It emerged Thursday that Turkish soldiers fired shots into the air in two incidents on the land border in Evros on March 5 and 7 witnessed by Greek and German border guards patrolling the area under the umbrella of the European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex.
The incidents, which were reported in a letter to the European Commission by the executive director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, have placed Greek authorities on heightened alert to prevent the illegal entry of migrants from the Turkish side of the border. Tens of thousands of migrants tried to get into Greece in February last year at the behest of Ankara, leading to a tense standoff with Athens and Brussels.
According to Hellenic Police (ELAS) sources, the first of the two incidents took place on Friday, March 5, in the area of Tycheros with Turkish soldiers shining a torch on patrolling German and Greek officers on the Greek side of the border and firing shots twice in the air to intimidate them. In their official reports, the German border guards said the Turkish national anthem was heard through a loudspeaker during the incident.
The second incident was recorded 48 hours later in the exact same area, when a Turkish soldier fired once into the air as soon as he realized that guards were patrolling the Greek side of the border.
The German officials drafted reports which they sent to Frontex, while reports to the ELAS headquarters and the leadership of the Citizens’ Protection Ministry were drafted by the law enforcement authorities of the Regional Directorate of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
In his letter to Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson and the director general for Migration and Home Affairs, Monique Pariat, the Frontex chief noted increased incidents of shots being fired in the air on the Turkish side of the border.
He stressed that all those patrolling the area were ordered to wear bulletproof vests.
Greek officials noted that the two incidents occurred at the exact same point while there had been no similar incidents along the border for many months.
“We are coming to the conclusion that this is not a central strategic choice of Turkey but a local initiative of the Turkish army officers who are on the spot,” an ELAS official told Kathimerini.