created in 2007. Greece received 200 Frontex agents in November, driving the number of illegal immigrant arrests down from 250 to 140 daily.

Greek officials say Turkey is not doing enough to stop people from crossing illegally to Greece, and Turkey’s refusal to take back immigrants who have crossed from its territory encourages would-be migrants to use that route.

Frontex Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias-Fernandez said in November that the Greek-Turkish border had become for many a safer and cheaper route to the EU rather than crossing the Mediterranean. “The main problem in tackling this flow of illegal immigration into Greece is on one hand the little, not to say lack of, cooperation from the Turkish side,” Arias-Fernandez told a news conference.

Turkey is negotiating with the EU a deal for readmission of illegal immigrants and authorities say there has been progress in negotiations.

Turkish authorities have declined to publicly comment on Greece’s decision to build a fence on the border. Foreign Ministry officials said it was up to Greece to take measures it deems necessary to secure its borders, according to a report in the Sabah newspaper.

Illegal immigrants arrested by border police are placed in detention camps, which are bursting at the seams. Human rights groups have criticized both Greece’s asylum policy and the conditions in its detention camps.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly urged Greece to ensure its efforts to fight illegal immigration do not harm legitimate asylum seekers, including Afghans, Iraqis, and Somalis, who are often among migrants crossing at its border.


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