EU member states that are attempting to tackle illegal immigration have done so by placing barriers, increasing specialised patrols and enhanced their technological surveillance systems, the interior ministry said on Friday.
All those points reference a key policies enacted by the government in a bid to stem irregular flows – from erecting barbed barriers and hiring 300 contract officers to a high-tech surveillance system.
The ministry once again waded into the ongoing debate over the barbed wire fencing and metal gate installations along the buffer zone – reiterating that it is necessary to tackle the increased flows.
It said that the government is now carrying out the same methodology as others, after having first clarified on a political level that the Green Line does not constitute the external border of the Republic.
“The measures were deemed necessary as the flows increased, first with the Evros crisis in March of 2020. The situation began to deteriorate dramatically from September 2021, with Turkey then systematically instrumentalising economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa,” the ministry said.
Seeking to address further criticism which emerged this week, the ministry continued that: “We remind those who irresponsibly and unsubstantially attribute these increase flows to the barriers, as in March 2020 there was no fence and by September 2021 the length of the barrier did not exceed 11km.”
MPs on Thursday criticised the barrier, questioning whether the attorney general had approved the measures.
But the ministry again hit out on Friday, saying: “Therefore whoever thinks that we should follow the policy of open borders should come out and say it.”
Despite the interior ministry’s reasoning that the barrier will reduce the flows, many have criticised it as impractical – will it cover the entire 180km of the buffer zone? – while also saying that it restricts their freedom of movement.
The latter claim has been expressed most forcefully by residents of the Akaki, Peristerona and Astromeritis communities – who are set to be the most impacted. Some say that their shops, agricultural land or even homes are being fenced off and some are concerned that irregular migrants will remain stuck behind the fence.