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

  • Crown to appeal stay against man accused in 'Surrey Six' murder case

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- The Crown is appealing a judge's decision to stay a murder charge against a man at a trial stemming from the murders of six people in Surrey, B.C. Jamie Bacon was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to murder Corey Lal. Source
  • Trump announces focus on returning Americans to the moon

    World News CBC News
    President Donald Trump wants to send humans back to the moon — and on to Mars. Trump signed a policy directive Monday instructing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to "refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery. Source
  • Human rights challenge by Syrian refugee waiting to put life in drive gathers steam

    Canada News CBC News
    When Yaser Nadaf fled the horrors of war-torn Syria, the last thing he was thinking about was his driver's licence. It was only months later, when he arrived in Canada after a brief stay in Turkey, that he realized it wasn't with him and that without it, he would have to start from the very beginning of Ontario's licensing process, unable to get his G2 licence for at least eight months. Source
  • B.C. farm company investigating carbon monoxide exposure of 43 workers

    Canada News CTV News
    DELTA, B.C. -- A company says it is investigating to determine if changes are needed in its operations after dozens of workers were exposed to carbon monoxide at one of its farm in Delta, B.C. Source
  • 'We did our best:' Sentencing argument delay for ski resort that cut down trees

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- Sentencing arguments for a world-renowned Alberta ski resort that admitted to cutting down some endangered trees have been delayed for seven months -- much to the frustration of the judge hearing the case. Source
  • Swedish police probe arson attempt at Jewish cemetery, firebombing of synagogue

    World News CTV News
    HELSINKI -- Police in Sweden say they are investigating an attempted arson at a Jewish cemetery. Remnants of two glass bottles with flammable contents were found Monday near the chapel at the cemetery in Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city. Source
  • Pentagon will allow transgender people to enlist in military

    World News CBC News
    The Pentagon will allow transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump's demand to ban transgender individuals from the military. Source
  • Ontario premier files statement of claim against opposition leader

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A statement of claim was filed today in order for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to be able to continue with her case against Patrick Brown. Wynne's lawyer first demanded in a letter in September that Brown withdraw comments he made a day before the premier testified as a witness at a trial in Sudbury, Ont. Source
  • Winnipeg woman charged in death of teen with autism

    Canada News CTV News
    The RCMP in Manitoba have charged a woman inconnection with the 2016 death of an 18-year-old woman with severe autism who died in a foster home. Lisa Marie Campbell, 26, of Winnipeg, was arrested Thursday. Source
  • OPP cracking down on distracted truckers by patrolling in transport trucks

    Canada News CTV News
    Provincial police are patrolling Ontario roads in transport trucks this week in an effort to crack down on distracted driving by commercial truck drivers. Ontario Provincial Police say the five-day road safety blitz launched Monday is the first time officers have used transport trucks on patrol. Source