Greece plans a 12.5 km fence at its border with Turkey to prevent a wave of immigrants from flowing into the country, its public order minister said on Monday.
Asian and African migrants increasingly use the northern Greece Evros border with Turkey to reach the EU, after the bloc stepped up surveillance at its sea borders and Spain and Italy signed repatriation deals with African countries.
Last year, some 128,000 illegal immigrants crossed into Greece, more than 40,000 of them at the Evros border post, Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said in a
"This is the hard reality and we have an obligation to the Greek citizen to deal with it," Papoutsis said.
"In an effort to manage the inflow of illegal migrants, we are proceeding with the installation of means to deter illegal entries along a 12.5 km land border in Evros."
Greece's land border with Turkey is more than 200 km (124.3 miles) long and mostly runs along a river. The fence will be built in the area where most migrants arrive, officials said.
Athens has long complained that Turkey is not doing enough to stop illegal migrants and that Ankara's refusal to take back immigrants who have crossed from its territory encourages would-be migrants to use that route.
But both countries have pledged over the last months to improve their cooperation on that front and Papoutsis said the measures were "in no way against Turkey, on the contrary they ease and boost our cooperation."
Arrivals of illegal migrants jumped at the northern border last year -- by an annual 369 percent in the nine months to September, according to the EU border agency Frontex -- and rights groups have severely criticised the conditions in which the migrants are kept.
Greece, whose asylum and migration laws have also been criticised for years, will pass in the coming days a law creating an independent authority examining asylum requests and an independent service to oversee detention centres, the statement said.
Nine out of 10 illegal immigrants use Greece as their springboard into the European Union and the debt-choked country is struggling to cope with the swelling numbers.
A European Commission spokesman had said earlier in the day: "Fences and walls have proven in the past to be really short term measures that don't really help addressing and managing the migratory challenges in a more consolidated and structural way."
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