From file: Migrants on a rubber dinghy shortly before reaching Greek shores at Skala Sikaminias on the island of Lesbos after having crossed over from Turkey, March 2, 2020 | Photo: Picture-alliance
From file: Migrants on a rubber dinghy shortly before reaching Greek shores at Skala Sikaminias on the island of Lesbos after having crossed over from Turkey, March 2, 2020 | Photo: Picture-alliance

The Greek government in the coming days plans to install a floating barrier to prevent migrant boats from reaching the island of Lesbos, a source at the Greek defense ministry said Tuesday.

The plan to install a floating fence was drawn up in January when the Greek defense ministry published a call for tenders for the installation of a "floating protection system."

The plastic barriers, ordered at that time, have now arrived, and will be deployed in the coming days, the Greek news portal Real reported. The aim is to have the barrier in place by the end of August, a source at the defense ministry told news agency AFP.

The structure will be 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) long, 1.10 meters high and will cost an estimated 500,000 euros ($560,000), AFP reports. It will be equipped with lights to make it visible at a distance of 10 kilometers.

Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers have attempted to enter Greece from neighboring Turkey in recent years in the area where the barrier will be installed, off the northeastern coast of Lebsos.

Rights groups say the plan to install barriers to avert migrant boats is potentially life-threatening, as asylum seekers who travel on overcrowded and unseaworthy boats often need quick and rapid rescue, AFP writes.

Greek security forces use tear gas in the region between Kastanies and Pazarkule, March 8, 2020 | Photo: O. Coban/picture-allianceIncreased border control

Greece in recent months has beefed up surveillance measures along the border with Turkey, responding to an uptick in migrant arrivals and a sudden spike in illegal crossing attempts that happened when, in late February, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not hold back migrants and refugees wishing to get to the EU.

This announcement prompted thousands of migrants to head to Greece. Many gathered along the Evros border area or took makeshift rafts to Greek islands. Greek security forces, using tear gas and rubber bullets to fend off migrants who tried to break through fences and threw stones at Greek police, prevented mass crossings at the land border.

The conservative Greek government in response ordered the expansion of its land border with Turkey and hired hundreds of new border guards. Migration minister Notis Mitarakis has repeatedly said that the government is obliged by the constitution to protect the borders of the country and the EU at sea: "We cannot be an open field without borders." Human rights activists have criticized this as a "push back", dpa writes. 

In recent weeks, reports of alleged push-backs of migrant boats by Greek coast guards have surfaced. Investigative platforms have analyzed video footage and testimonials of migrants who say they were threatened and sabotaged by masked officials, pushed back into international waters. The Greek government denies the claims and the involvement of the coast guard in such illegal activities is hard to prove, DW reported.

With AFP, dpa

 

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