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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Shutterstock/Giannis Papanikos Migrants waiting for food at a Greek border camp.

Greece blocked over 150,000 migrants this year says migration minister

Charity groups have also accused Athens of illegally turning back migrants or forcing them over the border to Turkey.

GREECE HAS BLOCKED over 150,000 undocumented migrants on its land and maritime border so far this year, the Minister of Migration and Asylum said today.

“The entry of 154,102 irregular migrants was averted since the start of the year,” Notis Mitarachi told Eleftheros Typos daily, adding that 50,000 had attempted to enter Greece in August alone.

Border control is a top priority for the conservative Greek government that came to power in 2019, and will seek re-election next year.

Last month, the government announced plans to extend a 40-kilometre long wall along the Greek-Turkish border at Evros by another 80 kilometres as part of efforts to control the flow of migrants.

It will also install thermal cameras and deploy an additional 250 border guards.

Greece is often the country of choice for people fleeing Africa and the Middle East to try to reach a better life in the European Union.

Thousands come via Turkey by crossing the Evros River, and over the narrow and perilous Aegean Sea crossing separating the traditional rivals.

Speaking to the Guardian, Iasonas Apostolopoulos, once celebrated in Greece for his efforts in rescuing refugees off the coast, has said that the attitude to refugees in his country has changed rapidly.

In the past year Apostolopoulos has been denied a medal he was due to be awarded by the Greek president and publicly accused of insulting his country, by the prime minister’s spokesperson, for speaking out about illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers from Greece’s borders.

Charity groups have also accused Athens of illegally turning back migrants or forcing them over the border to Turkey – something Greece’s conservative government has repeatedly denied.

Mitarachi denied Athens was involved in illegal pushbacks, and accused Turkey of engaging in “violent push forwards”.

Athens last month accused Turkey of forcibly pushing a group of stranded migrants onto a small Greek islet on the river.

Rights groups at the time said a five-year-old child in the group had died after the Greek government for days denied that the migrants were on Greek territory.

Mitarachi has cast doubt on the incident. On Sunday he insisted that the family in question has declared having four children, and that they were all rescued by Greek police.

“To put it very simply, the family brought forward four children, and four we rescued,” he said.

“Many inconsistencies have been noted in what (the family) said at the beginning, what they said afterwards, and in what has been proven so far,” the minister said.