Greece begins work on Turkish border fence

Greece has begun construction and reinforcement work on a fence along its border with Turkey, following a surge in migrants seeking to reach the European Union in March, Greek daily Kathimerini reported on Wednesday.

The project will cost 62.9 million euros, and is expected to eventually reach a length of 27 km, with elevation points for the Greek military. The border is 212 km long in total.

Tensions in the area reached a peak last March after Turkish authorities announced they would no longer stop any attempts to cross into Europe through the Greek border. In response, Greece temporarily suspended asylum applications and forcibly pushed back onto Turkish territory thousands of people waiting on the no-man’s-land between the two neighbours.

The Greek border guard will hire 100 more recruits “to shield the region from illegal migration and crime,” Kathimerini said on Saturday, citing Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis.

Greece also recently deployed Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD), to the border region as a non-lethal deterrent.

Migration has been at the forefront of contention between Turkey and its EU neighbours in recent years. Turkey is home to more than 4 million refugees, predominantly from Syria, many of whom have sought to travel onwards to the EU.

In 2016, Ankara agreed to accept the return of anyone whose appeal for asylum was rejected after entering the EU through Turkey, in exchange for EU funding and support for refugee services. However, Turkish officials have repeatedly threatened to suspend the agreement over EU inaction in Syria, and ultimately doing so in March when violence in Idlib province threatened a new wave of refugees. 

Disputes also continue in Greece’s coastal waters, where Turkey has accused local authorities of leaving boats of migrants at sea. Greece denies the claims, countering that Turkey is actively seeking to undermine its borders by helping migrants evade formal processes.

Questions of territorial integrity have been given heightened significance in recent weeks as both Greece and Turkey stake claims to disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

On Tuesday, Turkish research vessel Oruç Reis, searching for hydrocarbons, re-entered Greek’s continental shelf, drawing international criticism.