Greek forces, in what looks like preparations for an armed conflict, have installed massive concrete blocks, erected additional barbed wire, and dug trenches at key border crossing points at the Greek-Turkish border in an effort to deter migrants from crossing.
In a remarkable shift from Greece’s response to the 2015 migrant crisis, where the then left-wing Syriza government allowed migrants to pass freely through the country into the rest of Europe, Greece’s new conservative government appears to be taking seriously its new designation as the “shield of Europe”, bestowed on country by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the outbreak of the migrant crisis.
The Turkish Anadolu Agency reported on the new development, writing that “Greece on Friday placed 5-foot [1.5-meter] concrete blocks at its Kastanies border crossing with Turkey to stop the entry of asylum seekers.”
Video of the blocks being installed in front of migrants watching on the other side of the border demonstrates Greek defiance to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s calls for Greece to open its border.
“This is my proposal to Greece: open the doors. Those people will not stay in Greece permanently and let them cross into other countries in Europe,” Erdoğan said after leaving a meeting to resolve the migrant crisis in Brussels earlier this week that ended in failure.
Turkey has issued a range of demands before it will consider closing the border to migrants, including allowing visa-free travel for 80 million of Turkey’s citizens into Europe.
“Until all Turkey’s expectations, including free movement, updating of the customs union and financial assistance, are tangibly met, we will continue the practice on our borders,” Erdoğan said on Thursday in a televised speech.
Polling has only strengthened the Greek government resolve, with 76 percent of Greek citizens saying they support the conservative government’s response to the border crisis, according to Prome Thema.
Greece has accused Turkish forces of operating with migrants to attack Greek security forces, including providing migrants with tear gas to use against Greek police.
Turkish police appear have also gone a step further and actively fired tear gas at Greek security forces, according to video released by the Associated Press. According to the Greek City Times, Greek police have responded by installing large wind turbines along the border to blow the tear gas and smoke from fires back towards the Turkish side.
Just on Thursday, video of migrants hurling Molotov cocktails at police and lighting fires at the border were widely disseminated on social media.