Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Greeks build fence to ward off asylum seekers

  • The fence is designed to deter people (Photo: Pulpolux)

Greece has started construction of a 12.6-km-long razor-wire-topped fence designed to keep out migrants, but described as "pointless" by the European Commission.

The fence, costing an estimated €5.5 million, is being built in the Evros region on the Greek-Turkish border where the vast majority of irregular migrants try to cross into the EU. It is to be completed in September.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The European Commission on Tuesday (7 February) said the fence is a national issue. But it also poured scorn on the project. "Fences and walls are short-term solutions to measures that do not solve the problem. The EU is not and will not co-finance this fence ... It is pointless," a spokesman for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told press in Brussels.

Just one day earlier, Christos Papoustis, a former European commissioner and currently Greece's minister for citizen protection had said the fence has both "practical and symbolic value."

The Greek-Turkish border is for the most part a 180-kilometre-long river patrolled in part by Frontex, the EU's Warsaw-based border control agency. Near the city of Orestiada, the river loops east and runs for about 12 kilometres on the Turkish side, with the Greek-Turkish land border located in this loop.

In January, some 2,800 migrants tried to cross through the strip, down from around 6,000 a month in summer. Most people come from Afghanistan, followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh and most claim asylum or refugee status. Migrants from North Africa are the second largest group, with Algerians and Moroccans the most numerous.

The perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, which killed almost 1,500 people last year, makes the Greek-Turkish crossing a more attractive alternative.

But the land border is not without its fatalities. In mid-January, the corpse of an unidentified Asian man was found near Orestiada. A week later, a young Palestinian died after being rescued from an islet in the Evros river. A few days later, an African woman was found dead on the riverbank. All had apparently died from hypothermia, Frontex said.

Turkey's visa-free regime with some countries also makes the border a crossing of choice, Benjamin Ward of Human Rights Watch told this website from New York - nationals from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Jordan, Libya and Iran do not need a visa to enter Turkey.

Ward said the real problem is not the flow of people but the fact that Greece does not have the capacity to cope and that EU asylum rules - the so-called Dublin regulation - make matters worse.

Under EU law, the entry-point member state is alone responsible for handling a person's asylum case and other member states must return asylum seekers to the entry-point spot if they find them.

"The migration problem can only be resolved by addressing Greece's crisis in its own internal asylum system and EU agreement to reform the Dublin regulation that puts an unfair burden on Greece," Ward said.

He noted in his blog the Greek asylum system is so dysfunctional that in 2010, out of the first 30,000 applications considered, just 11 were approved.

A number of recent decisions back up his analysis. In January last year the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg urged members not to transfer asylum seekers back to Greece because they face ill treatment. In November, Germany put transfers to Greece on hold. In December, the EU court in Luxembourg said people cannot be transferred to other EU countries where they face "inhuman and degrading treatment" - the ruling was in the case of an Afghan man who entered Greece and made his way to the UK.

Meanwhile, NGOs fear that fencing off the land border will divert refugees - such as families fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Syria - to more dangerous routes in the western Balkans or Ukraine.

"It would be a tragedy if this actually worked as it would prevent refugees from seeking protection and this would constitute a violation of their human rights," Allen Leas, the head of the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles said.

Greece blasts EU 'hypocrisy' for opposing Turkey wall plans

Athens on Sunday has slammed the "hypocrisy" of unspecified EU member states criticising its plans to erect a wall on the border with Turkey, while at the same time denouncing its incapacity to stem irregular migration. Meanwhile, neighbouring Bulgaria claims its own Turkish frontier is "safer" than the Greek one.

Asylum seekers flock to EU safe haven

Fewer than 10,000 asylum seekers registered in Greece last year, but its handling of the EU border with Turkey has come under fire from fellow member states.

Investigation

Fortress Europe: a Greek wall close up

A 12.5km fence rolled with barbwire along the Greek Turkish border is part of a larger initiative to secure Europe from migrants seeking a better life.

Greece struggling to manage asylum seekers

Nearly 30,000 irregular border crossings were detected on Europe’s external borders in the last three months of 2011, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

News in Brief

  1. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  2. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'
  3. EU values not negotiable, German FM tells Poland
  4. Audit warns 840 French bridges at risk of collapse
  5. Fashion king pours money into campaign for second Brexit vote
  6. Germany could aid Turkey, SPD leader hints
  7. UK government set to publish no-deal Brexit advice
  8. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants

Opinion

The systemic risk that Europe has to face

One of the biggest systemic risks across Europe, illustrated by Hungary and Poland, is the dominance of the executive power over the judiciary and informal channels of political dependency.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  2. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  3. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  4. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  5. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  6. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  7. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  8. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us