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Greece to build fence to stop migrants

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Athens, Greece (UPI) Jan 4, 2011
Greece aims to build an 8-mile border fence and boost its coast guard to stem illegal immigration via neighboring Turkey.

Greece's Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis, who announced the plan Monday, said it was necessary after more than 100,000 people entered Greece illegally in 2010.

"This is the hard reality and we have an obligation to the Greek citizens to deal with it," Papoutsis said in a statement. "Greek society has exceeded its limit in its capacity to accommodate illegal immigrants."

The European Union called the decision to build border reinforcements "short-term measures which will not allow us to tackle illegal immigration in a structural manner."

"We made clear with Greece that the country needs sound and long-term structural reforms and measures to better manage its border, to better address the challenges linked to migration flows," European Commission spokesman Michele Cercone was quoted as saying Monday by news Web site Euractiv.

The fence would be built along the Greek-Turkish border in Orestiada in northeastern Greece, a regional hotbed of illegal immigration. An increasing number of migrants from Asia and Africa are using the Orestiada area to enter illegally the European Union after Brussels boosted surveillance along its sea borders. Athens also plans to increase financial support for its coast guards.

Illegal immigration is one of the EU's key security issues. Individual member states have stepped up efforts to stop the influx of migrants from poor countries.

For African migrants, entering via Spain and Italy has become more difficult after Madrid and Rome signed repatriation agreements with several African countries and so they are increasingly choosing the land route via Turkey and Greece.

Nearly 40,000 illegal migrants reached the EU via Greece in the first 10 months of 2010, a six-fold increase over 2009, the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR says.

The EU's border agency, Frontex, claims that an average of 245 people crossed into Greece each day in October 2010.

Frontex sent nearly 200 border control experts to the region in November, with illegal immigration dropping since, the agency claims.

The EU has in the past urged Turkey to do more to limit the flow-through of illegal migrants headed for the 27-member bloc, where they seek a better life for themselves and their families.

Brussels wants Ankara to take back illegal migrants intercepted in Greece, which Turkey so far refuses. Migrants snatched by Greek border police are kept in temporary detention centers. Their condition has been criticized by human rights groups.

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