NEWS

Greece places Aegean on alert as concerns mount of Turkish provocations

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The Aegean has been placed in a state of alert as Athens fears that Turkey may, under the guise of migrant search and rescue operations, instigate provocations on Greek islets.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued his incendiary rhetoric yesterday, saying that “one day [Greeks] may find themselves in a situation where they will have to seek compassion.”

Responding to a question during a press briefing, government spokesman Stelios Petsas left open the possibility of sending refugees or migrants to uninhabited islands. “We are not ruling anything out,” he said.

He also categorically denied claims by Turkish authorities that migrants trying to push across the border into Greece had been wounded or killed by Greek authorities, saying it is “fake news.”

Tensions on Greece’s land border with Turkey continued yesterday as clashes erupted again near the village of Kastanies, along a fence that covers much of the frontier not demarcated by the Evros River. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive away a crowd of migrants making a push to cross into Greece.

Amnesty International expressed its concern, calling on European Union member-states to step in and address the situation, which it described as a “crisis of humanity” of Europe’s own making.

“The protection of refugees is not something that countries can duck out of when they choose,” the director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, Eve Geddie, said.

“Greece must uphold the right to asylum and the EU must support them to do that,” she said, adding that the right to claim asylum is “non-negotiable.”

Geddie added that European institutions have been quick to express solidarity with Greece but have failed to extend that solidarity to asylum seekers and migrants.

In a related development, the government is finalizing its plans for a new closed center in northern Greece, where migrants who have entered the country illegally since March 1 are to be held pending deportation. Moreover, reports on Wednesday suggested a second center will also be set up either near Lamia, central Greece, or in the broader Attica area. Sources said the first center will be set up in a disused military facility in Serres.

In another development, the union of Greek hospital workers, POEDIN, has called for an immediate boost to health units on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Leros with equipment and staff, so that they can cope with the ever-increasing demand due to migrant and refugee arrivals.