Greece wants anti-migrant fence around Lesbos
Greece says it wants to build a floating barrier to hamper migrants crossing the Aegean Sea.
A 3km fence off the Greek island of Lesbos could be erected in the next few months if a construction firm is found.
The rising numbers of arrivals by sea to Lesbos and other Greek islands through Turkey have created severe overcrowding at refugee camps.
Last year, 59,726 migrants reached Greece’s by sea, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, with nearly 80 per cent arriving at Chios, Samos and Lesbos.
In 2015 close to a million migrants landed on beaches in Lesbos, which is one of the closest islands to the Turkish mainland.
An agreement with Turkey sharply reduced the numbers attempting the crossing in 2016 but the Greek islands still struggle with overcrowding.
The new right-wing Greek government said it wanted a net barrier, rising 50cm above the water with flashing lights. A government document is inviting bids for the contract.
The defence ministry said it had allocated €500,000 for the contract, including four years of maintenance.
The government specifications describe a “floating barrier …. with non-military specifications” and “specific features for carrying out the mission of managing the refugee crisis”.
If the barrier proves successful, it could be extended.
Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, told Skai Radio: “In Evros, natural barriers had relative [effective] results in containing flows.” This is a reference to the barbed-wire topped fence that Greece erected on its land border with Turkey in 2012. “We believe a similar result can be had with these floating barriers. We are trying to find solutions to reduce flows.”
A Greek government representative said: “This contract process will be executed by the defence ministry but is for civilian use – a process similar to that used for the supply of other equipment for housing refugees.”
The nationalist government, which took power last summer, has promised to take a tougher stance on the migrants. It said it would open detention centres for those denied asylum and to speed up deportation to Turkey.
Amnesty International said the Lesbos plan only increased dangers for migrants.
“This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum seekers,” said Massimo Moratti of the NGO. “The plan raises serious issues about rescuers’ ability to continue providing life-saving assistance to people attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Lesbos. The government must urgently clarify the operational details and necessary safeguards to ensure that this system does not cost further lives.”
Picture credit: Wikimedia