Greek authorities prevented 260,000 migrants from entering the country illegally from Turkey last year, an official said on Saturday.
During a visit to Greece by several ambassadors from the European Union and the United Kingdom, Greece’s Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos escorted officials to Greece’s border wall with Turkey, which is currently under expansion.
The Greek minister insisted more cooperation and assistance were required from Western EU member states to alleviate the pressure being applied on those countries protecting the EU’s external border.
“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 fair sharing of duties. Close coordination is a must,” he added.
Approximately 1,500 people smugglers were also arrested by Greek authorities in 2022, Theodorikakos revealed.
Greece has frequently been accused by human rights organizations of using controversial push-back measures to protect its border. Athens has accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of weaponizing migrants by encouraging large groups to travel toward Greece in order to put pressure on the European Union.
Frontex, the EU border agency, is expected to deploy an additional 400 border guards to the Greek-Turkish border this year, the Greek minister said, taking its tally to 2,200 guards on the ground.
The 37.5-kilometer-long border wall built by the Greek government is expected to be extended along the Maritza River border with Turkey by 35 kilometers this year.