Greece Asks for Funds From EU to Extend Border Wall Along Turkey, Will Expand Surveillance

Greek officials said they would renew a request to the European Union next year for funds to extend its steel wall along Greece's border with Turkey.

Takis Theodorikakos, a member of the Hellenic Parliament, said at a parliamentary briefing that the country also plans to expand its artificial intelligence system at the border. This system takes data from surveillance towers via sensors and long-range cameras and flags the most pressing information for border security.

Theodorikakos said Greece can expect more attempted illegal migrant crossings from non-EU Turkey, similar to how many migrants attempted to cross into EU nations like Poland from non-EU Belarus last month.

"We believe the security on our own borders is linked to the security of the EU," he said.

According to Theodorikakos, the wall and the security system have already helped to stop over 143,000 crossings via the Greece-Turkey border this year through October. This is a 45 percent increase from last year.

"We have every reason to expect that these kinds of threats will continue," he said.

The Pulitzer Center reported that in February 2020, the Turkish government announced it would no longer patrol its border with Greece and would not help to keep migrants out of the EU. This stalled the 2016 EU-Turkey deal, in which tens of thousands of migrants were stopped from entering Greece in exchange for aid money and visa-free EU travel to Turkish citizens.

As a result, many migrants flooded into the country. Though the Greek government denies this, the Pulitzer Center report says Greece has been using "collective expulsion" methods to return the migrants to Turkey. This includes beating migrants and sending them back across the Evros river.

Greece, Turkey, border wall
Greece says it will renew a request for European Union funds in 2022 to extend a border wall along its frontier with Turkey and promised to expand a powerful surveillance network aimed at stopping migrants entering the country illegally. Above, in this Friday, May 21 photo, policemen patrol alongside a steel wall at the Evros river, near the village of Poros, at the Greek-Turkish border, Greece. Giannis Papanikos, File/AP Photo

Greece's center-right government has toughened the country's migration policy and recently completed a 26-kilometer (16-mile) extension of a steel border wall to make the barrier span 38 kilometers (24 miles).

A control center processing data from newly-built border surveillance towers equipped with long-range cameras and multiple sensors was due to begin operating in early 2022, he said.

The artificial intelligence-driven system is aimed at tracking multiple incidents using data from surveillance sensors and flagging those considered the most serious to border guard officers.

"This automated system gives us many operational advantages and helps us monitor the entire border region," the minister said.

The government denies repeated allegations by human rights and migrant advocacy groups that the border interceptions include illegal summary deportations known as pushbacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Greece, border security, cameras
Greek officials said they would continue to expand their border security system in 2022. Above, Hellenic police Sargent Takis Kazakidis oversees the control room with 11 monitors and 30 cameras with a surveillance team along the Evros River on June 14, 2021, in Nea Vyssa, Greece. Photo by Byron Smith/Getty Images