Earlier this month, Greece began a campaign to seal the 130-mile border along its northeastern border as waves of immigrants from Turkey continue to spill into the country. The border with Turkey was previously guarded by 500 guards but now there are 2,000 added border guards along the frontier. The guards use dogs, boats, night vision equipment and 24-hour patrols along the Evros River. At least 21 people have died trying to cross the river and many more have gone missing.
The operation has even reached Athens, where thousands of immigrants are seen in the streets each day in handcuffs. Police said that in the first weeks of the operation, 7,000 people were arrested for ID checks, with 1,700 of them scheduled for deportation.
Officers carried out a morning operation that discovered 60 immigrants on the Turkish side of the Evros River. The immigrants were spotted by using thermal imaging cameras. The immigrants were deterred from crossing the river when officers used loud speakers, sirens and spotlights. Despite the efforts of the officers, 15 still made it across the river and were arrested.
The European Union has a border protection agency known as Frontex, which is staffed by officers from 25 countries. During the first six months of the year, 21,000 illegal immigrants were arrested, according to Greek police data. Almost all of the 21,000 were caught on the northeastern border. This is an increase of 29 percent from the same time in 2011.
Of those illegally entering the country, Afghans are the largest group. That group is followed by Pakistanis and then Bangladeshis. The operation has been the target of criticism from local authorities, police officers’ associations and human rights groups. The operation has been accused of police brutality and racial profiling. Other allegations include degrading police treatment, arbitrary detainment and more.
The operation has been told to shut down multiple times by Amnesty International. “While Greece has the right to control migration, it does not have the right to treat people like criminals purely because of the color of their skin,” Amnesty’s Jezerca Tigani said in a statement. “Greece may be going through financial difficulties while facing one of the highest migration flows among EU countries, but these police operations violate international human rights standards and should stop immediately.”
Orestiada police chief Yiorgos Salamangas said that the rights of immigrants are being honored. “Our aim is to deter illegal immigrants and arrest traffickers, but the migrants’ well-being and rights are always a main priority.”