Afghan Immigration Fears Prompt Greece to Increase Number of Guards at Turkish Border

Fears over a spike in migrants from Afghanistan attempting to cross borders illegally prompted Greece to increase its number of border guards on the country's Turkish border, officials said Monday.

Following the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan earlier this year, many people have attempted to flee the country, passing through the borders of neighboring countries to seek asylum in Europe. According to authorities, the crisis in Afghanistan was a factor in the latest increase in migration.

In order to step up border security, Greece is adding 250 officers to join the already 1,500-strong border force over several months. The increased forces are raising the number of guards from about 1,000 early last year.

About 800 extra border guard personnel will also be hired to oversee airports and regions close to the border with Turkey.

A report released last week by Amsterdam-based investigative news organization Lighthouse Reports alleged that Greece, Croatia and Romania have performed illegal pushbacks against asylum seekers, raising concerns of human rights abuses, Al Jazeera reported.

Lighthouse Reports collected publicly available footage of 635 alleged pushbacks against asylum seekers attempting to enter Greece since March 2020.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Greek Immigrant Families
Greece plans to step up border security at the country's border with Turkey amid fears of a surge in migrants illegally crossing borders while fleeing Afghanistan. Refugee families participate in an anti-racism rally in Athens on October 9. Louisa GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images

Greece has toughened its migration policy and border policing over the past two years, extending a wall along its land border with Turkey and installing a high-tech surveillance network to try and deter asylum-seekers from making the crossing.

Greece has also denied mounting allegations by human rights groups that migrants caught after crossing into Greece are being summarily deported without being allowed to claim asylum.

In parliament Monday, Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi said a growing number of front-line countries in the 27-nation European Union were pressing the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, for tougher action to deter migration.

"Europe is not bordered by warring countries. And the majority of people arriving are not at risk in the last transit country, so it's important to redefine how [migration policy] works and how border security works," Mitarachi said.

Poland and Lithuania in recent months have been struggling to cope with an unusually high number of migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, arriving at their borders with Belarus. They accuse Belarus' government of encouraging the flow of migrants to exert pressure on the entire EU.

Greece, Poland and Lithuania were among 12 countries that sent a letter to the European Commission last week to call for more extensive EU measures against illegal immigration.

"Countries from the north, south and central Europe sent this letter," Mitarachi said.

Greece Border Patrol
Greece will further increase a border guard at its frontier with Turkey, fearing an upcoming spike in attempted illegal migration, officials said on October 11. Above, police officers patrol alongside a steel wall at Evros river, near the village of Poros, Greece, at the Turkish border on May 21. Giannis Papanikos, File/AP Photo