NEWS

Mixed response to Evros fence idea

A proposal made over the weekend by Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis for the construction of a fence along a section of Greece's 206-kilometer land border with Turkey, as a way of cracking down on illegal immigration, yesterday drew criticism from opposition parties and a cautious response from the European Union. Papoutsis's calls for the creation of a fence similar to the US-Mexican frontier were dismissed by the main conservative opposition New Democracy as «a half measure... which cannot solve a major problem» and by the Communist Party as «inhumane.» Amnesty International too charged that the plan would constitute a violation of human rights. In a statement on his website, Papoutsis yesterday clarified that the fence he is proposing would be erected along the 12.5-kilometer section of Greece's land border with Turkey that does not run along the Evros River. Papoutsis insisted that the government is «extremely sensitive to the human rights of migrants.» But he added that the government's «ultimate duty is to protect the rights of Greek citizens and those living legally in Greece.» Sources at the ministry yesterday heralded the immediate launch of feasibility studies for the fence which is to be made of reinforced barbed wire set in a concrete base. The fence idea received a cool response from the spokesperson for the European Union's Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. Addressing reporters, Michele Cercone said that each member state had the right to guard its borders as it saw fit but noted that the border fences and walls are a «short-term measure,» not a panacea. The Turkish Foreign Ministry also acknowledged Greece's «sovereign right to guard its borders.» Regional authorities were more forthright. Gokhan Sozer, governor of Edirne province, western Turkey, told the Hurriyet daily that «a physical barrier will come in handy for Greece to curb illegal immigration.»

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