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 gateway to the European Union (EU) for over one million Syrian refugees and other migrants in recent years.
Greek islands, while an agreement with Turkey sharply reduced the number attempting the voyage since 2016, still struggle with overcrowded camps operating far beyond their capacity.
“The 2.7 kilometre long (1.68 miles) net-like barrier that Greece wants to buy will be set up in the sea off the island of Lesbos, where the overcrowded Moria camp operates.
“It will rise 50 cm above sea level and carry light marks that will make it visible at night,’’ a government document inviting vendors to submit offers said.
It added that although the aim was to contain the increasing inflows of migrants.
Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Skai Radio that the invitation for floating barriers was in the right direction.
“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.
“I believe it can be effective,” he said, referring to a cement and barbed-wire fence that Greece set up in 2012 along its northern border with Turkey to stop a rise in migrants crossing there.
According to the UN agency UNHCR, 59, 726 migrants and refugees reached Greece’s shores in 2019, almost 80 percent of them arrived on Chios, Samos, and Lesbos.
He told Reuters that the barrier would be installed at the north of Lesbos, where migrants usually attempt to cross over due to the short distance from Turkey.
“If the floating fence is effective, more parts may be added and it could reach 13-15 kilometres,’’ Panagiotopoulos said.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas also told ANT1 TV that they needed to test it to see if it could bring the results they wanted in 2020.