Greece has announced a further extension of its border fence with Turkey, aimed at stopping migrants. The government also repeated a call for Europe to show "solidarity and a fair sharing of duties."
Greece's 37.5 kilometer-long border fence with Turkey is to be extended by another 35 kilometers, Minister of Civil Protection Takis Theodorikakos told ambassadors from the European Union, Switzerland and the UK on Saturday (January 21).
Greece ultimately wants the five-meter high steel fence on the Evros River (called Meric in Turkey) to cover most of the 192-kilometer border. The new fence will cost around €100 million and will be financed by the Greek budget, the minister said.
Thedorikakos was speaking to the ambassadors as he took them on a guided tour of the border wall in the country's northeast, Greek state television ERT reported.
The minister stressed to the 28 envoys that Greece's border is also the EU's external border.
"The task (of protecting the border) needs the support ... of European public opinion, the European Union itself and its constituent members individually," Theodorikakos said.
"It is our steadfast position that member states of first reception cannot be (the migrants') only European destinations.
"There must be solidarity among member states and a fair sharing of duties...close coordination is a must," he added.
Echoing the Greek minister, Cypriot Ambassador Kyriakos Kenevezos urged for "understanding'' from countries that do not have external EU borders, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
UK Ambassador Matthew Lodge, meanwhile, said the priority is to "protect the human life and dignity endangered by the criminal trafficking networks." He added that, even though the UK is no longer an EU member, "We are closely cooperating."
Frontex cracks down on migrants in Greece
According to Theodorikakos, every day around 400 people from Turkey arrive in Greece and continue on to wealthier EU countries.
Greek border guards on the Evros River last year stopped more than 260,000 migrants trying to cross. Greek authorities said some 1,500 suspected smugglers were arrested .
Frontex, the bloc's border protection agency, will deploy a further 400 border guards in Greece (250 of them in February) to its existing 1,800-member force, Theodorikakos said.
Human rights organizations accuse Athens and the EU of deporting migrants. Turkey accuses Greece of migrant pushbacks while some European members have expressed concerns that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could encourage a mass exodus to the EU.
With AP and dpa