‘Solidarity is a must’: Greece calls for EU help on migration

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Greece urged the European Union for more help with migration on Saturday, as Athens expands its sprawling border fence with Turkey. 

Speaking to EU ambassadors, plus those from the UK and Switzerland, Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos called for extra financial and logistical support, pointing out Greece’s border was also the bloc’s external border. 

Greece prevented around 260,000 migrants from entering illegally in 2022 and arrested 1,500 traffickers, an official said on Saturday.

Athens is widely accused of expelling people as soon as they reach Greek soil in a practice known as pushbacks. They are illegal under international law — preventing refugees from seeking protection — and often involve high degrees of violence and force. 

“The task [of protecting the border] needs the support … of European public opinion, the European Union itself and its constituent members individually,” Theodorikakos said. “It is our steadfast position that member states of first reception cannot be (the migrants’) only European destinations.

“There must be solidarity among member-states and a fair sharing of duties…close coordination is a must,” he added. 

Greek officials have long complained that migration management has been outsourced onto their country by richer European states, with most migrants wanting to go to UK, France and Germany, but prevented from doing so. 

“Our priority is to protect the human life and dignity endangered by the criminal trafficking networks … even though we are no longer an EU member, we are closely cooperating,” said UK Ambassador Matthew Lodge. 

Greece has erected a five-metre steel border wall, separating it from Turkey across the Evros River.

It currently snakes more than 27 kilometres, though Athens is expanding the wall by an extra 35 kilometres, with the ultimate goal of extending it to cover most of the 192-kilometre frontier.  

Greece accuses Turkey of weaponising migrants by encouraging them to cross the border to pressure Athens and Brussels. 

Ankara, home to 5 million migrants, in return accuses Greece of violent pushbacks that endanger the lives of migrants.

The EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, will add another 400 border guards in Greece — 250 of them in February — to the existing 1,800-member force, Theodorikakos said.