Saturday, 6 August 2011

Greece to Build Ditch To Stem Flow of Illegal Immigrants from Turkey

Athens - Greece on Thursday said it was in the process of digging a 120-kilometer water-filled ditch along its northeastern frontier with Turkey to stop the stream of migrants coming into the European Union, reports said.

The moat, seen as one of the country's largest projects along the Evros River, will be 30 meters wide and 7 meters deep, according to a report in the Greek daily To Vima newspaper.

The report said the officials have already completed 14.5 kilometers of the project near the town of Orestiada.

Greece, together with the European Union border guard Frontex, has increased its sea and land border patrols, fearing the escalating crisis in North Africa and the Middle East could trigger a wave of illegal immigrants.

Greece, which is the destination for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants each year, has long accused Turkey of failing to stop the illegal migrants and of ignoring an agreement to accept their return.

In January, the EU finalized a deal allowing it to send irregular migrants back to Turkey.

Under the agreement, Turkey will be required to take back both its own citizens who enter the EU illegally and citizens of other non-EU states who do the same. The rules would not apply to asylum-seekers.

Athens has said that it will consider using floating prisons and old army bases to house undocumented migrants.

Greek figures put the number at about 128,000 immigrants arriving in the country illegally in 2010, the highest for any European Union member state.

The government has also announced plans to build a 12.5-kilometre fence along a section of the north-eastern border with Turkey, but the plan has met with opposition from leftists and human rights organizations, including the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

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