Greece announced on Friday it will expand the border fence at Evros on the border with Turkey by 80 kilometers (50 miles) to prevent illegal crossings by migrants.
The announcement was made by Notis Mitarakis, the Greek Migration and Asylum minister, in an interview with SKAI radio during which he noted that Greece cannot be a free-for-all.
The Minister said that “humanitarianism is very important, but there are millions of people who want to get into the EU because of the inequalities in the world.”
“We cannot talk about a closed Europe, but we also cannot have a Europe where it’s the traffickers who decide who gets in,” he said.
Evros River border immigrants and refugees intensify need for expansion
The move comes after the recent rescue of irregular immigrants from a small islet on the Evros River. There have been claims that the islet is Greek territory, but army ordinance and the cadaster maps show otherwise.
“The constant patrolling in the Aegean and the fence in Evros force the traffickers to find other routes, [instrumentalizing] in parallel the islets of Evros,” Mitarakis added.
In regards to refugee flows in Greece, he said that last year in 2021, Greece had the lowest number of arrivals in the last decade with 8,500 refugees. This year is expected to be the second lowest year in arrivals in the last decade with arrivals currently standing at seven thousand.
The migration minister revealed that from the 121 hosting facilities that existed in Greece, only thirty-four of them are operating today.
“Currently, we have 52 thousand hosting positions through Greece with only 18,000 of them occupied,” he said, adding that “a major decongestion has been achieved in the last years.”
High migrants numbers were recorded at Evros land borders with Turkey
The latest data published by the Hellenic Police on Tuesday showed a sharp increase in the number of undocumented migrants entering the country in the May to July 2022 trimester compared to the same time period in 2021.
In releasing its seven-month statistics, the police said particularly high numbers were recorded at the Evros land borders with Turkey, where most human traffickers were arrested.
Of a total of 386 traffickers arrested at land or sea borders from January to July 2022, 312 were apprehended in the Evros region.
Of the traffickers, 219 were arrested in the last three months between May to July 2022, marking an increase of 58.7 percent over the same three months in 2021.