Greece completes wall on border with Turkey as Afghan migrant fears grow
Greece said on Friday (August 20) it had completed a 40-kilometre fence on its natural border with Turkey, and a new surveillance system was in place, amid concerns that the Taliban's take-over of Afghanistan could lead to increased migration flows to Europe.
The conflict in Afghanistan has fuelled fears in Europe of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, when nearly a million people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and beyond crossed to Greece from Turkey before continuing to other EU states.
Greece, on the front line of that crisis, has said its border forces are on alert to make sure it does not become Europe's gateway again.
"We examined ways to enhance surveillance and protection systems," said Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos during a tour of the border with Greece's citizens protection minister and military officials, adding, "This plan is being implemented and being carried out at a fast and intensified pace in view of the developments outside the borders of the country."
The two ministers inspected the completion of an extension of the existing fence along the river border with Turkey, which began last year, and the implementation of a hi-tech, automated electronic monitoring system.
EU border agency Frontex is assisting Greece along its land and sea borders, currently testing an aerostat surveillance aircraft balloon in Evros along with other new technology to detect migrants.
"The Afghan crisis is creating possibilities for migrant flows. We cannot wait, passively, for the possible impact," Citizens' Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with Turkey's president, Tayyip Erdogan, on Friday.
Erdogan said on Thursday Turkey had also taken measures along its border with Iran and his country would not become "Europe's migrant storage unit".
Greece, where some 60,000 migrants remain since 2015, has hardened its migration policy in recent months by fencing off its migrant camps and intensifying border patrols by land and sea. Migrant arrivals to Greece have overall slowed to a trickle since 2016, when the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to stem the flows in exchange for financial support.
(Production: Vassilis Triandafyllou, Deborah Kyvrikosaios)