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“Solidarity is a must”: Greece asks for EU help on migration

origin 1 Migrants swim alongside their capsized wooden boat during a rescue operation by Spanish NGO Open Arms south of the Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea, 2022. ©Francisco Seco/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Greece pressed the European Union for more help with migration on Saturday as Athens expands its sprawling border fence with Turkey.

Speaking to EU ambassadors, as well as those of the UK and Switzerland, Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos called for additional financial and logistical support, stressing that Greece’s border was also the bloc’s external border.

Greece prevented some 260,000 migrants from entering illegally in 2022 and arrested 1,500 smugglers, an official said on Saturday.

Athens is widely accused of expelling people as soon as they reach Greek soil in a practice known as pushbacks. They are illegal under international law, preventing refugees from seeking protection, and often involve high levels of violence and force.

“The target [of protecting the border] it needs the support… of the European public, of the European Union itself and of its constituent members individually,” said Theodorikakos. “It is our firm position that Member States of first reception cannot be (for migrants) only destinations European.

“There must be solidarity between member states and a fair sharing of duties… close coordination is required,” he added.

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Greek officials have long complained that migration management has been outsourced to their country by wealthier European states, with most migrants wanting to go to the UK, France and Germany, but they have been told prevented from doing so.

“Our priority is to protect human life and dignity endangered by criminal trafficking networks… even though we are no longer members of the EU, we are working closely together,” said British Ambassador Matthew Lodge.

Greece has erected a five-metre steel border wall, separating it from Turkey across the Evros River.

It currently snakes more than 27 kilometres, although Athens is expanding the wall by another 35 kilometres, with the eventual goal of extending it to cover most of the 192 kilometer frontier.

Greece accuses Turkey of arming migrants by encouraging them to cross the border to put pressure on Athens and Brussels.

Ankara, home to 5 million migrants, in return accuses Greece of violent pushbacks that endanger the lives of migrants.

The EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, will add another 400 border guards in Greece – 250 of them in February – to the existing 1,800-strong force, Theodorikakos said.