Greece wants floating fence to keep migrants out

Greece wants to install a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea to deter migrants arriving at its islands’ shores through Turkey, government officials said on Thursday.

Greece served as the gateway to the European Union for more than one million Syrian refugees and other migrants in recent years. While an agreement with Turkey sharply reduced the number attempting the voyage since 2016, Greek islands still struggle with overcrowded camps operating far beyond their capacity.

The 2.7 kilometer long (1.68 miles) net-like barrier that Greece wants to buy will be set up in the sea off the island of Lesvos, where the overcrowded Moria camp operates.

It will rise 50 centimeters above sea level and carry light marks that will make it visible at night, a government document inviting vendors to submit offers said, adding that it was “aimed at containing the increasing inflows of migrants”.

“The invitation for floating barriers is in the right direction,” Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Skai Radio. “We will see what the result, what its effect as a deterrent will be in practice.”

“It will be a natural barrier. If it works like the one in Evros… it can be effective,” he said, referring to a cement and barbed-wire fence Greece set up in 2012 along its northern border with Turkey to stop a rise in migrants crossing there.

Aid groups, which have described the living conditions at migrant camps as appalling, said fences in Europe had not deterred arrivals and that Greece should focus on speeding up the processing of asylum requests instead.