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Greece to install long-range cameras and radars along border with Turkey: Report

Athens continues to tighten border security in a bid to discourage undocumented migration
Migrants near the fence of the Turkey-Greece border buffer zone in Edirne, Turkey, 7 March 2020 (AFP)
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Ankara

Greece will position radars and cameras with a range of up to 15km along its land border with Turkey in order to prevent undocumented migration to Europe, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Monday.

The report said that 11 modern camera and radar systems, which were ordered in 2019, will be installed towards the end of May. Athens also bought devices to analyse the data provided by the surveillance systems - with 15m euros ($18.18m) of the total cost reportedly financed by the European Union - and installed them at four border stations, Hurriyet added.

Since 2015, Greece has been a transit country for many migrants seeking to enter Europe. A deal was struck by Turkish and EU officials in 2016 , when the EU agreed to pay Turkey to stop refugees and migrants from entering Europe.

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But tensions between Ankara and Athens rose once again last March, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan temporarily opened his country's border with Greece, permitting refugees and migrants to freely travel to Europe.

The Turkish government was trying to make a point to the EU - which had turned a blind eye to Syrian and Russian military operations to retake the rebel-held Idlib governorate in northern Syria - that millions of refugees had nowhere to escape to but Turkey.

When fighting in Idlib slowed down, so did the situation at the Greek-Turkish border. However, the Greek government has continued to take measures to tighten the border. 

“The Greek government continues to construct a 26.5km-long and 4.5 metre-high iron wall that would cost 63m euros ($76.36m). The government only completed 2.3km of the wall,” the report added.

Forcing refugees back to sea

Hurriyet added that Greek police also has two mobile long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) that could be used as sound cannons. The LRAD has a 2km range and can cause permanent deafness because of its high volume.

Turkey has accused Greece several times of not appropriately dealing with undocumented immigrants. The Turkish Interior Ministry has published footage over the years showing a systematic effort to deport the immigrants in pushback operations.

A Der Spiegel report last year said that Greek border guards have been forcing large numbers of migrants and refugees back to sea, at times shooting at their boats with the complicity of the EU's border protection agency, Frontex. 

While Frontex has boasted of record low numbers of migrants trying to enter the EU in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, rights groups have warned that the leveraging of public health concerns to block search and rescue parties - particularly in the Mediterranean Sea - has created a "rescue gap", with untold numbers of migrants disappearing along the treacherous journey.