Greece and Turkey fortify borders, fearing refugees from Afghanistan

Preparing for possible migration pressure from Turkey in the coming weeks due to events in Afghanistan, the border guard, coast guard and military are developing plans to strengthen the protection of the land border on Evros and in the eastern Aegean Sea.

This issue was on the agenda on Wednesday at a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA), discussed measures similar to those implemented in March 2020, during the crisis on the border of Evros.

Police sources told Katimerini journalists that the construction of the 27-kilometer fence on Evros, as well as the installation and operation of an automated border surveillance system, have already been completed.

Corresponding statements are expected in September. The system includes 11 new cameras and radars. It has the ability to monitor Turkey to a depth of 15 kilometers and transmit images to the Greek Police Operations Centers (ELAS) along the border.

At the same time, police chiefs in the area emphasized that they had already decided to increase patrolling and surveillance at the border, adding that over the previous 24 hours they had assessed the operational means at their disposal, such as tear gas and flash grenades.

A police source said that drones have been activated to monitor the border and that the military is expected to increase its presence in the area in the coming days.

Likewise, the Coast Guard is expected to continue deploying personnel and assets in the eastern Aegean in the near future. It is noted that, if conditions require it, it will implement a plan similar to the one in March 2020. “We need to make it clear that our position will be decisive,” said a senior official.

There are also proposals to suspend the asylum process, as was the case during the recent crisis with Turkey. However, migration flows across land and sea borders are now described as “normal for summer”.

The government will also take initiatives for a common strategy for the EU countries, which, in the event of a general crisis, will be designed to cope with migration pressures and motivate Turkey to restrict flows to Europe.

Photo: Afghan and Pakistani migrants sit in the countryside in Tatvan in the Bitlis province of eastern Turkey, Wednesday. Turkey is concerned about increased migration across the Turkish-Iranian border as Afghans flee the Taliban advance in their country. [Эмра Гурель / AP]

Turkey urgently strengthens border with Iran

It’s worth noting that, fearing a new refugee crisis, Turkey is also sending soldiers to fortify its border with Iran to stem a potential influx of Afghans fleeing Taliban insurgents.

Irregular arrivals are on the rise as migrants who fled Afghanistan a few weeks and months ago find themselves in Turkey’s rugged border zone after a long crossing through Iran. A group of Afghans that the Associated Press met near the border said they deserted from the military and fled the country when the Taliban advance intensified.

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected warnings and criticism from opposition parties about the increase in the number of migrants from Afghanistan. Erdogan acknowledged this week that Turkey is facing a new wave of refugees from Afghanistan and said his government will work with Pakistan to try to restore stability to a war-torn country (read NATO). Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the border with Iran is being strengthened by troops and that the construction of a wall on the border is nearing completion.

Turkey is already home to about 4 million migrants, most of whom are Syrians who fled the civil war in the neighboring country. Anti-immigration sentiment has already peaked in the country as it grapples with economic problems, including high unemployment, which are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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