The Greek government has said it will renew a request for EU funds in 2022 to extend the border wall along its frontier with Turkey. It also wants to expand its surveillance network to stop migrants from entering the country irregularly.
The Greek 'minister of citizen protection' told a parliamentary committee that Greece expects some countries bordering the EU to continue to exploit migration to exert political pressure on European Union member states. The minister cited the recent crisis in Belarus on its border with Poland and other EU members.
"We have every reason to expect that these kinds of threats will continue,'' Takis Theodorikakos said during the parliamentary briefing held Friday and made public Monday (December 12).
Greece, which shares a land border with non-EU country Turkey, has toughened its migration policy in recent years. A 26-kilometer extension of a steel border wall was introduced recently. The barrier now spans 38 kilometers.
"We believe the security on our own borders is linked to the security of the EU,'' Theodorikakos said.
Long-range cameras and surveillance sensors
New surveillance technology will be operational in early 2022, Theodorikakos said. A control center will process data from newly-built border surveillance towers which are equipped with long-range cameras and multiple sensors, according to the minister.
The system is driven by artificial intelligence and is reportedly aimed at tracking multiple incidents using data from surveillance sensors and then flagging those considered the most serious to border guard officers.
"This automated system gives us many operational advantages and helps us monitor the entire border region,'' the minister said.
In October, the Greek interior minister as well as his counterparts in eleven other EU member states including Poland and Lithuania, have asked the European Commission to pay for physical barriers to curb irregular migration.
Number of arrivals down
According to minister Theodorikakos, the wall and detection network helped prevent more than 143,000 irregular crossing attempts on the Greek-Turkish land border over eight months this year through October -- a 45% increase from a year earlier.
According to UN migration agency IOM, 4,267 migrants have arrived in Greece so far this year by land and by sea. Last year saw close to 15,000 arrivals.
The government denies repeated allegations by human rights and migrant advocacy groups as well as investigations by media outlets that the border interceptions include illegal summary deportations known as pushbacks.