The Greek government announced its final plans to extend and strengthen the wall along a section of the Turkish border on Monday, October 19. The wall is expected to cost €63 million and will extend the existing barrier by about 26 kilometers.
Stelios Petsas, the Greek Government spokesperson announced on Monday that the government had finalized its plans to extend and strengthen a section of the wall along the Greek-Turkish border.
Most of the Greek-Turkish border winds along or near the river Evros. The new wall will extend the existing barrier by about 26 kilometers, according to Petsas, and will strenghten an existing 10 kilometer section of fence, reported the news agency Associated Press (AP).
The project, which will involve four Greek construction companies, has been estimated to cost about €63 million and is expected to be completed by the end of April 2021.
Earlier this year, the Greek and Turkish governments were at loggerheads after the Turkish government announced it would stop preventing migrants from crossing the borders to Greece and thus letting migrants through to the EU.
There were reports that Turkish authorities then bused thousands to the border, in the hope of crossing. According to AP, tens of thousands did attempt the crossing, although many were stopped by Greek forces and the natural river barrier.
Relations between Greece and Turkey are historically tense and at the moment, apart from the migration issue, the two countries are also in dispute over energy rights in the Mediterranean. Some analysts fear conflict after both sides have built up their military capabilities.
On Tuesday, October 20, Stelios Petsas tweeted in Greek on his Twitter feed that the Greek government would respond to Turkey with "a cool head." According to Google translate, his tweet read: "Petsas: We respond to Turkish challenges with cool confidence."
Five meters high
This new section of wall, according to AP, will be five meters high and be made using galvanized square steel tubes, with concrete foundations. AP reported that police officials had told them that a "surveillance camera network was also planned to cover the entire 192 kilometer Greek-Turkish border."
Police have also started trialing "high-powered mobile sirens, aimed at deterring migrants as they cross," wrote AP. Ilias Akidis, the head of the police officers’ association in the Greek border region, told AP: "The cameras will be a vital resource for us. We have been asking for them for five years and we think they will be very effective."
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited a section of the new wall on Saturday to view a "test installation."
The Daily Sabah, based in Istanbul, added that Mitsotakis' office had promised the prime minister would visit the wall again before April, as the barrier nears completion. The Daily Sabah added that the prime minister's briefing note had also outlined plans to hire an extra 400 border guards to police the new sections.
The Daily Sabah said that the mobile sirens were "Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD)" and described them in their article as "soundwave guns" to stop "crowds of migrants from crossing to Greece by foot or by boat." The newspaper claims LRADs are sonic weapons and have been heavily criticized for their use in crowd control because they "can cause hearing damage." The paper admits, however, that they are used by law enforcement units in the UK, the US, the Czech Republic, Japan, Poland and Spain.
Arrivals in Greece: 2020
Since the border stand-offs in spring this year, the Greek have introduced a much tougher policing regime, that and the restrictions on travel placed on all countries during the COVID-19 pandemic have seen a fall in the number of migrants traveling between Turkey and Greece, compared to previous years.
According to the latest data by the UN refugee agency UNHCR which was updated at the end of September 2020, 3,709 migrants arrived over the land border between Turkey and Greece this year and 9,115 arrived by sea. In 2019, for the whole year, those numbers were at 14,887 for land arrivals and 59,726 for those coming by sea to the Greek islands.
The vast majority of arrivals this year in Greece have been people coming from Afghanistan, at about 38.1% of the migrant population. Syrians are the next largest group, accounting for about 23.9% of the migrant arrivals.