A migrant boy runs at a temporary camp in Skala Sykamias village, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesvos, Monday.
Seeking to stem rising migrant flows into Greece, a government plan is currently under way to seal land borders and improve sea surveillance “from one end of the Aegean to the other.”
The plan was activated after an emergency government meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Saturday and another one on Sunday at the Defense Ministry, attended by Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, his Deputy Alkiviadis Stefanis, Shipping and Island Policy Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis,as well as the leadership of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), the Hellenic Navy (GEN) and the Hellenic Coast Guard.
According to Panagiotopoulos, who spoke to Alpha TV Monday, a decision was taken to step up “surveillance measures from one end to the Aegean to the other” as, he stressed, the problem is not with Greece’s land border with Turkey at Evros – which will be “sealed so that no one will cross” – but mainly at sea.
The plan involves increased surveillance, in collaboration with the Defense and Shipping ministries, to enhance the sense that the country’s sea borders are being strictly monitored. Kathimerini understands that the operational plan, while not yet fully hatched, includes the transfer of five coast guard vessels to the eastern Aegean, boosting the already existing force of 45.
Moreover around 100 coast guard officers will be deployed to the islands of Chios and Lesvos, while the Defense Ministry will man old military observation points to monitor flows from the nearby Turkish coast. The army will also provide the coast guard with vessels to support policing.
Panagiotopoulos admitted that the plan will not fully stem the flow of migrants but will limit arrivals. “If the current system can only process 600 asylum applications a week and 1,000 [migrants] come [per week], then you can understand the extent of the problem,” he said.
According to the latest data there are currently 28,000 asylum seekers crammed into island reception centers which have a maximum capacity of 10,000 people. To make matters worse, camps on the Greek mainland are already bursting at the seams and currently can receive no more.
For her part, the representative of the European Commission, Natasha Bertaud, stressed Monday that the EC is ready to provide financial, political and operational assistance to Greece and that Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is in contact with the relevant Turkish and Greek authorities.