Refugees walking near the Turkish-Greek land border in Edirne, Turkey | Photo: EPA/Tolga Bozoglu
Refugees walking near the Turkish-Greek land border in Edirne, Turkey | Photo: EPA/Tolga Bozoglu

Greece has said more than 1,600 people tried to enter the country from Turkey between Sunday and Monday morning. The Greek government, meanwhile, has decided to construct a new migrant camp to house arrested migrants who crossed into the country irregularly.

On Monday, March 9, Greek authorities said they had prevented 1,646 people from attempting to cross into the country from Turkey between Sunday morning and Monday morning. The statement comes as the migrant crisis at Greece's land border with Turkey continues. According to police, two men -- from Egypt and Morocco -- were arrested.

Thousands of migrants have been fighting with border and police forces while attempting to enter EU member state Greece since Turkish authorities stated on February 28 that they would no longer prevent them from leaving Turkey -- a move which goes against the so-called EU-Turkey deal.

The 2016 pact between the European Union and Turkey, which hosts more than 3.5 million refugees, obligated Turkey to take back migrants who pass through its territory to prevent them from crossing into Greece irregularly.

New migrant camp

Greece's government has given the go-ahead to construct a new ''closed'' migrant camp around 300 kilometers from the Greek-Turkish border marked by the Evros river. The aim of the facility is to house any migrants arrested for attempting to cross into the country.

The camp will be built near the city of Serres in the northern Greek municipality of Sintiki. Unlike the government's plans to build similar camps on the Greek islands, which prompted violent protests from locals, the move for the camp near Serres was unanimously decided by the municipal council.

People will be housed temporarily until they are returned to their country of origin.

'Open your gates'

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has criticized Greece's stance, urged Greek authorities to "open your gates" to refugees and migrants, adding that Greece does not have to carry the burden and can let people go on to other European countries.

In the meantime, a video has been broadcast on Greek television showing Turkish border patrol vehicles attempting to pull down border fences. On Friday, Greek border authorities released a statement about a video depicting a "Turkish armored border surveillance vehicle" as it pulls down part of the border fence with a rope.

According to the video, the vehicle in question is a "HIZAR/ATES," which is allegedly equipped with "instruments that allow it to monitor the border (day and night). Turkey obtained these vehicles from May to August 2019, with 75 percent of the program financed by European funds. It has a powerful engine and climbing capabilities."

Tension on Aegean islands runs high

Meanwhile, the situation on Greece's Northeast Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos -- which have been at the center of the migrant crisis since 2015 -- continues to deteriorate. Frustrated and exhausted by the lingering problems from the 2015 crisis, Greeks who were once generous with refugees recently started turning hostile, with some acting violently.

What's more, the Greek coast guard has been turning away boats carrying migrants from the Turkish coast, locals are trying to block migrant vessels, and far-right extremist groups have carried out violent protests.

On Lesbos and Chios, authorities have reported an increase in violent attacks on both migrants and NGO workers. A fire also broke out at the 'One Happy Family' refugee facility on Lesvos over the weekend which completely destroyed the organization's school building opposite the Kara Tepe camp, which hosts around 1,500 people, mostly from vulnerable groups such as women with young children and people with serious health problems.

Fires at migrant facilities

On Sunday, a fire broke out at a migrant community center on the island of Lesbos and caused considerable damage to a warehouse but no injuries, Greece's firefighting service said on Sunday.

It was the second fire at an installation built for migrants, after a reception center was burned down by unknown perpetrators last Monday. The warehouse, which contained furniture and electrical appliances, was completely destroyed, a firefighting service spokesman told the Associated Press news agency. An investigation into the fire is ongoing.

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