Greece said on Friday it was deploying more border guards to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to stay, the latest sign of a hardening stance against asylum seekers since a new surge in the number of arrivals.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament he had approved the hiring of 400 guards at Greece’s land border with Turkey and another 800 guards for its islands. Greece will also upgrade its sea patrolling operations, he said.
On Wednesday, the conservative government elected in July announced plans to shut overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers.
“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose. Those who are not welcomed will be returned,” Mitsotakis said. “We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter although they are not entitled to asylum.”
Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16.
Migrant and refugee arrivals from neighboring Turkey have risen again, and more than 37,000 people are crammed into facilities on islands which operate far beyond their capacity.
The government wants to move up to 20,000 people to the mainland by the end of the year.
It has also designed a new framework to speed up the processing of asylum requests, which human rights groups have criticized as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees.