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Greece Defends Use of Sound Cannons to Deter Migrants at Borders

Greece sound cannons migrants
Greek police use tear gas and sound cannons to stop migrant border crossings at Evros. Credit: AFP

Greece defended its use of sound cannons to stop migrants crossing at the Turkish border on Wednesday amidst European Union criticism of the practice.

Long-range acoustic devices (LRADs) are being used by Greece at its Evros border post to stop illegal migrants from approaching it from Turkey.

Greece’s use of sound cannons to deter migrants controversial

Following complaints and concerns by the EU about Greece’s tactics at its borders, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, defended the Greek police following a meeting with the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson in Brussels.

Speaking with journalists, Mitarachi said, “I will not talk about operational issues that affect the Hellenic police. What the police does they have to do it in their own way.”

Although the meeting between the pair was meant to discuss the migration situation in Greece, both parties stated publicly that the issue of sound cannons being used against migrants was not referenced.

Greece has been affected very strongly by the migration and refugee crises and currently hosts about 10,000 asylum-seekers in camps set up on islands near Turkey.

There have been questions surrounding the morality of Greece’s use of sound cannons against migrants, which have been brought up both by the EU and by various rights groups.

“This is an odd way to protect your borders. This is nothing that has been funded by the European Commission. And I do hope that this is in line with fundamental rights – but that of course has to be clarified,” Johansson said of the issue.

Mitarachi seemed to wish to keep Europe happy, which is reflected in his statements following the meeting.

He said that “our view is that we will use technology in any way that is not in violation of international law” in order to protect Greece’s borders.

“The critical question is, everything we do needs to be effective, and in line with EU regulations,” Mitarachi concluded.

Use of sound cannons unethical?

It seems that many groups are concerned about the force of sound cannons and the effects they may have on people attempting to cross the border.

The LRADs are fitted to armored trucks and can emit a sound so deafening that it is comparable to that of a jet engine. At 162 decibels, the powerful sound waves may cause pain and shock to the human body.

The EU is not alone in its concern with rights groups also warning of the harmful and perhaps unethical impact of sound cannons.

In a statement on June 3, the EU-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor condemned the use of sound cannons at Greece’s border, branding it “dangerous, experimental and discriminatory.”

The human rights monitor warned that the use of such devices to deter asylum seekers from crossing risks turning the EU into a “‘digital fortress’ that inhumanely keeps people on the move afraid and away.

“The removal of migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum is illegal under both European and international law,” it noted.

The Euro-Med Monitor called on Greece and Europe to “immediately adopt and strengthen human rights-based equality and non-discrimination approaches to the use of digital border technologies, including human rights impact assessments as a prerequisite for their deployment, in line with international standards”.

It also warns that the long-range acoustic devices’ system can be employed also as a method of crowd control in riots and protests, and its strong sound waves can be used to deter and harm wildlife in strategic places like airport runways, gas and oil platforms, and industrial and energy plants.

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