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Greece plans floating barrier in Aegean Sea to deter refugees

January 31, 2020 at 3:18 pm

A Hellenic coast guard rescues refugees and migrants [ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images]

Greece is planning to build a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea to prevent refugees reaching its islands from Turkey.

The 1.7 mile, $550,000 project, will be made of netting and flashing lights and is aimed at “containing the increasing inflows of migrants” on the Greek islands.

The barrier will be built north of the island of Lesbos where migrants often attempt to cross due to the short stretch of water.

The plan is part of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotkis’ tough, expanding, immigration policy which has included employing 1,200 extra border police.

Greece is a transit point through which thousands of refugees attempt to get to the EU from Turkey.

The number of men, women and children arriving in Greece has not been so high since the Europe-Turkey agreement was struck in March 2016, at the height of the Syrian war, under which it was agreed that migrants whose applications failed would be returned to Turkey.

READ: Greece rejects Turkey call to demilitarise Aegean islands

In September 2019 alone, 10,551 people arrived in Greece.

Nationwide, Greece hosts some 90,000 refugees – including over 5,000 unaccompanied children – more than the number registered in Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus combined.

It has been heavily criticised for the conditions in which it houses refugees, with the camps on the Aegean islands housing up to six times their capacity with 300 people sharing one toilet.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have previously called the camps housing refugees on the Aegean islands the worst humanitarian sites in the world and pressed for the immediate transfer of refugees to the European mainland.

READ: Greece islanders strike treatment of refugees

Amnesty International has said the barrier is “alarming” and raises serious issues about Greece’s plans to deal with people urgently seeking safety.

Former Migration Minister Dimitris Vitas said the barrier was a “stupid idea” that wasn’t “going to stop anybody making the journey.”

Rights organisations have consistently tried to highlight how tougher immigration measures don’t stop people attempting to make the journey, they just simply force them to take more dangerous routes.