Greece is planning purchases worth millions of euros to equip the Hellenic Police’s (ELAS) riot force with shields, helmets, uniforms, bullet-proof vests and other supplies, including large quantities of tear gas, in anticipation of a fresh push on the northeastern border with Turkey by undocumented migrants and refugees trying to force their way into the European Union.
The cost of the procurement program is estimated at between 20 and 34 million euros, and it will be the biggest purchase of equipment for the riot force since Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004.
The program was launched in March, shortly after a visit to the northeastern border region by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who pledged 700 million euros in European Union funding to help Greece secure the country’s – and the EU’s borders – against a push from neighboring Turkey.
The lion’s share of that money, sources say, will be allocated to the Ministry of Defense, though several million euros have been earmarked for upgrading the riot force – formally known as the Units for the Reinstatement of Order, or MAT – which was on the frontline of a major push in Evros in early March that had been spurred by Ankara after the Turkish government announced that it would not take any measures to prevent migrants and refugees from trying to enter the European Union via Greece. Turkish officials have reiterated similar claims in recent days, meanwhile.