Protests at Greek border after more migrants drown in Aegean

ALEXANDROUPOLIS, Greece -- A day after 46 migrants drowned in a choppy Aegean Sea, protesters demonstrated Saturday at a Greek border town to demand that Greece ease transit restrictions at its heavily militarized border with Turkey.

See Full Article

Most of the 200-kilometre land border between Greece and Turkey is separated by the Evros River -- known as the Meric River in Turkey. But a 12.5-kilometre (nearly 8-mile) stretch of land separating the two countries was previously lined with minefields and is now separated by a fence.

The area is guarded with police and military patrols on land and on the river, a network of cameras and a few officers from the European border protection agency, Frontex.

Wearing life vests and foil blankets, the demonstrators chanted "This fence means refugees drown!" as they kicked off two days of protests in the area. They are planning a march Sunday toward the border fence.

"It's vital that the fence is removed. It's because of the fence that refugee families are forced to travel across the Aegean, and people are drowning on a daily basis," said protester Michalis Sopatzoglou, who travelled from the Greek island of Lesbos to join Saturday's rally.

At least 60 people have died in Greek waters this month while trying to cross from Turkey to the Greek islands in poor weather, using unseaworthy boats provided by Turkish smuggling gangs.

High winds on Saturday disrupted plans by Greek Coast Guard divers to search for bodies off the island of Kalymnos, where most of the people in Friday's accidents died.

Marie Elisabeth Ingres, Greek mission chief for the charity Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, said creating a "safe point of passage" at the Greek-Turkish border should be a priority.

"Since the beginning of this crisis, MSF has been calling for legal and safe reception to be made available at the land border between Turkey and Greece," she told The Associated Press. "At present ... people are effectively blocked from crossing it and have no other option but to turn to illegal means to reach the continent, risking their lives and often the lives of their families at sea."

More than 850,000 asylum-seekers travelled to Greek islands in 2015 on their journey to central and northern Europe, in the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War II. Only 3,600 crossed the Greek-Turkish land border in the previous 12 months.

A transit camp for refugees near the Greek border town of Orestiada, visited by The Associated Press, currently has just 40 occupants. Those conditions contrast sharply with overcrowded refugee facilities on Lesbos and other Greek islands, where arrivals averaged 2,300 people a day last year and peaked at around 7,000.

Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas said has said it was "impossible under present conditions" to allow mass screening at the land border.

"In the 12.5-kilometre area of the land border, the problem has been solved. The number of crossings is zero," said Police Col. Paschalis Siritoudis, head of the Orestiada police department.

Siritoudis heads a police campaign launched four years ago that dramatically slowed the number of migrants crossing the land border from Turkey to Greece. Groups of migrants are typically spotted using night-vision surveillance cameras and deterred from crossing the Evros River.

"Some people are of the opinion that the fence should go. We are carrying out the orders of the (police) and political leadership," Siritoudis said. "The fence is there. It is supported by cameras and patrols and we continue to operate this way until the orders change."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Workers at endangered Indiana plant feel forgotten by Trump

    World News CTV News
    HUNTINGTON, Ind. -- A full parking lot and 50-hour workweeks belie the anxiety at the United Technologies-owned factory outside a small northeastern Indiana city, where Mike Harmon and co-workers wonder whether they aren't just stockpiling parts for when the company sends their 700 jobs to Mexico. Source
  • CIA says Russia intervened to help Trump win White House, U.S. official says

    World News CBC News
    The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help president-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, a senior U.S. official said on Friday. Source
  • Worker killed after vehicle slides off hoist at B.C. auto repair shop

    Canada News CTV News
    VERNON, B.C. -- RCMP are investigating the death of an employee at an auto repair shop in Vernon, B.C. WorkSafeBC spokeswoman Trish Knight Chernecki says Mounties contacted the agency to report that a four-by-four vehicle slid off an elevated hoist and pinned a worker. Source
  • French gov't seeks state of emergency extension

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says 17 attacks have been thwarted in the country so far this year and he is asking Parliament to extend the state of emergency until July 15. Speaking after an extraordinary cabinet meeting, Cazeneuve said Saturday that Parliament will vote on the bill next week. Source
  • After weeks of protest in South Korea, crowds celebrate Park's impeachment

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- The previous time South Korea's parliament voted to impeach a president, ruling party lawmakers bawled and hurled ballot boxes, a man set himself on fire in front of the National Assembly, and thousands glumly held candlelight vigils night after night to save late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun. Source
  • Colombia's Santos accepts Nobel Peace Prize as 'gift from heaven'

    World News CTV News
    STOCKHOLM -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, saying it gave a boost to the "impossible dream" of ending his country's half-century-long civil war. In his acceptance speech, Santos described the award as a "gift from heaven" and dedicated it to all Colombians, particularly the 220,000 killed and 8 million displaced in the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Source
  • The cost of accountability: Can Canadian police services afford body cam technology?

    Canada News CBC News
    One of the clearest conclusions following the recent Toronto Police Service pilot project of body-worn cameras was how positive the public felt about them. A police commissioned survey found 95 per cent strongly supported the idea and 85 per cent of the police officers involved agreed, according to Insp. Source
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos collects Nobel Peace Prize

    World News CBC News
    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. On the eve Saturday's ceremony, Santos described the award as a "gift from heaven" and dedicated it to all Colombians, particularly the victims of the country's 52-year-long civil war. Source
  • 5 killed in explosion following train derailment in Bulgaria

    World News CTV News
    SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Five people were killed in northeastern Bulgaria following a gas explosion on a derailed tanker train early Saturday, national radio reported. Officials said at least 23 people were injured, many with severe burns. Source
  • Russia says thousands fleeing Aleppo as Assad nears victory

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- Some 50,000 civilians have fled eastern Aleppo over the past two days in a "constant stream," Russia said Saturday, as Syrian government forces close in on the last pocket of opposition control in the northern city. Source