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Amnesty blasts Greece’s sea refugee barrier plan

Amnesty International has warned Greece that its plan to install a 2,7 km long barrier off the coast of Lesvos would put the lives of asylum seekers at risk.

Greece’s six-month-old conservative government announced its barrier plan between Turkey and the Greek island on Wednesday as part of its promise to harden its stance against the “refugee flow.”

“Seeking asylum is a human right,” Amnesty International posted on Twitter on Thursday, denouncing the plan, which it said, “raises serious issues about rescuers’ ability to continue providing life-saving assistance to people attempting the dangerous sea crossing to Lesvos.”

“This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores and will lead to more danger for those desperately seeking safety.”

Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Europe

The group urged the Greek government to clarify the operational details and ensure this system wouldn’t cost any more lives.

The barrier projected to be made of netting and equipped with flashing lights will cover 2,7 km on the sea and rise 1,1 meters above the sea according to the plan with the envisaged cost of €500,000.

The Greek Defense Ministry has invited private companies to bid for the contract to supply a floating fence in three months.

Vassilis Tsarnas from the Greek Helsinki Monitor & Humanist Union of Greece criticized the decision on social media, warning that migrants would have to choose even more dangerous routes.

Fleeing violence and persecution in their countries, thousands of migrants travel through Turkey to Greece to reach Europe. The majority of new arrivals last year were from Afghanistan and Syria, according to the United Nations.

Nearly 60,000 migrants arrived on Greek islands from Turkey in 2019, almost doubling the total number of sea arrivals in the previous year.

At least 66 people lost their lives when crossing the sea through the Eastern Mediterranean route last year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Tens of thousands of migrants are being kept on mainly five Greek islands as part of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal, which projects to deport Syrians back and funding Turkey for accommodating them.

Some human rights organizations are critical of the deal and the deteriorating conditions in the overcrowded camps on the islands.

Being the largest camp on the island of Lesvos, Moria is currently hosting more than 19,000 asylum seekers despite its capacity for 2,800.

Greek islanders of Lesvos, Samos and Chios took to the streets last week to protest the government’s handling of new migrant arrivals.

The defense ministry said the plan of installing a floating wall on the Aegean was “aimed at containing the increasing inflows of migrants” on the islands.

The conversational Greek government earlier announced it was planning to set up detention -facilities for migrants denied asylum and speed up deportations back to Turkey.

*Writing by Zubeyir Koculu, editing by Styles Lucas Ledwaba

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