Aerostats are to be deployed to monitor the northern Greek border by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
A trial period of four months will begin in August, and the first of two blimps has already been roaming the skies near Alexandroupoli airport since last Friday.
Blimps to surveil Greek border
Frontex has worked with the Greek Coast Guard before to test blimps, also called aerostats, for border control usage and has found them to be effective for maritime borders. The first trial run, which was completed on the island of Samos in 2019, yielded positive results.
Beginning in August, a second round of tests shall begin, with one blimp being placed at Alexandroupoli and one on the northern Aegean island of Lemnos.
The type of aerostats being deployed to patrol the Greek border are rigid, or “Zeppelin” style airships, which use an internal frame to maintain structural integrity rather than relying on gas to do so.
The specific model, the result of a collaboration between a French and a German company, is named “Eagle Owl.” They are fitted with radar and thermal imaging cameras and are able to patrol at a height of 300 meters (984 feet). The Zeppelin’s cameras are state-of-the-art, and have a range of 16 kilometers (10 miles).
The hope is that these cameras and airships will allow the Hellenic Coast Guard to have more information on the movements and migration occurring both across the maritime border and the northern land border between Greece and Turkey.
However, the price of the program is fairly steep, with the Greek government releasing that the cost of leasing the two Zeppelins exceeds three million euros.
Over the next four months, the blimps will fly at different altitudes to test their effectiveness in detecting illegal border crossings as well as their ability to support rescue operations at sea and in the fight against cross-border crime.
Migrant trafficking in Greece tied to NGO members
Ten foreign activists — including four NGO members — were recently detained for illegal migrant trafficking in Greece. The group attempted to help migrants gain entry into Greece from neighboring Turkey through the Aegean Islands, according to Greek police.
The four NGO members include a Norwegian, two Britons, and an American. Two Syrians and four Afghans, who are not NGO members, are also part of the group.
The Greek police held a press conference at Lesvos on Monday where they said that the group had been “providing substantial assistance to organized illegal migrant trafficking rings” for over a year.
The group claims that their actions were motivated by a desire to help migrants reach the country safely as refugees. They used protected social media groups to assist the migrants in traveling from Turkey to Greece. Despite the groups’ motives, the Greek police said that they relied on illegal trafficking networks to get people into Greece.