The Evros River runs along much of the frontier between Greece and Turkey. It was just one of the many obstacles which stood in between the Al Khawien family's reunion | Photo: DW
The Evros River runs along much of the frontier between Greece and Turkey. It was just one of the many obstacles which stood in between the Al Khawien family's reunion | Photo: DW

Frontex is resorting to cutting-edge technology to stop people smugglers from getting migrants into Greece. There are fears, however, that this will drive migrants into resorting to using the more dangerous Aegean Sea route.

The EU border protection agency Frontex has started to use an airship to control the land border between Greece and Turkey. Much of that border runs along the river Evros. The aircraft is equipped with thermal cameras and other observation devices, according to Greek state radio broadcaster ERT. Its operations will be coordinated with Greek authorities.

Reports of the use of airship, drones and other air surveillance measures were also flagged up by a civil rights blogger Matthias Monroy on his site digit.so36.net earlier in July. He tweeted some pictures of some of the technology via his Twitter feed.

The technology is supposed to help combat traffickers in the north-east of Greece who smuggle migrants into Greece — and thus into the European Union — using irregular border crossings.

Strengthening 'Europe’s shield'

The information transmitted by the unmanned aircraft will be forwarded in real time to Frontex and to the Greek authorities along the border between the two countries, which is demarcated by the Evros river.

There have been dramatic scenes along that border in the past — most recently in February 2020, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his country's border with the EU open in retaliation for his lack of satisfaction with the EU. Thousands of migrants made their way from Turkey to Greece at the time.

Greek border guards had to reinforce the border fence and even make use of tear gas to repel migrants from entering the country. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked the Greeks at the time for being "Europe's shield."

A delicate border

According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, around 2,700 migrants have crossed the border at the Evros river since the beginning of this year. 

In 2020, just under 6,000 people entered the country without papers, while in 2019 — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — that number stood at around 15,000.

Many more migrants in Turkey, however, try to reach Greek soil by attempting to cross the Aegean Sea in boats. There have been reports of illegal pushbacks at sea as well as repeated fatalities. There are concerns that the number of sea migrants might rise if attempts to cross the Evros river become increasingly unsuccessful.

with dpa

 

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