Immigrants target Greece’s sea border

Installation of a barbed-wire fence and tightened security measures on Greece’s land border with Turkey have led to an increase in the number of clandestine immigrants seeking to sneak into Europe through the eastern Aegean Sea during the first quarter of 2013, the government said Tuesday as it called for greater burden sharing by its peers in the bloc.

A total of 880 immigrants and 13 people smugglers have been detained by the Greek coast guard since the beginning of the year, according to data released Tuesday. Officers intercepted just 32 individuals, including one smuggler, over the same period last year. The immigrant flow has risen as the weather improves. From 135 arrests in January, coast guard officials detained 351 in February and 394 in March.

In a statement sent to the press Tuesday, Merchant Marine Minister Costas Mousouroulis said that as of next week Greece was expecting further reinforcement from Frontex, the EU’s border monitoring agency.

“In any case, Brussels and all members of the EU should keep in mind that Greece’s eastern borders are also the borders of the European Union,” Mousouroulis said.

Meanwhile, about 700 unregistered immigrants out of approximately 2,000 being held at the Amygdaleza center in northern Athens continued their hunger strike Tuesday in protest at poor conditions and alleged abuse from authorities. Three of them attempted suicide on Monday.

An NGO on Monday accused police of using violence to convince detainees to end their hunger strike. But police Tuesday denied allegations of mistreatment made by the United Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat (KEERFA).

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